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Spring Brunch Brilliance: Porch Waffle Party

Dark chocolate dipped clementines with sea salt

We stored up quite a bit of cabin fever here in Baltimore this winter, so as soon as the weekend temperatures began to touch the 70s, the neighbors fell into action to get our notoriously non-rowdy porch parties back on the social calendar. While these affairs normally allow us to enjoy some wine and dessert as a summer day cools its way into evening, we traded down to morning so that we could trade up to waffles and mimosas for this season’s kick-off event. After an unfortunate electrical fire, we were also inaugurating our resident waffle mistress’s brand new iron, so it was perhaps best to get things going outside—just to be safe.

Waffle with butter

How do you like to top your waffles?

Mistress of the waffle iron

Mistress of the waffle iron

As the waffle production was very well in hand, I volunteered to provide some toppings. For once in my life I went simple, and I’m going to tattoo this lesson on my forearm so that I can enjoy making party food more and stress about it less. Whip a little honey into softened butter and add a tablespoon of sprinkles: perfect for the kids and takes about 5 minutes. Fry some banana slices in butter, deglaze the pan with bourbon, and stir in some pecans and a good dose of maple syrup: well worth the 20 minutes for the adult joy. A little fresh whipped cream and some mixed berries finished off the tray for the waffle traditionalists in the crowd.

Waffle topping table

Honey butter with sprinkles

Honey butter with sprinkles

With so little prep work to do, I also took a stab at some dark chocolate-dipped clementine slices with sea salt that had caught my eye on Pinterest. I don’t do a lot of fancy chocolate work, so I wasn’t super confident when I started the project, but this proved just as brainless as the rest. A 1/2 cup of good dark chocolate, a bit of shortening if you have some on hand to smooth things out, and then just melt it together in a double boiler, dip the slices, and rest them in rows on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Finish a row and run a pinch of salt flakes down the line. Repeat. The only hard part was setting them down instead of eating them. I popped them in the fridge overnight, covered well in plastic wrap once the chocolate set hard. The next day I just had to pile them in a bowl.

For those who would like a little more detail in their recipes:

Honey Butter with Festive Sprinkles

Banana Bourbon Maple Syrup

Dark Chocolate-Dipped Clementine Slices with Sea Salt

How do you like to top your waffles and pancakes?

Tangled In Garlic Scapes


What happened was this: I had been emailed a heads-up that as part of the summer farmers’ market opening weekend, my CSA (a.k.a. One Straw Farm) would have garlic scapes on the table. As my own garden garlics seems to have mysteriously keeled over and quit where they lay (victims of wild urban animals or overly strong rain storms, I’m not sure which) I was excited to still have a chance at this seasonal treat. Paging through my pickling books, I got excited for the brined version, so I brought home two hefty bunches and prepared to stuff them in jars. I also picked up a few other things.

First market haul of the summer 2012 season.

First market haul of the summer 2012 season.

On reflection, I realized that I was already somewhat overstocked in the pickle department (especially after making a few jars of dill pickle spears and a second batch of that rhubarb chutney I’m infatuated with). Plus honestly, I really didn’t want to wait to eat them. Still, in my enthusiastic preparation for what I thought was to be a canning project, I had acquired 24 of them and I shuddered to think that they’d now turn yellow and quietly rot away at the bottom of my produce-packed crisper drawer. There was the garlic scape pesto option, but I already had a batch of kale pesto taking care of that culinary need (esp. when it came to egg sandwiches–highly recommend!).

And so, as I often do, I turned to Google, and Heidi Swanson’s recipe for Garlic Scape Soup–calling for a perfectly portioned two dozen scapes–came to the rescue.

Garlic Scape Soup

Garlic Scape Soup
Only slightly proportionally adapted from Super Natural Cooking (My potatoes were quite large and I like a thinner soup.)

2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (I am loving the California Olive Ranch brand lately. It has a strong, almost grassy taste.)
24 garlic scapes, flowers removed and chopped
3 large russet potatoes, cubed (no need to peel)
5-6 cups vegetable broth
3 cups spinach
2 T fresh lemon juice
1 cup whole milk
salt and pepper to taste

In a large soup pot, heat oil and sauté scapes for a few minutes. Next, add potatoes and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until potato cubes break apart easily when pierced with a fork, about 30 minutes. Remove pot from heat, add spinach, and puree the soup (an immersion blender is really the way to go here). Add lemon juice, milk, salt and pepper, and continue to blend until well combined. Adjust seasoning. You may need to add additional salt until, as Heidi puts it, “the flavors really pop.”

Spring Pea and Asparagus Soup


It’s time again to play “Last Week’s Supper Is This Week’s Soup”!

It’s not quite as desperate as it sounds. I like this game because it’s teaching me a lot about combining various in-season vegetables and neatly preventing me from having to waste any leftover produce even after the first or second dish I needed it for has long since been consumed.

This week I was also able to introduce a new player into the basket–peas! As I have been not hesitant to mention, the debut of fresh peas at the local farmers market is particularly exciting to me. I quickly claimed 2 lbs., as if the ladies standing around me were a threat and might snatch them all away before I could make my purchase.

Home again I checked the fridge only to realize I’d “lost” a bunch of asparagus from last week in the bottom of the crisper drawer. But there it had sat, well wrapped but without water for quite a few days. I also came up with some mint and a few spring onions. These forces combined, I had a soup bursting with bright green color and all the refreshing and energizing taste I was hoping to capture.

Green Spring Pea and Asparagus Soup

4 spring onions, sliced
one bunch asparagus, woody ends trimmed and spears cut into 1″ pieces
3 cups fresh peas
4 cups vegetable broth
handful of mint leaves, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Place broth in a large soup pot and bring to a boil. Add asparagus and onion to the pot and cook for 5 minutes. Add peas and cook 3 minutes more. Remove pot from heat, add in the mint, salt, and pepper, and puree. Stir in the buttermilk and adjust seasonings as needed. Enjoy warm or chilled.

Green Spring Pea and Asparagus Soup

There Can’t Be Only One: Spring Asparagus


Spring asparagus. Not the dry and woody and confusingly available in the grocery store in January kind, but pencil thin and freshly picked. Who could limit themselves to just one bunch (@ $2 each!) per week? Not I, said the little cook. And so, after asparagus tart, there was asparagus…well, pesto, in a sense. Puree in another. Sauce? Condiment? Dip? Yes, yes, and yes. Pass the crackers. Hell, pass a spoon.

After my “first of spring” produce splurge this weekend, I had stretched the grocery budget too tightly to handle a whole cup of pine nuts, and so I swapped in the walnuts I already had in the pantry and saved the few pine nuts available for garnish; it was still fantastic. This is an awesome dish from Super Natural Cooking, no matter what you smear it on.

(P.S. It was Heidi Swanson who taught me to make pesto-type toppings out of many green things, including broccoli. So check her out, be brave, and get creative; it’s awesome on the green side.)

Spring Asparagus Pesto
from Super Natural Cooking

1 bunch asparagus spears trimmed (I also cut mine in half to better fit in my pot)
a few generous handfuls of baby spinach
2 garlic cloves, smashed and roughly chopped
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
3/4 cup toasted pine nuts (1/2 cup walnuts work as well, if that better suits your budget as it did mine)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 T lemon juice

In a pot large enough to accommodate your asparagus, bring salted water to a boil. Boil asparagus for two to three minutes, until just tender. Drain and transfer to a food processor, along with the spinach, garlic, Parmesan, and nuts of your choice (toast them first, if you can spare the time). Turn processor on and puree, drizzling in the olive oil while it runs. Add lemon juice and salt. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

Pesto can be tossed immediately with pasta or kept in a sealed jar in the refrigerator. Cover the exposed puree with olive oil to prevent discoloration.

A Feast of Green (Spring is Here! Edition)


This was the first weekend my Saturday market produce haul has truly felt exciting in quite some time. And even though I’m usually tempted to purchase a rainbow of vegetables on these outings, this was a monochrome venture and that was fine with me. The bright greens of pencil-thin asparagus, Brussels sprouts, spring onions, and cilantro captured my eye. Some of this was imported from our neighbors to the south, admittedly, but I’ll take their hinting promises; no peas yet, but they are assuredly on the way.

Back at home, there was also a largish pile of actual cookbooks that I had been stocking up all winter and have now finally put to use (as opposed to looking again to my normal kitchen fuel—the cooking blogs of others). I first turned to Nigel Slater’s doorstop of a vegetable Bible Tender, a book I had been drooling all over, with its vegetable-by-vegetable recipes and amazing garden photographs. Even though my own vegetable patch will once again be restricted to about 18 sq. ft. this year, I’m looking forward to following him in the kitchen as if I was producing much more. To start, I put some of the asparagus towards his Tart of Asparagus and Tarragon. Though I had a bit of a pastry fail here (my error, as I added too much water to get the dough to come together, and then disliked the texture of the bottom crust, so take care) the interior was rich and silky. I tossed in a handful of chopped spring onion because I could not resist. (I know! I’m bad like that.) If I had managed the dough with more finesse, it would have been a perfect addition to a spring brunch table, for sure.

Tart of Asparagus and Tarragon

Tart of Asparagus and Tarragon Makings

Next up was a bag full of Brussels sprouts. It sometimes shocks those who have never eaten these beauties roasted in Balsamic vinegar that this vegetable is a household favorite, but even we were getting a little tired of that method. Epicurious kicked out a Roasted Brussels Sprouts recipe in the Momofuku fashion that two out of two Baltimoreans definitely agree should be added to the regular dinner rotation. Don’t be afraid of the high oven heat, but do keep an eye on them. My delicate sprouts needed a bit less time to brown darkly. Also, mind your salt/sugar/heat balance in the dressing and don’t be afraid to adjust to suit your tastes, then only add enough to coat, not to drown. I had plenty left over, into which I scooped enough peanut butter to thicken it a bit. It will serve as a fantastic salad topping for the week.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

A recipe from Heidi Swanson’s inspiring Super Natural Cooking rounded out this feast. I had a mix of red and truly, deeply purple fingerling potatoes that were much too small (some not much larger than jelly beans) to Hasselback as her roasting recipe indicated, but her dish did include harissa (!) which I just happened to have a nice jar of, plus a garlic yogurt dressing. I was in heaven just reading about it and would not, could not let size stand in my way!

Roasted Purple and Red Potatoes with Herbed Garlic Yogurt

Roasted Purple and Red Potatoes with Herbed Garlic Yogurt
Adapted a bit from Super Natural Cooking to suit smaller potatoes

2 lbs. fingerling potatoes, mix of red and purple, in 1-inch chunks
3 T olive oil
2 tsp. harissa

For the dressing

1 cup Greek yogurt
2 garlic cloves smashed and minced
3 T cilantro, finely chopped
3 T fresh mint, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
black pepper
lemon juice (optional)

Preheat oven to 375F.

Mixed the oil and harissa together, drizzle over potatoes and toss to evenly coat. Spread out on a foil-lined baking sheet and sprinkle lightly with salt. Roast 40 minutes, stirring halfway through.

Meanwhile, to prepare the dressing, mix the yogurt, garlic, cilantro, mint, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Thin with a bit of lemon juice if desired.

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.”