Tag Archives: Leite’s Culinaria

Counter Intelligence

Like any parent, I always expected that some of the values that form the crux of my existence would be passed down to my child in the womb. A penchant for bad puns. A love of good food. A general sense of direction in any kitchen. Don’t get me wrong: I never wanted to breed my kid to be a Michelin-starred chef. I just sort of expected that any child of mine would be baking his own birthday cupcakes by second grade.

That doesn’t seem likely. Ever since my son Graham was born seven weeks early, he’s progressed slowly in almost every way. It took him 29 days to learn how to eat. He began to crawl a full year later than most kids. He was waaaay behind his peers when it came to sticking his fingers in electrical outlets. Ditto for throwing food. And today, at nearly three years old, he still can’t stand on his own. So in our little red leather notebook—the one that starts with a list of my first trimester food cravings—we record inchstones, not milestones.

Click here to read more on how Graham and I are learning how to cook together. The story was originally published at Leite’s Culinaria.


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You’ll forgive me, I hope, if I profess a bit of newfound freedom these days. I’m still not particularly great at sitting on the couch–perhaps I never will be–but in the kitchen, I’d adjusted to being tethered to my own recipes, for my own projects, and people, I am free. And can I just tell you something? I still like to cook.

I was a little afraid there, after I turned the last manuscript in. I thought perhaps I might have overdone it. Might have just cooked my little heart out. Might have gotten so into writing cookbooks that I forgot how to love using them.

But oh, it’s so on, this cooking thing. Not in a fancy way. In a we need to eat but we also need to eat by 6 p.m. or the kid will implode sort of way. In a hey, look what I’ve missed in the last 16 months sort of way. Thought you might want to see what I’ve been loving recently:

Polenta for breakfast

Rice Pudding and Caramel Apples, from Around My French Table, by Dorie Greenspan

Fennel Baked in Cream, from Leite’s Culinaria

Mushroom and Herb Polenta, from Plenty, by Yotam Ottolenghi

Crispy Sesame Kale and Italian Spinach with Garlic and Raisins, from Big Vegan, by Robin Asbell

Cocoa Brownies and Deep Dish Greens with Millet Amaranth Crust, from Clean Start, by Terry Walters

Okay, so it’s not an extensive list. That’s kind of what I love about it. I love that it means that after what seems like a really busy year in my kitchen, I’m letting the kitchen lead me.


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What I didn’t tell you about the doughnut cookbook

That book you see below? It’s out. On shelves. In real, live bookstores, the kind filled with people that don’t know my mother or mother-in-law. Sure, I told you about it–some of it. But there are a few things I didn’t tell you. Here’s a deeper look, from Leite’s Culinaria . . .

I have a very simple history with fried dough. I adore it.

As a 16-year-old, my driver’s license meant I could finally transport myself to Merritt’s Country Café in Boise, Idaho, anytime I pleased to sneak doughnuts behind my mother’s back. Rotund servers ferried heaping plates of fried dough slathered in sugar to tables of rude, hungry teens—no questions asked. Doughnuts represented deliciousness, yes, but also an opportunity to experiment with a type of misbehavior that was far more rebellious, at least to me, than sneaking out to drink.

Fast forward to late last summer, when an editor called looking for a writer to do a baking book about Seattle’s famed Top Pot Doughnuts and its owners, Mark and Michael Klebeck. Apparently she’d heard I could write a mean recipe. The idea of devoting myself and a slice of my career to something so blatantly fattening was exhilarating. And so it happened that I signed a contract to write my first cookbook. The kicker? I had five weeks, instead of the usual 52, to write it.

Click here to read the rest of the story at Leite’s Culinaria, and here for the book’s doughnut bread pudding recipe. (The best thing I’ve ever heard about one of my recipes was when Tia looked at me, shaking her head over the concept of this recipe, and said, “Now c’mon. That’s just dirty.”)


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Spendy Threads

Cloaked in a bolt of royal blue cloth that revealed only a nose, a braided grey beard, and a pair of wrap-around sunglasses, the man I approached at my farmers’ market looked something like a modern-day executioner. I knew there was no rational reason for me to be nervous. Someone I had trusted had given me the hook-up to Washington-grown saffron. But I’d been expecting a hipster, not a hippie.

Surrounded by tables of baby succulents, the grower was busy discussing the particulars of a plant I’d never seen before with another customer. I lurked, observing how the guy’s hands were permanently creased with dirt, almost as though the hands themselves were half-plant. When he noticed me, I shyly asked if he knew who sold saffron. A bright, welcoming grin burst out from behind his hood and he opened his eagle arms wide. With no small drama, he swooped a hand under the table, brought out a small tackle box, and extracted a tiny cellophane envelope filled with abnormally long, red threads. I had to remind myself that what I was doing was perfectly legal. I took a deep breath. “How much?” I ask.

Continue reading at Leite’s Culinaria…

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The break-up

Evidence of a break-up with gluten

A year ago today, I was watching Groundhog Day at Swedish Hospital. We thought it was funny, because as my husband and I waited for our son to be born, we lived the same test-filled days, one after the other, over and over again.

Toward the end of the movie, I went into labor. (Thank goodness. Something had to make the movie more interesting.)

These days, eating gluten-free, it feels sort of the same, only there’s no adorable pink prize at the end. I would love to tell you it’s been one big shining fabulous adventure. But recently, to be honest, my kitchen has hosted string of disasters, day after day: Carrot cupcakes that volcanoed up and over the metal tins and puddled on the bottom of the oven. Blueberry-lemon muffins that would have made great scones, if that’s what I’d meant them to be, but tasted more like pastries left out in the sun three weeks too long. A gorgeous pork roast, stuffed with leeks, apples, and dried cherries, that tasted delicious, but lacking a glutinous binder, fell apart completely on the serving platter. I even messed up a gluten-free pancake mix somehow.

But. I’m doing it. I have not eaten gluten for three weeks. Meals have been relatively easy, because there are so many foods that are naturally gluten-free. Baking is another story. Like anything, it’ll take practice, and patience. I certainly never anticipated having to learn how to bake all over again, but that’s apparently what I’m going to be doing for the next . . . (How long does it take?)

Thankfully, I’ve got memories to tide me over. Remember that weekend of break-up sex with gluten? It was fabulous. I recorded it, in every sordid detail – how my lips felt after one last kiss from a Bacon Deluxe with Cheese at Red Mill. How I shoveled in a Frisbee-sized cinnamon roll, just twenty minutes after First Breakfast, because it might have been my last. How I fantasized writing gluten a little love note (on purple paper in colored ink, natch), asking him whether he liked me or not, because the suspense was unbearable. If you like me, please check this box.

For the whole story, read “A Glutton for Gluten” at Leite’s Culinaria.


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Slim Pickin’

cherries to taste

7:45 a.m.

I fuel up at Le Panier in downtown Seattle. I’ve had breakfast already, but it’s going to be 90 degrees in Wenatchee, so I down a flaky croissant, in case the day turns into eight hours of volunteer labor. Andrew, who must be tall enough to harvest cherries without a ladder, picks me up in his Prius wearing a lovely pressed shirt, slacks, and trendy lace-up leather shoes. He has the self-assured smile of a very successful car salesman. Back home, I’d been so sure sturdy sneakers and an old t-shirt were appropriate, but now, I’m not so certain. Thank goodness I remembered my cherry-print bobby socks. Andrew notices them immediately.

In high school soccer, I was a forward. I had neither the speed and endurance required of a midfielder, nor the ball skills required near the goal. I thought it was a pretty good gig, hanging out up past midfield, waiting for someone to pass me the ball so that I could score and dance around like I’d actually accomplished something. That is, until one girl started screaming “CHERRY PICKER” every time I scored. That made it less fun.

When Andrew, the Washington State Fruit Commission’s resident cherry expert, said he’d take me cherry picking at high season, I jumped. I had no reason to believe I wouldn’t be good at the real thing, especially if I didn’t actually have to grow the cherries myself. And it would be awfully nice if no one hollered at me.

Continue reading Slim Pickin’ at Leite’s Culinaria. . .

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When life gives you nettles

Nettle Pesto Pasta

I’d like to file a petition to officially divide the spring season into two sub-seasons: “Spring,” which comes after Mother’s Day and is usually lovely, and “Unsprung,” the obstinate lovechild of January and July. I don’t like Unsprung, that prepubescent stage between March and April. Every year, I’m hoodwinked into believing that the rain will end, the sun will come out, and we’ll finally be able to stop eating root vegetables. Instead, week after week, I find the same pathetic produce in stores and put up with two months of petulant weather.

Last week, for example, it was 80 degrees in Seattle, and I thought the cold weather was gone. I sailed to my farmers’ market on a boat of absurd optimism, thinking that on some sunny slope within driving distance, a well-tended patch of asparagus might have been bribed out of hibernation. I fantasized about tender, bendy rhubarb and early morels, but the market mocked me. I bought obese parsnips. Again. And kale. Again. And onions. Again. And my hope boat sank.

Continue reading “Taking the Sting Out of Nettles” at Leite’s Culinaria. . . or click here for Bucatini with Nettle-Pecan Pesto.


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