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Pretty in Pink Week: Beet Hummus with Finnish Flatbread


In addition to this being “the week of pink” here in Wonderland, it’s also been a week of dirty butter knives due to the number of spreadable inventions we were working our way through. More asparagus pesto, an addictive smoked salmon spread, the leftover extra-extra garlicy homemade mayo from a variation on these roasted potatoes, plus a fresh batch of the eye-popping beet hummus you see pictured above.

I’ve mentioned this hot pink dip/condiment/sandwich dresser-upper on the site before, but have been especially excited this week to see how well it works stirred into things (mashed potatoes, for one) or smeared over them (whole wheat bread and topped with baby arugula, for two). To make a batch, I tend to just put an adequate eyeballed amount of roasted beet chunks (leftovers put to swift use!), canned or cooked chick peas, tahini, lemon juice, salt, and garlic into the food processor and run it to smooth while drizzling olive oil through the feed tube, large variations totally acceptable depending on pantry inventory. However, if you are the type of cook who likes numbers, I turn you towards this recipe on Not Without Salt.

Of course, these things all required plate-to-mouth delivery vehicles (admittedly, grabbing a spoon and the entire bowl works perfectly well, but we’re trying to keep it civilized) so it seemed like the perfect time to finally take a crack at these Finnish Potato Flatbreads I’d saved to my Pinterest board. I’m still messing with the recipe a bit, as it seems to take me a 450F oven and 25 minute bake time to get adequate browning, but even if I haven’t hit the ideal disc due to too soggy mashed potatoes or some other error, these are a lovely find: a no muss, no fuss addition to my repertoire that I suspect will stick with me. Three batches in, and I’m not tired of them yet.

And so, to review:

Happiness is a big scoop of…

  • Beet Hummus
  • Asparagus Pesto If you don’t have spinach, arugula is tasty too. I like a combo and plan to also add a bit of basil to the next batch. For nuts, I used up my pecans and walnuts and was not disappointed. Pistachios are excellent as well.
  • Smoked Salmon Spread I bought this amazing fish from Neopol at the Waverly Farmer’s market, but they also have a retail outlet in North Baltimore.

Serve these treats with the crackers, breads, or crudites of your choice. Cauliflower would provide some bonus beet visual drama, I suspect. We ate ours on…

Things in Jars

I fear @briansacawa will soon stage a "no more jars" intervention for me.

Ladies Who Lunch: Spring Fling Potato Salad


It doesn’t seem quite fair to have slipped the freeze of winter as neatly as we have this year. Still, with flowers pushing their way up into the light yet again and the weatherman promising 70° days this week, I’m ignoring the calendar and daydreaming about lazy afternoon picnics like it’s…well, April at the very least.

first flowers

Admittedly, there are flaws in the fantasy. Local produce amounts to little more than the crates of apples and turnips the fields produced last season, though thanks to a little help from our neighbors to the south, the delicate, hinting green of spring is available for import–a telegram that the season is on its way. Taking full advantage, some of those bright, crisp flavors inspired this perfectly packable potato salad, with just a bit of creaminess to keep the chill off until the danger of frost has truly passed.

Spring Fling Potato Salad

For the salad

3 lbs. mixed red and gold waxy Idaho potatoes, cubed
1 1/2 cups green peas, frozen or fresh
1/3 cup dried cranberries
2 small cucumbers, seeded and diced
4 scallions, sliced
1/4 cup sliced almonds

For the dressing

3 T white balsamic vinegar
2 T pomegranate molasses
2 tsp. kosher salt
generous handful fresh basil
leaves from a few springs of fresh mint
3/4 cup buttermilk, plus additional as needed
3/4 cup mayonnaise

Boil the cubed potatoes until just fork tender, about ten minutes. Drain and reserve.

While potatoes cook, bring a second pot of water to a boil and blanch peas for one minute, then drain and plunge them into an ice water bath to shock and stop the cooking. Set aside.


To make the dressing, place vinegar, pomegranate molasses, salt, and herbs in the small bowl of a food processor and pulse until leaves are minced. Combine this mixture with the buttermilk and mayonnaise in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake until dressing is well mixed. Thin dressing with additional buttermilk as needed.

In a large bowl, place potatoes, peas, cranberries, cucumbers, scallions, and sliced almonds. Toss with enough of the dressing to coat. Chill until ready to serve.

Disclaimer: This recipe was written for the Idaho Potato Commission, and I was financially compensated for its creation. Previously, Wonderland Kitchen’s Take the G Train: Masala Knishes post was part of their February “Potato Lovers Month” promotion. Both of these dishes were honored with an award for “Best Recipe.”

One Potato, Two Potato


In the wake of post-holiday food fussing, iced over (literally) with a business trip to Chicago, my motivation to prepare anything with more than three steps and a can opener has gone into winter hibernation.

Still, even in my sloth-like state, I was willing to put down my book and get out from under my blanket long enough to fire up the oven and roast a few potatoes for this no-brainer soup. Just like a baked potato, it’s a hearty blank slate to which you can to add whatever toppings you like.

Baked Potato Soup

Tom’s Baked Potato Soup
adapted from my dad’s “I don’t think I have ever done it the same way twice” recipe

6 baking potatoes
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup flour
3 cups milk
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup sweet white onion, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, minced
salt and pepper
topping additions of your choice

Preheat oven to 425°F and line a baking sheet with foil.

Scrub potatoes and pierce each several times with a fork. Coat each spud with olive oil and place on the baking sheet. Roast for one hour and set aside. When cool enough to handle, scoop out flesh into a bowl and mash slightly.

Dad says: “Leave it kind of chunky. Have a cooking apprentice there to do your bidding. You can play the part of Chef Ramsey, but do not say the F-word as much as he does unless you have a bleeper device handy.” Save skins for snacking.

Melt butter in a large soup pot and saute onion and garlic until tender. Add flour a little at a time and stir constantly, cooking off the raw flour taste. Add milk and continue to stir until thickened. Add broth and potato flesh to the pan and continue to stir, breaking up larger potato chunks with the back of the spoon. (I have also found mashing a pastry cutter around the pot very useful in this situation, or sometimes when I want a creamier soup, I run my immersion blender around it a few times. Cook’s choice.)

Dad notes: “You can add more milk or broth if you want, but it’s supposed to be somewhat thick. Salt and pepper if you want to. (White peppercorns if you have them. Do not want specks in the soup, now do we?) Serve hot. Can top with cheese, chives, bacon bits (oops, bits are for carnivores only).”

I usually just add lots and lots of dill, but this weekend I decided to kick in a couple tablespoons of horseradish-tinged mustard. The soup is a blank canvas; go crazy. It stores well, but may need thinned with broth or milk when reheating.

Dirty Little Secret


Considering how often those with the most vehemently expressed opinions end up being exposed for blatant hypocrisy, this may be a small matter in the grand scheme, but I am a girl with a confession. Despite my claims that processed foods are the devil, I secretly eat instant mashed potatoes when no one else is looking. I just can’t help myself!

This little habit of fast and furious carb consumption tends to come to a head when Brian is off on tour and I forget to make proper meals for myself until my body demands to be fed immediately. However, when those friendly pleas for starch started growling around the other day, I took a few minutes to look in the fridge, Google a bit, and come up with a dish that was at least marginally more well balanced before I hit the pantry. In the end, I managed to get a handful of mushrooms and that bunch of swiss chard out of the crisper drawer and into the pot as well.

This is not an elegant or especially attractive side dish, but if it’s just you and the family on a cool fall night, it sure is a tasty one. Add a piece of smoked salmon and it is a full feast for familiars.

Layered Mashed Potato, Mushroom, and Swiss Chard Casserole
heavily(!) adapted from Eating Well

(Every single ingredient in this casserole can be included in the amount that suits your preference. In the end, you’re only baking it to heat the dish through and melt the cheese, so just make adjustments to the cooking times as needed.)

Layered Mashed Potato, Mushroom, and Swiss Chard Casserole Ingredients

6-8 cups instant mashed potatoes, prepared according to package instructions
1 large egg plus 1 large egg white, beaten

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pint mushrooms (I used shitaki), chopped
1 bunch swiss chard, deribbed and chopped
1 cup vegetable broth
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon thyme
Cheese of the amount and variety to suit your taste (I used about cup of a shredded Italian blend I had left over from pizza making)

Prepare mashed potatoes. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a non-stick skillet, heat oil and sauté the onion until softened and translucent. Add the garlic and mushrooms, and cook until mushrooms release their juices, about 10 minutes. Add thyme and pepper to the pan.

Whisk broth and flour together and add this liquid and the swiss chard to the pan. Cover and allow greens to wilt, about five minutes, then remove lid and toss the vegetables until greens are cooked through and broth has thickened. Remove from heat. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed, considering you will also be adding cheese (so mind the salt—I needed no salt aside from what was in the broth and cheese already).

Stir the egg/egg white mixture into the potatoes. In a 3-quart casserole dish of your choosing, place half the potatoes, topped by half the cheese and then all of the sautéed vegetables. Continue with the remaining potatoes and top with cheese.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, and then switch to broil and brown the top. Watch carefully as the cheese can shift from browned to burned quickly if not well monitored.

I can’t say this is a health food, but at least I get an automatic serving of greens every time I cave and eat more of the leftovers!

Cozy Up (Vegetable Pot Pie Edition)


My oven and I are at war.

Last week, I thought I was losing my mind. I would check on some item baking in my oven, and discover that I had somehow shut the appliance off entirely only half way through the cooking time. This is actually not that difficult to do if you’re using the timer and you punch “cancel” instead of “off” to silence it when it rings. Just as my frustration with myself was about to boil over, however, I saw it happen–a click, a blank screen, and the oven turned itself off. I wasn’t exactly pleased by this but, reassured that my sanity hadn’t walked out on me, I called a repair service> and waited for my house call.

As these things go, four days later when the super-amiable repair duo showed up, the oven worked perfectly–bake, broil, not a single glitch. Nice to avoid the pricey circuit board replacement, but still. Really? I was advised to bake some brownies and call them on Monday if the oven went berserk again.

The suddenly crisp temperatures did make me want to bake something warm and comforting for dinner, so I decided to test the oven and my luck with a roasted root vegetable pot pie I like a lot (adapted from the Poor Girl Gourmet). And so I spent an uneventful afternoon in the kitchen. An hour of roasting and 40 minutes of baking and not a single oven malfunction. I got a beautiful pie out of the deal, so not a bad day, I suppose. But I wish I could have figured it all out for myself before I paid $65 just to have two strangers poke around under my oven and retrieve a pile of lost cat toys.

Roasted Root Vegetable Pot Pie
Adapted from the Poor Girl Gourmet

For the roasting tray:

3 T olive oil
2 lbs peeled and cubed root vegetables of your choice (I used turnips, carrots, potatoes and a sweet potato)
1 head of garlic, exterior layers of skin peeled away and top of head removed to expose cloves

Heat the over to 375˚F.

Place the prepared garlic bulb on a sheet of foil and pour a teaspoon or so of olive oil over top. Add a pinch of salt and pepper, and wrap up into a packet.
Place the prepared root vegetables in a bowl and toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme to coat. Pour them out onto a foil-lined baking sheet and spread out in a single layer.
Add garlic packet to the baking sheet and roast all vegetables for 45 minutes, stirring once or twice for even browning.

For the top crust:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening
1/2 stick cold unsalted butter
1/4 cup ice water, plus more as needed

While the vegetables are roasting, prepare the pie crust. You’re welcome to use your favorite crust, of course, but I love the poof you get out of this version. Mix flours, salt, and baking powder in a bowl. Cut in butter and shortening, and then mix in just enough water to pull dry ingredients together. Flatten dough into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling out.

On the stove top:

1 T olive oil
1 T unsalted butter
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
1 T wholegrain mustard
1.5 T all-purpose flour
1 cup vegetable broth
1 bunch Swiss chard or dark leafy green of choice

Heat oil and butter in a skillet and sauté onion until softened and translucent. Add mustard and flour and cook for a minute or two, stirring often. Then add vegetable broth and mix well, scraping the bottom of the pan thoroughly. Once the sauce has thickened (about 10 minutes), pile the greens on top of the cooking gravy, cover, and allow them to wilt for a few minutes. Stir occasionally until greens have cooked down. Stir in the roasted root vegetables, then pour the entire mixture into a pie plate. Remove the garlic cloves from the roasted bulb and distribute them evenly around the filling.

For the crust glaze:

1 egg yolk
1 T milk

Don’t worry, you’re almost done! Roll out the pastry crust and lay it over the filling, adding whatever decorative touches you like, and then brush the top with the egg yolk/milk mixture. Place pie plate on the baking sheet and slide it back into the 375˚F oven. Bake for 40 minutes, until pie is golden. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes before slicing.

Light a fire, pick out a movie, open a nice Sangiovese, and enjoy!

Anatomy of a Snack


For the first time in a long while, I woke up this morning with no one expecting any kind of work out of me whatsoever. As a change of pace, I found a new book to read, announced to the cat that I was taking a vacation, poured some coffee, and plopped down on the couch.

All that relaxing eventually made me hungry, however, so I headed to the grocery for some fun, over-processed treat to fuel this day of slothfulness (as part of my vacation, I was keeping off the internet and out of the kitchen). Cruising down the aisles failed to produce anything tempting–plus, I realized halfway through my shopping adventure that it would be hard to eat and enjoy something made of things I could not pronounce while simultaneously reading a book about farming. I re-strategized, grabbed a couple potatoes, a jalapeño pepper, and a bunch of cilantro, and headed home to fry up the awesomest of hot afternoon snacks: Potato and Peanut Pawa.

This is a dish I rediscovered in World Food Cafe: Global Vegetarian Cooking (a too-short collection of amazing vegetarian recipes from exotic locales), but I first ate it in Nepal almost a decade ago. The woman I was living with would drop everything to whip up a batch for any late-afternoon guests who wandered in needing something substantial to nosh on. As far as timing went, this usually occurred while she was also in the middle of making dinner, and the fact that she would just reshuffle and squeeze in another pan on the two-burner stove amazed me. It also irked me somewhat, since these hungry stomachs interrupting things never seemed to belong to her friends but rather a group of dudes who came to have leisurely chats with her husband. I liked the snack a great deal, however, so I kept my opinions to myself and tried to help out.

The most interesting ingredient in this dish to me is the pawa, also called beaten or flattened rice. It doesn’t taste like much of anything on its own, but once fried up with the potatoes and peanuts, it sucks up the salt and oil flavors and becomes quite a tasty aspect to the mix while keeping the potatoes from clumping together.

Step-by-step photos and my variation on the recipe can be found here.