Grilled Wedge Salad with Spicy Ranch Dressing

A delicious, crisp grilled wedge salad topped with a spicy ranch dressing, chives, and nuts. An all-time favorite summer salad.

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In the salad world wedge salads deliver the most payoff for the least amount of effort. There are few things simpler. Cut a head of iceberg lettuce into quarters, top with a favorite dressing, and flare it out with a few toppings. Done. It rides high on any plate and always brings the drama. And as much as I love a wedge salad, I love a grilled wedge salad even more. Add a minute or so on the grill before dressing and you have a gorgeous grilled wedge that you can serve alongside whatever else is coming off your grill, for example tofu burgers, or grilled versions of your favorite tartine. My version features a not-shy spicy ranch dressing along with pine nuts, and lots of chives.
Grilled Wedge Salad with Spicy Buttermilk Ranch Dressing on A Plate

How to Cut a Wedge Salad

I just want to highlight this, because it is one of the few ways this recipe could go south on you. Cut each head of lettuce into quarters through the stem. The core will help keep each wedge together. Take a glance at the photos if this is confusing. Basically, cutting the lettuce “around the equator” is a no. Trim any less than beautiful leaves from the outside.
Iceberg Lettuce Wedges Ready for the Grill

The Keys to Grilling Wedge Salad

The key to perfect grilled lettuce is being organized and having the grill at the right temperature. You want a relatively hot grill. On a hot grill your lettuce quickly gets all the grill goodness where it touches the grate, but the core stays nice and crisp and structured. My grill has a temperature gauge on it. I heat it to 400F, quickly arrange the lettuce wedges cut side down across the hottest zones and leave them there for 30-45 seconds. This is long enough to take on some color. Then quickly (and carefully) turn each wedge onto its second cut side, grill another 30-45 seconds and boom, you’re done. Get them off the grill as soon as possible. If you’re grilling all sorts of other stuff, the wedges go on last.
Wedge Salad Cut into Quarters Ready for Dressing

Adding a Spicy Element to your Dressing

You have some latitude here! I’ve made this spicy ranch dressing with a range of spicy ingredients, and sriracha, curry paste, and salsa negra all work great. The version you see pictured here was made with sriracha. Or you can skip the spicy altogether, it’s completely your call.
Iceberg Lettuce After Grilling on a Sheet Pan

Wedge Salad Variations and Toppings

There are a thousand different directions you can take a wedge salad like this. I’m going to throw out some ideas, but if you have your own favorite, please leave it in the comments!

  • Wedge Salad with Turmeric Buttermilk Dressing: This was a favorite version. Skip the spicy in this recipe and substitute 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric. It lends a beautiful yellow vibrancy to the dressing and it’s a delicious swap. I like this version with toasted almond slices for the crunchy component.
  • Classic Wedge Salad: You can skip the grill altogether.  A lot of people like some sort of blue cheese dressing here, but if I’m going to go iceberg wedge, I’m going to opt for ranch or other creamy buttermilk dressing. 
  • Topping ideas: I love tiny croutons here. Big ones tend to slide right off the wedge whereas smaller ones get lodged in the cracks and crevices. Roasted tomatoes are A+ as a finishing touch, they meld with the dressing and it’s omg good. Tiny cubes of avocado are great, as is a sprinkling of minced olives. Breadcrumbs are also a win – especially extra garlicky ones. I added some pretty home grown chive blossoms here along with the chives for some extra flavor and prettiness.

Grilled Wedge Salad with Spicy Buttermilk Ranch Dressing on A Plate

Happy grilling! -h

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Baked Artichoke Dip

This simple artichoke dip hits all the crowd-pleasing notes of the classic version, but cuts way back on the mayo-bomb aspect. And guess what? No-one can tell the difference. I still use a bit of mayo, but incorporate some silken tofu and greek yogurt.

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The foundation of classic artichoke dip is basically the following: a can of artichokes (drained & chopped), a cup of mayonnaise, and about a cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese. The ratio might be slightly different depending on the cook, but many recipes for artichoke dip build on this adding garlic and other seasonings from there. My take-away? That’s a lot of mayo. Some recipes use an even higher ratio. The version I make hits all the crowd-pleasing notes of the classic version, but it cuts way back on the mayo-bomb aspect. Guess what? No-one can tell the difference.
Artichoke Dip with Cracker
I still use a bit of mayo, but incorporate some silken tofu and greek yogurt. I also up the ratio of artichokes to creamy ingredients. You still get indulgent goodness of the original, but this version puts the artichokes back up front, delivers some protein with the tofu and yogurt, and still retains the spirit of the party dip few of us can resist. So let’s get into the specifics.
Artichoke Dip Ingredients in a Blender

Smooth versus Chunky Artichoke Dip?

There is some debate regarding which is better – chunky or smooth artichoke dip? I prefer smooth. A quick pulse in a blender, food processor, or with a hand blender brings things together into a base that bakes up extra creamy. I’ve also found that kids tend to like the smooth version best. Probably because there is nothing identifiable as offensive in there. Laugh / cry. But if you like a bit more texture simply use chopped artichokes and skip the blending stage, or just go super easy on it.Blended Artichokes

Canned versus Frozen Artichokes?

Frozen artichokes are getting increasingly easy to find and, generally speaking, I like their flavor more than the water-packed canned artichokes. It’s kind of like the difference between canned corn and frozen corn. There’s no contest, frozen corn is going to be the winner every time, right? That said both canned and frozen artichokes work great for this recipe. I used jars of artichokes for the photos here and it was delicious as ever. The main thing is to aim for roughly one pound of artichokes – each jar or can usually yields about 1/2 pound of artichokes once they’ve been drained.
Pre-baked Dip sprinkled with Grated Cheese

Artichoke Dip Goes Great With…

The key here is crunch. Artichoke dip is creamy magic best scooped onto your favorite crunchy snack staples. For example:

  • Toasted Homemade Pita Chips
  • Toasted baguette slices rubbed with garlic
  • Seeded crackers
  • Crudités’
  • Tortilla chips or fresh tortillas

Baked Artichoke Dip on a Countertop with Crackers

Put it on Everything!

i alway regret not making more artichoke dip while I’m at it. At the very least a double batch. There are just so many fantastic ways to put it to use. If you make extra you’ve got a great component to slather on everything. Stop thinking of it as a dip and reframe it as a spread or stuffing. Especially this version. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • Slathered across good pizza dough before baking. I especially love this for a spring-summer pizza with ingredients like fava beans, asparagus, and artichoke hearts. Dollop with a bit of great pesto or citrus paste just before serving.
  • Use leftovers as a dumpling or ravioli filling.
  • Dolloped on hot baked potatoes or baked sweet potatoes. Finish with something extra crunchy like fried shallots, sesame seeds or toasted almonds.
  • Seems obvious, but worth saying, it makes an incredible panini or sandwich spread. Even better on your veggie burger.
  • Taco Night! A slather on a homemade tortilla just before adding your other fillings is a thing of beauty.
  • It’s great as a replacement for ricotta in stuffed shells. Or you could go half and half. Throw some citrus zest in there while you’re at it.
  • Up your deviled egg game! Stir any leftover dip into your deviled egg filling, it’s an unexpected twist on classic deviled eggs.
  • Use it as a slather on bruschetta. Top with lots of chives and pine nuts.

Close up of Baked Artichoke Dip

Artichoke Dip Variations

There are so many ways to tweak this recipe. Here are just a few ideas.

  • Spinach Artichoke Dip – add a cup of well-chopped spinach (or frozen spinach) to your artichoke dip. You can add it to the blender ingredients, or you can stir it in later with the Parmesan cheese. The later leaves the spinach flecks visible for a classic spinach artichoke dip result.
  • Spicy Artichoke Dip – I already call for 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne powder in this recipe and that delivers a bit of bite. That said, you can swap in other spicy flavor profiles if you like. Start by swapping  in a tablespoon or so of any of the following, and adjust from there with more to your liking: green curry paste, green harissa, or zhoug.
  • Artichoke Dip Finished with Indian Tempering Spices – This is absolutely delicious. If you toast  a handful of curry leaves in a couple tablespoons of olive oil and then add mustard seeds, a bit of cumin, chopped garlic, and some extra crumbled dried chile you’ll have an incredible finishing oil. Pour, hot from the skillet, over the golden-baked artichoke dip just before serving.
  • Artichoke Dip with Garlicky Breadcrumb Topping – I usually finish this dip with a simple dusting of grated cheese. But if I’m feeling a bit more ambitious, I’ll pile a generous amount of day-old bread crumbs that I’ve tossed with lots of olive oil, minced garlic, and the grated cheese. It results in the perfect crunch top to counter the dippy smooth and creamy.

Baked Artichoke Dip in Ceramic Dish

One last thing – this is actually a great do-ahead recipe. You can bake it off in any sized dish you like and the smell of the baking artichokes and toasting cheese provides a deliciously fragrant backdrop to any get together. Pop the artichoke dip into the oven roughly half an hour before friends come over, just in time to welcome everyone!

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A Maximalist Potato Salad

If you’re looking for a simple potato salad – this isn’t it. But this maximalist take is worth making regardless. The details: tender potatoes are loaded with chiles, chopped herbs, garlic & whatever bright, fresh vegetables you have on hand.

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If you’re looking for a simple potato salad – this isn’t it. But have a look at this more maximalist take regardless. You want this in your life, I promise. It’s vibrating with flavor and color, and incredibly good. The details: tender potatoes are loaded with chiles, chopped herbs, garlic & whatever bright, fresh vegetables you have on hand. Right now, for me, that means asparagus from the market, fava beans from the garden, and peas from the freezer. I haven’t managed to get peas to flourish in our garden plot, but that’s a story for another day.
A Maximalist Potato Salad
Let’s talk about a few things before you jump into the recipe! First, it makes a substantial difference if you use spices that are on point and fresh. If your cumin has been collecting dust for years, this may be the opportunity to reboot. In an effort to avoid repeating the cycle, keep that new cumin (and another spice or two?) on your counter for the next couple of weeks. And use them. It’s an opportunity to make an effort to cook with what is in front of you, learn more about what techniques bring out the flavor of those spices (crushing, tempering, or roasting for example), and generally keep them top of mind. This is one way I end up discovering all sorts of ingredient combinations I love. A few go-to spice sources for me (off the top of my head) include Épices Rœllinger, Diaspora Co., Burlap and Barrel, and Épices de Cru. A favorite local Indian grocery also has a growing organic spice selection that I like to browse regularly as well.
A Maximalist Potato Salad
I came home with a haul of fresh curry leaves from that same store the other day – and it’s a big part of what inspired this potato salad. I love the fragrance and texture of fried curry leaves whenever I encounter them – for ex: in Sri Lanka and Southern India they are used often – and buy them to cook with whenever I can. A side note, I’ve also had my eye on an eight-foot curry tree at a nearby nursery but it is too large to fit in the car, turning the purchase of the tree into a bigger project. I’m also worried it might not thrive in our yard, which I think is basically a bit of top soil, and then sand. :/

So, on the curry leaf front: I always buy extra, and freeze a bunch. As a rule of thumb, I generally freeze any that I don’t think I’ll use in the next 10 days. After freezing, they’re not as fragrant as fresh, the color shifts a bit and the texture changes, but they do the job and it’s nice to have them on hand. As I mention in the headnotes below, an alternative to curry leaves in this recipe is a big handful of chopped fresh basil. A different preparation altogether, but fragrant, summery, and wonderful. Other ideas? Add some citrus zest. Or, I could imagine a version with slivered, fresh makrut lime leaves in place of the curry leaves. Just a bit of encouragement to experiment and play around.
A Maximalist Potato Salad
What you see is a very spring version of this potato salad, but maybe you’re seeing this in August? A summer version would be A+ as well. Experiment with grilled corn, roasted tomatoes, and green beans in place of the asparagus, favas, and peas. Also! I’ll also take this opportunity to call out a detail here. Don’t serve this potato salad straight from the refrigerator or cold. It’s really much better just after tossing the hot potatoes with the garlicky curry-spice oil. Or, if you make it ahead of time, let it come up to room temperature before serving. 
A Maximalist Potato Salad
Enjoy! And if you’re on the hunt for more potato recipes, a few favorites include sea-salt baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, homemade gnocchi. There’s also a whole list of potato recipes here. Also, this is the time of year to have a couple go-to summery BBQ salad-type recipes on-hand like this Lime-blistered Coleslaw, Grilled Zucchini & Bread Salad, the Sriracha Rainbow Noodle Salad, this Coconut Corn Salad, and a more classic Macaroni Salad.

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Sunny Citrus Recipes + How to Use Lots of Citrus

Favorite citrus recipes and all the ways I put a big box of citrus to use this week. Oranges, Meyer and Eureka lemons, mandarins, and grapefruits are all in the mix.

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The abundance of homegrown citrus this time of year in Los Angeles is a peak reason I love being a Californian. You see front yard Meyer lemon trees groaning with yellow orbs. Pomelos and grapefruits frame driveways, and trees impossibly heavy with oranges regularly warrant a double-take. Being surround with this much citrus is happy-making. Especially if you can get your hands on it. And did I ever. My dad’s neighbors generously dropped off a huge crate of Meyers, mandarins, oranges, and Eureka lemons the other day – a legit “bend with your knees” box. So here I am jotting down the ways I’ve been using it, saving it, and the citrus recipes I’ve been making all week.

Ginger Grapefruit Curd

A Week in Citrus

I thought I’d start by talking through everything I’ve done with citrus in the past week. It has been a mix! I’ll include recipes down below for the pastes and syrups.

  • Kosho: I started a batch of Meyer lemon kosho. Kosho is traditionally a spicy, fermented Japanese Yuzu paste, but because lemons are more plentiful here, I tend to use them.
  • Citrus Peel Pastes: I also blended Meyer lemon, Eureka, and orange peels into a number of quick (unfermented) pastes, and froze them in single use quantities. I’ll write up the recipes down below. I use them to season and boost everything! From pastas and soups to rice bowls and roasted vegetable tacos.
  • Most of the mandarins were simply peeled and popped into mouths, but a few have made it into my favorite citrus salad (I’ll highlight that down below).
  • Meyer Lemon & Rose Geranium No-heat Syrup: I love the intensity of no-heat syrups, and made a thick, intensely flavored Meyer lemon syrup by massaging lots of lemon peel with sugar and rose geranium leaves.
  • Orange No-heat Syrup: Same process as the lemon syrup, but kept it to orange peel here. See the recipe below.
  • Citrus Ice Cubes: After peeling citrus and making pastes or syrups, all of the juice was frozen in ice cube trays for future use in drinks, granitas, soups, etc.

Favorite Citrus Salad from Super Natural Simple Cookbook

My Favorite Citrus Salad

I love this salad. It has a mix of citrus segments, peanuts, red onions, a few saffron threads and almond extract along with good olive oil. The recipe is in Super Natural Simple which will be out next month. There’s more information (and so many good soups & salads) here.

Oranges Being Peeled

How To Efficiently Peel Citrus

Ok, let’s talk about peeling citrus. There was a lot of it going on this week. Peeling citrus isn’t a quick task. Know that going in, and you’ll enjoy the process much more. I basically have three moves (see below). 1. Start with clean, dry citrus, and slice citrus from top to bottom in wide slabs. 2. Trim all the bitter pith away. To do this, keep the peel flat agains the cutting board, and trim away from yourself. 3. Scrape any remaining pith from peel with the dull or “flip-side” of a knife.
How To Peel Citrus

What about the Juice?

Lots of peel means lots of juice. Sometimes we just drink it, or use it over the coming days. But, if you freeze the juice in ice cube trays you end up with easy to thaw portions for use in dressing, granitas, soups, curries – basically any place where you can imagine a sunny citrus boost!

Meyer Lemon Ice Cubes

So Many Ways To Use Citrus Peel Pastes

Citrus peel pastes are fragrant flavor blasts. You can make them as simple or complex as you want. I tend to keep mine pretty straightforward, but love the addition of garlic – quite a lot of it. You might add spice blends, mix citruses, you could use other oils in place of olive oil, etc. Here’s how I put them to use after making them:

Orange & Garlic Citrus Paste (recipe below) is super garlicky and was amazing combined with a healthy amount of cayenne pepper, water, and coconut milk to make a beautiful broth for soba noodles – season with more salt to taste to make it just right. I also put a dollop on my lunchtime chana masala and loved the way it brightened everything up. It was also incredibly good dolloped on top of a bowl of this Fire Broth Noodle Soup. And lastly, I used it as a finishing accent on roasted vegetable tacos (cauliflower & mushroom) on homemade corn tortillas. Orange & Garlic Citrus Paste is pictured below.

Meyer Lemon & Garlic Citrus Paste (recipe below) was perfect tossed with a bowl of pan-fried golden artichoke hearts. The next day I tossed a generous amount  of the citrus paste with hot noodles, extra olive oil, pasta water, lots of scallions, a bit of torn mozzarella, herbs and broccoli – so good! And it was the perfect slather across the top of a simple buckwheat and gruyere crepe the other night. 
Orange Peel and Garlic Paste in a Blender

No-Heat Citrus Peel Syrups

Heating fruit changes the flavor profile. As I mentioned up above,  I love the intensity, and uncooked clarity that rings through citrus peel syrups. Made by patiently massaging citrus peels with sugar and leaving to macerate, you strain and end up with an intense, full-bodied syrup to use in countless ways. A favorite this week was an easy drinking dark rum cocktail made with a splash of orange syrup, a shot of dark rum, shaken with tons of ice and topped off with pampelmousse La Croix, and a kiss of lime juice.

Bottle of Homemade Meyer Lemon Syrup
Making Homemade Orange Syrup

Cookbooks Focused on Citrus Recipes

Citri – I love this little 60-ish page cookbook zine by Loria Stern. I’ve encountered Loria and her beautiful creations a number of times since moving to Los Angeles (thanks to Jessica & Joanna), and she made sure I had Citri at the perfect time – peak citrus season. It’s a love letter to citrus with 25 bright and brilliant recipes.
Citri Cookbook with Pink Cover and Yellow Spiral Binding 

Also, have a look at Citrus : Sweet and Savory Sun-Kissed Recipes by Valerie Aikman-Smith and Victoria Pearson, Pucker: A Cookbook for Citrus Lovers by Gwendolyn Richards, and also Citrus: 150 Recipes Celebrating the Sweet and the Sour by Catherine Phipps. 

More Citrus Recipes from the Archives

There are a lot of citrus-centric recipes in the 101 archives, and I’ll put them in the related searches below, but these two recipes have been exceptionally popular over the years. A few years back, I also linked out to a bunch of great winter citrus recipes here.
Candied Citrus Pops
Candied Citrus Lollipops: Two-ingredient magic. Plump, juicy, citrus segments coated in thin, crunchy, sugar shells. They’re the perfect, delightful sweet treat.
Citrus Salt
A Spectrum of Citrus Salts: Citrus salts made from all sorts of winter citrus zest – clementines, wild lime, Meyer lemon, kalamansi oranges, and mandarinquats. Couldn’t be simpler.

Let me know your favorite ultra citrus centric recipes and resources. And in the meantime, I hope you find a bit of inspiration here, especially with the citrus peel pastes. Enjoy! -h

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Homemade Cavatelli

Simple, homemade cavatelli pasta is a super fun shape to make! Pictured here spiked with turmeric and black pepper, and topped with roasted winter vegetables and Parmesan.

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I spent most of the past four months in Northern California at my dad’s house. After my mom died everyone converged on the house, and in short order a lot of other things fell apart. No one went home for a long time. I made some strange decisions about what to bring when I loaded the car that initial morning – watercolors, a stack of cookbooks, my camera, a favorite knife, a huge bin full of spices. I thought about bringing my favorite donabe, but was worried it could break and grabbed my pasta machine instead. Not a bad call – a lot of pasta was made! My nephew is especially enthusiastic about it, so I decided to branch out to a new shape – cavatelli.
Homemade Cavatelli Pasta
The move to cavatelli was partially out of necessity. My workhorse, the Atlas pasta machine, has issues at my dad’s house. There is nothing to clamp it on to. Every countertop and table is too thick. It’s maddening. I noticed the clamp on the cavatelli maker seemed like it might be wider, so I thought we’d try it instead. It is also worth mentioning, I’ve been meaning to buy a cavatelli maker for years. Ragazza, a sweet little Italian spot, was just up the street from where we lived in San Francisco. The owner Sharon tipped me off to how she made their cavatelli from scratch with a little hand-cranked machine (something like this one) – and I’ve meant to get my hands on once since. This seemed like the right time.
Pasta Dough Rolled thin for Cavatelli

About this Cavatelli Recipe

After a good amount of experimenting, I’ve settled on the following as my basic cavatelli dough and technique. Once you master it, the variations you can explore are endless (see below). The cavatelli machine likes pasta dough that’s not-too-wet and not-too-dry. If you hit the sweet spot, you’ll be able to crank out a pound of cavatelli incredibly quickly. If your dough is getting stuck in your machine, pat it with flour, dust off any excess, and try again. You’ll eventually get a feel for it!
Homemade Cavatelli and Cavatelli Machine

What if I don’t have a Cavatelli Machine?

Not a big deal! You can make it by hand a number of other ways. Here’s a page that demonstrates how to shape cavatelli with a ridged board, fork, or grater. I’ve also seen it shaped traditionally in Puglia using something like a butter knife.
Close-up Photo of Cavatelli

What Flour Should I Use?

Cavatelli is traditionally made with durum wheat semolina flour. But, if you don’t have that on hand, don’t let it stop you. Last week I was out of semolina flour, so the cavatelli you see pictured here was made with “00” flour. “00” is powder-fine and made with low gluten, soft wheat flour. If you don’t have “00” you can certainly use all-purpose flour. A long way of saying, make cavatelli with 100% semolina flour if you have it, or use equal parts “00” and semolina, or just “00″….go for the all-purpose flour if that’s what you have.
Homemade Cavatelli with Roasted Winter Vegetables

How To Freeze Cavatelli

Freezing is my preferred method of storing any cavatelli I’m not cooking immediately. Arrange freshly made, uncooked cavatelli across a floured baking sheet. Try to make sure they’re in a single layer. Freeze for a couple of hours, and then transfer to double layer plastic bags. You can freeze for up to a couple of months. And you can cook straight from the freezer. No need to thaw, just dump the cavatelli into boiling salted water, and increase the cooking time a bit.
Roasted Vegetables

Cavatelli Variations

In the recipe below you can see how you can tweak basic cavatelli pasta dough by adding different seasonings and spices. I wanted to make a bright, sunny plate of pasta with lots of roasted yellow and orange vegetables and ingredients like cauliflower, golden yellow beets, and winter squash (pictured above). I added turmeric and black pepper to the pasta dough for a little flavor, color, and boost. The possibilities are endless here.
Homemade Cavatelli Pasta

You can also play around with the water. In place of water you can use vegetable juices, purees, stocks or broths, anything of that sort is fair game.Close-up Photo of Homemade Cavatelli Pasta
Making fresh pasta is one of my favorite things to do. It’s even better when you have others around to help, taking turns in shifts. I did a basic primer on making homemade pasta a while ago, if you love fettuccine noodles or anything along those lines, start there. You can also try making gnocchi (it’s perfect with this pesto), here’s a beautiful beet fettuccine, and a favorite simple tomato sauce. And all my pasta recipes live here. Enjoy!

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Sourdough Galette with Delicata Squash

A fully loaded winter sourdough galette topped with delicata squash, green chile yogurt, shallots, and scallions.

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What you see here is a fully loaded winter galette. I started making it a few months back inspired by a recipe in Sarah Owens’ masterful Sourdough book. Her whole-grain boosted sourdough crust caught my attention. I also didn’t need convincing related to the garlic-spiked labneh slathered beneath summery toppings. I don’t need to tell most of you, as I type this, we are a long way from summer.

Sourdough Galette with Delicata Squash
Sarah’s galette was loaded with beautiful tomatoes, but by the time I spotted her recipe, tomatoes were long gone for the year. My tart needed to be more of a winter affair, and the delicata squash and shallots I had on hand seemed a natural evolution. I’ve baked this galette four or five times since, and it’s omg-so-good. If you love savory tarts this is for you. And please don’t sweat it if you don’t maintain a sourdough starter, I’ll note a couple alternative paths you can take down below.
Sourdough Galette with Delicata Squash

Make it Easy!

This galette is a bit of a project if you start from zero at late in the evening with dinner as your intention. Pre-make most of the components when you have a few minutes here or there in the days prior, and it will come together effortlessly when you’re ready to bake the finale.

What Can you Do Ahead of Time?

You can make the dough for the crust and freeze or refrigerate. You can pre-make the yogurt spread in five minutes – total breeze. And if you roast the delicata and shallots the night before (or have them as a component of your meal that day) you can use the leftovers on the galette.

All the Toppings for a Sourdough Galette with Delicata Squash

What If You Don’t Have Sourdough Starter?

Here’a another tart crust I love – you can simply swap in this one. Alternately, you can follow the recipe below omitting the sourdough starter, and adding and extra 25g of ice water and 25g flour in its place. Adjust with a bit of extra water or flour depending on the feel of the dough. If you want to maintain your own sourdough starter, there are endless books, and tutorials on how to do that, or you might ask your local bakery if they could spare a bit of theirs instead of starting from scratch!

Garlic and Green Chile Spiked Yogurt

Kitchen Scales are the Best!

This recipe is written in weights (I meant to convert for volumes, but ran out time trying to pop off photos before it got dark! Apologies). If you bake a lot, I’m sure you’ve heard it before, a kitchen scale is a godsend. I love my Escali Primo, it costs roughly $20, and will last a long, long time. This tart dough has volume measurements if you are scale-less. Both are buttery, rich and crowd-pleasers.
Close-up Photo of Sourdough Galette with Delicata Squash
Extra credit! I love the cute, tiny seeds inside delicata squash, you can see them pictured here. Pre-roast them tossed with a bit of olive oil in a hot oven, and then sprinkle them on everything from tarts and salads, pastas and pizzas. It’s a bit of a pain to clean the gunk off them, but worth the extra effort.
Individual Slice of Sourdough Galette with Delicata Squash
I hope you all like this one, I was so excited to see how many of you made stunning braided breads! Xo to Sarah for the inspiration! 

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Braided Onion Bread

This braided onion bread is made with a rich, buttery, yeast-based dough. Each of the four strands in the braid is stuffed with a caramelized onion and grated cheese mixture.

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One of my first memories related to baking was a demonstration conducted at my kindergarten where bread dough was shaped into turtles, and birds, and elaborate braids. Scissors were used to create the tiny bread spikes on the backs of alligator and hedgehog-shaped loaves. Lobster claws got a snip up the center for visual effect and each figure was placed in an oven until puffy, golden, and fragrant. We were each allowed to take one home. The whole experience blew my five year-old mind. Braided Onion Bread filled With Caramelized Onions and Gruyere Cheese
I still like to bake elaborate braided loaves. Especially when things in my life are tumultuous. I made this one a couple of times prior to the holidays, and decided to make it again last week to photograph and share with you. It’s made with a rich, buttery, yeast-based dough. Each of the four strands in the braid is stuffed with a caramelized onion and grated cheese mixture. If you’ve never baked a braided loaf before, I’ll admit that stuffing the strands adds a layer of complexity, but the whole process is incredibly forgiving if you commit and keep going. If you look at the shape below and think “no way” just remember it’s a simple braid coiled into a snail shape. 
Braided Onion Bread Prior to Baking

The (Stuffed) Braided Bread Process

To make this bread you start by making beautiful yeast dough. You roll your dough into a rectangle, cut that rectangle into four strips, and then stuff each strand with awesomeness. I usually prepare the stuffing a day ahead of time, or the morning of the day I plan on baking. This gives the filling some time to cool. I’ve locked onto this onion-cheese combo lately, but you can imagine endless variations.

To fill the dough, you run the filling in a line up the middle of each of the four strips of dough. Fold them each in half, and then pinch the seam to seal the filling in. Now you have four filled strands that you’ll arrange side-by-side (below). Pinch them together at the top and start braiding (see diagram below). Coil the braid into a tight round, snail shape, let the dough rise, brush with an egg wash, and bake! 

Diagram of a Four Strand Braid

A Four-strand Braid

First, let me say – if you’re worried about trying the four-strand braid, I understand! If you want to fall back to a chubby three-strand bread braid the first time through, go for it. The main thing is to commit to the braid either way. Even if you’re convinced things aren’t going well. This feeling can be triggered by a few things. A common problem is strands splitting open to reveal the filling – just re-pinch and keep going. Or, you might feel like your strands keep stretching and getting longer and longer? It’s ok, you will coil them into a round shape. Keep braiding even if your strands are longer than your sheet pan. Boss the dough around a bit. If it’s too sticky, dust with a bit of flour. The main thing? Don’t get discouraged, keep going.

Braided Onion Bread filled With Caramelized Onions and Gruyere Cheese just After Baking
Please let me know if you bake a braided loaf, or send me a message on Insta. Or if you experiment with other fillings, please leave a comment. I can’t wait to see what you do with this one. I loved seeing all of you posting soup pics last week. xo – h

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Fire Broth Noodle Soup

This is the soup that saved me after my dad came home from the hospital recently. It’s loaded with good things like beans, greens, and pasta and the broth is spicy and invigorating with lots of pepper, garlic, ginger, and chiles.

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This is the soup that saved me after my dad came home from the hospital recently. I made the first pot on the fly, loading it up with all the things that make me feel good (beans, pasta, kale, turmeric), and seasoning it just the way I like it with a broth that is nuclear spicy (cayenne, ginger, garlic). All the ingredients went into the largest pot I could find, one of my dad’s pasta pots, so there would be enough soup to portion out and freeze into meals for days. It’s the kind of soup I never get tired of, and the kind of thing I needed to have on hand to keep myself going at a terrible time. For any of you who missed what has been going on with me between my past post and now, I posted more details here and here, but the short of it is that my mom died unexpectedly, and my dad has also been very sick. 
Fire Broth Noodle Soup
But the soup has helped. The soup does the job. And somewhat shockingly, my dad also loves it. He lost nearly fifty pounds in a short time period while he was in the hospital and acute rehab. Swallowing was hard, and radiation treatment to his throat caused all sorts of problems. I wasn’t sure if he could tolerate this soup, because spicy foods can be trouble when you’re not eating much and/or getting radiation treatment to your neck. At any rate, he asked to try it and now he requests for bowl after bowl of this, preferably with a dollop of sour cream on top or a bit of grated Parmesan cheese. He calls it, “that spicy soup.” My English brother-in-law saw how much chopped kale is added, and nicknamed it “hot salad.” Laugh/cry. We make a big pot every week.

The Noodles:

Any short, substantial noodles will do here. I started by using farfalle pasta (butterflies), and when those ran out, I switched to egg noodles – the kind you might use in a kugel. I wouldn’t hesitate to use gemelli or fusilli.

The Beans:

My preference is cranberry beans. I made the first two pots of this with these. But don’t get hung up if you don’t have cranberry beans. Chickpeas are also a win, you could try a favorite white bean, or a blend it also good. I always cook up a pound of dried beans before making this soup, but you can certainly make it with canned, and I’ll leave notes in the recipe to reflect this.

Fire Broth Noodle Soup

The Spices:

My advice here is to roll with what you have on hand. You likely have much of what you need. The objective? An assertively spicy, balanced broth. I call for cayenne pepper here, but I’ve also made this soup substituting an equal amount of Szechuan pepper, and it was all good. If you’re concerned about the soup being too spicy, scale back a bit on any ingredient you’re nervous about, and salt and season with more toward the end of cooking. This way, the seasoning will be exactly to your liking.

Fire Broth Noodle Soup

Use a Big Pot:

The main thing to know is you need to use a very large pot here. This recipe makes a lot of soup. I make it in a big pasta or stock pot. Just keep in mind, in addition to all your ingredients, you’ll add 14 cups of water. If you don’t have a large enough pot, cut the recipe in half (or do 3/4 of the recipe) to be safe.

Stretching Out Leftovers:

You’ll have leftovers for days with this recipe. That’s part of the magic here. Keep some refrigerated for the coming day or two, and freeze the rest in smaller portions. You might want to add more water to the soup upon reheating – it tends to thickens up. Be sure to pre-season with more salt and cayenne before serving, after re-heating.

Please enjoy the soup. It takes a good amount of chopping, but the payoff is rich. And I wanted to extend another heartfelt thank you for all your notes, support and condolences. I’m looking forward and hoping for more bright spots for all of us in 2021. -h

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Tapioca Pudding

The ultimate tapioca – a creamy, classic, delicious, vanilla-spiked tapioca pudding recipe. Guided by the tapioca enthusiasts in my family.

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If you’re on the lookout for a creamy, delicious, vanilla-spiked tapioca pudding recipe, this is it. I did a day of tapioca recipe testing while visiting my mom and dad – in between looking at old family slides and flipping through recipe binders. My dad is a big-time tapioca fan, and there was lots of experimenting with various recipes, ingredients, and techniques. And, in the end there was a clear winning approach I know you’ll love. It’s no secret that I much prefer a silky smooth, chocolate pudding, but this little exercise nearly made me a convert.
The Best Tapioca Pudding

My Dad Loves Tapioca Pudding. A lot.

My dad is known to be quite generous with his tapioca pudding – my grandma and her 90 year old friends would receive weekly deliveries up until she passed away last year. I can only imagine it makes appearances at his office on a regular basis as well. Over the years he has been known to use various recipes, mixes, and whatnot in his tapioca puddings, but I wanted to zero in on one master recipe to share with you, the quintessential tapioca pudding recipe. We looked at his approach, my aunt weighed in with her recipe, and I introduced some ideas to the mix. What we ended up with was a perfect pudding good enough to make me consider switching from silky smooth to bumps and lumps indefinitely.
Classic Tapioca Pudding in a Bowl

Tapioca Pudding Basics

A great batch of tapioca requires equal parts patience, attentiveness, and top-notch ingredients. Like a risotto or polenta there is much stirring involved, and you need to watch the pudding religiously. That being said, broadly speaking, making tapioca is relatively simple. When I asked my dad to articulate the most important, top-level considerations here’s what he said:

Use your thickest-bottomed pot – this will help prevent scorching. Once you’ve scorched the pudding, that’s it – you’ve ruined it. He uses his Le Crueset dutch oven pot, but surprised me when he said for extra large batches he sometimes deploys the base of his pressure cooker (!?) which is very large, and very heavy. He never pressurizes it, just uses the pot part.
Use Small Tapioca Pearls
Use the correct size of tapioca. You’re after small tapioca peals here and you can see them pictured above. We did one batch with instant tapioca – this comes in a box, and like instant oatmeal the tapioca pieces are much smaller (and in this case also pre-cooked). The universal feeling among everyone who tasted it didn’t have anything to do with the actual flavor (which was decent), there was an aversion to the gelatinous texture – maybe coming from the soy lecithin additive? Not sure, but it was universally agreed upon that starting from scratch with the small pearl tapioca was the way to go – Bob’s Red Mill All Natural Small Pearl Tapioca worked beautifully as a base ingredient.

Pay attention to temperature. You need to bring the tapioca pudding mixture up slowly for a few reasons. To avoid scorching, but also this gives the tapioca balls time to cook as they are coming up to a boil.
The Best Tapioca Pudding

Stir constantly. I have to admit that I get lazy and don’t stir the entire time, and if your stove isn’t overly hot, this is fine. But my dad likes to stir the whole time.

Make a double batch – one for you and one to share. The recipe below is for a single batch, but easily doubles.

Other Observations

Before we move onto the recipe itself, here are a few other things I noticed as we cooked our way through various batches. First, it is important to soak small pearl tapioca before attempting to make pudding with it, or the texture will be off. Some people soak overnight, but we found that 30 minutes or so worked with small tapioca, resulting in a lively textured tapioca with wonderful creamy, custard bridging the beads. I call for an hour in the recipe to be safe – but you can reduce that a bit if you’re in a time crunch.

Water or Milk? Many recipes call for water, I loved the 100% milk version we did, we even soaked the tapioca balls in milk – whole milk for that matter – again going after rich, creaminess. This version is so simple and creamy!
The Best Tapioca Pudding
Egg whites? I know many people like to do the “fluffy” version of tapioca pudding, where you beat egg whites and fold them in – it is an extra step and I like a denser pudding, so that isn’t something I incorporated here.
The Best Tapioca Pudding

Tapioca Pudding Variations

I kind of feel like if you’re going to make tapioca pudding, you should keep it classic. Let the vanilla shine through and call it a day. But it’s also such a beautiful canvas to build other flavors on – I’m torn. If you’re inclined to take the latter route, here are a few ideas. A pinch of saffron is always welcome, I’d add it in the last five minutes of cooking. You could take a more floral approach and add a splash of rose water or orange blossom water – add it to your liking, just a small amount at a time. I mention a chocolate tapioca variation in the headnotes down below, as well as a coconut version. I’m also imagining that a toasted sesame tapioca could be a nice wildcard flavor. Let me know in the comments if you have any favorite ingredients or flavors you like to add to your tapioca. Seems like there are endless possibilities.

tapioca pudding recipe

Here’s an old picture I came across while looking through the old slide carousels at my parent’s house. I love this photo and suspect it was shot in the California redwoods circa 1979 or 1980 likely with the camera on a tripod and my dad’s old Nikon – just a guess. That is my dad, me, my mom, and my sister Heather.

Hope you enjoy the tapioca pudding. Also, before I sign off- here are a few other recipes my dad likes to make (and share):

– My Dad’s Garlic Bread recipe
– He also really loves these mashed potatoes.
– And is always game for macaroni salad.

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Hazelnut & Chard Ravioli Salad

Ravioli salads are the best! Plump raviolis tossed with toasted hazelnuts, lemony chard, and caramelized onions are at the heart of this ravioli salad recipe. The colorful platter is finished off with a dusting of cheese, snipped chives, and lemon zest.

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If you’re invited to a potluck this winter, consider bringing this. I first published the recipe over a decade ago, and still cook it regularly for a whole host of reasons. We’re talking about plump raviolis tossed with toasted hazelnuts, lemony flecks of chard, and deeply caramelized onions. You’ve got crunch from toasted hazelnuts, and brightness from a bit of zest. It’s delicious, flexible, and totally satisfying. Also, appropriately, it makes a great vegetarian main for gatherings like Thanksgiving. I’ve updated and streamlined the instructions and ingredient list here so it reflects how I make it today. For example, I used to cook the chard on the side, but now I don’t bother, and just massage it with lemon juice. Little tricks and improvements, and in this case, one less pan to clean.

Hazelnut & Chard Ravioli Salad

You can prepare most of the components ahead of time, and throw it together in less than five minutes when you’re ready to serve it up family-style. Whenever I have a window in the days prior, I wash and chop the chard (or kale), caramelize the onions, and toast the hazelnuts.

Hazelnut & Chard Ravioli Salad

Keep in mind, this whole idea is super adaptable. You can play around with the type of raviolis you use – vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, etc.

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