A nose for cooking: Lamb with Celery and Cumin

by Terry B on October 30, 2013

Sautéed and quickly braised with whole cumin seeds, garlic, lemon juice and crushed red pepper flakes, normally mild-mannered celery upstages the supposed star of this dish, ground lamb. Recipe below.

lamb celery cumin seed

First, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Celery? Stealing the spotlight from lamb? Yes. As I sit here writing this post about this dish cooked and eaten last night, I am Pavlov’s dog, and he is going to town on that bell. And it is because of the celery.

Celery is woefully underrated, I think, largely because people mostly eat it raw. Cooked, it can become a valuable ensemble player. In soups, it adds a fresh note; in a pot of chili, it amplifies the taste of the cumin and provides nice, slightly crunchy bites. And, as in the case of Lamb with Cumin and Celery, it can burst with big, bright flavor. [click to continue…]



Variations of this soup are made in Tuscany, France and the UK. This version combines white beans, sage, shallots, garlic, wine and sausage in a soup hearty enough to be a meal. Recipe below.

white beans with sage soup

As fall settles in here in the Midwest, our tiny garden is mostly shutting down. The tomatoes are over, the basil looking forlorn. But our sage is still going to town. So when I came across a recipe for Tuscan-style white beans that used sage on Saveur’s website, I mentally filed it away.

Then overnight temperatures in the 40s last weekend had us turning on the furnace and me thinking of soup. Specifically, a white bean soup with sage. Turns out, Italians aren’t the only ones who think white beans and sage play nicely together. French and British cooks like the combination too. White beans, sage, chicken broth and onions or shallots are constants in soup recipes, no matter the country. Garlic, carrots, potatoes, ham and cream are among the many variables. [click to continue…]



Sautéed halibut fillets are served on a bed of lobster mushrooms, corn, shallots and cherry tomatoes—and topped with whole coriander seeds. Recipe below.

Halibut with Lobster Mushrooms

As I said on Facebook the other day, if we lived in Seattle, I would be eating all the time. I mean it—all the time. And I would be fine with that. Super-fresh, super-local, super-delicious food is so readily accessible that I would not give one good god damn about my arteries or my cholesterol or my waddling or any of that.

For the last couple of weeks, Terry has been talking about the vast amount of amazing food we had on our recent trip to Seattle. I don’t think we had anything less than amazing. And the most special evening was the one we spent at Sitka & Spruce, which was a surprise to us in many ways. [click to continue…]



The classic Russian dish of beef, mushrooms and sour cream gets a delicious upgrade, with chanterelles. Recipe below.

beef stroganoff chanterelles

Food has never been more interesting. Chefs are going global and hyperlocal, often at the same time. Molecular gastronomy is turning restaurant kitchens into science labs. The best restaurant in the world serves lichen, moss and other foraged goods. And home cooks are getting right in there with them, tapping into ingredients both worldly and local and fearlessly exploring new techniques.

In all the excitement over the next new thing, though, some classic recipes are being left behind. Beef stroganoff, for instance. Even when I was a teenager and just starting to explore dining out without my parents, beef stroganoff was outdated. Its appearance on a menu indicated a restaurant of a certain age—and perhaps aspirations to “fine dining” unattained. [click to continue…]



Seattle on five meals a day: Chanterelle Soup

by Terry B on October 2, 2013

Chanterelle mushrooms, shallots, thyme, half & half, sherry and plenty of butter create a rich, creamy, earthy soup. Recipe (and mushroom substitutions) below.

cream of chanterelle soup

A couple of times on our recent trip to Seattle, I wondered about the city’s name and its origin. More germane to our visit, however, is the fact that the word ‘eat’ is right in the middle of the name. In our short time there, it seemed we were constantly eating something delicious, talking about some delicious thing we’d just eaten or contemplating what delicious thing we would be putting in our mouths next. Fortunately for us, downtown Seattle is one giant StairMaster. We didn’t burn off all the glorious calories we consumed, but we at least made a tiny, doughy dent.

After an extravagantly delayed flight, cutting-edge inefficiency at the car rental pickup and our GPS device’s refusal to accept that we were not still in Chicago (and the attendant instructions on how to make the 29-hour drive from Chicago to Seattle), we finally checked into our hotel in the late afternoon. Then we headed straight out for oysters. [click to continue…]



Falling for the season: six apple and pear recipes

by Terry B on September 25, 2013

The season’s newcomers, apples and pears, take turns in six recipes that are all over the map, from sweet to savory, breakfast to dessert. Recipes below.


Fall is officially here. So are apples and pears, in abundant variety. And while both are delicious to eat out of hand, they’re even more fun to cook with. Here are half a dozen Blue Kitchen recipes to help you make the most of the new arrivals at the farmers markets and produce departments.

1. Ricotta Pancakes with Sautéed Pears

Beaten egg whites give Marion’s ricotta pancakes pictured above a light, creamy finish. Here, they’re topped with quickly sautéed fresh pears, making a lovely weekend breakfast. You’ll find the recipe, along with other topping suggestions, here. [click to continue…]



Chicken, potatoes, artichoke hearts, olives and capers create a hearty, rustic Italian stew. The recipe is adapted from Hedgebrook Cookbook: Celebrating Radical Hospitality. You could win your own copy of this cookbook. Recipe and contest details below.

Italian Chicken Stew Hedgebrook

One of the pleasures of writing Blue Kitchen is the opportunities we get to review cookbooks. We love food and we love the written word. Cookbooks give us both. The latest volume to come across our desk celebrates a place that has helped support the written word for 25 years now.

Hedgebrook is a writing retreat on Whidbey Island in Washington state, 48 acres with a farmhouse and six cabins. Since 1988, those cabins have been home to an impressive list of women writers, including Eve Ensler, Jane Hamilton, Carolyn Forché and Gloria Steinem, all enjoying what Hedgebrook calls “radical hospitality.” [click to continue…]



The last peaches and blueberries of summer combine with shaved fennel bulb, just hitting its seasonal stride. The resulting salad is crunchy, sweet and tart, with a refreshing hint of licorice. Recipe below.


The changing seasons are pulling us in different directions. Marion is looking forward to cooking with the apples and pears beginning to appear in growing varieties in the market. I, on the other hand, am thinking wistfully of the summer berries and stone fruits that will soon be gone.

This salad bridges seasons, combining the last of summer fruit with fennel bulbs, just coming into their autumnal own. Usually, fennel is braised or sautéed, often as part of an Italian dish—such as our current go-to weeknight pasta dinner. Here, it’s sliced thin and served raw, making the most of its sweet crunchiness. [click to continue…]



Lamb shoulder chops are pan seared, then quickly braised with San Marzano tomatoes, olives, shallots, garlic, sage and red wine. Recipe below—plus your chance to win a Calphalon Williams-Sonoma Elite Nonstick fry pan.


I love kitchen stuff. If left to my own devices in a department store, I don’t wander over to the big screen TVs. You’ll find me in the cookware department, checking out the newest pots and pans and gadgets. Our kitchen cabinets (okay, and various attic shelves) are crammed with assorted skillets, sauce pans, Dutch ovens, stock pots… So when I was asked to review some new Calphalon pans, I of course said yes. [click to continue…]



Blueberries, buttermilk, thyme and lemon zest combine to create a delicious cake—and memories of childhood summers in Michigan. Recipe below.

blueberry cake 2

Most of this summer, the blueberries have been terrible—tiny, sour and disgruntled. But suddenly, they have become gorgeous—Michigan blueberries big as marbles, sweet, full of flavor and the most beautiful dusty blue. We’ve been having them on cereal, tossing them in salads (making a vinaigrette using the very pretty blueberry vinegar from Canter-Berry Farms in Washington state) and just plain eating them out of hand.

Ordinarily, I don’t bake in the summer. Even this year, which here in the Midwest has been mild and delightful, I just don’t hold with turning on the oven in July and August. But yesterday—which, natch, was the first really miserably hot day in quite a while—I got the craving. Blueberry cake—we had to have it. [click to continue…]