Celebrate with Babs: Holiday Recipes & Family Traditions from the TikTok Grandma

              Barbara Costello didn’t do social media when she first helped her daughter by posting a cooking video on TikTok.

              “I thought TikTok was all about dancing,” says Costello, the mother of four and grandmother of eight, who is known as Grandma Babs. Her first post was in April 2020 during the pandemic. Nine months later she had 200,000 followers. Now it’s closing in on two million.

              “By the time we hang up, you’ll probably have 20,000 more followers,” I tell Costello who is in the car with her daughter, Liz Ariola, on their way to a book signing.

              I’m only half joking.

Soaring Numbers

              Besides TikTok followers on her Brunch with Babs site, Costello also has 660,000 followers on Instagram. In comparison, I have 1989. Not that I’m jealous.

              Costello, who is 73, is considered a granfluencer—a growing trend of older people who are kicking it on social media. And now she has a cookbook, “Celebrate with Babs: Holiday Recipes & Family Traditions” featuring one hundred of her tried and true handwritten recipes that she pulled from her wood recipe box.

              “I started collecting recipes before the internet,” she says. “You used to go over to someone’s house for dinner and leave with recipe cards of what was served that night.”

              The book is divided by holidays and celebrations which are a big deal in the Costello family.

              “We’re Italian and we like big noisy get-togethers,” she says. “My mom was one of nine and I have 21 first cousins. Even after Bill and I got married there were so many of us that we still sat at the children’s table when everyone got together.”

              Originally from the Chicago area, Costello taught middle school in Schaumburg before the family moved, ending up in Connecticut where they’ve lived for decades. Costello opened her own pre-school (they called them nursery schools back then) in the basement of her house. She thinks the skills she learned as a teacher and administrator are part of what connects her to her audience. And she is all about connections.

              “I still get invited to the weddings of my preschoolers,” she says. “And many of them have remained friends with their pre-school classmates and they’re at the weddings. I think that’s wonderful after all those years.”

              Costello describes herself as having gone from zero to 60 miles-per-hour.

              “I never expected this,” she says. “People ask me if I have a business plan and I say what’s that? I’m making it up along the way.”

              It was Ariola who got her mom in the business. Social media savvy, Ariola writes the popular mom blog Mrs. Nipple blog (get it—aureole/ariola) and asked her mom for help during her pregnancy. Despite morning sickness, Ariola was trying to launch a TikTok channel and got her mom to agree to film three videos while her two grandchildren were napping.

              The first video showing Costello making her grandmother’s Greek chicken recipe garnered 100,000 views. Somewhere along the line, one of her viewers was a cookbook editor. The rest, as they say, is history.

              Even though the book is divided into holidays, each section with a special memory or anecdote, Costello says they recipes are good for everyday as well.

              “Recipes are recipes,” she says. In other words, you don’t have to wait until Easter to make marinated leg of lamb, apricot glazed ham, or Grandma’s Easter Bread.

Bonding Over Meals

              Even though she was a working mom, Costello always made family meals.

              “People didn’t do fast food like they do now,” she says. “And I think it’s very important for families to eat together.”

              Indeed, one of her hopes for her cookbook and her social media popularity is that it will encourage people to cook more and enjoy dinner together. In the meantime, she’s going to keep cooking.

              “My mom is always over the top when it comes to celebrations,” says Ariola, noting her mother’s tendency to make way too much food.

              “Being raised in an Italian family,” says Costello, “ I learned that the worst thing that could happen is that there wasn’t enough food to feed everyone.”

              That certainly won’t happen on her watch.

Smash Cake

“I always look forward to our grandkids’ first birthdays,” writes Costello. “My daughter loves showering her sons with smash cakes when they have that special birthday. She strips them down and lets them go at the cake. It’s a ton of fun to see how their little personalities shine in this moment. This is not only the favorite of my one-year-old grandson Scooter, but also a hit with my toddler-aged grandkids, too. Even I love it! I’ve made this recipe as just a loaf when not celebrating a special one-year-old in the family. The cream cheese frosting and the cake are the perfect combo.”

prep time

15 minutes, plus 2 hours to cool

cook time

50 minutes

yield

1 smash cake plus 1 loaf (serves about 9)

Ingredients

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 (4 oz containers unsweetened applesauce
  • 1¾ cups  all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of fine kosher salt

Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 8 oz  cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Natural food coloring (optional)

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and line 2 (4-inch) ramekins or cake pans, and 1 (9 x 5-inch) loaf pan with parchment paper.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the maple syrup and applesauce. Beat until well combined.

3. Using a fine-mesh sieve, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt into the wet mixture. Stir until combined. Spoon the mixture into the ramekins until three-fourths full. Pour the rest of the batter into the loaf pan.

4. Bake the smash cakes for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Bake the loaf for an additional 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let stand for 15 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely.

5. Make the frosting. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter until well combined. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat until smooth and creamy, scraping the side of the bowl once or twice during mixing. If desired, beat in a few drops of natural food coloring of your choice.

6. To assemble the smash cake, place the bottom half on a serving plate. Spoon frosting over. Add the remaining layer. Spread frosting over the top and side of the cake. Add decorations of your choice. To serve the loaf, spread the top and sides with frosting, and cut into slices to serve.

Broccoli Salad (from the Summer Barbecue chapter)

This easy, crisp, classic vegetable salad is a must at any summer barbecue, picnic, or pool party. This is an old recipe I’ve been making for over forty years. The flavors meld beautifully, and the fresh crispness of the veggies, the creaminess of the dressing, and the ease of making it ahead, make this recipe a winner in all categories.

prep time

15 minutes, plus at least 1 hour to chill

cook time

none

serves

8–10

Ingredients

  • 2 bunches of raw broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets (about 8 cups)
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 lb. crisp, crumbled bacon
  • ½ cup chopped, toasted pecans or walnuts
  • 1 cup golden or brown raisins
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  1. In a large bowl, mix the broccoli, onion, bacon, nuts, and raisins.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, sugar, and vinegar.
  3. Toss the dressing with the broccoli mixture. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Mr. Jiu’s in Chinatown: Contemporary Asian Recipes

He cooked in Italy, honed the seasonal California-Mediterranean style in the kitchen of the Zuni Café, and learned Californian contemporary cuisine with Italian influences at Quince. But when it came right down to it, Brandon Jew of Mister Jiu’s in San Francisco who just last night won this year’s James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef: California, missed his grandmother’s cooking.

“What I remember from eating my grandma’s food is after eating, you feel good,” says Jew whose original family name was spelled Jiu but was changed when the family moved here when going through customs. “That sensation is what I want people to experience. Understanding that chefs back in old China—they were considered doctors too, where they were healing people and giving remedies to fix your ailments. A lot of it was basically what they were feeding you. I try not to take it too seriously, but there are things I feel like as a chef, I feel like it’s my responsibility to make people feel good afterwards too.”

But those years cooking Cal weren’t wasted.

Lion’s Head Meatballs

“Cantonese cuisine and California cuisine really align in how ingredient-driven the food is and how minimal—the goal is to do as little to a perfect ingredient,” says Jew. “Finding that perfect ingredient and thinking of the cooking method to showcase its natural flavors the most, to me, is very Cantonese and Californian. I’m using that mentality to bridge the two together.”

A bio major, Jew says it starts with the ingredients.

“There are just some classic things we want to reinterpret,” he says. “There isn’t a lot of specific recipes for a lot of things. Chop suey just doesn’t have really any recipe to it. We’re taking the creative freedom to do our version of that, or even something like egg foo young.”

All the recipes and images used in this story are with permission from Mister Jiu’s in Chinatown: RECIPES AND STORIES FROM THE BIRTHPLACE OF CHINESE AMERICAN FOOD.

LION’S HEAD MEATBALLS

Anything that needs slow braising will do well in a clay pot. The porous clay distributes an encompassing gentle heat all while sealing in the juices. The slightly alkaline clay also keeps proteins loose and tender. I appreciate a clay pot for its kindness to cooks. It holds heat so well that you can set it aside off-heat for an hour or two and come back to find everything inside still nice and toasty. And if you don’t have one, a small Dutch oven with a tight lid will do. Lion’s head (獅子頭, shī zi tóu in Mandarin) are a classic Chinese meatball (the bumpy texture looks like the curly manes of mythical lions). We use savory ingredients ingredients—mushrooms, seaweed, and a blend of pork—that compounds the sīn flavor exponentially. Use whatever delicious fungi you’ve got. Sometimes I drop a handful of fresh cordyceps (蟲草花, chóng căo huá) sautéed with garlic, or shave matsutake as in this recipe. For the bacon, choose an intensely smoky kind. You can use a meat grinder or hand-chop everything old-school.

Active Time — 1 hour, 15 minutes

Plan Ahead — You’ll need about 3 hours total, plus time to make Chicken Stock; pre-soak the clay pot for 2 hours

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Special Equipment — Meat grinder (optional), soaked 9-inch clay pot or a small Dutch oven

Lion’s Head Meatballs

  • 3 oz / 85g nettles or stemmed lacinato kale
  • 1 tsp neutral oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 oz / 115g skin-on pork belly
  • 12 Savoy cabbage leaves, thick stems trimmed
  • 12 oz / 340g pork shoulder, cut into 1½-inch pieces
  • 3 oz / 85g pork back fat
  • 3½ oz / 100g medium-firm doufu
  • 4 tsp peeled and minced ginger
  • 1½ Tbsp light soy sauce (生抽, sāng chāu)
  • 1 Tbsp powdered milk
  • 1¼ tsp freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 1½ cups / 360ml Matsutake Broth (recipe follows)
  • 2 Tbsp neutral oil
  • 3 oz / 85g fresh wild mushrooms (such as matsutake, black trumpets, or chanterelles), chopped if large
  • ½ rosemary sprig, about 2 inches long
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 Tbsp toasted pine nuts
  • 1 fresh matsutake mushroom, very thinly sliced or shaved with a mandoline

To make the meatballs: While wearing thick gloves, strip the leaves from the nettles and discard the stems.

In a wok or a medium frying pan over medium-high heat, warm the neutral oil until shimmering. Add the nettles and a pinch of salt and cook until wilted but still bright green, about 1½ minutes. If using kale, this will take about 3 minutes. Finely chop and set aside.

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Line a baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels.

Remove the skin from the pork belly. Add the skin to the boiling water and blanch for 30 seconds to firm up. Using tongs, remove and set aside. Add the cabbage leaves (work in batches, if needed) to the water and blanch until just wilted, about 30 seconds, then transfer to the prepared baking sheet to drain.

Place the pork skin, pork shoulder, belly, and back fat in a single layer on a plate and put in the freezer until the surface is just frozen but the center is still soft enough to be ground, about 15 minutes.

If using a meat grinder, grind the fat and skin through a fine grinding plate (⅛-inch / 3mm holes) into a large bowl. Switch to a coarse grinding plate (¼-inch / 6mm holes). Regrind about half of the fat-skin mixture back into the large bowl, then grind the shoulder and belly through the same grinding plate. Mix gently to combine. Regrind about half of the pork mixture again. Grind the doufu through the coarse grinding plate into the large bowl.

If chopping by hand, separately mince the pork belly skin, pork belly, pork shoulder, pork fat, and doufu using a chef’s knife or cleaver (two if you got ’em). Transfer to a large bowl as each one has formed a sticky paste and then mix well.

Add the nettles, ginger, soy sauce, powdered milk, 1½ tsp salt, pepper, and fish sauce to the bowl and use your hands to mix until well combined and a sticky paste forms but the meat is not overworked.

Divide the mixture into six portions. Roll each portion into a ball that is firmly packed and smooth. Wrap a cabbage leaf around each meatball, leaving the top exposed (save the remaining cabbage leaves for the clay pot). Refrigerate until ready to cook, up to 4 hours.

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Place the wrapped meatballs in a single layer in a soaked 9-inch-wide clay pot or small Dutch oven. Tuck the remaining cabbage leaves between the meatballs, then add the broth. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.

Transfer the pot to the oven and bake uncovered until the meatballs are browned and cooked through, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, warm a wok or a medium frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the neutral oil and let it heat up for a few seconds. Add the mushrooms and rosemary, season with salt, and stir-fry until the mushrooms are browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Discard the rosemary.

Spoon the stir-fried mushrooms and any oil left in the pan over the meatballs and top with the pine nuts and shaved mushroom. Serve immediately.

MATSUTAKE BROTH

Makes 1 ½ cups / 360ml

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, sear the bacon until dark golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Add the onion to the pan and sear until very browned on one side, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn the heat to medium-low; add the seared bacon, chicken stock, both dried mushrooms, and kombu; and simmer until reduced to 1½ cups / 360ml, about 1 hour.

Fit a fine-mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Strain the broth and discard the solids. Stir the fish sauce into the broth. Let cool, transfer to an airtight container, and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 2 months.

SIZZLING FISH

On a weekly basis, my mom would cook corned beef with cabbage, or chicken à la king, or sausage lasagna. It was too expensive to travel internationally, but we got to eat all over the world from our kitchen table. When she cooked food from her childhood, though, she would make us this steamed fish, topped with ginger, green onions, and fermented black beans. The flavor of steamed fish in Cantonese cuisine is all about sīn tìhm (鮮甜), the essential flavor of a fresh ingredient in combination with a pure, smooth sweetness. The final lashing of hot oil in this dish infuses the green onions and ginger into the flesh of the fish and enriches the soy. Take care not to overcook the fish; I like to turn off the heat in the last minutes of cooking and let the steam finish the job. The flesh should pull off the bone in tender morsels, not flake. I always score round, fleshy fish to help it cook evenly. Then I steam the fish only until the thickest flesh right behind the gill area is not quite opaque or, as Cantonese cooks say, “translucent like white jade.”

Active Time — 20 minutes

Makes 4 servings

Special Equipment — Steamer, 9-inch pie plate

  • 1 Tbsp fermented black beans (optional)
  • One 1½-lb / 680g whole fish (such as black bass or Tai snapper), gutted and scaled
  • large handful aromatics (such as thinly sliced ginger, green onion tops, and/or strips of fresh citrus zest)
  • ¼ cup / 60ml high-smoke-point oil (such as peanut oil)
  • 2 Tbsp premium soy sauce (頭抽, tàuh chāu) or light soy sauce (生抽, sāng chāu)
  • 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and thread cut
  • 3 green onions, thread cut (white parts only)
  • Young cilantro sprigs for garnishing

In a small bowl, cover the black beans (if using) with water, let soak for 30 minutes, and then drain.

Prepare a steamer in a wok or a large, lidded pot following the instructions on page 167 and bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat.

Meanwhile, using kitchen shears, cut off the gills and the fins (careful, sharp!) on the top, bottom, and sides of the fish. Run your fingers over the skin, especially near the gills and belly, toward the head to check for any last scales; remove the scales with the edge of a spoon or the back of a knife.

On both sides of the fish, make eight 2-inch-long parallel slits into the flesh, not quite deep enough to hit bone, starting about 1 inch from the gills. Place the fish in a pie plate. (The fish can hang over the edges so long as everything fits in the steamer. If not, cut the fish in half to fit and hope none of your guests are superstitious.) Tuck some of your chosen aromatics into each slit, then stuff the remaining aromatics in the cavity. Top the fish with the black beans.

Place the pie plate in the steamer, cover, and steam until the eyeball is opaque and the flesh of the fish is white and flaky at the thickest part near the head and first slit, 10 to 12 minutes.

While the fish is steaming, in a small heavy-bottom saucepan over low heat, slowly warm the oil.

When the fish is ready, remove it with the pie plate from the steamer. (Reassemble as a whole fish if you cut it in two.) Drizzle with the soy sauce, then top with the ginger and green onions. Turn the heat under the oil to high and warm until it just starts to smoke. Immediately pour the oil over the fish, getting as much of the ginger and green onions to sizzle as you can. Garnish with the cilantro and serve with a spoon big enough for drizzling the juices.

TAIWANESE-STYLE EGGPLANT

For this recipe, I prefer medium Chinese eggplants, the pale purple, slender ones that are ten to twelve inches long, over similar-looking but more bitter varieties. This calls for oil-blanching and, because eggplant is basically a sponge, brining them for an hour first until they are saturated but not bloated. During frying, the water turns to steam and makes the eggplant creamy and not at all oily.

Cooking is really the study of water. It takes water to grow everything, of course, and so the amount of water that remains in an ingredient after it is harvested or butchered dictates how it will heat through in the pan, whether it will soften, seize, crisp, or caramelize. You’re adding water when you use stocks, vinegars, or alcohol. You’re creating barriers to water with starches. How you cut ingredients and the order in which you add them to the pan is about controlling how and when they release the water inside them. Even the shapes of cooking vessels are about releasing or retaining moisture. When cooking with a wok, changes to water happen so quickly that split-second timing is essential.

Active Time — 25 minutes

Plan Ahead — You’ll need 1 hour for brining

Makes 4 servings

Special Equipment — Deep-fry thermometer, spider

  • 2 medium Chinese eggplants
  • 5 qt plus ¼ cup / 1L water
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 qt / 1.9L neutral oil
  • 3 Tbsp oyster sauce
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 2¼ tsp granulated sugar
  • 5  garlic cloves; 2 thinly sliced, 3 finely chopped
  • 5 red Fresno chile, cut into thin rings
  • ¼ cup / 5g packed Thai or opal basil leaves, torn in half if large

Trim and discard the eggplant ends, then cut into thick wedges, like steak frites—first cut crosswise into three 3-inch chunks, then halve those lengthwise repeatedly until you have 1-inch-thick wedges.

In a large bowl, combine 1 qt / 950ml of the water and the salt and whisk until the salt is dissolved. Add the eggplant, making sure it is submerged, and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour.

Fill a 5-quart or larger Dutch oven with the neutral oil and secure a deep-fry thermometer on the side. Set over medium-high heat and warm the oil to 375°F.

Meanwhile, drain the eggplant and dry very well with paper towels. In a small bowl, combine the remaining ¼ cup / 60ml water, oyster sauce, fish sauce, and sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Set this sauce aside.

Add the sliced garlic to the oil and fry until crisp and light golden brown, about 30 seconds. Use a spider to transfer them to a paper towel to drain.

Check that the oil in the Dutch oven is still at 375°F. Set up for the second fry by setting a dry wok or large skillet over high heat.

Carefully slide all the eggplant into the oil. Stir until the eggplant has darkened and caramelized at the edges, about 1 minute. Remove the eggplant with the spider and drain well over the Dutch oven, then transfer to the screaming-hot wok.

Immediately add the chopped garlic and most of the chile rings (reserve a few for garnish) to the eggplant in the wok and toss everything to combine. Add the reserved sauce and continue to toss until the sauce thickens to a glaze and the eggplants are browned at the edges, about 1 minute. Add most of the basil leaves and toss until wilted.

Transfer the contents of the wok to a serving platter. Crumble the fried garlic and scatter it over the eggplant with the rest of the basil and chile rings. Serve immediately.

Grub Street: 2022 James Beard Award Winners: The Full List

Grub Street: 2022 James Beard Award Winners: The Full List. https://www.grubstreet.com/2022/06/2022-james-beard-chef-and-restaurant-award-winners-full-list.html

Sitka Salmon Shares: Fresh Fish from Cold and Clear Alaskan Waters to Your Door

Sitka Halibut with Pesto & Pasta

      Taking the concept of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) from land to sea with their Community Supported Fishery (CFA), Sitka Salmon Shares isn’t about radishes, green beans, and other vegetables. Instead, takes the concept of The concept is instead of,  each month during the fishing season your share of fresh caught and flash-frozen seafood arrives at your door. The seafood is harvested from Alaskan and North Pacific waters by small-boat fishermen (equivalent to small farmers) and you can choose the type of fish you want—salmon, halibut, black cod, and Dungeness crab (to name a few).

          It’s a great way to try new fish as well such as lingcod, Kodiak jig-saw rockfish, and Bairdi crab and there’s the option to sign up for the Sitka Salmon Share. That’s a variety of low-impact caught salmon—keto, sockeye, and coho as well as salmon burgers—from several fisheries and waterways so the difference in taste can be enjoyed. Prices vary depending upon what you order, and you can cancel your membership whenever you want. And for those with shellfish allergies or who just don’t like the taste, you can specify non-shellfish if you like.

Sitka Salmon Shares is now a completely integrated boat-to-doorstep seafood company. They have a lovable group of fishermen-owners who deliver the fish to their small processing plant in Sitka, Alaska, where they custom-process the catch with a laser focus on quality and traceability. Sitka Shares has two Good-Fish Hubs in the Midwest, which allow then to deliver rtheir fishermen’s catch directly to your doorstep (or to your local farmers market or restaurant).

At Sitka Salmon Shares, you’re joining a community of artisan fishers, healthy eaters, foodies, and Alaskan adventurers in our collective efforts to rebuild America’s seafood system from the ground up. All of us together are actively supporting responsibly sourced seafood and independent, family fishermen who fish in much the same way their grandparents did.

Nene’s Halibut with Garden Pesto

  • 1 – 1.5 pounds halibut
  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 1 stick butter
  • 3 teaspoons finely chopped chives
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 3 teaspoons chopped thyme
  • 3 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • Salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400.

Pierce squash all over with knife and microwave for 6 minutes.

Split long ways to open the squash and remove the seeds.

Drizzle flesh with 1 tbsp olive oil

Season halibut with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder on both sides.

Brown butter over medium high heat until it foams and smells nutty. Mix with squash strands. Place squash flesh side down on a baking sheet lined with foil. Cover with foil and bake 1 hour or until the skin of the squash is easy to poke with a fork. Scrape out the spaghetti squash meat.

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium high heat in a skillet and sear halibut 2-3 minutes on each side. Reduce heat, cover, and cook an additional 3-4 minutes until the halibut flakes,

While the squash is roasting, combine 1/3 cup olive oil, lemon juice, chives, thyme, Parmesan, garlic, and salt & pepper (to taste) in a mason jar. Shake to combine.

 Place a portion of buttered squash on each plate and top with a piece of halibut. Spoon pesto over the halibut and squash.

Marsh’s Grill-Smoked Sockeye

Scientific Name: Oncorhynchus nerka

Where they’re caught: SITKA

 Season: June – August Culinary

Profile: Sockeye’s robust and bold profile holds up to spicy and savory sauces, and is great roasted and sautéed.

  • 1 pound Sockeye Salmon Fillet
  • 1 wood plank
  • 1 cup wood chips
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sea salt
  • 4 ounces Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 cup chopped dill
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • Salt & pepper

Soak the wood plank and the wood chips in water for 30 minutes Place wood chips in either a smoker box or wrap in aluminum foil with some holes poked through.

Mix the sugar and salt together and coat the salmon with the mixture.  Allow the salmon to cure in the fridge for 30 minutes.  Once cured, rinse the salt and sugar off of the salmon, pat dry, and place on the wood plank.

Heat your grill to a low temp, around 200 degrees (use a small amount of charcoal banked to one side of a charcoal grill, or turn on one burner of a gas grill to low.) Place the wood chip packet directly on the coals or burner. Allow it to start smoking, about 5 minutes.

Place the wood-planked salmon on the side of the grill away from direct heat. Close the grill and cook for about 30 minutes until the salmon is just cooked through

Combine sauce ingredients while the salmon is smoking. Season with salt & pepper to taste and set aside.

Serve the salmon with the dill sauce on the side.

Marsh’s Pro-Tip: For an extra level of flavor, try adding herbs or other aromatics to the salt & sugar cure such as lemon zest & thyme, or juniper berries and dill.

Black Bass Tempura with Lemon-Herb Dipping Sauce

  • 1 (12 ounce) black bass fillet, cut into 3 smaller fillets
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons dill, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 quart vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 cup seltzer
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Salt & pepper

In a small bowl, combine cilantro, parsley, dill, lemon juice, olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. Set aside.

Mix together cornstarch and flour in a medium bowl. Just before frying, whisk together the egg yolk and seltzer water and add it to the flour. Gently combine the ingredients using chopsticks, being careful to not over-work the batter.  It’s OK to have small lumps.Heat oil In a fryer or a medium saucepan, heat vegetable oil to 375 degrees.

Dip the black bass into the batter and then carefully drop into the hot oil.  Fry until crisp and lightly brown, about 2-4 minutes. Drain the cooked fish on paper towels and season with a sprinkling of salt while still hot.  Serve with the herb sauce on the side.

 Pro-Tip:  Have extra batter?  Try frying some vegetables such as sweet potato, large onion slices, carrots, or zucchini to serve with the fish. 

Share your finished dishes with us #Sitkarecipes More recipes and culinary inspiration at www.sitkasalmonshares.com/recipes @sitkasalmonshares /sitkasalmonshares

         

The Grove: American Fare with a Latin Flair

         Tucked away on a side road running parallel to Lake Michigan, the Gordon Beach Inn is nestled in a copse of woods. Entering, it’s the type of place with a screen door that rattles as it closes, the floors are shined to a dark rich gloss and the large stone fireplace dominates the large room in the center of the building. To the right are the series of rooms for overnight guests. And to the left is The Grove, the inn’s restaurant, a long room and doorways leading to the small cozy bar area and two enclosed porches overlooking the gardens. A defining feature is Jo Hormuth’s botanical themed and local Native American pattered hand-stenciled designs decorating walls, ceilings, and corridors.

History

         A classic beach resort for the last century, the inn was a built for a purpose beyond just summer fun.  The 1920s was a time in American history not only for bootleggers and bathtub gin but also when a second wave of popularity for the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) in positions of power. And Indiana, just a border away from Michigan, had the largest Klan population in the U.S. with a peak of 250,000 around the mid-1920s. That was when Edward Jackson, a well-known Klan sympathizer, was elected to serve as Indiana’s 32nd governor. To make it worse, over half of those elected to the Indiana General Assembly that year were members of the Klan. In Valparaiso, the Klan attempted to buy what had been the Valparaiso Male and Female College that opened in 1859 and now was struggling financially. It was to become “Ku Klux Kollege.” The deal was almost done but then the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod stepped in to stop the Klan. Purchasing the college, they changed the name to Valparaiso University.      

         The Klan was an equal opportunity hater, besides African-Americans, they hated Catholics, Italians, Eastern Europeans, Hispanics, Italians, and Jews. Anti-Semitism was a big deal which was why Louis Gordon, a Jewish physician decided to build a resort in Union Pier for Jewish guests. Purchasing land near Lake Michigan that had been an apple orchard, the building construction began in 1925 with completion in 1929.

         Later it would be bought by a Chicago alderman who catered to African American guests before being purchased by Devereux Bowly who also owned the Lakeside Inn, another venerable old-style resort. After Bowly’s death, both resorts passed to his sister Judy and her son Zach.

Latin American Roots

         For a long time, Timothy’s Restaurant was located at the Gordon Beach Inn and then it stood empty for a while. But always adaptable to change, the Gordon Beach Inn now is home to The Grove, a restaurant that emphasizes its Latin flair, reflecting the heritage of Executive Chef Eduardo Pesantez’s Latin American roots.  Born in Ecuador and raised in Cuenca, the third largest city in Ecuador, known for its sophisticated European style culinary style. It’s located in the Andes Mountains in southern Ecuador where his family owns a large farm in and so Pesantez has long know how to cook using local and seasonal foods.

         Some 35 years ago, Pesantez moved to New York to attend the Culinary Institute of America and then worked at several high-end New York restaurants as well as the executive chef at Pepsi Co. He is also the owner of Cravings, a catering company that he runs from the kitchen of The Grove. Joining Pesantez at The Grove is his wife, Maira Pinargote, who lived in Manabí Province located on Ecuador’s Pacific Coast. The foods differ. Where the more mountainous region where Pesantez grew up is more meat oriented, Pinargote, whose father owns a large seafood company, dined to a large variety of fresh fish and seafood.

Flavors of the Sea and the Mountains

         Both come into play in the international dishes found on the menu and in their specials. Pesantez serves a variety of paellas. Their Signature Paella is a mixture of seafoods, the House Paella is meats—chicken, chorizo sausage, pork shoulder and jicama and the third is all vegetables. Other South American meals on the menu include Bistec al Caballo (Steak on Horseback), a black angus ribeye steak with a Spanish tomato onion sauce, fried plantains, rice, and beans and Enconcado de Camarones, sautéed shrimp in a creamy coconut sauce with rice and beans.

         Beyond such Latin American fare like Chicken Mole, Pesantez also goes international with Moroccan Lamb and Mushroom Truffle Ravioli and American for those who like hamburgers, smoked brisket, and grilled chicken breasts.

         “I think people are surprised when they first taste Latin American foods,” says Pesantez. “Many expect it to be spicy hot but it’s more about flavors and seasonings—some different from what we eat here in America and if also can be about cooking techniques as well. And it’s very different from region to region in Ecuador. The foods they eat in the mountainous areas differ from those along the coast or the plains.”

The Grove’s Signature Paella

4 1/2 cups chicken stock

1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled and then loosely measured

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 yellow onion finely chopped

1/2 red Bell pepper, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

6 ounces mild dried chorizo sausage, sliced into thin halfmoons

3 cups short grain rice, such as Spanish Bomba rice or Italian Arborio

14-ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes

1 cup frozen green peas

1 pound large (21-24 per pound) shrimp, peeled and deveined with tails left on

1 pound mussels, rinsed and scrubbed

1 pound littleneck clams, rinsed and scrubbed

1/4 cup chopped parsley, for garnish

Preheat the grill: Heat a gas grill to medium high heat (375° F) degrees or light a charcoal grill and let it burn until the charcoal is covered with gray ash.

Steep the saffron: In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the stock to a boil. Add the sand from saffron and salt. Turn off the heat and let the saffron steep for at least 15 minutes. Taste and add more salt, if needed.

Assemble the ingredients by the grill: On a table next to the grill set the skillet with the sofrito, the rice, tomatoes, stock, salt, peas, shrimp, mussels, and clams.

Begin cooking the paella: Set the skillet with the sofrito on the grill. Add the rice, and cook, stirring often, for 45 minutes or until the rice is coated with oil and lightly toasted. Stir in the stock, tomatoes, and peas. Taste for seasoning and add more if you like. Spread the rice evenly over the bottom of the pan. Close the grill cover in simmer rice without stirring for 15 minutes or until the rice absorbs most of the stock

Cook the sofrito base: In a 12-to-14 inch stainless steel skillet or cast iron pan, heat the oil over medium heat on top of the stove. Add the onion and red pepper and cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until the onion is translucent. Stir in the garlic. Sauté the shrimp and chorizo and then add to the pan with the rice along with the rest of the seafood. If the paella looks dry, add more water. Cover and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes and the clam and mussel shells have opened.

Serve immediately with slices of thick bread.

Smoked Brisket garlic powder

1 brisket, 5 to 6 pounds

2 tablespoon garlic powder

2 tablespoon onion powder

½ tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

Gently rub garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper on all sides of the brisket 

If using a smoker, place meat in smoker and, with a mixture of such hardwoods as cherry and hickory mixed in with the coals, set temperature for 205-220° F degrees. Place brisket on rack and cook for six to seven hours or until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 190 degrees. Remove from her and let rest.

If cooking brisket in the oven:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Make a dry rub by combining garlic and onion powders, salt, and black pepper. Season the raw brisket on both sides with the rub. Place in a roasting pan and roast, uncovered, for 1 hour.

Add beef stock and enough water to yield about 1/2 inch of liquid in the roasting pan. Lower oven to 300 degrees F, cover pan tightly and continue cooking for 3 hours, or until fork-tender.

Trim the fat and slice meat thinly across the grain. Top with juice from the pan.

Sautéed Sweet Plantains

(Tajaditas Dulces de Plantano)

¼ cup peanut oil for frying

2 tablespoons butter

3 medium ripe yellow plantains, peeled and cut in 1-inch-thick slices

 3 tablespoons brown sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

Heat peanut oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat until the butter begins to sizzle. Gently toss plantain slices with brown sugar, then place into hot oil. Fry until the plantains begin to turn golden brown, then turn over, and continue frying until they have caramelized, about 2 minutes per side.

Drain plantains on a paper towel-lined plate and sprinkle with salt before serving.

Nom Nom Paleo Let’s Go! Simple Feasts + Healthy Eats

Michelle Tam and Henry Fong, the James Beard Award nominated creators of Nom Nom Paleo, a website and award-winning cooking app, newest cookbook, Nom Paleo Let’s Go! Simple Feasts + Healthy Eats (Volume 3) features more keto-friendly, Whole30, and plant-based recipes.  Published by Andrews McMeel Publishing, it’s a fun book but serious as well, with 2000 step-by-step instructions, lots of photos and illustrations, and a dash of snarky humor.

It’s the third in their series of cookbooks, the first two of which were both New York Times bestsellers. Tam, who holds a doctorate in pharmacy from the University of California, develops recipes based upon the Cantonese meals her mother cooked for the family when she was growing up and the immigrant cuisine of the San Francisco Bay area where she grew up as well as such American teen basics as cheeseburgers and French fries.

Tam and Fong operate on the premise that weeknight suppers should be healthy and flavor-packed as well as fast and simple. Weekends and celebrations, on the other hand, are the perfect excuse to craft elevated (but easy) crowd-pleasers. Nom Paleo Let’s Go! offers crazy-delicious recipes for all occasions, and every single one is free of grains, gluten, dairy, and refined sugar.

Fong is an attorney who does the photography and illustrations for their books as well as the over all design. In all, they both seem to have a lot of fun in the kitchen and in writing their cookbooks.

All three books coordinate with a multitude of specialty diets—paleo, keto-friendly, vegan, nut-free, Whole30, and plant-based and every single recipe is free of grains, gluten, refined sugar, and dairy. But if it all sounds too healthy, no one you’re cooking for needs to know how nutritious the dishes are. And they won’t know based on the taste either as it’s all seriously yummy.

As always, Nom Nom Paleo’s recipes reflect the diverse cuisines Michelle grew up with and culinary ideas from her travels. Often Asian-inspired, Michelle’s unfussy recipes maximize flavor, optimize whole foods, and are presented with photos of each step so they’re absolutely foolproof–even for novice cooks! New recipes include: Cantonese Roast Duck, Nom Nom Chili Crisp, Bacon Cheeseburger Casserole, Chicken Karaage, Instant Pot Balsamic Beef Stew, and Paleo-Friendly Cream Puffs.

Hash Brown Fish

Umami Stir Fry Powder

  • ⅔ cup dehydrated chopped scallions
  • 6½ tablespoons kosher salt
  • ¼ cup dried shiitake mushroom powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground white pepper

Hash Brown Fish

  • 1 pound Russet potatoes, peeled
  • ½ cup scallions, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup avocado oil or ghee, divided
  • 2 teaspoons umami stir fry powder or kosher salt, divided
  • Four 5-ounce skinless sea bass or cod fillets, each about ¾-inch thick
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges

MAKE THE UMAMI STIR FRY POWDER (IF DESIRED): Toss all of the ingredients into a mini food processor or spice grinder. Blend to make a fine powder, scraping down the sides occasionally to make sure the dehydrated green onions are totally powderized. (This seasoning will keep in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to 6 months.)

MAKE THE HASH BROWN FISH: Grate the potatoes with a food processor or by using the large holes of a box grater.

Bundle the shredded potatoes in a clean kitchen towel. Then, wring out the potatoes and discard the liquid.

In a large bowl, toss together the shredded potatoes, scallions and 1 teaspoon of umami stir fry powder or kosher salt.

Pat the fish dry with paper towels. Sprinkle the other teaspoon of umami stir fry powder or kosher salt on the fish fillets.

Heat a large cast iron or nonstick skillet over medium heat, and then add 2 tablespoons of oil or ghee to the hot pan.

Add two ⅓-cup mounds of potatoes to the pan and flatten them into rectangles, approximating the size of your fish fillets.

Smush a fish fillet onto each potato layer and cover each one with a thin layer of shredded potatoes.

Fry for 5 to 8 minutes or until the bottom layer of potatoes is crisp and golden brown.

Carefully flip the fillet packets over with a fish spatula and cook for another 5 to 8 minutes on the other side.

Once the other potato layer is nicely browned and the center of the fish registers 135°F on an instant-read thermometer, transfer to a plate.

Repeat steps 6 to 11 with the remaining fish and potatoes and serve with lemon wedges.

Ginger Scallion Sauce

This salty, herbaceous condiment is exponentially greater than the sum of its parts. It’s traditionally served with whole poached chicken, but growing up, I would put it on everything! This sauce is transformative, lending massive flavor to any savory dish.

Makes 1 cup

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup finely minced scallions
  • 3 tablespoons finely minced fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
  • ½ cup avocado oil

Method:

Toss the scallions, ginger, salt, and white pepper in a large heat-proof bowl or 2-cup measuring cup.

Stir it all together.

In a small saucepan over high heat, warm the oil until it’s shimmering but not quite smoking. 

Add a tiny piece of scallion to test the heat of the oil. If you see lots of little bubbles, the oil’s ready. (Or just check that the oil reaches 375°F on an instant-read thermometer.)

Pour the hot oil into the scallion and ginger mixture a little at a time. It’ll sizzle and boil, so be careful!

Stir well and let the sauce cool to room temperature. The sauce can be refrigerated in a sealed jar for up to 2 weeks or frozen in an ice cube tray for up to 3 months.

All-Purpose Stir-Fry Sauce

Despite its name, my All-Purpose Stir-Fry Sauce isn’t just for stir-fries: it’s a fundamental component in recipes of all kinds. This ultra-versatile sauce keeps in the refrigerator 

Makes 2 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup coconut aminos
  • ½ cup fresh orange or pineapple juice
  • ¼ cup paleo-friendly fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Method:

Combine all the ingredients in a measuring cup or jar. Mix it all together.

Char Siu (Chinese Barbecue Pork)

Makes 8 servings

  • ½ cup plum, peach, or apricot jam, sweetened only with fruit juice
  • ¼ cup coconut aminos
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon almond butter
  • 1 tablespoon honey (optional, not Whole30)
  • 1 teaspoon paleo-friendly fish sauce
  • ½ teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder roast
  • 2  teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt 
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced (optional)

Pour the jam into a small saucepan. To stay paleo-friendly, be sure to use a high-quality, 100% fruit jam.

Next, toss in the coconut aminos, tomato paste, almond butter, honey (if desired), fish sauce, Chinese five-spice powder, and ground ginger.

Whisk the marinade as you heat it to a simmer over medium heat.

Once the marinade is bubbling and smooth, transfer it to a measuring cup and let it cool to room temperature. (Not ready to roast the pork? You can store the sauce in the fridge for up to 4 days.)

Next, prepare the pork. Blot the pork shoulder with a paper towel. Then, slice the pork shoulder into 2-inch strips of even thickness.

The pork strips should be roughly uniform in size. It’s fine to have fatty pieces of pork because: (1) it’s tasty, and (2) you don’t want to end up with dry char siu. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of kosher salt all over the pork pieces.

Place the pork in a large bowl or in a zippered food storage bag. Pour all except ⅓ cup of the cooled marinade onto the pork. Cover and refrigerate the reserved marinade.

Use your hands to coat the marinade all over the pork strips. Cover the bowl and refrigerate it for 2 to 24 hours.

When you’re ready to roast the pork, heat the oven to 350°F with the rack in the middle position. Arrange the pork on an oven-safe wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes, flipping the pork pieces at the halfway point. Take the pork out of the oven and increase the temperature to 400°F.

Brush half of the reserved marinade on the tops of the pork pieces. Pour enough water into the bottom of the pan so that you have a thin layer coating the bottom. This will keep the drippings from burning while the pork cooks.

Roast for 25 minutes. Then, flip the pork pieces over and brush on the remaining marinade. Cook for another 20 to 30 minutes or until the pork is slightly charred on the edges. Rest the pork for 10 minutes, and then slice against the grain into bite-size pieces.

Arrange the pork on a serving dish and garnish with 2 sliced scallions, if desired.

Sheet Pan Pineapple Chicken

Serves 4

This easy sheet pan meal is my riff on Huli Huli Chicken, a classic Hawaiian barbecue staple featuring a sweet and savory sauce made with pineapple juice, ketchup, and soy sauce. Believe me: no one can resist a pan of sticky chicken and pineapple, especially when it’s re-imagined with healthier, paleo-friendly ingredients. Don’t substitute fresh pineapple and ginger for canned pineapple and ground ginger! The fresh stuff contains enzymes that break down proteins, so if you use ’em, they’ll make your chicken mushy!

Ingredients

  • 1 (13.5-ounce) can pineapple rings in pineapple juice
  • ½ cup paleo-friendly ketchup
  • ½ cup coconut aminos
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon paleo-friendly fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • ¾ teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds 
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced

Method:

Open up the pineapple can and set aside the pineapple rings.

Pour ½ cup of the pineapple juice from the can into a large measuring cup. (We won’t be using the rest.)

Add the ketchup, coconut aminos, rice vinegar, honey, fish sauce, sesame oil to the pineapple juice in the measuring cup. Toss in the ground ginger and minced garlic. Whisk it all together to form a marinade.

Place the chicken in a medium bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Pour in ½ cup of the marinade. Set aside the remaining marinade.

Toss the chicken well. Cover and marinate for 30 minutes or up to a day in the fridge.

In the meantime, pour the remaining marinade into a small saucepan and bring it to a boil over high heat. Then, decrease the heat to maintain a simmer for about 20 minutes until the liquid has thickened into a sauce. Remove from the heat and set aside. You should now have about 1 cup of sauce. 

Set aside about ¼ cup of the sauce to baste the chicken, and save the rest to serve with the finished dish.

Heat the oven to 400°F on convection mode or 425°F on regular mode with the rack in the middle.

Arrange the chicken thighs and the pineapple rings in a single layer on a rimmed, greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. 

Bake for 15 minutes. Then, rotate the tray and brush the reserved ¼ cup of cooked sauce onto the chicken thighs and pineapple rings. 

Bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes or until the thickest part of the thighs register 165°F on a meat thermometer.

Garnish the chicken and pineapple with sesame seeds and scallions. Serve with the reserved sauce!

Excerpted from Nom Nom Paleo: Let’s Go!  © 2022 written & photographed by Michelle Tam & Henry Fong.  Reproduced by permission of Andrews McMeel Publishing. All rights reserved.

4 Self-Care City Vacation Retreats

Taking Care of Yourself

Busy lives and hectic work schedules can take their toll on both the mind and the body, which is why it’s essential you try to take a break to recharge your batteries as you welcome the New Year. One way of energizing your body and calming your mind is to take a trip focused on self-care and general wellness.

Guest blogger, Lisa Walker of Neighborhood Sprout, recommends four cities you can visit to achieve both.

Minneapolis

In 2020, Minneapolis, Minnesota was voted the third-fittest city in the country. More than 75% of residents work out at least once a week. It’s a haven for outdoor lovers, and travelers would be foolish not to visit the town of Brainerd, with its 450 lakes and year-round recreational activities such as hiking and canoeing and opportunities for relaxation.

With lower-than-average health care costs, an incredible park system, good infrastructure, and a seemingly endless stream of things to do, Minneapolis is a great place to live as well as visit.

Knoxville

Being exposed to high levels of traffic daily can lead to chronic stress. However, this isn’t something you’ll experience in Knoxville, Tennessee, one of the world’s least congested cities. Far less traffic ensures a quicker journey to the country’s most visited national park, just 34 miles away.

The Smoky Mountains spans over 500,000 acres and has 850 miles of trails, including the world-renowned Appalachian Trail.

Besides less congestion, other benefits of moving to Knoxville include lower housing costs. Searching for rental apartments in Knoxville is made easier by visiting sites like Apartment Guide. You can set your price range and other parameters to ensure you only search for properties within your budget and meet other requirements such as a number of bedrooms, pet friendliness, and other amenities. 

San Marcos

San Marcos in San Diego, California, is a fantastic place to recharge and rejuvenate with its tranquil streets, peace, quiet, proximity to the breach, open spaces, and nature. It’s also home to one of the best spas in the world.

The Golden Door features multiple facilities including, a 2,000-square-foot equipment gym, two swimming pools, and a water therapy pool for guests to work out or relax. Discovery Lake, another place of interest, allows visitors to immerse themselves in large tracts of wilderness and connect with nature. Anyone deciding to relocate to the city can enjoy a lower cost of living and a lower crime rate than average. 

Malibu

Escape the crowds at Malibu’s Westward Beach

West of Los Angeles, California, and known for its celebrity homes and beaches, Malibu also boasts an exclusive and sought-after seven-day wellness retreat, The Ranch.

Limited to just 19 guests, visitors immerse themselves in a self-care experience that includes weight loss, fitness programs while also enjoying local plant-based meals.

Eight hours of daily activity include afternoon naps, massages, and an organic vegan diet. Living in a sparsely populated city has many benefits, such as incredible landscapes, top attractions, and a low crime rate. As expected, living costs in the city are considerably higher than the average.

A Necessary Reset

Whether it’s a relaxing massage, a 45-minute workout, or an awe-inspiring visit to a national park or an organic vegan diet, sometimes a change and a reset are not only needed; they’re often necessary. 

Spilling the Beans: Abra Berens Dishes on Legumes, Beans, and More in Her Latest Cookbook

         A much maligned vegetable belonging, along with peas and lentils, to the vegetable class called legumes, beans are about as low on the food chain as you can go in terms of respect. Kids snicker at rhymes about beans and the gas they produce and sayings like “not worth a hill of beans” signifies their, well, insignificance.

         Once Abra Berens, the former co-owner of Bare Knuckles Farm in Northport, Michigan and now the executive chef at Granor Farm in Southwest Michigan, was like most of us. She didn’t give a bean about beans. That is until she became intrigued by the bean and grain program at Granor, a certified organic farm in Three Oaks, a charming historic village with its own burgeoning food culture.

         Now she’s all about legumes and grains and for anyone who knows Abra that means a total passionate immersion in the subject which resulted in her latest cookbook, a 464-page door stopper with 140 recipes and over 160 recipe variations titled Grist: A Practical Guide to Cooking Grains, Beans, Seeds, and Legumes. Just published by Chronicle Books on October 26th, the demand for Grist is so high it was hard to get a copy at first.

         Now, that’s worth more than a hill of beans.

         Berens, a James Beard semifinalist for Outstanding Chef: Great Lakes, also authored  Ruffage. That book, which came out in 2019, was named a Best Cookbook for Spring 2019 by the New York Times and Bon Appétit, was a 2019 Michigan Notable Book winner, and was also nominated for a 2019 James Beard Award. She puts the same energy into her Grist.

         “We are told over and over again to eat a diet rich in whole grains and plant-based protein,” writes Berens in the book’s introduction. “The science is there—high in soluble fiber, low glycemic index, healthy fatted protein—but the perception of whole grains seems to still be of leaden health food, endless cooking times, and cud-like chewing at the end of it all.”

         Indeed. Consider this. A cup of cooked black beans has 245 calories and contains approximately the following percentage of the daily values needed in an average diet—74% folate, 39% manganese, 20% iron, 21% both potassium and magnesium, and 20% vitamin B6.

         “But we all know that they’re good for you,” says Berens, who describes herself as a bean-evangelist.  “I want people to understand these ingredients and you can’t understand these ingredients until you know them.”

         And so, she introduces us to 29 different grains, legumes, and seeds. Some like lentils, lima beans, split peas, quinoa, rice, and oats we know something about. Others are more obscure such as cowpeas, millet, teff, fonio, and freekeh are mysteries. That is until you read her book and learn not only how to cook them but also about their history. There’s a cheat sheet of the health benefits of each. Berens also conducted interviews with farmers  including her cousins Matt and John Berens, third-generation farmers in Bentheim, Michigan who have transitioned into growing non-GMO corn and edible beans and Jerry Hebron, the manager of Oakland Avenue Urban Farm, a nonprofit, community-based organization dedicated to cultivating healthy foods, sustainable economies, and active cultural environments. Hebron has been raising crowder beans for almost a decade.  

         We also get to meet Carl Wagner, a farmer and seed cleaner in Niles, Michigan. Berens said she wanted to include “invisible” farming jobs and this certainly is one. She didn’t know what a seed cleaner was until a few years ago and figured that most of us don’t know either. Wagner, with his wife Mary, run C3 Seeds, a company that provides seed cleaning for grains and seed stock.  When Berens asked him what he’d like people to know about his job, his response was that they would know that seed cleaning “is part of buying a bag of flour or a bottle of whiskey.”

         “The biggest thing is that if people are interested in cooking with beans, it’s an easy entry point it’s not like buying $100 tenderloin,” says Berens.

         Of course, you can buy beans in the grocery store. Berens recommends dried beans not canned. But Granor Farm also sells black, red, and pinto beans at their farm store which is open Friday and Saturday. For information on the times, visit granorfarm.com

         Berens is already working on her next book, tentatively titled Fruit, due out in 2023. When I ask her how she does it all, she laughs and replies, “I don’t have any hobbies.”

         And she takes things very seriously.

         “Every author has to think about why they’re putting something in the world,” she says, “and what is the value of it and makes these books worthwhile.”

         With Grist, we’re learning the value of tasty and healthy foods that taste good.

The following recipes are reprinted from Grist: A Practical Guide to Cooking Grains, Beans, Seeds, and Legumes by Abra Berens with permission from Chronicle Books, 2021. Photographs © EE Berger.

Seared Chicken Thighs W/Buckwheat, Smashed Cucumbers + Tajín Oil

The angular mouthfeel of the buckwheat plays well with the crunch of the cucumber and against the crisp of the chicken thigh. Serve the buckwheat warm or chilled, depending on your preference. If you aren’t eating meat, the salad is a great lunch on its own or pairs well with an egg or fried tofu.

  • 1 cup buckwheat groats, toasted or not
  • Olive oil
  • 2 medium cucumbers (about 1 lb. total), washed
  • 1/4 cup Tajín Oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¾ cup plain yogurt, Greek or traditional
  • 1 lemon (about 1½ oz) zest and juice
  • 10 sprigs parsley, roughly chopped
  • Any additional herbs you want, roughly chopped (mint, tarragon, thyme, cilantro)
  • Pinch of chili flakes (optional)
  • 4 to 6 chicken thighs

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil over high heat. Toss in the buckwheat groats and give the pot a stir. Return to a boil, lower to a simmer, and cook the grains until tender, 8 to 15 minutes.

Drain the groats, toss with a glug of Tajín oil, and set aside.

Trim the ends of the cucumbers and place on a cutting board. Using the widest knife (or frying pan) you have, press down on the cucumbers until their skin cracks and they break into irregular pieces. Dress the cucumbers with the Tajín oil and a pinch of salt.

Combine the yogurt with the lemon zest and juice, chopped herbs, chili flakes (if using), a pinch of salt, and two big glugs of olive oil. Set aside.

Blot the chicken skin dry and season with salt and pepper.

Heat a large frying pan over high heat until the pan is starting to smoke. Add a glug or two of oil, lower the heat to medium, and fry the thighs, skin-side down, until golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Flip the

chicken and sauté until cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes more.

To serve, dish the buckwheat onto serving plates. Top with the chicken thighs and then the dressed cucumbers. Garnish with a thick spoonful of the herbed yogurt.

Tajín Oil

  • 1 cup neutral oil
  • 2 Tbsp Tajín

In a medium sauce or frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat until it begins to shimmer, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat, add the Tajín, and let steep for 5 minutes.

Whole Roasted Leeks w/Chickpeas, Lemon Vinaigrette, Ricotta + Chard

  • 4 large leeks (about 2 pounds), trimmed and cleaned of dirt
  • 4 sprigs thyme (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon chili flakes (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 orange (about 3 ounces), peel stripped, juiced, or ¼ cup white wine or hard cider
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cups cooked or canned chickpeas, rinsed
  • 1 bunch chard (8 ounces), cut into ribbons (or spinach, kale, or arugula)
  • 2 lemons (about 3 ounces), zest and juice
  • 4 ounces ricotta

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the whole, cleaned leeks, side by side, in a roasting pan.

Scatter the thyme (if using), chili flakes (if using), and 2 large pinches of salt evenly over the leeks.

Scatter the orange peel strips over the leeks and drizzle them with the orange juice and ¼ cup of the olive oil to coat.

Cover with foil and bake until the leeks are tender, 35 to 45 minutes.

Combine the chickpeas, chard ribbons, lemon zest and juice, and remaining ½ cup of olive oil with a big pinch of salt and a couple of grinds of black pepper.

When the leeks are tender, transfer from the roasting pan to plates or a serving platter. Top with the chickpea and chard salad. Dot ricotta over the top and serve.

Spoon Pudding with Pork Chops and Cabbage Salad

For the spoon pudding:

  • ¾ cup cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

For the salad:

  • About 1 pound red cabbage, shaved into thin strips
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 10 sprigs parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 lemon zest and juice
  • ½ teaspoon chili flakes
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • Salt

4 pork chops, seasoned with salt and pepper and grilled

To make the spoon pudding:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an ovenproof baking dish or frying pan that can hold 2 quarts total volume.

Combine the cornmeal, salt, 1 cup of boiling water, and the melted butter and whisk out any lumps. Combine the eggs, milk, and baking powder and add to the cornmeal batter. Pour into the prepared baking dish and bake until the edges of the spoon bread are just set and lightly browned, 30 to 40 minutes.

To make the salad: Combine the cabbage with the olive oil, chopped parsley, lemon zest and juice, chili flakes, paprika, and a couple pinches of salt. Toss to combine and adjust the seasoning as desired.

Serve the spoon bread alongside the grilled pork chops and cabbage salad.

Baking for the Holidays is a Perfect Resource for Edible Presents

I love giving—and getting—edible gifts and so Sarah Kieffer’s Baking for the Holidays: 50+ Treats for a Festive Season with recipes for Christmas, Hanukah, and New Year’s Eve get togethers, cookie swaps, and stocking stuffers is just the thing. Kieffer, author of 100 Cookies, is also the creator of The Vanilla Bean Blog, and inventor the “bang-the-pan” method. The latter is a technique she originally used for her chocolate chip cookies.

But before you get the idea that you’ll be able to slam pans around—which would be a wonderful way to let off steam during the busy holiday season—realize it’s Kieffer’s term for the way she shakes up the cookies while they’re baking in order to create a crispy edged cookie with gooey center cookie. She calls them her “Pan Banging Chocolate Chip Cookies.”

See her blog for that recipe and more.

Peanut Butter Cups

  • 16 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
  • ½ cup creamy peanut butter
  • ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the chocolate, stirring frequently until smooth. Pour

the melted chocolate into a medium bowl and let cool for 10 minutes.

In another medium bowl, mix together the peanut butter, sugar, butter, vanilla, and salt until combined and completely smooth.

Place about a tablespoon of chocolate in the bottom of each circle in a silicone mold (you can also line a mini muffin pan and use that instead). Tilt and twist the mold around so the chocolate coats the sides of the circle.

Scoop out a scant tablespoon of the peanut butter mixture and gently roll it into a ball between your palms (if it is too sticky to do so, refrigerate the mixture for 10 minutes to help it firm up). Place the ball in the center of each mold and top each one with some of the remaining chocolate.

Smooth out the tops by gently tapping the mold on the counter, then chill in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 hours to set. Once set, pop each peanut butter cup out of its mold and bring to room temperature before serving.

Peanut butter cups can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1 week.

VARIATION

Cacao Nibs Topping

Melt 1 ounce of chocolate.

Place about ½ teaspoon of chocolate on top of each set and unmolded peanut butter cup, carefully smoothing out the tops. Sprinkle with chopped cacao nibs and let set before serving.

Gluten-free and Easy-to-Make

Remember when gluten-free usually meant taste-free? Thank goodness so many great gluten-free products are now available. I’m constantly trying new ones, not because I’m on a gluten-free diet (lately I feel like I’ve been on a glutton-plus diet but that’s a different post) but because people are always asking what I recommend.

So I was happy when my friend Aly Nardini of Chicago sent me samples of products made by Pamela’s, a leading purveyor of great-tasting, gluten-free mixes for breads, muffins, flours such as almond, cassava, tiger nut, and coconut, cookies, cakes, ramen noodles, pasta, grain-free pancake mixes using nut flours, and more. Pamela’s website is very informative and for each item, there’s a list of ingredients as well as recipes so there’s always something new to try. Besides that, the site provides substitutions so if you’re using, say tiger nut flour, you can use it both as a one on one substitute for other flours or, since tiger nuts aren’t really nuts but a milled vegetable root with a flour consistency, it can be used instead of nut flours such as almond flour. How handy is that?

I always try any recipe before I post it.For example, using Pamela’s Baking and Pancake Mix, I made their Fall Sheet Pan Pancake with apples and cranberries. According to the website, the mix packet contains brown rice flour, white rice flour, cultured buttermilk, natural almond meal (may appear as brown flecks), tapioca starch, sweet rice flour, potato starch, grainless & aluminum free baking powder (sodium acid pyrophosphate, potato starch, sodium bicarbonate), baking soda, sea salt, and xanthan gum. According to their Allergen Information, their mix contains milk and almonds and was manufactured in a gluten-free certified facility, on equipment that processes tree nuts, coconut, eggs, soy and milk. Manufactured in a peanut-free facility.

The following are recipes that I’ve made using Pamela’s Products. They’re all available on her website under the recipes tab. Just click here.

Fall Sheet Pan Pancake

Recipe courtesy (@uncomplicatedchef)

2 cups of Pamela’s Baking & Pancake Mix (follow package instructions for the batter
1 apple, sliced
1/4 cup of fresh cranberries
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
Maple syrup for serving


Make the pancake batter as per package instructions.

Slice the apple. In a bowl mix apples and cranberries with sugar and cinnamon.
Bake in preheated oven 350 degrees for about 20 minutes until nice and fluffy. Serve with butter and maple syrup.

Lemon Bars

This gluten-free recipe from @soulfooodie features Pamela’s Honey Grahams and Coconut Flour and is a delightful rift on a personal favorite.

CRUST:

  • 2 cups @pamelasproducts #glutenfree Honey Grahams
  • ½ cup butter, melted
  • ¼ cup coconut palm sugar
  • 6 tablespoons of @pamelasproducts #glutenfree Coconut Flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt

LEMON CURD:

  • 5 large eggs
  • 2 ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup + 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • ¾ cup + 1 tablespoon @pamelasproducts Coconut Flour
  • Powdered sugar for dusting

Crust:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease pan and set aside.

Mix graham cracker crumbs, coconut palm sugar, coconut flour, and salt. Then pour in melted butter and mix until thoroughly combined.

Pour mixture into pan and press crumbs into pan.

Bake crust for 10 minutes. Let cool before adding the lemon curd.

Lemon Curd:

Whisk together eggs and sugar until smooth. Then whisk in lemon juice and zest.

Add in coconut flour and whisk together until smooth and thoroughly combined.

Pour lemon curd mixture over the cooled crust and bake for 36 minutes. Cool & serve.

Kabocha Empanadas with Gruyère & Thyme {Gluten-Free}

Recipe courtesy of Snixty Kitchen.

Gluten-free Crust

  • 1¼ cups Pamela’s All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon xanthan gum
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon sized pieces
  • 8-10 tablespoons ice water

Filling:

1 small kabocha squash (1-1.5lb and you’ll still probably have some left over!), seeds discarded and cut into ¼ to ½-inch cubes

1 tablespoon olive oil

¼ cup shredded gruyère cheese

3 tablespoons chopped shallot (1 large)

1 tablespoon minced garlic (3-4 large cloves)

5 sprigs of fresh thyme

Salt & pepper

Egg wash

1 egg

1 tablespoon water

Gluten-free crust:

Pulse together the Pamela’s All-Purpose Flour, sugar, xanthan gum, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. (If you don’t have a food processor, you can whisk by hand).

Add the cold butter, but don’t pulse. One tablespoon at a time, dribble ice water into the food processor, pulsing after each addition, until the dough holds together when pinched with your fingers. Add water until it just holds together, but is not sticky.

If you need more water, add a teaspoon at a time. (If working by hand, mix the butter into the flour with your hands, breaking up the butter until the largest pieces are about the size of a pea. Mix in ice water, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough just holds together).

Form the dough into a flat disc and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling as directed below.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to ⅛-inch thickness. Use a 4-inch cutter to cut dough rounds and transfer each round to a large parchment-lined baking sheet. Roll out the scraps and repeat until you have 10 dough rounds.

Filling

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Spread the kabocha squash cubes on a large parchment-lined baking sheet and toss with olive oil and about ¼ teaspoon each of salt & pepper. Bake for about 15 minutes, until just tender when pierced with a fork. Place the cooked squash in the refrigerator to cool before filling the empanadas.

When the dough rounds are ready, place filling components in the following on one half of the round: about 1 teaspoon of shredded gruyère, 1 tablespoon cooked kabocha squash, 1 teaspoon chopped shallot, a pinch of minced garlic, and leaves from half a sprig of thyme. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Prepare the egg wash by whisking the egg and water together in a small bowl.

Lightly brush the edge of one half of one dough round with the egg wash, fold the round in half around the filling, lightly crimping the edges together with your fingertips. Repeat with all 10 empanadas.

Brush the egg wash over the top of each empanada.

Bake your empanadas for 30-35 minutes rotating the baking sheet halfway through, until the tops are lightly golden brown. (Tip: Keep an eye on your empanadas after 20 minutes, as the color of your baking sheet can vary the baking time!).

Serve warm.

  • 4½ cups chicken or turkey stock
  • 1½ tsp dried thyme or 1 TBSP fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1½ tsp dried sage or 1 TBSP fresh sage
  • 1 tsp dried marjoram or oregano or 2 tsp fresh marjoram or oregano
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • a pinch of cayenne
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • olive oil for sautéing
  • 1 cup white wine or broth
  • ½ cup butter or butter alternative
  • ½ cup All-Purpose Flour Artisan Blend
  • 1 lb or 3 cups cubed or shredded chicken or turkey
  • 2 cups carrots, diced and cooked (if using frozen, cook according to package directions)
  • 2 cups red or Yukon potatoes, cooked and cubed (if using frozen, cook according to package directions)
  • 1 cup peas (if using frozen, do not cook first)

Pie Crust

 FILLING:

Heat chicken or turkey stock with all the spices on the stove or in microwave (this gives the seasoning time to release the flavors). In a 3½ to 4 qt. heavy pot, sauté onions in a little olive oil until soft, add wine to deglaze the pan and reduce by half. Remove from pan for later use. In the same pot, melt butter and add the All-Purpose Flour Artisan Blend, stirring constantly for a minute or two. This is the base for your roux.

Once roux has cooked for a minute or so, slowly add hot liquid, constantly whisking as it thickens. This will take a minute or two. Once thickened, add onions back in and mix well. Cook for 3 or 4 minutes until fully thickened. Remove from heat and let it cool until just warm.

In a large bowl, gently mix together the chicken or turkey, carrots and potatoes, and then pour the warm sauce in and gently mix well until incorporated. Last, add frozen peas. Store in refrigerator until totally cool — overnight is best, or you can freeze.

MAKING INDIVIDUAL POT PIES:

You will need ramekins or glass baking cups/bowls, large enough to hold enough filling for 1 person, about 1 cup. You will need approximately one recipe pie dough from either Pie Dough with All-Purpose Flour Artisan Blend or Pie Dough with Bread Mix. Depending on the size of ramekins used, you may need to double the crust recipe.

Mix together pie dough according to directions. Divide dough in half. Pat one half into a square, wrap in plastic wrap, and set aside.

Spray a piece of parchment paper or plastic wrap with non-stick spray and flatten and pat the remaining dough into a rectangle or square. Spray another piece parchment or plastic wrap and lay it on top. Roll the dough to desired thickness, no thicker than ¼ “. Place rolled dough on a sheet pan and refrigerate while rolling the second piece. It is easiest to cut and remove scraps when dough is chilled and stiff. Using a pot lid or knife, cut desired size circles. You want the dough 1½ to 2” bigger than the top of your ramekin. Cut as many circles as you can, then re-roll scraps and repeat process until all dough is used. Keep circles chilled, covered, and with wax paper in-between, until ready to use.

ASSEMBLY:

If cooking right after assembly, pre-heat oven to 425°. Take out dough to let rest a minute until it warms up just a little and can easily be manipulated with your fingers. Spray ramekins with non-stick spray, fill almost to the top with chilled filling, and repeat until all are filled.

Cover each ramekin with a dough circle slightly larger than top. Gently try to pull dough flat so the crust is not all lying on filling. Using your fingers press the top dough over the rim, crimp the dough up like a pie crust, then press the remaining dough down onto the sides of the ramekin, so it sticks to the sides. Make sure it is securely attached all the way around to prevent seeping sauce down the sides. (You can leave the edges plain with no crimp, and then add a decoration of small shapes cut from the extra dough with very small cookie cutters.) Place on parchment-lined, rimmed sheet pan in refrigerator to chill and let edges of dough set. Repeat until all pies are completed and chilled. Once the dough is chilled and hard on top, cut 3 or 4 slits in the top. Bake, or wrap well and freeze.

Optional egg wash: Brush tops with one egg yolk mixed well with 1 TBSP milk or water for a nice brown top.

BAKE:

Bake in pre-heated oven at 425° for 15 minutes, then turn oven down to 375° for about 20 minutes until crust is golden and the filling is bubbling a little under the crust.

Chef’s Note: left over filling is great served with rice.