A comforting fall dinner


Eating  2011, oil on board, 12 x 12 inches

On these cool, fall evenings with the light failing so early, I turn to familiar, comforting dishes for our dinner.  One of our favorites is pasta carbonara, creamy and savory.  My version is not a traditional Italian carbonara and I hope you too will feel free to add and subtract ingredients to suit your taste. I adapt the recipe according to whatever is in my fridge, be it a bit of bacon or ham, herbs such as parsley, thyme or chives, and onions, shallots or garlic.  A vegetarian version might include mushrooms cooked over high heat in olive oil until brown and tender. This is how I made carbonara a few weeks ago.

parsley and ham

I chopped a yellow onion and sauteed it in a bit of olive oil, then added pieces from a slice of Black Forest ham.  I strewed the mixture with leaves from several sprigs of thyme, still growing under the apple tree outside the kitchen.


I kept this warm while I brought a pot of water to the boil then tossed in about 5 ounces of penne,  enough for the two of us.  In a small bowl I combined two eggs with a big handful of grated parmesan and beat them together. (Use one egg and more parmesan for each additional serving.)

eggs and parmesan

When the pasta was tender, al dente tender, I drained it. I dumped the hot pasta into the warm pan with the ham and onion, then added the egg and parm mixture, tossing and stirring until combined, creamy and liquid.  (I didn’t want to make scrambled eggs.)  The heat of the pasta cooked the eggs just enough to make a delicious sauce.  I added a large handful of chopped parsley and a good grind of black pepper and the dish was ready to eat.


ready to serve

To accompany the pasta I made a simple salad inspired by a traditional Waldorf Salad but without the mayonnaise.  I added thinly sliced apple and toasted walnuts to salad greens, then dressed everything with a mustardy vinaigrette to offset the creamy pasta. (Combine a tablespoon Dijon mustard with a tablespoon red wine vinegar, or to your taste.  Slowly add 2-3 tablespoons olive oil  to make an emulsion.)

apple salad

With a side of steamed broccoli and some homemade breadsticks, dinner was served.

So, the breadsticks.  My usual favorite commercial breadsticks are out of stock so I decided to make my own.  No more store bought for me.

Combine 3/4 cup of very warm water with 1 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast and a teaspoon of barley malt.  This last is optional but adds a subtle flavor to the sticks.  When the yeast has proofed, add it to 1 1/2 cups unbleached flour, 2 tablespoons wheat germ, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon olive oil.


This will make a soft dough.


Knead until well combined and smooth, adding a bit of flour as necessary to keep from sticking.  On your lightly floured counter, roll or pat the dough into a 10 x 7 inch rectangle.  Rub with olive oil and cover with plastic.  Let rise for about an hour.

ready to rise

I use a marvelous technique for forming the breads that I learned from a recipe in Carol Field’s Italian Baking. When the dough has risen, don’t deflate but cut in half, then into narrow stripes across in the other direction. Pull each piece gently and twist slightly from each end to make a skinny stick.  Mine always have a nob on each end.  I like the rough, rustic look.  The dough is soft so don’t fuss. Place on a sheet of parchment laid on a baking sheet.

risen dough

ready to bake

Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until brown.  Cool on a rack.  (I rewarm leftovers in the toaster oven at 300° for a few minutes to regain the crunch.)


I like to serve the breadsticks upright in a pretty vessel, this one made by Chiu Leong.

on the table


A visitor from Hawai’i



Hiroki  1989, oil on canvas, 22 x 30 inches

Artist Hiroki Morinoue was with us for a week in late September, here to work on a new woodcut with Bud. We have eaten many meals with Hiroki, Setsuko and their family in Holualoa, Hawai’i.  I learned to use Asian flavorings in my cooking from observing the Morinoues in their kitchen.

One of recipes I make for parties in Holualoa was inspired by an Ottolenghi recipe, Sweet Winter Slaw, from his cookbook, Plenty.  Mangoes were on sale at the market and I bought a big one for the slaw to accompany a grilled pork tenderloin. (See blog post Fresh peas for details on cooking the meat.)

I cut half a beautiful green cabbage from Zweck’s into thin shreds and tossed it with a dressing made of the juice of a lime, a teaspoon of toasted sesame oil, a teaspoon of shoyu, a tablespoon of maple syrup and a big pinch of hot red pepper flakes.



I thinly sliced the mango and added  it to the cabbage with a big handful of chopped cilantro and a smaller handful of chopped mint leaves.


Tossed this with the dressing then added the crowning touch ─ candied macadamia nuts.

I toasted a handful of macnuts in a teaspoon of butter, added a couple teaspoons of sugar and let caramelize, watching closely so the nuts didn’t burn, then sprinkled them with a bit of salt and pepper flakes.  Let cool.


candied macnuts

I scattered the cooled nuts over the salad, served in a Doug Casebeer bowl.


At the end of the week we celebrated Hiroki’s birthday with a special lunch capped with an apple galette.  Our apple tree had given us a bounty of tart/sweet apples this year.  They are perfect for pie as they retain their shape after baking while becoming tender and succulent. I tossed the slices with the juice of half a lemon, two tablespoons of sugar, and a teaspoon of cinnamon.  (Other apple varieties will need sweetening to your taste.)


I prepared half a recipe of my pie crust ─ see blog post Pie! for details.  After chilling the dough for an hour I rolled it into a large circle, about a 1/4 inch thick. For the final passes with my rolling pin, I sprinkled the bottom parchment paper with turbinado sugar.


I slipped the pastry round (ish) with the parchment onto a baking sheet and piled up the apples, leaving a good margin.


Folded over the edges, pressing a bit to seal.


Baked at 450° for 45 minutes.

Happy Birthday, Hiroki!



Pan Bagna for lunch

The Three Graces

The Three Graces 1993, pastel on paper, 31 1/2 x 35 1/2 inches   (A picnic on Bald Mountain with Zoë, Phoebe and Theo)


Yesterday I harvested lots of tomatoes.  Finally.  I hope the remaining green/yellow ones ripen soon as we expect cooler temps later this week. Fall is surely here.

tomato harvest 2

In the morning, as I  practiced tai chi, the memory of delicious, messy pan bagna sandwiches floated among my random thoughts.  In the past, I had taken these succulent sandwiches on picnics, their savory, oily goodness wrapped in wax paper and foil.  I decided to prepare them for our lunch using some of the sweet, ripe tomatoes I had picked.

I hurried into the kitchen after I finished my exercise, knowing the pan bagna needed a few hours to marinate.  I sliced, then chopped a couple largish tomatoes, added a crushed clove of garlic, a good handful of chopped basil, a big pinch of salt and a splash of olive oil.


Then I crumbled a tin of tuna into the mixture with a few grinds of black pepper.

tomatoes and tuna

I had ready a fresh baguette from the St. Vrain Market.  I cut it in half  then cut the half horizontally,  removing some of the crumb to make a depression into which went the tomato/tuna mixture. I pressed the top half of the baguette over this, squishing it firmly, and set the sandwich on my cutting board with another board on top.  I weighted this with an unopened bottle of olive oil.


The concoction sat for a few hours until lunch time when I cut the half loaf into 2 inch slices. Garnished with a green salad, lunch was served.

pan bagna

This may be prepared a day in advance, wrapped, weighted and placed in the fridge. Other fillings might include cucumbers, roasted red peppers, anchovies, artichokes, olives …..


Preserving the Bounty of Summer

Minolta DSC

Harvest  2004, oil on canvas, 32 x 60 inches

With the shorter, cooler days, I begrudgingly accept the coming end of summer and work to preserve some of the season’s bounty.   As a cook who prides herself on cooking seasonally, I also love to have a pantry of summer tastes for dark winter nights.

In the past, I went mad for making various fruit jams, using boxes of our favorite apricots and peaches, and buying pounds of raspberries from Mr. Bankert on Hygiene Road. These days,  Zoë brings us jars of her lovely  jam and we eat those boxes of fruit I cannot resist in desserts, pies and out of hand.

There are several things I do put up, jalapeño and poblano chilés and, this year, corn and salsa.  Zoë is an ambitious canner and one of our favorite of her many delicious concoctions is her peach salsa.  With a twenty pound box of peaches awaiting my attention I decided to get her recipe.  I hope she doesn’t think we don’t want her salsa gifts.  No, no, dear, please keep them coming ─  who ever has enough peach salsa?

salsa ingredients

Prepare a canning pot, your pint jars and lids. (see my book for detailed directions on hot-water bath canning).  Have hot sterilized jars ready, and water boiling in the canner.

Combine in a large, non-reactive pot, 1/2 cup white vinegar and 6 cups of peeled, chopped peaches. Peel by immersing peaches in boiling water for 10 seconds or so until skin rubs off.

salsa mix

Add 1 1/4 cups of chopped red onion, 3-4 jalapeños, diced, 1 red pepper, diced, 4 roasted and chopped Anaheims, 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, 2 tablespoons honey, 1 clove of garlic, minced, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring.  Then boil gently until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.

Ladle hot salsa into hot jars, top with the lid and screw band. Process in a hot-water bath for 20 minutes (at our Colorado altitude, 15 minutes otherwise). Remove canner lid and let jars sit in the hot water for 5 minutes.  Remove and let cool.  This made 4 1/2 pints.

peach salsa

Zweck’s farm had gorgeous, large jalapeños again this summer. I pickled them to use all year in many Mexican and Indian preparations.  They are also great in a peanut butter sandwich with a sliced banana!

chiles in brine

The recipe comes from my sister Mimi on her farm in central Missouri and can be found in How I Learned To Cook, An Artist’s Life. Briefly, the chilés are slit, immersed in a salt brine for 24 hours, packed in jars with vinegar and processed in a hot-water bath.


And I couldn’t resist the poblanos at the Zweck farm. I roasted them on my gas stovetop.  Other years I have used the gas grill outdoors but have found the range works more quickly ─ the chilés sit right in the flame. I roasted two dozen chilés in about 1/2 an hour, using three burners. The smell is intoxicating.


roasting poblanos

Here is a heap, cooled and ready to go into ziplocks, (unpeeled) and frozen.

pile of poblanos

Lastly, I put up fresh corn.  Connie Zweck couldn’t believe I hadn’t done this.  “But it’s so delicious in the winter,” she said.  So I gave it a try.   The process was faster than I imagined.  I had a dozen ears and it took me about an hour to prepare them for the freezer. First, husk the corn.


Have ready a big pot of boiling water and a big bowl of ice water. Cook the corn for a minute then drop into the ice water.

corn cooling

I cooked four cobs at a time, cooled them and sliced off the kernels.

cutting off cob

I put the kernels from two ears into each ziplock, enough to add to muffins, Indian fritters or to stuff a chilé.

ready to freeze

With these jobs done, I am ready to enjoy the autumn, knowing I have preserved a little taste of summer.



Another Summer Obsession

Thea and Gelsamina Singing

Thea and Gelsamina Singing  2003, charcoal and pastel on paper, 42 x 63 inches

This drawing of two beautiful women singing conjures up the memory of their voices and makes me happy ─ as do all the melodies of summer.

I can’t resist a warm, just-picked tomato, one of the few vegetables I grow up here on Blue Mountain Road.  They take forever to ripen, but each day, one or two, maybe only tiny cherry tomatoes, are ready for my picking.  They go straight into my mouth.  I am resigned to picking masses of green tomatoes just before the first frost and leaving them to ripen on my kitchen counter.

For serious cooking and eating, I buy luscious tomatoes from the Zwecks.  After days of tomato salads, pastas and gazpacho, I decided to make a tomato tart for a dinner with our friend Susan.  I remembered a recipe from a Time-Life cookbook I have,  Provincial French Cooking, published in 1968 and a real blast from the past. The text, explanations and descriptions of French food and customs, was written by my hero, MFK Fisher!

I’m not sure if this is her recipe but I feel guided by her when I make this tart.

Our dinner with Susan began with corn on the cob, of course.  Then I served the tart with a salad including farro and roasted figs.  Here is what I did.

For the tart crust, use half of my recipe here ─  Pie!  ─ minus the sugar. Make this first as it needs an hour-long rest in the fridge before forming and baking.


In the meantime, slice 2 large tomatoes (or enough small ones to cover the tart),  salt lightly and let them drain on paper towels.  Slice 8 – 12 ounces of gruyere and grate a 1/2 cup of parmesan.

On a piece of parchment, roll the pastry into a large rectangle, about 9 x 12 inches, and fold or pinch the edges to make a low rim.  Place on a baking sheet.


Prick with a fork and bake at 400° for about 15 minutes, until a little brown and set. Let cool.  Arrange the cheese slices, slightly overlapping, on the pastry, top with the tomatoes, patted dry; sprinkle with a lot of chopped basil, and strew with the parmesan. Add a drizzle of olive oil.

crust and gruyere

ready to bake

Bake at 375° for 30 minutes, until browned and bubbly.

While the tart is baking, assemble the salad.  I had a cup of cooked farro, (dressed with olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice), on hand. If you need to cook some it will take about 40 minutes so plan accordingly.


Toss the stemmed and halved figs (about 3 figs per person) with a teaspoon or so of olive oil, just enough to lightly coat the fruit. Add a bit of salt and pepper.


Heat up a grill pan or heavy skillet and roast the figs, cut sides down, until fragrant and lightly caramelized.  Let cool a bit.  Combine lettuces, arugula and a cucumber cut into small chunks, and dress with olive oil, salt and pepper and a good squeeze of lemon juice. Toss in the farro and place the warm figs around the mound of greens.

figs and farro

Slide the tart, with the parchment, onto a cutting board and dinner is served.








Summer obsessions

Garden (2)

Garden, 2001, oil on canvas, 54 x 46 inches

For weeks each summer, we eat green beans at every meal.  Then we binge on corn, then tomatoes.  I recently spoke with my sister Mimi on her farm in Missouri about our seasonal obsessions. We both can or freeze some of the tomato crop, but neither of us put up beans or corn, finding that they are best cooked when freshly picked.  So we eat corn on the cob, corn salads and corn in stuffed poblanos, tomato peach salad,  tomato tart, mozzarella and tomato pasta…. When we finally tire of these dishes the season is about over and we move on to new obsessions with fall veggies.

While we eat many ears of corn on the cob and I frequently include corn off the cob in lunch salads ─ quickly roasted in a dry iron skillet, combined with grains such as quinoa, farro or rice ─ I occasionally want a more elaborate dish. And Zweck’s farm has harvested poblanos, beautiful long, dark green chilés.


First cut the kernels from two ears of corn.

corn cob

Sauté a small onion with a clove of garlic, both diced, in a bit of safflower oil, then add half a diced red pepper. When translucent add the corn and cook until it brightens, just a couple minutes.  Let this cool while preparing the chilés.


corn saute







Halve the poblanos the long way and remove the veins and seeds. (I prepared two chilés for the two of us ─ for additional servings, use one ear of corn for each poblano.  Add other ingredients accordingly.) Place in a baking dish.








To the corn, add a handful of chopped cilantro and 1/2 – 1 cup of grated cheese (cheddar or goat cheese or whatever is on hand), a pinch of salt and an egg (optional, but helps hold the filling together).  Fill the chilés with the corn, top with a dusting of panko and a drizzle of olive oil.

ready to bake

Bake at 375° for 30 minutes or until poblanos are tender and the filling browned.  Serve with a cool salad of lettuces, cucumber, tomatoes and mint.





marj wagathaga

Marj at WaGaThaGa, charcoal on paper, 22 x 30 inches (from a photo circa 1948)


Bud’s mother, and my beloved mother-in-law, Marjorie Shark, age 101, died last week. Zoë, Bud and I flew to Minneapolis to join the family in mourning her passing and celebrating her long life. We stayed in a hotel for the week and ate many meals in restaurants.

On arriving home, I was eager to cook with the summer bounty to be found at the Zweck farm. And Dorothy at Steamboat Mountain Natural Foods in Lyons had left a message saying my box of peaches had arrived. Yeah! First though, I visited my garden, kept watered for the week by Roseanne, and found ripe tomatoes, yellow beets, shishito peppers and of course, wild arugula. I couldn’t wait to cook.

peaches and tomatoes

I decided to make a chard tart.  To go with it,  we must, of course, have corn on the cob and tomatoes and cucumbers and, and… Okay, I’ll save the eggplant, peppers, and okra for another day.

For the tart, I use a wonderfully simple recipe for the crust, devised by Patricia Wells and shared in her book, Vegetable Harvest.

Combine 1 cup unbleached flour, a heaping tablespoon of wheat germ, (my addition), and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Stir in 1/4 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup cold water.

Press the dough into a tart or pie pan, making the sides a bit thicker than the bottom. (No need to prebake but if  a recipe does call for baking blind, this dough doesn’t require weights to prevent shrinking. I use it for all my savory tarts/quiches.)  Put in the fridge while you prepare the filling.


Wash the chard, striping the leaves from the stems.  Chop the stems into 1/4 inch pieces and the leaves into 1/2 inch shreds. Keep separate.

Sauté a chopped, small onion and a minced clove or two of garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil.  When the onion begins to soften, add the chopped stems  and cook until tender.  Pile the chard leaves on top of the stems and onions, cover and cook until wilted and tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let the veggies cool a bit, then spread in the pie shell.

In a measuring cup, beat together 1/2 cup of milk or half-and-half and 3 eggs, then stir in  1/2 cup of finely grated parmesan.  (Other cheeses to use include cheddar, goat cheese or gruyere.) Pour this evenly over the chard mixture.

ready to bake

Bake at 375° for 30 – 40 minutes or until set and brown.  Cool for 10 minutes or so before cutting into wedges.  This is good hot or at room temperature.


To accompany the tart I made a tomato and Colorado peach salad, duplicating a not great one I had ordered in a restaurant.  Both fruits must be ripe and flavorful.

peach and tomato salad

Chop the tomatoes, slice the peaches and dress with olive oil, salt, pepper and chopped basil.

And then the cukes – Kirby cucumbers are not just for making pickles.


I chopped them with some sweet onion, added a splash of olive oil, a dollop of nonfat Icelandic yogurt, a little salt and some chopped cilantro.

cucumber salad2

With corn on the cob, this made a delicious welcome home dinner, eaten on the front porch with a view of our valley and Mt. Audubon. Ahh, home.


And cheers to Marj – Mom – Grammy!

Ben and Marj

In the Fall, 1990, oil on canvas, 22 x 30 inches (Marjorie Shark and her grandson Ben Frisch)