I love to travel and I love food (surprise!). At this point in my life travel isn’t something I get to do much, but cooking, that’s another story. So, I’m working on a series of dinners over at Wallingford Culinary Studio to quell my desire to travel. As long as I keep my social media reading to a minimum it works pretty well. At the moment I’m spending a lot of time at the library reading cookbooks about different cuisines. My current favorite is Middle Eastern/North African: I put the two together because there is a lot of crossover, from harissa to hummus, preserved lemons to yogurt there are similarities I am happy to explore.

On my bookshelf at the moment is:

  •  Zahav–Watch the Philly episode of Anthony Bourdain’s The Layover, if that doesn’t make you want to eat everything in this book then, I don’t know if we can be friends (I can do my best to convert you though, I’ll make you some halvah then we’ll see how you feel).
  • Mourad: New Morrocan–A student recently described the author of this book as the hot chef with the tattoos (I know, I know it describes a lot of people, but in addition to being an amazing cookbook author, he is pretty photogenic). His description of spice mixes makes me swoon.
  • Plenty–Ok, anything by Yotam Ottolenghi is gorgeous. The man really has a talent for making vegetables sexy.
  • The Food of Morocco–Paula Wolfert is on my short list of people I want to be like when I grow up. Part of what draws me to her is her love of the culture that food represents. What each eat is a reflection of family, location, and tradition and she understands that connection.

The menu for the class I’m currently running is:


Muhammara stuffed dates

Hummus and crudité

First course

Chickpea and tomato stew


Chicken tagine


Cauliflower with pomegranate and tahini sauce

Roasted eggplant with sumac spiked yogurt



If you ever make hummus with me you’ll know I get pretty uptight about it. What many people call hummus in the US is a bland uneventful puree that is fit for drunk college students and pretty much no one else. Hummus should be a creamy, garlicky, symphony in your mouth and for crying out loud, cumin doesn’t belong in it. What better way to enjoy it than with a crudite platter, this is a pre-class photo so the hummus bowl is still waiting to be filled with garlicky goodness.

The tagine is a lot of fun, while I made preserved lemons a few weeks ago, a local treasure here in Seattle,Big John’s PFI, sells some that come from Morocco, so for a recent class we did a taste test. The batch I made was bright and lemony, while the Moroccan lemons were funkier and tasted more like an olive. We put both in out tagine and the flavors  added an extra depth that everyone loved. That’s my favorite part of teaching at the Studio. We set a menu, but what you get during class may evolve in the moment, and we get to do that as a group. Having fun in the kitchen gives you the freedom to explore and be flexible, letting the dish lead you to the best flavor.


A Peruvian class is coming up where we’ll take a look at where Japan and Peru collide to make beautiful food. Nordic cuisine, Spain, Slovakia, and West Africa are all on the list for 2017. Join us to travel the world in our kitchen at Wallingford Culinary Studio!

From Morocco to Scandinavia

Candied Citrus

You’ve probably bought candied citrus for a recipe once or twice, but have you ever made your own? It’s not remotely the same thing: like how the movie is never as good as the book.

Due to a small, but delightful, snafu I recently made candied citrus peel when I couldn’t find it in the store. Chef Traci and I wanted to test a traditional English plum pudding recipe and while gathering the ingredients discovered it’s difficult to find suet, citron, and candied peel. In the end we decided to forgo the English fruit cake and make my own grandmother’s cranberry pudding, which has a much shorter ingredient list. We grow a lot of cranberries here in Washington state and because the less bitter Grayland cranberries are available to us, it seems a natural choice.  More on that in another post, we’re here to talk about my delicious experience with candied peel!


I got a recipe from the BBC because I liked the photo they used (I know you bought a bottle of wine at some point because you liked the label, it happens). I added grapefruit because it adds a little more bitterness to the mix, but to me that’s part of what’s so delicious about citrus peel. As an added bonus, there are now three quarts of a citrus simple syrup in the fridge and I’m mulling over how to use it in a cocktail. Bourbon will definitely be a component, although gin is a strong contender.

Candied Citrus Peel


  • 4 large oranges, or 2 oranges and 2 lemons (I used 2 oranges, 2 lemons, and 2 grapefruit)
  • granulated sugar
  • 100g bar of dark chocolate, optional


  1. Cut the fruit into 8 wedges, then cut out the flesh, leaving about 5mm thickness of peel and pith.
  2. Cut each wedge into 3-4 strips.
  3. Put the peel in a pan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 5 mins.
  4. Drain, return to the pan and re-cover with fresh water. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 30 mins.
  5. Set a sieve over a bowl and drain the peel, reserving the cooking water.
  6. Add 100g sugar to each 100ml water you have. Pour into a pan and gently heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
  7. Add the peel and simmer for 30 mins until the peel is translucent and soft. Leave to cool in the syrup.
  8. Remove with a slotted spoon and arrange in 1 layer on a wire rack set over a baking sheet. Put in the oven at 185℉ for 30 mins to dry.
  9. Sprinkle a layer of sugar over a sheet of baking parchment. Toss the strips of peel in the sugar, a few at a time, then spread out and leave for 1 hr or so to air-dry.
  10. Pack the peel into an airtight storage jar or rigid container lined with baking parchment. Will keep for 6-8 weeks in a cool, dry place.
  11. To make into a delicious gift, melt the chocolate in a small bowl. Dip the candied orange peel into the chocolate to half-coat them, shaking off the excess. Put them on baking parchment to set, then pack into small cellophane bags tied with ribbon or pretty kitchen string.

Apple Cider Caramels

This is an oldie but a goodie, just in time for the holidays.



  • 4 cups apple cider
  • 2 teaspoons fleur de sel (or other flaky sea salt)
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup heavy cream


  1. Boil the apple cider in a 3- to 4-quart saucepan over high heat, stirring occasionally, until reduced to a dark, thick syrup, between ⅓-cup and ½-cup in volume. This could take anywhere from 35 to 40 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking dish with parchment paper, leaving excess hanging over the sides. In a small bowl, stir together the fleur de sel and ground cinnamon.
  3. Once the apple cider has finished reducing, remove it from the heat and stir in the butter, sugars and heavy cream. Return the pot to medium-high heat with a candy thermometer attached to the side of the pan, and let boil until the thermometer reads 252 degrees F, only about 5 minutes or so.
  4. Immediately remove the caramel from heat, add the cinnamon-salt mixture, and stir several times with a wooden spoon. Pour the caramel into the prepared pan. Let sit until cool and firm, about 2 hours.
  5. Once the caramel is firm, use the parchment overhangs to lift it out of the pan and transfer to a cutting board. Using a very sharp knife (or large pizza cutter – my secret slicing weapon of choice) coated with non-stick cooking spray, cut the caramel into 1-inch squares. (You may need to re-spray the knife or pizza cutter multiple times while cutting.)
  6. Wrap each caramel in a 4-inch square of wax paper, twisting the sides to close. The caramels can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

Dessert Dash

Working in the food industry is all about being of service to people. When I can, I take time out from my regular schedule to help out other folks. Chef Traci and I recently donated some desserts to the Boyer Children’s Clinic in Seattle. The nice folks there work to improve the quality of life of children with neuromuscular disorders or other developmental delays. Chef Traci and I have recently committed to increasing our charitable endeavors so you’ll see more from us on helping others in 2017.

Chef Traci made an amazing fondue with proseco and did her best to outdo all the other desserts with the assortment or cookies and other goodies to dip into it (she wins every time when it comes to generosity).

I opted to make one of my favorites, sweet potato pie. I love soulfood (braised collards and grits anyone?), and sweet potato pie is something I always come back to as a favorite. It’s more dense than pumpkin pie, but the spices are similar and it has a flavor that’s incomparable. I used a pâte sucrée for the crust and added toasted pecans. I also used half orange yams and half Japanese sweet potatoes for this version. The white sweet potatoes are starchier than the orange counterpart, but the flavor…well that’s the big difference. If you’ve never had them, now is the time to get your hands on some.

Sweet Potato Pie with pecan shortbread and toasted marshmallow cream


  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/8 c heavy cream
  • 1 1/3 c all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 c toasted pecan pieces (not ground as fine as flour, but small enough they won’t break the crust apart)
  • 1/2 c chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/8 c plus 1 1/2 T sugar
  • 1/8 tsp kosher salt


Whisk egg yolks and cream in a small bowl; set aside. Combine flour, butter, sugar, and salt until a coarse meal forms. Gradually add cream mixture; blend just to combine (do not overwork dough or crust will be tough).

Transfer dough to a large work surface. Knead just to incorporate, 4-5 turns. Divide dough in half; shape each half into a 1-inch-thick disk and wrap in plastic. Chill until firm, at least 2 hours. DO AHEAD Crust can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before rolling out. Crust can also be frozen for up to 4 months. Thaw overnight in refrigerator before rolling out.



  • 1/2 # Japanese sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 # orange yams
  • 1/4 c butter, softened
  • 1/2 c granulated sugar
  • 1/4 c whole milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground clove
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. roll out crust to 1/4″ thick
  3. press into tart pan and bake for 5-10 minutes or until golden
  4. peel sweet potatoes, cut into rough 1″x 1″ pieces
  5. cover with cold water in sauce pot and cook until tender
  6. combine potatoes and butter with a mixer
  7. add sugar, milk, nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla
  8. add eggs one at a time, mix until smooth
  9. pour filling into crust, bake 35 to 50 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Pie will puff up like a souffle, and then will sink down as it cools.

Toasted Marshmallow Cream


  • 6 egg whites
  • 3/4 c granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 jar marshmallow cream
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract


  1. whisk whites and cream of tartar until whites become, well, white
  2. gradually add in sugar until soft peaks form
  3. add vanilla and marshmallow cream, beating on high until stiff peak form
  4. spoon onto cooled pie using the spoon or a spatula to create peaks
  5. using a torch, brûlée the cream until golden brown
  6. eat the day you make it, I recommend storing it in a cool place, but not refrigerated

Holiday Cookies

For many, the holiday season isn’t complete without cookies and in the kitchen at Succulent Catering we tend to agree. Recently a client asked us to create a Russian themed lunch and we decided cookies were just the thing to complete the meal. How does this align with holiday cookies you ask? One taste of a pryaniki’s spices and you’ll be thinking about gathering family and friends to share them beside the fireplace after a day of playing in the snow.

There are many ways to make pryaniki and I blended a couple of recipes together for the version I made. I chose to use some rye flour as well, increasing the depth of flavor–I’m a big fan of using rye flour in many things. Chef Traci and I chose to roll out the dough and cut it with a cookie cutter rather than the more traditional ball. This resulted in a crispier cookie, like the more well known gingerbread, but I doubt you will mind when you taste it.

I also made rugelach (with chocolate of course, because why not?!), and Russian tea cakes (also known as Mexican Wedding cakes, read more about the origins in this LA Times article, I love a bit of food history). All three of these cookies would make a great addition to any holiday cookie platter.

Happy Baking!

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Cookie Dough:

  • 400 g ap flour
  • 50 g rye flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp gr. cloves
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 large whole egg
  • 40 grams unsalted butter, melted
  • 265 grams honey


  • 110 grams confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons water
  • Orange zest
  • 1/2 tsp gr cardamom


  1. Sift together flour, baking powder, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and allspice, and salt
  2. Beat yolks, whole egg, melted butter, and honey
  3. Mix in the dry ingredients until well incorporated. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour
  4. preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  5. Using a cookie scoop, portion out mounds of dough and roll them in your hands until they are completely smooth
  6. Place on the prepared cookie sheets leaving 2 inches between each cookie. They will flatten out somewhat but still retain a domed shape
  7. Bake for 10 to 20 minutes, or until just golden, rotating the sheets halfway through for even baking. Cool on the sheets until the cookies firm slightly. Transfer to racks to finish cooling
  8. To make the glaze, in a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and enough water (1 to 2 tablespoons) to form a thin icing. Spread on cooled cookies with a pastry brush


Russian Tea Cakes


  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts, toasted
  • Powdered sugar


  1. Sift flour and salt together
  2. Cream butter in large bowl until light
  3. Gradually add 1/2 cup sugar and beat until fluffy
  4. Add vanilla
  5. Mix in dry ingredients in 3 batches
  6. Mix in nuts
  7. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 12 hours.
  8. Preheat oven to 400°F
  9. Form dough into 1-inch balls
  10. Space 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet
  11. Bake until just firm to touch, about 15 minutes
  12. Transfer to rack and cool slightly
  13. Roll in powdered sugar
  14. Cool completely
  15. Roll cookies in powdered sugar again
  16. Store in airtight container.


Rugelach Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook


  • 260 grams ap flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 225 g unsalted butter
  • 225 g cream cheese


  • Mix together and set aside 1/4 c
    • 135 g granulated sugar
    • 1 1/2 T gr cinnamon
  • 1/3 c finely chopped chocolate
  • 1/3 c toasted walnuts, chopped small
  • 1/3 c dried currants
  • 1/2 to 3/4 c apricot jam


  • 1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water or milk
  • Remaining cinnamon-sugar from above

Make the dough:

Cream butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Beat in salt. Add flour, beating until it disappears. Scrape dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap and form into a flattish disc.

Chill dough until totally firm — about 2 hours in the fridge you can hasten this along in the freezer for about 30 minutes. (Dough keeps in fridge for up to a week, and in freezer much longer.)

Form the pastries:

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F and line a couple baking sheets with parchment paper
  2. Stir cinnamon and sugar together in a small dish.
  3. Combine coarse mixture of chocolate, nuts and dried fruit in a second dish.
  4. Divide dough into quarters and roll first quarter out on a floured counter into a rectangle about 12 inches wide and 7 to 8 inches long, with the wider side to you. Thinly spread 2-3 T jam to all but the furthest 1/4” of dough from you — which seals better once rolled if bare
  5. Sprinkle with 2 T cinnamon-sugar, then 4 tablespoons coarse fruit and nut mixture.
  6. Roll dough from the 12-inch side in front of you into as tight as a log as you can, using your fingers to lightly seal the ends onto the log. Repeat with remaining logs.
  7. Place log of filled dough in freezer for 10 to 15 minutes; it will cut more cleanly once semi-firm. Trim ends from log so they have a clean shape. Cut log into 10 to 12 even slices. Arrange on prepared baking sheets a couple inches apart from each other.
  8. Brush top(s) lightly with egg wash and sprinkle with a total of 1 teaspoon of the remaining cinnamon-sugar mixture. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown on top.

Preserved Lemons

Being fall, we’re all about preservation for the upcoming winter in the kitchen. At Succulent Catering we’ve been canning everything we can get our hands on. While preserved lemons aren’t canned per se, it’s the same idea; extending the life of foods in season to be enjoyed once that season has ended. What we got our paws on weren’t just any lemons though, they are meyer lemons. These little gems originated in China as a hybrid between lemons and mandarins, which resulted in the tartness of lemons with a less acidic bite. If you find them in the store enjoy them, they are not often available.

Preserving lemons is simple and creates a flavorful punch to a variety of dishes. Most common in middle eastern cuisine it is typically only the skin that is used once the process is complete. There is some variety in how it’s done, but all involve lemons and salt. You can also add aromatics, such as cardamom, for additional flavor.

Preserved Lemons


  • 4 lemon
  • 5 t salt (I prefer kosher, but sea salt works also. Do not use iodized salt.)
  • optional aromatics


  1. sanitize a glass pint jar and lid by boiling them in water for 10 minutes
  2. set aside
  3. wash lemons thoroughly
  4. being careful not to cut completely through, cut into quarters, leaving the bottom attached
  5. rub 1 t salt inside the cut lemon, being careful to leave it intact
  6. packed lemons tightly into jar, layering optional aromatics between
  7. cover and refrigerate for 1 month
  8. to use, remove pulp and pith, leaving yourself with just the skin
  9. cut into small pieces (strips or cubes) and add to recipe
  10. note–a little goes a long way



Quince is an interesting fruit, no really that’s not just a trope. It is native to south-west Asia, Turkey and Iran to be more specific and is found in many middle eastern recipes both sweet and savory. It does grow in the United States, but isn’t a well know fruit and I have found many people who have looked at me quizzically when I’ve mentioned it. Unless they’re die hard cheese lovers, then they are familiar with the sticky red cube that often accompanies a cheese plate.

Recently a friend got involved in helping to steward an old orchard near where we both live and to my surprise the orchard includes several quince trees. When it came time to harvest the fruit she thoughtfully emailed me and asked would I like some? Of course I talked to Chef Traci about it and we decided to buy fifty pounds of fruit to cook into marmalade and can for the holidays. What I got was a serious education in quince, which is right up my alley.

The fruit itself is covered in a sticky fuzz, it is how you know the fruit is ready to pick. When the fuzz rubs off easily, it’s ready! Nature is so amazing in it’s simplicity sometimes.  Once it’s picked you wash off the fuzz, peel the fruit, and clean out the inside with a melon baller and a sharp knife. Quince is surprisingly hard so be careful when you cut it, a very sharp knife is important. The flesh is very pale, but it oxidizes quickly. You can put the fruit in acidulated water (1 quart of cold water mixed with the juice of on lemon should do it). It won’t keep it completely from turning brown on the outside, but it slows it down. In my experience I found it actually didn’t matter that much if the fruit oxidized, the end result was the same beautiful color.

Once your fruit is ready you cook it in simple syrup (a dilute syrup, roughly a 3:1 ratio in the recipe we used) until it turns that signature red. We grated ours to make marmalade, but you can poach the halves, similar to a pear and serve in syrup. Honey & Co. (see the bookshelf page) cooks them in large slices with meatballs. I read a recipe where they were used in a candied bacon recipe. There are myriad possibilities with this fruit. The season is over for this year in our area, but I’m already looking forward to the 2017 harvest.

Quince Marmalade


  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 3 c water
  • 1 c grated quince (peeled and cored)
  • optional aromatics: vanilla bean, cardamom pods, juniper berries, use your imagination


  1. bring sugar and water to a boil in a saucepan
  2. add quince and optional aromatics (taste after 1 hour, you may opt to remove aromatics at this point)
  3. stir occasionally for up to 2 hours (possibly longer) or until most of the liquid has evaporated and quince is very soft
  4. remove aromatics, if you haven’t already done so
  5. cool, place in a clean jar and store in the refrigerator for up to a month
  6. Serve with toast (challah is an amazing match), with cheese, or just eat it straight out of the jar. I recommend you share it with someone you love.