In the year or so since I started The Salty Spoon (oof, has it been a year? a blogoversary celebration is surely in order here, too!), I have had the wonderful fortune to interact with a talented and enthusiastic bunch of like-minded cooks, readers, eaters, and otherwise interesting people. Some have blogs, some don’t. Among the food blogs I’ve discovered in the past year, Megan Fizell’s Feasting On Art is one of my favorites. If you aren’t familiar with this wonderful site, go immerse yourself in the archives for a bit and come back once your socks have been thoroughly knocked off. The concept is so delightful, I continually kick myself for not having thought of it. Megan begins with a still life painting, adds a narrative about the style and the artist, then follows with her own recipes and photographs. The dialogue she creates between the food and the images is simply brilliant.

It just so happens that I, too, have a degree in art history and a soft spot for the still life genre. When Megan announced a recipe contest to celebrate her blog’s upcoming one-year anniversary, I was giddy. We begin with a Renoir, which presents the contest’s required ingredients: strawberries and lemons.


Ripe strawberries are typically used in ways that showcase their exuberant sweetness. I wanted my recipe to feature more of their depth, their essential berry-ness. I turned to my trusty Flavor Bible and pondered the combination of strawberries, wine, and black pepper. Gnarly Head Zinfandel is a bit of a ubiquity in my kitchen right now, and I knew its own berry notes would complement the strawberries while its dryness would temper their sugar. The pepper was a gamble, but I think it works. It brings a bite and sizzle to the dish without being overly precious in its contrast. The bit of maple syrup at the end counters any lingering bitterness from the wine without upping the sweetness too much.

The pound cake is simple as simple can be. Buttery, tender, and gently flavored with lemon, it ably balances the compote’s wild side. For my non-sweet-loving dessert-eaters, this dish will not disappoint. We enjoyed generous helpings beneath the glow of newly installed tiki torches, in our little backyard with friends. The crisp night air surrounded us as we sat by the garden smelling the freshly turned dirt, and our dessert was intriguing enough to make me forget that my arms felt like they were about to fall off (the result of having planted 26 flowers and shrubs in said freshly turned dirt the day before). I’m not going to go so far as to say this dessert has the power to relieve pain, just that you’d be amazed what a few peppercorns can do to keep your mind occupied.


If the idea of about eating whole peppercorns causes you stress, tie them in a bit of cheesecloth and discard at the end. I happen to think it’s rather fun to find one amidst my cake-eating frenzy (because I can’t do anything but gobble this stuff down) but your mileage may vary on this one.

(Keep reading Lemon Pound Cake with Strawberry Zinfandel Compote…)


Suzanne Goin made me eat salad dressing straight out of the bowl, with a spoon.  Sort of.

As I have mentioned before, I’m sitting on a handsome crop of Meyer lemons these days and continue to look for interesting ways to use them.  I eagerly turned to Goin’s beautiful cookbook, Sunday Suppers at Lucques, for inspiration.  The salad that follows caught my eye immediately.  Beautiful and seasonal, it earned extra points with me for using up two lemons at a time. I didn’t expect to fall so madly in love with the Meyer lemon cream that dresses the Belgian endive spears.

But how could I not?  Like many of Goin’s recipes, it strikes a lovely balance between simple and innovative.  It begins with a basic lemon vinaigrette, enhanced with the oniony, garlicky hum of a diced shallot, and then evolves into tangy, silken bliss with a few tablespoons of cream.  In a pinch, I found it also works to substitute a mixture of 2 tablespoons sour cream and 2 tablespoons water for the cream if, like me, you usually try to keep heavy cream off your property lest you end up eating it for second breakfast.


Though I don’t typically include restaurant reviews here in The Salty Spoon, I must mention that I recently enjoyed one of the Sunday Supper menus at Lucques and was blown away.  If you find yourself hungry in LA on a Sunday evening, go.  I was most impressed with the entire operation - lovely ambiance, attentive staff, and exceptional food.  I’m aching to go back again, both for the regular menu and for another Sunday Supper.  There is something incredibly appealing to me about a set menu from a chef I admire.  It’s much more intimate than a full menu, a closer conversation between you and the chef where you listen for insights about the chef’s likes and dislikes with respect to the available ingredients.  Goin is steadfastly committed to using seasonal offerings in the best way, and her Sunday menus showcase that approach with aplomb.

But if it is Tuesday and you are hungry for something elegant, you can join me in turning to this beautiful cookbook and finding something marvelous to do with a lemon or two.  I’ve made a few adjustments.  The original recipe calls for fava beans, which I have been sadly unable to find over the past few weeks.  I have reduced the yield of the salad from four servings to two, but the proportions for the dressing are intact.  Here’s why: in order to reach the proper consistency with your vinaigrette, it helps to really give it a hearty run with the whisk.  It’s a bit difficult to get the everything moving in the bowl the way you want with a half-quantity of lemon juice and olive oil.  However, you will have no trouble coming up with alternative uses for the leftover dressing.  It’s stupendous on fish, pasta, etc., if you have the discipline to put it away in the refrigerator.  If you are like me and find yourself gulping it down with a spoon instead of doing the dishes, well, I won’t tell.

(Keep reading Endive Salad with Meyer Lemon Cream…)


Oh lovelies. It feels like it’s been a while, probably because it has.  I was out of town for several days this past week, working like a madwoman on a case.  Though the work was kind of exciting and allowed me to keep the most delightful company all week, I was very glad to come home – to my own bed, my house, my sweet husband, my cats, and my kitchen.

I wrote up this recipe before I left but didn’t have time to post while I was on the road.  This is a perfect dinner for a night when you come home late, weary from the day but with a ravenous belly.  It’s quick, satisfying, and falls squarely in that tiny space in my mind where I turn when I say “it’s either this or chips and salsa.”  Bear with me, friends, and more regular posts will resume soon.  In the meantime, go bake some bread!

(Keep reading Skillet Potatoes with Chickpeas and Salsa Verde…)


My neighborhood smells like perfume. Though my schedule over the past few weeks has been somewhat chaotic (it may not surprise you to know that the bankruptcy world is a little…what’s the word…busy these days), I cannot resist pausing on the landing on the way out the door each morning to inhale the crisp, damp air. Laden with moisture from the previous night and the impending threat of the week’s summer storms, it burgeons with the heady presence of jasmine, roses, and lemon verbena. Dewy brush and grass begin to warm in the morning sun and the scent reminds me of an old campground, even though we are in the middle of a gargantuan city. The Hollywood hills are strange this way – a wild island in the midst of a sea of concrete. Despite the messy realities of my upcoming day, in those moments the scented air makes the world seem perfect.

Eventually, those realities catch up with me. My job, like so many others, can be unpredictable from week to week. It’s not uncommon for me to interrupt a nice leave-by-6:30 streak with two weeks of complete crazy, only to return to relative calm once again. During those busy times, it’s critical for me to keep things on hand that can easily be thrown together into real food. This week, a few simple ingredients – polenta, Italian sausage, and tomato sauce – have made for a few fast and delicious dinners that I’d love to share with you.

This is one of my lightning-fast recipes. It’s so incredibly simple, I almost hate to call it cooking - it feels more like ingredient assembly to me (though, really, you can say that about all cooking if you take a big enough step back). Consider this one of those baby steps between picking up takeout and cooking something complex. I set a timer last night to see just how long this takes. It seems fast, but my sense of time is roughly as accurate as a terrier’s, so some objective verification was necessary. From opening the fridge to plating the finished food, I clocked this in at around 9 minutes, and that included the sliced polenta modeling session on my cutting board. Four ingredients, two pans, less than 10 minutes. Wowza.


If you aren’t familiar with polenta, my lovelies, you should be. I cheat and buy the precooked kind. You can easily make your own, though it can be a little time-consuming. Precooked polenta typically comes in either a roll or a loaf (both called a chub). I like the roll because it slices into disks very easily. You can usually find it near the salami/pepperoni in the grocery store. Made of corn, polenta is a hearty, delicious alternative to pasta (and delightfully wheat-free for our gluten-avoiding friends). Though delicious in savory dishes, as I suggest here, it also makes a wonderful addition to the breakfast table. Sauté and top with maple syrup for rib-sticking, corn-based goodness.


(Keep reading Polenta with Tomatoes and Italian Sausage…)