Lemon Bars

 
lemon bars
It’s the tail end of winter and the lemons are everywhere. I live in an adorable neighborhood where people fill their yards with fruit trees, flowers, and crazy-looking succulents. One house a block and a half down from me has a lemon tree out front, brimming with fruit every year in late winter. Right now there are a hundred, maybe two hundred, fruits on their tree. Every time I walk by, I consider knocking on their door and asking if I can buy a bucketful. To turn into lemon bars, lemon tarts, lemon meringue pies, lemonades. 
 
I haven’t worked up that much neighborly courage yet. The lemons in today’s recipe aren’t from my neighbor’s tree, but even the ones from the market are amazing this time of year.
 
lemons
 
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Shakshuka (Eggs Poached in Spicy Harissa Tomato Sauce)

shakshuka

I rushed home from work on Wednesday evening to make this dish. I got to my apartment by 6 PM, and thought I’d have plenty of time to make it and photograph it in natural light. But with the strange cloudy weather and incoming fog, there was barely any light left by the time I started cooking. 

I raced to get this dish on the table. Luckily for me, it took under 15 minutes, start to finish.

shakshuka

Shakshuka is a Middle Eastern dish, with particularly popular twists found in Turkey, North Africa, and Eastern Europe. Traditionally, shakshuka is made of a base of onions, fresh peppers, and tomatoes, stewed and simmered into a sauce. Poached eggs are nestled on top. 

This version is a little simpler to make, and it’s my own take on a much-loved dish. I like the spicy peppery kick of harissa, and the extra depth of flavor from the tomato paste. Green onions replace regular ones for flavor and simplicity– they’re milder, but they also function as both base and garnish. 

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Mushroom & Greens Potstickers

Mushroom & Greens Potstickers | Kitchen in the HillsIt’s hard to believe that I haven’t written anything on this blog in a month…Especially when I went through phases when I’d write twice a week, then at least once a week. Lately I’ve been busy with school and travel and teaching and work, and I haven’t had as much time to cook up new things in the kitchen.

Luckily these potstickers are just the ticket during busy times. They’re customizable. They take a while to mix, fill, and fold. But once the hard work is done, they’re quick to cook… And you can cook them from frozen. 

Mushroom & Greens Potstickers | Kitchen in the Hills

The mushroom & greens filling is savory, a little spicy, but very light. Potstickers cook up with crisp bottoms and delicately soft tops. The filling cooks down in volume, and the mushrooms and cabbage release their liquid to make a sort-of broth. 

I like making these potstickers with kale instead of napa cabbage for flavor. (Cabbage just happened to be what was in my fridge.) If you’re going for something more substantial, I’d recommend filling these with sautéed mushrooms and onions. I’ve even made a cooked minced mushroom and nut filling that worked exceptionally well, and made these a lot heartier. 

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Sweet Plum Lemonade

Fourth of July weekend seems like the perfect time to share this lemonade recipe. It’s an easy recipe, and the perfect thirst quencher on a hot afternoon. 

This lemonade is made with sweet-tart plums, sugar, water, and lemon. It’s a stunning bright red, and flavorful despite the simple preparation. 

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How to Make Yogurt

How to Make Yogurt | Kitchen in the Hills

Last week, I was seriously stuck on inspiration for a blog post. I wanted to make something, and I wanted to blog about it. But I was running low on a lot of ingredients and didn’t have the time (or energy!) to make a run to the store. I looked into my fridge, and there I found my answer– a too-full carton of milk and a nearly-empty container of Greek yogurt. 

Could I culture yogurt myself? Could I do it in a way that was simple and stress free? And could I teach other people to do it, too? 

(The answers to the first two questions turned out to be “Yes!” The answer to the last one is for you to determine.)

How to Make Yogurt | Kitchen in the Hills

I know it seems like a lot could go wrong with yogurt– failed cultures, bad bacteria, sour milk. I’ve had a couple of yogurt fails myself, when I tried to culture yogurt in coconut milk, and then again when I tried it with nut milk. Did not work. 

But there’s a very simple method for yogurt-making that, when followed, yields beautiful and consistent results.

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Strawberry Thyme Quick Jam

Strawberry Thyme Quick Jam | Kitchen in the Hills

If there’s one food item to look forward to in the summer, it’s the baskets of farm-fresh, ultra-ripe, extra sweet fruit at the farmers’ market. I’ve waiting for strawberries all season, and finally picked up a gorgeous basketful at the North Berkeley Farmers’ Market. I like using strawberries to fill and decorate cakes, or cooking them into pies of all kinds.

But there’s an even simpler preparation that yields great rewards. Jam.

Strawberry Thyme Quick Jam | Kitchen in the Hills

This method works with strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, stone fruits… Just about any summer fruit works here. But I like strawberries the best, for their fresh flavor and texture. 

The simplest and easiest quick jams are just fruit and a little sugar, simmered together until done. You always can fancy-up your jams with all kinds of juices, spices, and flavorings. I chose to add lemon and thyme to my strawberry jam. (Strawberries + thyme are an unexpected flavor combo, but they’re total winners to me!)

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Challah

Challah | Kitchen in the Hills

Challah has long been one of my favorite breads. I first tried it after baking a loaf with a good friend several years ago. It was soft, springy, eggy, tender, and sweet. 

Challah | Kitchen in the Hills

This loaf is from Kamren Siddiqui’s Hand Made Baking. It’s a little less sweet, and a little more sturdy than your typical loaf of challah. It’s wonderful served plain with butter, but you can also toast it up and top it with an avocado or fried egg.

My current favorite topping is nutella. Can we talk about how freakin’ adorable these mini nutella cups are? 

Also, can we talk about how delightful Kamren’s writing is? I read his book cover-to-cover for the recipe descriptions and stories alone. Kamren effortlessly links food to memories, stories and emotions. You can read some of his writing on his blog, Sophisticated Gourmet. He’s a skilled baker, but he also has a knack for compelling storytelling. Go check it out.

On to the challah!

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Quinoa Tabbouleh

Quinoa Tabbouleh | Kitchen in the Hills

I’m always looking for interesting ways to add whole grains to my diet, and for filling dishes that feature raw vegetables. I love make-ahead meals for their ease and simplicity. And light lunches I can eat straight out of my fridge are the absolute best. I’ve been cooking big batches of grains lately, adding them to different meals throughout the week. When I finally realized that I could make tabbouleh with quinoa, I knew it would make it into my regular lunch rotation.

Quinoa Tabbouleh | Kitchen in the Hills

Tabbouleh is a Middle Eastern herb salad, traditionally made with parsley, mint, tomatoes, onions, and cooked bulgur wheat, dressed with olive oil and lemon juice. This version goes a little lighter on the herbs, skips the mint, adds in cucumber, and replaces bulgur with quinoa. Perhaps inauthentic, but delicious nonetheless. It’s still a parsley-heavy grain salad, and makes for a light summertime meal. 

Quinoa Tabbouleh | Kitchen in the Hills

It’s hard for me to say “no” to any meal that involves fresh, bright summer vegetables. 

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Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies | Kitchen in the Hills

So. I promised you a blog post on Sunday, and here it is five days later. Not the greatest. I go through ups and downs with this blog, and while I love posting regularly, there are definitely more weeks than I like where it seems I’m just too busy or too stressed to make a post. This last week wasn’t bad, but I definitely didn’t put in the hours to make, photograph, write and edit a full recipe post.

This isn’t a full blog post, really. It’s more of an update, with recipe attached. A recipe that was too good not to share. I was reading smitten kitchen last week, and Deb mentioned a chocolate chip cookie that she made and liked. Specifically, this salted chocolate chunk cookie from Ashley Rodriguez’s Date Night In cookbook. 

Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies | Kitchen in the Hills

The book, which features a bunch of simple, make-it-in-an-evening meals for two, had been on my cookbook wishlist for weeks. (You’ve got to check out Ashley’s website, Not Without Salt. Amazing.) I knew when I saw the cookie recipe that I had to make it. I made a batch for a dinner with friends. 

These cookies far exceeded my expectations. They were better than good. There are a lot of good cookie recipes out there, but this one made for big, crispy-edged, soft-centered packages of goodness. Not too sweet, but not too salty, either. These cookies were the first salted chocolate chip cookies that I actually liked— not bland, not too heavily salted, and definitely chocolate-forward. These are probably my second favorite chocolate chip cookies of all time, with ATK’s cookies taking first place. 

You should totally make these cookies this weekend. They are so good. 

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One-Pot Spring Pasta with Asparagus, Fava Beans & Peas

One-Pot Spring Pasta with Asparagus, Fava Beans, and Peas

I’m currently contemplating a big blog change, because fonts and colors and layouts are important. I’m also doing a project on instagram that involves launching an online handmade store in 100 days. I’m trying to make things and read things and figure out what all of my little projects and hobbies add up to. And all the while, I’m reading 800-page novels and writing papers and taking exams for classes that will be over in a month.

Sure, I constantly have stuff to do, but I’m loving every minute of it. I’m learning so much. I’m learning about the brain and the body, about our strange culture, about the ways that we speak to each other now. I’m learning how to write well and clearly. Most of all, I’m learning that it takes guts and time to make things, and put them out there in the world.

Nothing you ever write or paint or photograph is 100% perfect. Sometimes you have to let it go, say “this is it,” and release your work. Sometimes people will criticize you, or they won’t like what you’re doing. And sometimes you won’t hear a response at all, because nobody will see the thing that you spent hours making. But sometimes, your work will resonate with someone. They will love what you’ve created.

And that feels like winning the lottery. I honestly think that moment of connection is why anyone doing any kind of creative work keeps going. I know it’s why I do.

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