How To Assemble A Charcuterie Board (in collaboration with Formaggio Kitchen)

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Over the next several weeks many of us will be busy hosting holiday parties to entertain friends and family. While I’m working on main courses and desserts, my guests will be making merry; to keep them happily entertained and take the edge off their appetites I will lay an ample spread of cheeses, wines, and charcuterie. My suggestions for assembling a stellar charcuterie board are below.

If selecting and gathering the components sounds daunting, or if you find yourself pressed for time, I suggest you delegate the task to the delightfully friendly and knowledgeable folks at Formaggio Kitchen of Cambridge, Mass. In fact, this charcuterie spread was assembled by them, including suggested wine pairings, and resulted in a stellar feast for the senses.

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To provide a little something for every palate, you should offer a selection of crusty breads, cheeses ranging from mild to pungent, and charcuterie including mild and spicy salumi, aged Jamón and Prosciutto, and dried fruits, assorted olives, honey, mustards, and sweet and savory roast nuts. To make it easier, my suggestions are below.

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Beaufort Alpage – Gruyère has a flavor very close to our hearts; while living in southwestern Germany not far from the French and Swiss borders we came to love this style of cheese. Beaufort is a distinctive French member of the Gruyère family produced in the town of Savoie. This fine cheese is creamy and smooth with a gently assertive flavor and a pleasantly pungent character. Excellent with wild honey and dried figs, it is an easy point of entry into the world of funky cheeses for the slightly adventurous palate.

Valençay – A French goat’s milk cheese from the Loire valley. An intensely creamy cheese dusted with vegetable ash, it is delicately tangy and incredibly smooth in flavor with delightful hints of citrus on the finish. Exquisite with apricot jam and salumi, I really love this cheese.

Langres Boites – Hailing from the Champagne region of France, this cheese can be pungent at first but mellows after a day or two at room temperature in its wooden box, during which time the pungent aroma subsides and is gradually replaced with a rich creamy aroma and hints of wild mushrooms.

What many Americans would consider a ‘scary’ cheese, the compact and wrinkled exterior gives way to a creamy and tangy interior with nutty, caramelly flavors and deep, funky notes with a bright sunny tang on the finish that is deliciously difficult to describe.

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Westcombe Cheddar – This English cheddar has been hand-crafted for more than a century. Deeply savory with hints of hazelnuts and delicate caramel, subtly sweet grassy notes linger on the palate. An excellent cheddar which pairs well with dried fruits, Jamón, salumi, and olives.

Parmigiano Cravero Riserva – This beautiful cheese reminds me of my time in Italy. Emilia-Romagna is handmade by the Cravero family in the area of Bologna. Rich and nutty with a smooth salty bite and a pleasantly fruity finish. Sun-dried tomatoes and dry-aged olives are the perfect accompaniment to this Italian classic.

XO Aged Gouda – One of Jason’s favorite cheeses are aged goudas with crunchy calcium crystals that form during extended aging; very few deliver the sweet and savory punch of this XO aged gouda. Presenting an intensely salty start which gradually sweetens into a lingering caramel finish, this cheese is excellent on its own but also pairs perfectly with the juicy intensity of fresh pears and grapes or sliced baguette and fresh butter.

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Now let’s talk wines.

Any respectable charcuterie board is accompanied by a range of carefully selected wine pairings. Below are some suggested pairings for the cheeses listed above.

Valencay – 2017 Pascal Jolivet Sancerre, a Sauvignon Blanc from Loire, elegantly dry with a delightfully tart acidity that balances the smooth, rich flavors of this goat’s milk cheese.

Beaufort Alpage – 2014 Bouchard Père & Fils Grand Vin De Bourgogne Pouilly-Fuissé, with restrained buttery notes, this Chardonnay brings fresh pears and light florals to counter the deep, creamy richness of Gruyère.

I paired both Parmigiano Cravero and Langres Boites cheeses with an exquisite 2002 Piper-Heidsieck Millesime Rare. Honeyed fruits and freshness and acidity, ending with a crisp mineral snap that cuts through rich, dry cheeses to refresh the palate.

For the Westcombe Cheddar and XO Aged Gouda, I like a nice Grenache/Syrah blend, or a Spanish Rioja.

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Spiced Nuts
1 1/2 cups cashews
1 1/2 cups almonds
1 1/2 cups pecans
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
2 T. Honey
2 T. sunflower oil
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. sea salt
2 tsp. cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 325’F

Place the first 7 ingredients in a bowl and combine. Bake for 15-20 minutes on parchment paper, stirring occasionally until evenly golden. Add black pepper, sea salt, and cayenne to taste and toss. You can keep the nuts in an airtight container for two weeks.

Maple Cinnamon Spiced Nuts

1 1/2 cups pecans
1 1/2 cups almonds
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 T. maple syrup
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cayenne

Preheat oven to 350’F

Place all ingredients in a bowl and combine. Bake for 20-30 minutes on parchment paper, stirring occasionally until evenly golden. You can keep the nuts in an airtight container for two weeks.

Mediterranean Feast (in collaboration with Imperfect Produce and Pereg)

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This has quickly become a favorite meal in our house. One question I’m always asked is “Do you eat everything you feature?” The answer, of course, that’s what we do, and because it is very difficult to cook and shoot just for two. We typically have leftovers and this Mediterranean meal is excellent even after a few days when all of the flavors have melded.

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The first time I tried Mediterranean cuisine was at small family-run restaurants in our little German hometown of Esslingen am Neckar. I can still remember tasting my first döner kebap; I had just arrived in Esslingen to visit Jason who was there for two months working on a project. Since it was my first time traveling internationally, I was incredibly jet-lagged, but he insisted we drop off my luggage at his tiny rented room and head back into town to get something to eat. He had been telling me about this wonderful spot called Konuk, a pretty famous little mom and pop Turkish restaurant that served a very authentic, hand-made version of the famous street food. I instantly fell in love with the combination of fresh crisp salads, creamy yogurt sauce, and savory marinated beef.

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Over the next few weeks, I must have eaten more than a dozen döners, and sometimes I would walk past early in the morning and see the chefs stacking the vertical spit with layer upon layer of marinated steak, spices, and then top it off with thinly sliced onions and a large tomato. As it would turn, large red-hot burners would roast the outer layer until it was crisp, then skillfully shaved off for customers and by the early evening the 100 or so pounds of fresh beef would dwindle down to a spindly, slowly roasting sliver, now meltingly tender, the aroma beckoning passers-by to stop in for a quick meal.

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Next, I discovered more delicious Mediterranean specialties at a little place called Metropol who offered the most delicious hand-made falafel and yufka. Over the time we lived there we would visit these and other places nearly every week, and although since moving back we haven’t found a place for Euro-style döner, we did find amazingly good Mediterranean food at a place called NafNaf. Since it’s a bit of a drive we have tried unsuccessfully to make our own hummus and falafel, but it never turned out right and certainly didn’t taste as good as the real thing. Lately, I have been reading a bit more about traditional recipes and methods and I think I have finally cracked the code. Now we can enjoy our very own Mediterranean feast right at home!

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We try to eat healthy without sacrificing flavor and have found chicken shawarma to be an excellent alternative to red meat. Along with shawarma, a simple Israeli salad of diced cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion, and fresh parsley add cool, crisp flavors while thinly slice onions dressed with bright, citrusy sumac and radicchio tossed with olive oil lend an awesome crunch an awesome crunch. A freshly whipped bowl of hummus seasoned with zahtar and steaming hot, crispy falafel serve as a starch making pita or yufka optional.

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While this meal has many components, the prep work and cold salads can be made a day ahead of time, along with soaking and pre-cooking the dry chickpeas. A little help from Pereg prepared spice blends makes it easy to nail the delicate spice profiles exactly, and the result is about as close in flavor to the real thing as you can get without a passport.

Makes roughly 16 falafel

2 cups dry chickpeas
2 large onions, quartered
3 cloves fresh garlic
1/2 medium jalepeño, seeded and diced
2 T. Pereg falafel seasoning
1 C. Fresh flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
2-3 cups vegetable oil of your choice for frying for frying, I like to use sunflower.

Sort through dry chickpeas, rinse well then soak overnight in plenty of cold water. Drain well, then combine chickpeas, onions, garlic, jalapeño, and parsley to the bowl of a large food processor. Blend the mixture for 30-40 seconds until coarse but starting to come together. Add the Pereg falafel seasoning, salt, pepper, baking powder, and baking soda. Pulse for another 10 seconds to bring together. Use a small ice cream scoop or a spoon to portion the dough into balls, all roughly the same size for even frying.   Preheat oil in a 3qt saucepan to 375’F. Once the oil is ready, cook falafel in small batches of three and cook until golden brown and crispy (roughly 4-6 min). Drain on a paper towel-lined plate and keep warm in the oven until ready to serve.

Hummus with Zahtar
8 oz. dried chickpeas, soaked overnight then drained
6 C. water
1 C. chickpea liquid reserved
1/4 C. tahini
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp. Pereg zahtar seasoning
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
2 T. olive oil

Cook chickpeas in a pressure for 1 hour at high pressure, or simmer on the stovetop for 2-1/2 hours or until tender. Drain the chickpeas reserving one cup cooking liquid. Chill the peas until cool then place in a food processor. Add tahini, garlic cloves, sea salt, olive oil, and zahtar and blend until well combined. Add reserved cooking liquid a little at a time while blending until smooth, approximately 3-4 minutes. Chill well and serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of zahtar.

Chicken Shawarma
2 lbs boneless chicken thighs, cut in half
6 tsp Pereg Shawarma seasoning
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp sea salt
1 T. Aleppo pepper flakes (Amazon)
1/4 C. olive oil
2 lg. white onions, quartered
2 T. fresh flat-leaf parsley

Preheat the oven 425’F
Add the first six ingredients to a freezer bag, making sure to thoroughly combine ingredients to evenly coat the chicken. Marinade for 4 hours, combine with onions and then roast in the oven for 30-40 mins or until they begin to brown slightly. Remove from oven and thinly slice chicken/onions, then return to oven to cook an additional 20 minutes. Remove from oven, rest briefly then sprinkle with a handful of chopped parsley. Keep in a warm oven until ready to serve.

Israeli Salad
1/2 English cucumber, finely diced
1/2 lg. red onion, finely diced
4 small tomatoes, finely diced
1 handful of cilantro, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
2 T lemon juice
Salt to taste

Toss all ingredients together in a small bowl and chill before serving.

Radicchio Salad
1/2 small head of radicchio, thinly sliced
1 T. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp olive oil

Toss all ingredients together in a small bowl and chill before serving.

Sumac Onions
1 small yellow onion, sliced thin
2 tsp. Sumac

Toss onions and sumac together in a small container, shake to coat evenly then chill until ready to serve.

Products featured
Imperfect Produce
Cuisinart Elite Collection 2.0 14 Cup Food Processor 
REVOL Catalan Bowl in Cast Iron 
REVOL Catalan Bowl in Pepper
REVOL Equinoxe Coupe Plate in White Cumulus 
REVOL Equinoxe Individual Bowl Solid in White 
REVOL Rectangle Baking Dish

Charred Vegetable Soup (in collaboration with Imperfect Produce)

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One of my favorite soups growing up was my Grandma’s garden vegetable soup. She would make this soup throughout the year, and though the tomato base would remain the same, she would vary the rest of the recipe with whatever vegetables were in season.

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My version is updated by briefly broiling the vegetables to char them adding smoke and roasted flavors while retaining their crisp texture. Packed full of vegetables and flexible to make use of whatever produce is in season.

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This is a quick and easy recipe that can be whipped up on a weeknight or better yet make it ahead of time as the flavor improves over several days. I find this is a great way to use up any leftover vegetables when a new shipment of Imperfect Produce arrives on my doorstep!

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Charred Vegetable Soup

1 cup dry beans soaked and pre-cooked, I suggest Peruano or northern white beans; or substitute canned beans.
1 large Zucchini (or 2 small), 3/4” sliced
1 yellow squash, 3/4” sliced
2 small onions, quartered
2 handfuls string beans, ends trimmed
4 celery stalks, sliced into 1/2” pieces
6 red and/or yellow potatoes, diced
2 red, green, or yellow bell peppers, quartered
4 carrots, cut in thirds
1 large clove of garlic, minced
2 tsp Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base (mix with 2 cups of boiling water)1 28oz. can whole tomatoes
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
1 T. butter
2 T. fresh parsley and extra to add on top
Olive oil to coat vegetables
salt and pepper

Pre-cook the beans
Rinse and soak the beans overnight. Rinse again and then cook in 4 cups of water until tender, about 2 hours. To save time, skip the soak and just rinse the beans well, and cook them in an electric pressure cooker for 40 minutes on high pressure.

Broiling the vegetables
Pre-heat broiler on high. Toss sliced zucchini, yellow squash, onions, peppers, and carrots with olive oil until evenly coated, then spread into a single layer on a sheet pan. Broil vegetables for 8-10 minutes or until charred, then flip and repeat, stirring until evenly roasted.

Making the soup
In the meantime, heat a large pot, add butter and the sliced celery, diced potatoes, and minced garlic to the pot and sauté for 10 mins over medium-high heat. Add the vegetable stock and canned whole tomatoes and juice and bring to a boil. I like to squeeze the tomato before placing them in the pot to allow them to break up prior to cooking. After the charred vegetables are done, I quarter the squash and zucchini and slice the carrots/peppers. Add all the charred vegetables and string green beans to the pot along with the garlic and onion powder. Simmer for 25 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through and the vegetables are tender. Add the fresh parsley and season with pepper. Serve with warm, crusty bread.

Products featured
Staub Cast Iron 3.75-qt Essential French Oven – White
Oneida Select 10 x 15″ Cookie Baking Sheet, Set of 2
Oneida FoodService Marble Plate Coupe Bowl 9”
Oneida FoodService Wyatt Oval Bowl Soup Spoon  7″

Salade Niçoise (in collaboration with Imperfect Produce)

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Although the warm sunny days of summer are behind us, delicious summery salads can continue late into the fall. Jam-packed with layered flavors and textures, my twist on the classic Salade niçoise trades cannellini beans for eggs and skips artichokes, anchovies, and olives for a lighter texture, letting summery heirloom tomatoes, string beans, radicchio, lettuce, and red potatoes dressed in a light vinaigrette absolutely sing. A meaty combination of tuna and cannellini beans deliver a rich texture sure to satisfy your appetite. This salad can be enjoyed on its own or alongside dinner and is also perfect for entertaining guests. Bursting with color and freshness, it’s a sure crowd-pleaser.

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What I enjoy most about making salads is getting creative. I have a bunch of perfectly fresh imperfect produce on hand and so this salad is one part inspiration and two parts imagination! I like to start with a proven formula, ala Salade niçoise, then add and remove elements until I’m are happy with the concept and get to work!

A side benefit of a subscription to Imperfect Produce is the constant supply of fresh produce just begging to be incorporated into weeknight meals, and in our experience has to lead to a much higher proportion of fresh vegetables in our diet.

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I paired my salad with my new favorite sparkling wine called Mrs. by SYLTBAR; an all-natural sparkling rośe made with 100% Merlot grapes, no added sugar or sulfates. It’s elegant, fresh and fruity with hints of pomegranate, citrus, and lychee. Light yet complex and only 63 calories per glass, Mrs. pairs perfectly with my end of summer salad.

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Salade Niçoise

Ingredients for Salade Niçoise
1 medium radicchio, cored and thinly sliced
2 handfuls fresh string beans, ends trimmed
1 head of green leafy lettuce, torn
2 medium heirloom tomatoes or a pint of cherry tomatoes
1 can oil-packed tuna, drained and separated into pieces
14.5 oz can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
4 red potatoes, sliced ¼” thick

Parsley Vinaigrette
1 T. capers
1/2 cup of flat leaf parsley chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
3 T. lemon juice
2 t. white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste

Bring a saucepan of water to a boil, season with a pinch of salt and blanch the green beans for 3 minutes until bright green, transfer to the ice water bath to stop cooking. Bring the water back to a boil and add the sliced potatoes to the saucepan. Cook until fork tender then chill in an ice bath. Drain the tuna and cannellini beans and set aside.

Arrange lettuce, sliced tomatoes, and radicchio on a platter. Separate the tuna into chunks and add to the platter along with the cannellini beans, string beans, and red potatoes.  In a small bowl combine olive oil, lemon juice, white wine vinegar, garlic, flat-leaf parsley, and black pepper, mix the vinaigrette until well combined. Add capers and stir. Taste and add a pinch of salt if needed, although the capers will usually be salty enough. Drizzle the salad with the vinaigrette and capers.

Products featured

Imperfect Produce
REVOL Succession Bowl
REVOL Arborescence Coupe Plate 7″
REVOL Equinoxe Serving Platter in Cumulus
SYLTBAR Mrs. Sparkling Rośe


Braised Boneless Beef Short Ribs with Italian Caponata (in collaboration with Imperfect Produce)

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The first time we visited Rome, we rented an incredible 16th century apartment on Via del Govern Vecchio. The third-floor apartment was situated across the street from a monastic residence where priests and monks carried out their daily lives in full view like an ant farm in white starched collars. We could see their dining room from our living room window and felt just a tiny bit guilty as we watched them pass along large dishes of food and ceramic jugs of red wine.

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We had landed late in the afternoon and after getting settled in we intended to dine on bread, cheese, and prosciutto from a local market, but when night fell we couldn’t resist the warm glow of street-side dining. Dinner in Italy, for locals, normally begins about 8 or 9pm and can stretch late into the evening. In Rome, this means much of the tourists have already eaten and gone on to the wine bars and nightspots that dot the city.

The restaurants are filled with locals and cognoscenti who spend the evening savoring food, wine, and conversation. Time slows down as deep red wine flows and the stars come out. On a moonlit side street, two hungry visitors wander back and forth across the cobblestones unable to decide where to dine.

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We wandered along Via Sebastiano Grandis and ended up taking a table at Bottega Trattoria De Santis. It was here that we had our first taste of caponata. What I love about caponata is the layered flavors of ripe summer eggplant melding with onion, celery, briny olives and capers, and the rich flavor of sun-sweetened tomatoes. Often enjoyed on its own as antipasti, caponata really shines when served alongside braised or grilled beef. Many Italians make caponata in the fall and preserve it in jars to enjoy during the winter months with crisp crostini as a meal in itself or to accompany hearty winter dishes.

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When I opened this week’s shipment from Imperfect Produce and was presented with a vibrantly fresh eggplant, ripe red tomatoes, and celery I knew I had to make caponata. I chose boneless beef short ribs as accompaniment, which I cooked sous vide though oven roasting or slow braising would give similarly succulent results.

Braised Boneless Short Ribs with Caponata

Sous Vide Boneless Beef Short Ribs
4 servings

1 1/2 lbs boneless beef short ribs
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp. aleppo pepper flakes (or substitute with ancho chili pepper flakes and a dash of sea salt)
4-5 cherry tomatoes (if you are using sous vide; use 10 if you are braising in the oven or using a slow cooker)
6 sprigs of thyme, washed

Add short ribs to the vacuum bag and arrange remaining ingredients on top then evacuate and seal. Cook in a water bath at 165’F for 14 hours. At the end of cooking time, remove ribs to a shallow skillet and pour cooking liquid, tomatoes, and thyme to a small saucepan and reduce by 1/2. Sear ribs with a butane torch to caramelize, adding a bit of flavorful char. Plate on top of caponata and spoon generously with reduced sauce.

If using a slow cooker, an additional liquid will be necessary to prevent over-cooking. I like to add Cabernet Sauvignon and chicken broth to the ingredients and cook on low for ~9 hours before plating atop the finished caponata.

1 large eggplant, 3/4” cubed
4 small stalks of celery, sliced
2 medium onions, diced
1 cup large green olives, pitted and sliced
2 T. capers
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
15 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
I small bunch fresh basil sliced thinly, chiffonade
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a 5-6qt ceramic or cast iron cocotte over medium heat. Divide cubed eggplant into batches and fry gently until golden brown. Add chopped onion, celery, and olives cooking until onions are translucent. Add capers, tomatoes, sugar and 1/2 of the red wine vinegar and cook for 10-12 minutes on medium-low heat. Rest for 20 minutes and taste to assess flavor. If you’d like it a bit sharper add more vinegar; a bit sweeter add a bit more sugar. Serve with short ribs.

Products featured 

Impefect Produce
Revolution 2 Round Ceramic Cookware – Pepper Red
Revol Round Eared Dish 7″- Pepper
Revol Round Eared Dish 6″- Black 
Arborescence Coupe Plate 9″ – White
Solid Mies en Bouche Bowl 3″ – White
Solid Catalan Bowl 4.75″ – Pepper

Vegetable Shish Kababs with a Sriracha Honey-Sesame Glaze (in collaboration with Imperfect Produce)

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When it comes to buying produce, most shoppers pick through dozens of pieces, turning, squeezing and unfortunately bruising many of them until they find the most perfect looking, blemish-free pieces leaving mounds of picked-through, roughly handled and damaged produce that ultimately goes to waste. I’m guilty of this myself, but this behavior pressures grocery managers to demand only the most cosmetically pleasing produce to cut down on the waste that happens every day in their produce department.

The sad result is that growers are forced to sort and reject every piece of produce that doesn’t meet stringent guidelines regarding color, shape, size, texture, and visible blemishes, leaving an astonishing quantity of perfectly nutritious, delicious and uniquely beautiful produce to rot in the fields. When I learned of this ongoing crisis and about the mission of Imperfect Produce; to match up this impeccably fresh and delicious produce with hungry consumers, I was immediately swayed to start enjoying this delightful but overlooked treasure in my kitchen.

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Imperfect Produce is a produce rescue and delivery service that sources the freshest, must succulent overlooked produce directly from growers and races it to your door in a customized shipment that you choose, every week, bi-weekly, or monthly, in quantities tailored to suit the size of your household or your appetite.

I found it quite satisfying to say goodbye to characterless carrots, perfectly round tomatoes, and superficially flawless apples. Embrace the unique shapes that mother nature can find to make a bell pepper. Savor the occasional sunburn of naturally sun-ripened tomatoes. Also, I have enjoyed pints of remarkably beautiful blueberries that were suspiciously even more appealing than the bruised and broken berries of the supermarket and bunches of kale so fresh and crisp that my husband actually enjoys eating kale for a change. Mustard greens that hadn’t felt the rough treatment of dozens of hands and avocados so delicately fresh and free of thumb indents it was as if they’d never been touched by human hands.

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Imperfect Produce currently operates its delivery network in the Chicago, Seattle, Portland, Orange County, Los Angeles, and Bay areas, doing their best to offset the more than SIX BILLION POUNDS of fresh produce that goes to waste each year. Utterly delicious, perfectly nutritious, and in my opinion uniquely photogenic food, delivered to your door on the day and hour of your choosing. Regular, organic, or a mix you choose, with to-the-minute tracking. It’s that simple.

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So, it is with great pleasure that I join in the fight against food waste and announce my collaboration with Imperfect Produce. I look forward to bringing you a unique look at their delightfully imperfect fruits and vegetables! For my first recipe, I decided to relish the cool late summer weather we are finally having with some simple grilled vegetable shish kababs on my Fuego grill.

Honey Sesame Sriracha Shish Kababs
makes six kababs

2 zucchini, cut into 1” slices
2 large red onions, cut into 1” slices
1 yellow summer squash, cut into 1” slices
2 green bell peppers, cut into 1” slices
8 oz of baby portabella mushrooms
12 cherry or plum tomatoes, grape tomatoes are lovely in salads but a bit too small for the grill

Thread zucchini, squash, green peppers, red onions, and tomatoes onto skewers in that precise order. I alternate mushrooms or tomatoes on the ends of the skewers because they benefit from the extra heat. Brush generously with the honey/sesame/sriracha glaze and place on a hot grill, turning occasionally and basting with more glaze until reaching the desired level of doneness. I like mine slightly less than charred to preserve some of the fresh, raw crunch and snap of these delicious garden-fresh vegetables.


Spicy Honey Sesame Sriracha Glaze

1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
4 T. honey
2 T sesame oil
3 tsp. sriracha chili sauce
Garnish with sesame seeds (optional)

In a small saucepan, whisk together all ingredients until combined. Bring the glaze to a gentle simmer on low heat, often stirring until the glaze has reduced by half. Set aside to cool before basting.

*Note*, Please feel free to alter the recipe proportions to your liking.

Products featured
Imperfect Produce
Revol Set of 3 French Classics White Roasting Dishes
Fuego Professional F24C Grill

A Cocktail for Autumn with Apologue Liqueurs


When it comes to cocktails, we all have our favorites; in the springtime, I like a French 75 with vodka, not gin which remind me of late afternoons at a sidewalk café in Paris. During the height of summer, I like something citrusy with a herbal, green garden twist like a mojito or something with a savory, deep citrus character like a Paloma. In the late summer with it’s long, hot breezeless afternoons I prefer tequila which brings me to my new favorite concoction which I call ‘Autumn Awakes’.


I’ve been working on a seasonal cocktail with a tequila base featuring local Chicago-based spirits by Apologue. Their exquisite line of liqueurs are the result of some of Chicago’s best and brightest mixologists and spiritologists; Robby Haynes of Violet Hour, renown bar chief and beat virtuosos Ziyad Asrar, and local ingredient sourcing guru Jordan Tepper. This gifted trio has created three all-natural liqueurs: Aronia Berry, Persimmon Bittersweet, and Celery Root Herbal. Their liqueurs are presented in a 100% natural state, made with organic cane sugar, and all ingredients are sourced in the Midwest.

Apologue also fulfills an important role in the community by forming partnerships with nonprofit groups such as Growing Solutions Farm, which teaches agricultural skills to people with autism. The farm has dedicated some of its land to growing celery root for the exquisitely savory Celery Root herbal liqueur.


My first cocktail features Aronia Berry Liqueur; this beautiful liqueur presents layered summer fruits with waves of decadent chokeberries (Aronia), tart cherries, raspberries, and orange peel with floral overtones of lavender, rosehips, and an intriguing hint of cinnamon. In my recipe, I muddle this liqueur with ripe peaches, silver tequila, sweet Lillet, and a dash of grapefruit bitters.

Autumn Awakes
recipe for two cocktails

2 oz. Apologue Aronia Liqueur
3 oz. of tequila (I prefer Herradura Silver)
1 oz. Lillet Blanc
1 lime, juiced
3 dashes grapefruit bitters
1/2 ripened peach, muddled

Slice the peach and add to a cocktail mixing glass then muddle.

Add the rest of the ingredients to the glass, mix, and strain. At this point, you can either serve on ice or fill a shaker 1/2 way with ice and shake for 15 seconds. Serve and enjoy.

Easy Build-Your-Own Sundaes and Cones with Hudsonville Ice Cream

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As a food stylist and photographer, I’ve worked with all kinds of foods, ingredients, cookware and kitchen products but one thing I have never tried to photograph is ice cream. I have heard for years how difficult a subject ice cream can be, so when the great folks at Hudsonville Creamery reached out to me, I couldn’t resist the chance to try my hand at capturing the beauty of their wonderful range of artisanal ice creams. Besides, summer is still in full swing so why not enjoy a few scoops embellished in classic sundae style?

SuperScoop – Classic 2 Scoop Cone
This vibrant psychedelic swirl has an exquisite yet hard to describe mystery flavor; some say it is reminiscent of Froot Loops, but I think that description misses the deeply flavorful creamy base and the pistachio-like nutty finish. I accentuated the flavors with a cone dressed in crushed cereal, a dollop of whipped cream, and crowned it with a flourish of whole Froot Loops.

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Hudsonville Ice Cream5_Michigan_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2018_120-Recovered

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Hudsonville Ice Cream1_Michigan_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2018_120-Recovered

Creamery Blend Vanilla – Caramel Waffle Ice Cream Sandwich
The creamiest, dreamiest vanilla ice cream carefully layered between two exquisitely rich Belgian caramel Stroopwafels, the ultimate in minimalist indulgence which presents the clear and complimentary flavors of sweet cream, vanilla, caramel, and toasty Belgian waffles with zero distractions. I used a stainless steel form to pack and shape the disk of ice cream, but any smooth, non-ridged biscuit cutter will work. Or freestyle it with a spatula!

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Hudsonville Ice Cream6_Michigan_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2018_120-Recovered

Traverse City Cherry Fudge – Classic 3 Scoop Cone
A delicately flavored amaretto base with luscious Michigan cherries and a ridiculously indulgent fudge swirl, piled high atop a waffle cone, topped with magic shell and a sprinkle of sprinkles! The cherry-amaretto-fudge trio are a match made in creamy heaven!

Hudsonville Ice Cream12_Michigan_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2018_120-Recovered

Creamery Blend Vanilla – Classic 3 Scoop Sundae
A classic combination of three scoops of luscious vanilla ice cream topped with a drizzle of hot fudge, whipped cream, and a maraschino cherry all in a waffle bowl rimmed with white chocolate and sprinkles!

Hudsonville Ice Cream8_Michigan_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2018_120-Recovered

Hudsonville Ice Cream9_Michigan_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2018_120-Recovered

Hudsonville Ice Cream10_Michigan_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2018_120-Recovered

Deer Traxx – Classic 2 Scoop Cone
A sea of the creamiest vanilla ice cream swarming with tiny peanut butter cups surfing a thick swirl of chocolate fudge. Then freeze that scene and pack it into a convenient half-gallon carton. Liberate a couple scoops of this frozen vacation and pack them into a waffle cone topped with magic shell and some sweet-salty crushed nuts. Instant. Holiday.

Hudsonville Ice Cream11_Michigan_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2018_120-Recovered

Now a little about the creamery; Hudsonville has been producing delicious ice creams packed with goodness since 1926. Based in Holland, Michigan, Hudsonville Creamery produces 50 flavors that are sold across Michigan, Illinois, and Indiana. The creamery was built near dairy farms because closer cows mean fresher milk and better tasting ice cream. Check out their site for a full list of flavors and where to find them near you.

Products featured: 
Hudsonville Ice Cream, Holland, Michigan
Revol Round Eared Black Cast-Iron Dish
Revol Crème Brulee Bowl in Pepper
Revol Cup in 6.25oz in White
Revol Black Salt Pot 
Target – All sprinkles, waffle cones, waffle bowls, nuts, hot fudge and Magic Shell
Stroopwafel Cookies

Spring Thyme Cocktail (in collaboration with Chopin Vodka)


Springtime is upon us, and I’m feeling inspired to mix up a bit of sunshine in my cocktail glass to savor the first warm, sunny days of spring. I’ve chosen to lend a touch of French flavor to the perennial combination of citrus+vodka by adding a splash of elderflower liqueur and a twist of Provence with a sprig of garden-fresh thyme.



Delightfully peppery Chopin rye vodka and freshly squeezed grapefruit juice mingle with the floral notes of St. Germain to form the basis, while lemon and thyme hint at sunny afternoons on the terrace.. The result is a tart and subtly sweet spring refresher balanced with a hint of savory summer herbs, perfect for a cool spring evening or a warm spring day.



Spring Thyme Cocktail

Mix together for one small or double for one full cocktail

1 1/2 oz Chopin rye vodka
1 oz grapefruit juice
1/2 oz lemon juice
1 oz elderflower liqueur
Twist of lemon
Dash of orange bitters
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme, bruised to release fragrance
Splash of soda water

Combine vodka, grapefruit juice, lemon juice, elderflower liquor, orange bitters and sprigs of fresh thyme with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into glass.

Products featured
Chopin Rye Vodka
Stölzle Glassware – Oneida Foodservice
Viski Admiral Hammered Shaker in Copper
Fee Brothers Orange Bitters 
John Boos Block Walnut Fusion Cutting Board

Soupe au Pistou (Provençal Vegetable Soup)


Hard to believe last Tuesday was the first day of Spring, with some parts of the country still getting pounded by record snowstorms. While I’m anxious for the arrival of warm spring days, I fully intend to savor the last of the cold weather with the help of a few more pots of soup. With the temps hovering around the mid-40s I think spring flavors are in order so today I chose a soup au pistou. A French soup similar to minestrone, this recipe is brightened by the intense green flavors of fresh herbs pistou layered upon spring peas, string beans; and wintry reserves of savory root vegetables and legumes.





Originating in the southern French city of Nice which was until the mid-19th century part of Italy, the French version differs from Italian minestrone in that it is based on a light tomato broth in place of whole tomatoes and the garnish of pistou, which is quite similar to Italian pesto but typically lacks pine nuts and parsley in favor of even more basil.






Soup au Pistou
serves 6
*Note* I like to prep all ingredients first before starting, in this case, make the pistou first and chill.

For the soup
2 shallots, peeled and diced
4 carrots, peeled and diced
3 medium or 4 small zucchini, diced
2 cups fresh haricot verts (or you can use frozen), trim ends
2 cloves garlic peeled and minced
1 14oz can of cannellini or navy beans, drained
2 cups water
3 cups vegetable stock
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen peas
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil

In a 4-6qt French oven or stockpot heat olive oil over medium flame and sauté shallots until soft and translucent. Add diced carrots, zucchini, green beans, garlic, fresh thyme, and salt/pepper, continue cooking until the vegetables begin to soften. Add tomato paste and gently incorporate so as to avoid breaking the green beans. Add cannellini beans, water, vegetable stock, frozen peas and bring to a simmer gently for 5-10 minutes or just until peas are cooked. Serve in a wide, shallow bowl with a spoonful of pistou swirled gently for presentation. If you enjoy it as much as I do, put a bowl of pistou in the middle of the table for late additions and serve with slices of warm baguette and sea salted butter.

For the pistou
3 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 bunch of fresh basil
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup grated parmesan or other hard cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Place garlic, basil, and parmesan cheese in a food processor and purée. While blending, gradually add the olive oil until combined. Chill until serving.

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REVOL Ceramic Round Dutch Oven – Green Revolution
REVOL Succession Bowl
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John Boos Block Walnut Fusion Cutting Board with Contoured Feet

Quick and Easy Chicken Pot Pie with Puff Pastry

chicken pot pie8_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2018_95-Recovered copy

How is it already late January? Usually, the quiet weeks that follow the chaotic holiday season seem to drag on and spring seems like a mirage far off on the horizon. Here in Chicago, we are enjoying the violent extremes of midwestern weather with weeks of sub-zero temperatures punctuated by days in the mid-’50s when even a sweater feels unnecessary. We’re starting to feel cabin fever which makes comfort food all the more necessary

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We’ve already run the circuit of tomato soup, soupe à l’oignon, chicken soup, and even chicken with dumplings, but we still need something more. Something that exceeds the comforting capacity of delicately steamed dumplings, tender chicken, and deeply caramelized onions. We need the buttery richness that only puff pastry can provide.

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Normally, I would start a pot of chicken soup with boneless, skinless breasts; for an extra measure of flavor and to save time I chose a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store as my starting point.  Feel free to roast a whole chicken on your own (see my recipe below!), it takes little effort and you can control the level of seasoning and salt; however, today I appreciate the convenience of starting with a pre-roasted bird.

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My version of a chicken pot pie, for simplicity’s sake, skips the whole pie shell approach (which is difficult to serve!) for an easy-to-make, rich and creamy chicken stew loaded with sweet spring peas and crowned with a rich, flaky pastry crust. Try it out and be sure to let me know what you think!

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Chicken pot pie with puff pastry
6 servings

Puff Pastry
1 pkg of store-bought puff pastry (I like Wewalka, see next paragraph)
1 egg, whisked, for egg wash

I use and recommend Wewalka brand puff pastry because it is imported from Austria and it is made without artificial flavors or colors, contains no high fructose corn syrup, no hydrogenated oils, no bleached flours, and is suitable for vegetarians! I am not working with Wewalka, it’s just a personal choice and lucky for me it is easily available in the Chicago area. It reminds me very much of the puff pastry I used to buy in Germany, in fact, I think it either comes from the same factory or has a nearly identical recipe. Visit their website at to find a retailer near you.

To prepare the puff pastry

Preheat oven to 425’F or follow the directions on the package

Remove the pastry from the refrigerator and allow it to warm up a bit while you make the stew so that when its time to bake it will be soft and pliable. Once the stew is simmering, unroll the dough leaving the parchment paper in place and cut into 9 equal portions. Bake three at a time on a 9×13 sheet pan, allowing plenty of room for even browning and crispy corners. After 15 minutes, remove from oven and brush with egg wash, add a few twists of black pepper and a sprinkle of sea salt, then bake for another 15 minutes until they are a dark golden color. By the time the pastries are done, the stew will be ready.

Chicken Stew
If you like the challenge of making your own roasted chicken, click here to check out my recipe!
Or, for a quick weeknight version use a store-bought rotisserie chicken.

1 whole roasted chicken
4 large carrots, diced
4 large stalks celery, diced
2 medium red onions, coarsely chopped
500g baby bella mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
5 medium golden potatoes, diced
1 pouch of frozen peas, defrost prior to adding to the soup
1 handful of fresh parsley and thyme, leaves stripped from stems
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper to taste


Chop all vegetables and set aside. Heat a large dutch oven over medium heat and add half of the butter. Sauté onions until translucent, add celery, carrots, and potatoes and cook for another 15 minutes stirring frequently. Break down rotisserie chicken, removing the skin and stripping all of the meat. Once vegetables are cooked, add the chicken and chicken stock, then bring to a simmer for 30 minutes.

In a separate small saucepan make your roux; melt the remaining butter over medium-low heat until it begins to sizzle, then sprinkle in flour a little at a time until it forms a thick paste. Continue cooking slowly, stirring constantly until it begins to brown slightly then add the 1/2 cup water a bit at a time, whisking to incorporate. Add the finished roux to the stew one tablespoon at a time, stirring constantly to prevent lumps from forming. Add peas, fresh parsley, and thyme, and simmer for an additional 5 minutes to thicken before serving.

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Crispy Pan-Seared Brussels Sprouts with Garlic Roots and Panko (In collaboration with The Chef’s Garden)

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The Chef’s Garden in Huron, Ohio is a renowned source of truly world-class produce catering to some of the most well-known restaurants across North America. The sprawling 300-acre farm is run by a family of passionate farmers who produce some of the finest fruits, vegetables, and herbs to be found anywhere in the world. Owned and operated by the Jones family, the Chef’s Garden opened in 1981 and has been growing microgreens, edible flowers, and heirloom vegetables ever since.

I’ve been following Farmer Lee Jones’ adventures via social media for several years now, he has appeared at such prestigious events as the Bocuse d’Or, and is a James Beard award winner, so when he contacted me to ask if I would be interested in trying out some of his produce, I jumped at the chance!

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Crispy Brussel Sprouts The Chefs Garden5_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2017_92

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Crispy Brussel Sprouts The Chefs Garden3_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2017_92

When the box arrived, I was immediately impressed by the intense aromas and freshness of the contents, especially the delicate earthy pungency of the super hard-to-find garlic root. The fact that the Chef’s Garden has supplied culinary royalty such as chefs like Thomas Keller, Grant Achatz, Charlie Trotter, and Julia Child had me feeling inspired and I immediately set to work photographing and sampling the vegetable box they offer for home cooks.

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Crispy Brussel Sprouts The Chefs Garden7_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2017_92

Crispy Brussel Sprouts The Chefs Garden8_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2017_92

Each vegetable was individually packed with care, and the box contained a surprising quantity of produce. When I laid eyes on the mixed baby Brussels and garlic root, I knew immediately what I would cook first. I can admit to being an especially late convert to Brussels sprouts, having had them for the first time while living in Germany. My husband Jason grew up eating them boiled or steamed, but I knew I could bring more flavor out of them with a careful pan searing. They have since become a favorite of ours in the colder months, their rich nutty flavor and crunchy texture lend itself to a range of accompaniments from sliced almonds to raisins, cranberries, and balsamic vinegar, but this time I have a different plan for them.

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Crispy Brussel Sprouts The Chefs Garden10_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2017_92

Crispy Brussel Sprouts The Chefs Garden11_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2017_92

Garlic roots have an intense garlicky aroma but a lovely, delicate flavor with much more subtlety than raw garlic making it a perfect accompaniment for the complex but mellow green flavors of fresh Brussels sprouts. To amp-up the crunch factor I sear them in a hot pan with a little butter and add toasted bread crumbs. To enhance the rich savory earthy flavors I chose grated Parmesan cheese to create this quick, simple and delicious side dish that is the perfect addition to any holiday menu!

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Crispy Brussel Sprouts The Chefs Garden12_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2017_92

Crispy Brussel Sprouts with Garlic Roots and Panko
Serves 4

1 1/2 lbs fresh brussels sprouts
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoon olive oil
Small handful of garlic roots (use more or less to your liking)
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
1/3 cup Parmesan Reggiano cheese
Salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste.

To prepare the sprouts, trim the base of each with a small paring knife, being careful not to trim too much or the leaves will fall off. Discard bruised leaves then halve lengthwise.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat; I like to use a copper pan because it heats quickly and responds instantly to temperature changes. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a pan and combine with olive oil until it shimmers, add Panko and stir constantly to toast being careful to avoid burning, then remove to a small bowl. Melt the rest of the butter and olive oil in the pan and sear the sprouts cut side down for 2-3 minutes and check for caramelization before turning. A little charring here is nothing to fear, it adds another dimension to the rich flavor. After tossing sprouts add garlic root and cook for an additional minute or so to release their flavor. Toss with panko and Parmesan and top with freshly ground black pepper just before serving.


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