Golden Beet Soup with Mascarpone Chive Cream

This spring, one of Bouchon’s nightly specials was golden beet puree. Paired with a dry chardonnay, it was a delicious first course and made me wonder where this vegetable had been all my life. The last time I had beet soup was in Poland, after a terrible river raft trip in the pouring rain and my feet were so cold I wasn’t paying any attention to what the borscht tasted like, just that it was warm.

Beets aren’t very common in my kitchen (and I’d be willing to bet most kitchens), so this soup will be unexpected for anyone who tries it. The flavors blend together so well you just swallow a big spoonful and smile. The cool mascarpone with a hint of onion flavor from the chives is a beautiful combination, and when lingered over a glass of wine, makes for an exceptional light dinner (we had an arugula salad with goat cheese alongside) or first course of Thanksgiving or other autumnal dinner party.

It tasted almost identical to what we had in the restaurant, but Andrew thought they might have used pumpkin instead of butternut squash. Next time I make this I’ll use pumpkin instead and see which version we prefer, but considering that I recreated this dish from our favorite restaurant using only my taste buds and an immersion blender, I’m very, very proud.

Golden Beet Soup with Mascarpone Chive Cream

There are many ways to garnish this soup. I remained true to the original soup I tried, but you could also make pesto with the beet greens, use goat cheese, or fried sage leaves.

Wine pairing: Rusack 2007 Chardonnay


Extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. butter
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
6 golden beets (skin on, trimmed at the stem and leaves removed)
1/2 of 1 medium butternut squash, seeds removed
1 large onion, diced
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
1 clove of garlic, diced
Zest of one lemon, plus additional juice to taste
4 cups chicken stock
1 to 2 tsps. cider vinegar
Mascarpone and chive cream (recipe follows)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle squash with olive oil and salt and set on a lined baking sheet. Wrap each beet in foil (this will make the skin easier to remove) and place on the same baking sheet. Roast vegetables for 40-45 minutes until fork tender. Let cool slightly, then gently peel the skin off each beet under running water. Slice in quarters and reserve in a medium bowl. Scoop out the butternut squash from its skin and add it to the bowl with the beets.

In a large stockpot, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, garlic and cook for about five minutes, until vegetables begin to soften. Add beets and butternut squash and stir to combine. Add chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes.

Puree soup with an immersion blender. Add cider vinegar and butter to soup and thin with more broth, if desired. Add lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper.

For the Mascarpone chive cream, add chopped chives to 1/4 cup Mascarpone and stir to combine. Season with a bit of salt. Dollop a small spoonful into each bowl and serve.

Rustic Canyon’s Cranberry Orange Ricotta Cake

Since relocating to Los Angeles in September, I haven’t spent many evenings dining out. Aside from the two weeks of forced exile to eateries because of a broken fridge, my recent dinner at Rustic Canyon Wine Bar and Seasonal Kitchen in Santa Monica was our first real night out in a few months. It was a night where reservations were made after several restaurants were carefully considered before settling on Rustic Canyon, and I was genuinely looking forward to it.

Rustic Canyon appealed to me because of its emphasis on local, seasonal ingredients (they shop at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market) and, based on their website and online reviews, what seemed to be a commitment to simple, quality food. 

Bouchon, my favorite restaurant in Santa Barbara, follows a similar method of using Farmer’s Market fare. Once we arrived for dinner at Bouchon at 5:30 and ordered a scallop appetizer – one of the last the kitchen had available that night. When they run out of the good stuff, it’s gone.

So, it’s safe to say my expectations were high. While I love to cook at home, I’m usually overcome with giddiness at the thought of a night out at a really, really good restaurant. It’s my chance to order food I don’t normally make at home, try wines I don’t usually buy. I should also mention that I crossed out Wine Resolution #17: Try a wine you think you don't like. Blame it on Sideways, but Merlot sales went downhill when that movie became popular. I drank Merlot only when it was offered at tastings, but tonight I took the advice of our server and paired a Napa Merlot with my scallops. I'm happy to say I was not at all disappointed.


Side note: I don’t tend to take pictures in restaurants. While part of me is dying to capture the moment, another, more pronounced part says no, don’t interrupt the moment with a flash that causes other diner’s to look your way, or incessant plate spinning for just the right angle. I can’t do it. But check out the link above. Their food is as clean and inviting as their website.



We started with artichoke ravioli, which was good, but not overly exciting. Then my scallops arrived, perfectly browned on both sides with a celery root puree and red wine reduction. The next fifteen minutes were blissful as I savored every bite. You might be wondering where the cake comes in. I stumbled upon the recipe in the LA Times during my Google-research phase and was thrilled to see that it was on the menu the night we went. (We also ordered the donuts with dark chocolate sauce – an absolute must if you visit.)

The restaurant version was as I expected – moist and the perfect combination of sweetness and tartness. It was especially nice when paired with a small bite of cool vanilla bean ice cream. When I made it at home, the friends I had over noted its versatility – perfect for breakfast, brunch an afternoon snack, and a great alternative to Pumpkin Pie for Thanksgiving. It seems this cake can be eaten at any time of day, and for any occasion, making it a great recipe to keep in your files when you need something just right.

Rustic Canyon’s Cranberry Orange Ricotta Cake

Total time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Servings: 18

Adapted from pastry chef Zoe Nathan of Rustic Canyon

2 cups flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 eggs
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) butter
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
Zest of 1 orange
2 cups ricotta cheese
2 1/2 cups cranberries, divided

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9-inch round by 3-inch tall cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and baking soda. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, maple syrup, oil and vanilla. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, cream together the butter, 1 1/2 cups sugar, salt and zest. Mix just until thoroughly combined; do not overmix.
4. With the mixer running, slowly incorporate the egg mixture into the butter just until combined.
5. With the mixer on low speed, add one-half of the flour mixture to the batter and quickly mix for 5 seconds. Turn off the mixer and add the rest of the flour, the ricotta and one-half of the cranberries. Mix the remaining ingredients into the batter over low speed just until combined, being careful not to overmix.
6. Gently pour the batter into the cake pan and smooth the top. Scatter the remaining cranberries over the top of the cake, and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar.
7. Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Place a loose piece of foil over the top of the cake if it starts to darken. Cool the cake on a wire rack before removing it from the pan.

Braised Short Ribs with Celery Root and Potato Puree



Happy 2009!


These ribs really don't need an introduction, and yet I managed to turn out several paragraphs about how exceptional they are. And believe me, I tried to keep the photos to a minimum. I typically post between one and six photos, but this time, you simply must see the photos from start to finish. It’s a gratifying moment to pull off the lid during the last twenty minutes of cooking and see the burgundy, tender ribs about to fall off their bones. It’s even better to pull the meat gently with your fork and place a bite in your mouth. It was a celebratory moment, to eat something this delicious in our own dining room, and the perfect way to ring in the new year.

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This New Year’s was a night to remember, and it wasn’t because we went out to some fancy party and went to sleep at three o’clock in the morning. In fact, it was exactly the opposite. I arrived home early from work and walked two blocks to Whole Foods to gather everything I needed for an amazing meal. We stayed in, cooked all afternoon, drank red wine, then champagne, then made Italian donuts and ate them as we watched the countdown from Time’s Square. It was just perfect.


These short ribs are exceptionally wonderful. Even the smell when they were browning (this, before adding the aromatics and red wine) was compelling. Then, after adding pureed onion, celery, garlic and carrot, red wine and watching it come together into a beautiful burgundy color, the scent perfumed our kitchen, living room, hallway…

The most intensive part of the cooking process is the beginning, when the ribs need to be browned, the aromatics must be browned, wine reduced, ribs added back to pot, covered in water and then…ahh. Three hours later, they’re done to perfection, covered in a red wine sauce smelling of thyme. And let’s not forget the celery root and potato puree, which is the perfect compliment to these tender, rich ribs. The puree is creamy, and the hint of celery at the back of your mouth wakes up the entire dish. I’m absolutely certain this will be our go-to New Year’s meal from now on. It’s just too good.



Braised Short Ribs

Recipe courtesy Anne Burrell


6 bone-in ribs (about 5 3/4 pounds) (I had the butcher cut them into thirds, for about 15 short ribs)
Kosher salt
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 large Spanish onion, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 ribs celery, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 carrots, peeled, cut in 1/2 lengthwise, then cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 1/2 cups tomato paste
2 to 3 cups hearty red wine
2 cups water
1 bunch fresh thyme, tied with kitchen string
2 bay leaves


Season each short rib generously with salt. Coat a pot large enough to accommodate all the meat and vegetables with olive oil and bring to a high heat. Add the short ribs to the pan and brown very well, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Do not overcrowd pan. Cook in batches, if necessary.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

While the short ribs are browning, puree all the vegetables and garlic in the food processor until it forms a coarse paste. When the short ribs are very brown on all sides, remove them from the pan. Drain the fat, coat the bottom of same pan with fresh oil and add the pureed vegetables. Season the vegetables generously with salt and brown until they are very dark and a crud has formed on the bottom of the pan, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Scrape the crud and let it reform. Scrape the crud again and add the tomato paste. Brown the tomato paste for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the wine and scrape the bottom of the pan. Lower the heat if things start to burn. Reduce the mixture by half (about 5-10 minutes).

Return the short ribs to the pan and add 2 cups water or until the water has just about covered the meat. Add the thyme bundle and bay leaves. Cover the pan and place in the preheated oven for 3 hours. Check periodically during the cooking process and add more water, if needed. Turn the ribs over halfway through the cooking time. Remove the lid during the last 20 minutes of cooking to let things get nice and brown and to let the sauce reduce. When done the meat should be very tender but not falling apart. Serve with the braising liquid.

Celery Root and Potato Puree

3 large Idaho potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes, held in water until ready for use
Kosher salt
1 large celery root, tough outer parts removed, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 to 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 stick cold butter, cut into pats
Special Equipment: Food mill (You can mash them yourself, or puree in a stand mixer)


Place the potatoes in a pot large enough to accommodate the celery root and the potatoes. Make sure to add enough water to cover vegetables by 2 inches and season generously with salt. Bring the water to a boil. When the water has been boiling for about 10 minutes, add the celery root and cook until both vegetables are "fork tender". Strain the celery root and potatoes.

Put the cream in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil. Meanwhile, pass the celery root and potatoes through a food mill into a large bowl. Add about 1/4 of the hot cream and 2 pats of the butter. Stir vigorously until the cream and butter are thoroughly combined. Repeat this process until all of the cream and butter have been incorporated. Taste for seasoning, you will probably have to add salt. Serve in a warm serving bowl immediately or keep warm until ready to use.

*I used a tad less butter, and two large potatoes instead of three.

Ciabatta Stuffing with Chestnuts and Pancetta


For the past couple of years I’ve tested new stuffing recipes as part of my pre-holiday meals. Now, I happen to be a big Stove-Top fan. It fluffs magically in five minutes flat, and reminds me of my childhood so I can’t give it up completely. But each fall, I do enjoy making stuffing from scratch as well. Right now I’m torn between two favorites: this, and Bon Appetit’s new squash version.

This ciabatta version was my first attempt at stuffing, so I might be partial to it for that reason, but then there are the herbs, and crispy Pancetta, and chestnuts, oh, and the Parmesan cheese…It’s completely different from say, cream butternut squash cubes melting in your mouth. That’s it, they’re just too different to compare. I can’t choose a winner. But I suppose that’s the beauty of the eight weeks of November and December – there is plenty of time to try more than one recipe, so you’re bound to stumble on one that you can’t live without. (Oh, and no one will tell if you boil a batch of Stove-Top and hover over the stove to eat it by the forkful.)

Ciabatta Stuffing with Chestnuts and Pancetta

Recipe courtesy Giada de Laurentiis

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter
8 ounces pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 large onions, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
3 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 (7.4-ounce) jars roasted peeled whole chestnuts, coarsely broken
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1 pound day-old ciabatta bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 cup (or more) canned low-salt chicken broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs, beaten to blend

*Note: One year I didn’t have chestnuts and tossed in cashews instead. They provided a lovely crunch, so I sometimes add them to contrast the creaminess of the chestnuts.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter a 15 by 10 by 2-inch glass baking dish. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta and saute until crisp and golden, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a large bowl.

Melt the remaining butter in the same skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrots, celery, rosemary, and garlic. Saute until the onions are very tender, about 12 minutes. Gently stir in the chestnuts and parsley. Transfer the onion mixture to the large bowl with the pancetta. Add the bread and Parmesan and toss to coat. Add enough broth to the stuffing mixture to moisten. Season the stuffing, to taste, with salt and pepper. Mix in the eggs.

Transfer the stuffing to the prepared dish. Cover with buttered foil, buttered side down, and bake until the stuffing is heated through, about 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until the top is crisp and golden, about 15 minutes longer.

Butternut Squash Latkes with Sage and Pine Nut Yogurt Sauce

I think we’re all a bit surprised that December is already here. There are cards to address, gifts to be wrapped, and new traditions to be made. Even with all the chaos this time of year brings, it’s a great time to try new dishes at your dinner table.



If a recipe calls for butternut squash and sage, you don’t have to ask me twice. I was instantly sold on Bon Appetit’s “Festival of Latkes” feature in December’s issue, and this Jewish potato pancake made a surprise appearance the afternoon my husband and I decorated our Christmas tree. Cumin adds an unexpected warmth, and brown butter and toasted pine nuts….well, need I say more?


Butternut Squash Latkes with Sage and Pine Nut Yogurt Sauce

By Jayne Cohen, Bon Appetit
Makes 38 to 40


Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 2-pound butternut squash, halved lengthwise, seeded
4 tablespoons olive oil (not extra-virgin), divided, plus additional for frying
8 large fresh sage leaves
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 cup chopped shallots (about 6)
3/4 cup fine dry unseasoned breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 large eggs, beaten to blend

Sage and Pine Nut Yogurt Sauce (recipe follows)


Preheat oven to 425°F. Line large rimmed baking sheet with foil. Spray foil with nonstick spray. Brush cut side of squash halves with 2 tablespoons oil. Place 2 sage leaves on cut side of each half. Place garlic clove in each cavity. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Turn squash, cut side down, on prepared sheet. Roast until tender and brown in spots, about 1 hour. Cool on sheet.

Discard sage leaves; reserve garlic. Spoon enough roasted squash into large measuring cup to measure 4 cups packed (reserve any remaining squash for another use); add garlic. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Scrape shallot mixture into processor; add 4 cups squash with garlic, breadcrumbs, cumin, baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Blend until just smooth, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl. Transfer squash mixture to large bowl; mix in eggs.

Add enough oil to heavy large skillet to coat bottom generously; heat over medium-high heat. Working in batches of 7 or 8 and adding more oil as needed, drop 1 heaping tablespoonful batter for each latke into skillet. Dip back of fork into oil in skillet and flatten batter to 2 1/2-inch rounds. Fry latkes until brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer latkes to rimmed baking sheets. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Rewarm uncovered in 350°F oven 15 minutes.

Serve latkes with yogurt sauce.

Roasted Acorn Squash with Cinnamon Butter


I recently made this side with an Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast (recipe coming soon) and it was a perfect fall side. As soon as I tasted the cinnamon butter I vowed to find several more dishes to smother it on. And don’t forget to roast the seeds for a crunchy snack!

Roasted Acorn Squash with Cinnamon Butter

Recipe courtesy Everyday Food

2 acorn squash, unpeeled, quartered lengthwise, and seeded
1 tablespoon olive oil
coarse salt and ground pepper
4 tablespoons butter
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss squash with oil; season with salt and pepper. Arrange on sheet, cut side sown, and roast until easily pierced with a paring knife, 35 to 45 minutes.

In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium, stirring, until golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Immediately pour into a small bowl; stir in cinnamon. Place squash on a serving platter; top with cinnamon butter.

Sausage Stuffing with Fennel and Roasted Squash

It was another side + salad night in the CAF kitchen.  Tonight’s star was a Bon Appetit Thanksgiving side from their “The Stuffing: One Recipe, Four Ways” feature in November’s issue. I made only two minor alterations: 1) I used turkey sausage (available at the store) instead of pork (not available, and I wasn’t going to drive around town looking for it). 2) I chose not to use marjoram and didn’t miss it at all. To check Bon Appetit’s other stuffing variations, click here.

Sausage Stuffing with Fennel and Roasted Squash

Recipe courtesy Bon Appetit

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
4 cups 1/2- to 3/4-inch cubes peeled seeded butternut squash (from one 1 3/4-pound squash)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
3 cups chopped onions (about 1 pound)
2 cups chopped celery (4 to 5 stalks)
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped fresh fennel bulb (about 1 medium)
1 1-pound pork sausage log
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
2 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram
12 cups (generous) 1-inch cubes day-old pain rustique or ciabatta bread with crust (about 1 1/4 pounds)
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 cup (or more) low-salt chicken broth


Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. Scatter squash on sheet in single layer; sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Roast squash until tender, stirring occasionally, about 55 minutes. Transfer to large bowl; cool.

Melt butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add onions, celery, and fennel. Sauté 8 minutes. Add sausage. Sauté until vegetables are tender and sausage is cooked through, breaking up sausage with fork, about 10 minutes. Add all herbs; sauté 1 minute longer. Add to bowl with squash. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, cover, and chill.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Divide bread between 2 rimmed baking sheets. Bake until bread is crusty but not hard, reversing sheets after 5 minutes, 10 to 12 minutes total. Transfer to very large bowl and cool.

Butter 13x9x2-inch baking dish. Stir vegetable mixture into bread. Whisk eggs, salt, and pepper in small bowl to blend well; whisk in 1 cup broth. Add egg mixture to stuffing, tossing to combine evenly and adding more broth by 1/4 cupfuls if dry. Transfer stuffing to prepared dish.

Bake stuffing uncovered until cooked through and brown and crusty on top, 50 to 60 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes.

Brussels Sprout and Cauliflower Gratin + Fall Produce Obsessions

It’s that time of year again. Pumpkins are overflowing in the produce aisles, and squash varieties are everywhere you turn. Bon Appetit’s November issue recently made me giddy with all the delicious Thanksgiving inspired recipes it offered. So I decided to make a plan. I may not be in charge of my family’s Thanksgiving menu this year, but you can bet I won’t be missing out on all the season’s offerings.


With many recipes starred and several other food magazines yet to be received, I’ve decided to work all kinds of holiday dishes into my weekly menus. This means that sometimes we’ll be having side dishes for dinner, which I’m fine with. Since there are only two of us, unless we have company (giving me an excuse to go all out) I’d rather highlight one dish than risk having way too much leftover food.

Tonight was one of those side dish events. I served this gratin with an arugula salad and we devoured everything until it was gone. And let me tell you, it smelled good even before it started baking. The warmed sage, toasted breadcrumbs and steamy vegetables covered in melting cheese were mouth watering. And once a bite finally reached my mouth, it was even better.


And since you're here, let me say a few things about Brussels Sprouts, the sometimes overlooked, misunderstood vegetable. I thought through my food memories and could not remember an instance when I actually ate one. My childhood was not tainted with images of being force-fed an overcooked variety, but their bad rap is due to just that. Overcooking actually releases sulfur compounds in the vegetable that give it an unpleasant smell. When cooked properly, they possess a delicate nutty flavor, complimented well in this dish by Parmesan cheese and their cousin in the vegetable world, cauliflower. If you have an aversion to Brussels sprouts, try this recipe and you just might be over your fear.
Brussels Sprout and Cauliflower Gratin

Recipe courtesy Bon Appetit

1 1/2 pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed, quartered lengthwise through core
1 1 1/2- to 1 3/4-pound head of cauliflower, trimmed, cut into small florets
2 3/4 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup chopped shallots
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup plain dry breadcrumbs
1/2 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
3 cups grated Parmesan cheese, divided


Fill large bowl with ice and cold water. Cook brussels sprouts in large pot of generously salted boiling water 2 minutes. Add cauliflower to same pot; cook until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes longer. Drain. Transfer vegetables to bowl of ice water to cool. Drain well.

Combine cream, shallots, and sage in large saucepan. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer until mixture is reduced to 2 1/2 cups, about 10 minutes. Season with salt. Remove from heat. Cool slightly.

Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs; stir until beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Transfer to bowl; cool. Stir in pine nuts and parsley. Season with salt and pepper.

Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish; arrange half of vegetables in dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then 1 1/2 cups Parmesan. Arrange remaining vegetables evenly over, then sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 cups Parmesan. Pour cream mixture evenly over. DO AHEAD Breadcrumb topping and gratin can be made 1 day ahead. Cover separately and chill. Bring to room temperature before continuing.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Cover gratin with foil. Bake covered 40 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle breadcrumb topping over and bake uncovered 15 minutes longer.