Sorrel/Sardine Sandwich with Labne and Lemon

A really fun new weekly pop-up restaurant called Sardine Head opened in Portland a little over a month ago, at famous Sweedeedee, a beloved breakfast and lunch spot. Fun fact: the team behind Myrtlewood first became good friends over weekly breakfasts at Sweedeedee the first few months they were open, before they had a sign and before they had the lines! I digress. The point of excitement here is that maybe people in this town are starting to appreciate sardines more, if a restaurant with oily tinned fish in its name is doing well. I wrote this recipe (more of a guide to making good and easy tinned fish sandwiches of all kinds), and we photographed it years ago, but it's seeing an audience for the very first time right now. If you live in Portland, go to Sardine Head yourself and check it out! And then swing by Ardor Natural Wines (great new shop/our pairing partners for Secret Restaurant Portland), pick up a great bottle, make these sandwiches, and create your own Sardine Head experience at home. If you don't live in Portland, do the latter but seek our your own source for minimal-intervention wines and make the sandwich. Or just enjoy this picture and the idea of the sandwich and the wine. 

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Sorrel & Sardine Sandwich with Labneh & Lemon

  • one tin of Matiz Gallego 'Sardines with Lemon'
  • (other sardines will do, but these really are the nicest readily available in lots of grocery stores)
  • good, simple hearth bread (no seeds/nuts/olives here, but sourdough, natural leaven, or alternative flours are a plus)
  • labneh (middle eastern yogurt cheese, you could easily use cream cheese, fromage blanc, chèvre—spreadable, not-too-stinky cheese, hopefully with a piquant quality to it)
  • lemon juice, salt, black pepper
  • sorrel leaves

This is a generous dinner for one, or a small part of a more complete, shared meal for three. 

Slice the bread about 3/4 inch thick. Get three good slices from the center of the loaf. Drizzle some olive oil or the oil from the sardine can on the bread. Spread with labneh. Drizzle more oil. Gently lift the sardines from the tin, opening them up as you go. Check to see if the bones are totally soft. If not, remove them. Sprinkle the fish with lemon juice. 

Roll the sorrel leaves into a cigar shape, and slice the roll every 1/2 inch or so, to create little strips. Arrange pleasingly. The lemony quality of the sorrel is delicious with the sardines. Sorrel isn't exactly common at the grocery store, but it does frequently turn up at farmer's markets and is easy to grow. It's a biennial, and this sandwich came about first because it was the first thing to reappear in my garden. If you can't track down sorrel, use arugula or spinach or watercress tossed with lemon juice. 

Season with black pepper and flaky salt.   

Tunnel pasta with fresh peas and piquant cheese

I thought of this recipe with Peter, the photographer whose pictures grace all these pages (and the pages of the book), in mind. Peter loves peas. Peter loves pasta. Peter loves cheese. And we all should too. 

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Tunnel pasta with fresh peas and piquant cheese

  • large, fun pasta with some kind of tunnel, like rigatoni
  • fresh shelling peas
  • a knob of butter
  • a pinch of flour
  • a few tablespoons of milk
  • some kind of piquant dairy—labneh, plain greek yogurt, live culture yogurt mixed with cream cheese, creme fraiche, kefir cream, the list goes on
  • parmesan or pecorino
  • black pepper
  • white wine, to taste
  • white pepper, to taste

Prep the peas a while before you are going to cook– preferably when you're not that hungry. Sit outside and shell them while listening to the birds and neighborhood animals. 

Cook your pasta in a deep, wide pan. Salt the water generously, and with this recipe (and all recipes with large, potentially gummy pastas): add a splash of oil. 

For the peas: either cook them in the pasta water before the pasta, removing immediately with a slotted spoon when they rise to the surface (only about 30 seconds), then dropping into a bowl of cold water. Or, another trick I like to do with peas: Place the peas in a pyrex measuring cup. Put the kettle on as if you are going to make tea; maybe do make tea. Pour the boiling water over the peas and let stand for 5 minutes. Remove, refresh with cold water, and let sit until you’re ready for them.

In a small saucepan, melt your butter over medium heat. Add the pinch of flour, stir with a whisk, add the bit of milk, stir vigorously. When the mixture is smooth and uniform, add your piquant dairy in the quantity you desire based on taste.. Maybe you want white pepper or a drop of white wine in there, too. Depending on the dairy, it may need more or less parmesan or pecorino thrown in last minute. Be sure to taste as you go. Cook on low for 5-10 minutes until there are no traces of raw flour in your tastings.

When the sauce is perfect and the peas are done, the pasta should be done too. Those large tunnel pastas do take longer than most, so taste a few pieces before declaring the pot ready. Drain and arrange on your plate. Drizzle the pasta with a little olive oil. Add half the sauce, add half the peas. Toss, making sure many peas get into the tunnels of the pasta. Add the remaining sauce and peas, sprinkle with a tasty herb of your choice (salad burnet, if you can get your hands on it, is particularly good, parsley is classic). Eat, either with gusto or in slow contemplation. 

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Whitefish, celery, dill, lemon on rye crisps

This is an ideal early spring snack. With flowery herbal tea? Dry unfiltered white wine? 

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  • whitefish paté (bonus recipe below to make your own)
  • rye crisps
  • baby mustard greens and/or chicories
  • celery
  • fresh dill
  • a good lemon

Spread the whitefish paté onto the rye crisp. Wash and dress the greens with lemon juice and the smallest amount of oil. Thinly slice the celery, dress the same way. Tear the dill. Cut the flesh of the lemon out of all peel/remaining membrane. Set the greens on the whitefish, tuck the celery in and around the greens. Lay the dill fronds over that, and weigh them down with the lemon flesh. Top with flaky salt and cracked pepper. 

Smoked fish spread

  • smoked white fish (1/4-1/2 pound piece)
  • smoked trout, ruby if possible (1 fillet)
  • farmstead cream cheese (approximately 8oz)
  • sour cream (a large spoonful or three)
  • fish salt: flaky salt with dill, etc
  • black pepper

Get a large piece of smoked whitefish and two smaller fillets of smoked trout. At my fishmonger, the whitefish is sold whole, chopped into pieces, not deboned. If this is the case with yours, debone the fish. 

I pull off the skin as gently as possible to turn into smoked fish skin bacon, a concept discussed and used in The Myrtlewood Cookbook and revisited in many ways every time I buy smoked fish with skin. 

Set up a bowl so the pieces of smoked fish fall into it as you work. 

The trout fillet will come off in one piece. Break it up into many more, with your hands or a fork. 

Using a fork, tear apart the pieces of fish as much as you can, so the two colors mix evenly. 

Add a generous amount of the cream cheese. If you can find a farmstead cream cheese, it will likely be less sticky/smooth, since it doesn’t have any of those gums or whatever to bind it! This works extra well here, because the bits of cream cheese will break up and grab onto bits of fish very easily. 

It will be a little too thick, and that’s when you add a blob of sour cream. Crack in a bunch of black pepper, then sprinkle in the fish salt. Mix, taste, season again. You can add chives, dill, parsley, or other favorite herbs here– but if you're making a quantity to go through slowly it will keep less well with greens worked in. So you might as well save them for topping. Chill the spread for at least an hour, to let the flavors mingle. Spread on toast or crackers. 

Penne with potatoes, chanterelles, preserved tomatoes, and walnut cream

This is a real stick-to-the-ribs winter meal. It was originally made up on a cold November night, but I think it works quite well with winter yellowfoot or white chanterelles, as well as really any mushroom you can find. If you don't have your own preserved tomatoes (the candied tomato recipe in The Myrtlewood Cookbook is what's used here), some great ways to get there swiftly: buy a jar of good sun dried tomatoes in oil, or use some dry tomatoes you have soaked and then bathed in olive oil (maybe with some garlic simmered in it first, then removed). Serve this with a good, jammy wine. 

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  • penne pasta
  • fingerling potatoes
  • winter chanterelle (or any other) mushrooms
  • walnuts
  • 1 tiny half pint carton of heavy cream 
  • parmesan 
  • sun-dried tomatoes or candied tomatoes 
  • chili flakes

Cook the potatoes in salted, boiling water for about 15 minutes. They should give slowly and beautifully to the prong of a fork. Remove the potatoes and set in a dish in the oven, at 200º.  Re-boil the water, adding more salt and dash of oil. Then cook the pasta for 10-12 minutes, or until your preferred level of bite. 

While the pasta is cooking, melt a large pat of butter in a saucepan or skillet. Crush the walnuts with the back of a large knife or with a mortar and pestle. Add them to the butter and cook briefly, until fragrant. Turn down before they have any chance of burning. Add half the cream. The walnuts will lend it a hint of purple hue. Add a handful of grated parmesan and turn off the heat. 

In a separate cast iron, melt another pat of butter and toss in the chanterelles. Cook on high until the moisture sweats out of the mushrooms. Remove the mushrooms from the pan, moving them to a dry, empty pan, also on high. Turn off the heat on the first pan and add the mushroomy juices to the walnut cream. In the dry pan, continue cooking the mushrooms on high, watching them all the time. You want them to dry out a bit and crisp around the edges; brown a bit like grilled meat. When the pieces are perfect (I suggest manipulating them with a pair of tongs), add them to the potatoes being kept warm in the oven. 

When the pasta is done, drain and combine with the walnut cream, potatoes and mushrooms. If the walnut cream is a little thick, add a splash of the pasta cooking water. To serve, add the candied tomatoes (or rehydrated sun-dried tomatoes) and pour in the rest of the cream. Top with more parmesan and black pepper or chili flakes. 

Spaetzle with dandelion greens & caraway/black pepper sour cream

My mother's side is half German. My grandmother was even known to mutter German words when she was a little grumpy. I didn't eat spaetzle, however, until my first visit to Germany, in 2012. It was early December, and I was there for the first snow of the year. Spaetzle was the perfect way to warm up after long walks through the snowy city. Later in that visit, at a favorite cafe in Berlin, I had a really amazing dish where dandelion greens were paired with gnocchi. The bitter greens cut through the richness and provided the most pleasing counterpoint to the doughy bites of gnocchi.  Later, in my home kitchen in Oregon, I figured out how to make spaetzle, and then tried out the pairing with dandelion greens. I'm very pleased to share the recipe now. I hope you have a chance to make it this late winter, as the cold and short days stretch on but the dandelion greens appear.

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the spaetzle:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (you can substitute up to 1/2 cup “flavor flour” successfully– rye and spelt work particularly well)
  • 2 tablespoons toasted and roughly-ground caraway seeds
  • lots of cracked black pepper
  • 7 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk

the sauce:

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cups of soft white cheese, grated
  • smudge of mustard
  • salt
  • + one other cheese of your choosing, to go on top before baking

the greens:

  • 1 bunch dandelion greens
  • olive oil
  • the soured cream:
  • store-bought short tub of sour cream
  • (or make your own—combine 1 cup cream with 1 tbsp buttermilk; leave out, covered, for 2 1/2 days. creme fraiche on the tangier side)
  • 1 tbsp toasted and roughly-ground caraway seeds
  • generous cracking of black pepper

To make the spaetzle:

Toast the caraway seeds in a dry pan until fragrant. Pound them with a mortar and pestle until ground finely. Set aside at least a teaspoon for the sour cream. 

Start with the flour in a mixing bowl, incorporate the ground caraway seeds and black pepper, then make a well in the center. Crack all the eggs in a separate bowl, mix thoroughly (but don't beat heavily) with a fork, then pour into the well. Start to mix with a spatula, then pour in the milk as you go to make a smooth batter. If it seems to get too gummy or thick, thin out with a little water or more milk.  The consistency should really be rather like pancake batter.

In a third mixing bowl (your largest), get an ice bath ready to receive the cooked spaetzle. 

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Take a small scoop (less than a ladle will hold) of the batter and put it in your colander with holes big enough for batter to drop through in little dots. With a flexible spatula, push and scrape the dough over the bottom of the colander so that tiny nubbins of dough fall through and into the water. When your scoop of batter has gone through (you may have to pause once or twice to stir the pot of spaetzle so they don't stick together), which should be after 1 1/2 to 3 minutes of cooking time (you will know when they are ready, as they rise to the surface and the outsides tighten), remove with a spider strainer. Drop into the ice bath. Stir lightly, and let them settle. 

When all the dough has been used and you have an ice bath full of spaetzle, pass through another colander like you've finished making packaged spaghetti, discarding the ice water and getting as much moisture off the spaetzle as you can. Place into a buttered baking dish and let rest.

To make the sauce:

Take a tablespoon of butter, melt it in a small saucepan, toss in 2 tablespoons of flour, whisk together, lower heat and cook till the roux starts to color slightly.  Add one cup of whole milk and whisk again to incorporate the flour/butter. Continue whisking at medium high heat until the mixture starts to thicken, then return to low. Add approximately 1 1/2 cups of soft white cheese (havarti, swedish farmer’s cheese, fontina, something like that). Stir until melted and incorporated into the sauce. Season with a little mustard and salt. 

Pour the sauce over the spaetzle, tossing to coat. Top with another cheese of your choosing in patterns over the dish. Bake at 350° until it resembles a finished dish of macaroni and cheese (approximately 30-45 minutes). 

To finish, prep the sour cream and cook the greens:

Stir the reserved ground caraway seeds and several crackings of black pepper into the sour cream. Season with salt or a touch of lemon juice if it seems like it needs something else. 

When the spaetzle is all ready to serve, wash a bunch of dandelion greens under the sink, then toss directly into a wok, large cast iron, or small soup pot.  Cook on medium-high until the color has intensified and they've wilted. Season with salt. Break some of them up if you like and toss with a mild oil to help them glisten and not stick together. Season further with lemon juice or a few drops of white wine vinegar. 

In a bowl, artfully arrange the dandelion greens, add some spaetzle, throw in a bit of flaky salt (and maybe a small dollop of fine mustard), then top with a large serving of the caraway seed and black pepper soured cream. 

Blood orange, fennel, and celeriac salad

This salad was not included in The Myrtlewood Cookbook, but only because we just had too many salads. Any ingredient overlap, and the axe was drawn. This one had two: celeriac and fennel. During a cutting session, Sofie said “You really think everyone is going to want to trim celeriac into matchsticks and fennel into boomerangs for two salads?” We had a cartoonishly large amount of salad recipes at the end of the shoots– twice as much as any other category. It really didn’t make any sense to have two celeriac/fennel salads in the same small section. I think the heavy use of citrus also put it out of the running, as you sure as hell can’t grow it in in the PNW. When I made this salad again recently, I thought perhaps all winter salads should have citrus in them. And celeriac. And fennel. 

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  • 1 celeriac
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 3 blood oranges
  • 1 large navel or cara cara orange
  • olive oil
  • almonds, a handful
  • almond oil (if you have it)
  • tarragon white wine vinegar

Prepare a big bowl with cold water. Drop in some lemon juice from a bottle or a fruit. Peel the celeriac. Drop into the lemon bath immediately. 

Trim the fennel (reserving the tops with fronds) and slice into thin boomerangs. Move them to the lemon bath. Take out the celeriac, cut it in half, put the other half back. Keep cutting the celeriac now into thin-to-medium matchsticks. Moving the finished ones to the lemon bath, then repeat with the second half of the vegetable. 

Cut the oranges into 1/4 inch rounds. Trim off the peels with a paring knife. Cut little triangular pieces, removing center seeds and any remaining pith so you have clean and beautiful jewels of citrus. 

Drain the lemon bath, add more lemon juice, a splash of tarragon white wine vinegar and almond (or olive) oil. Toss to dress. 

Chop the handful of almonds roughly, just making sure some pieces are quite small. 

Assemble each serving separately. Take the celeriac and fennel pieces, make a nice pile, add pieces of orange, sprinkle with some almonds and drizzle with some good olive oil  Crack on black pepper, toss on some finishing salt, then tear fennel fronds over the whole thing.

Quince and persimmon granita

This kind of frozen dessert is most often made in hot weather with summer fruits. Yet quince and persimmon are exquisite flavors with nothing more than sugar and lemon, and a light, frozen dessert can be a great end to a rich, wintry meal. Especially if all your friends are over and the heat is on and the oven has been blasting.

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  • 4-5 quinces
  • 2-3 very ripe persimmons 
  • 2-3 lemons
  • 1-2-or-3 cups sugar (Or, really, anywhere between. You are doing this by taste, and for a smooth texture.)

Juice the lemons. Peel and core the quince, rubbing the juiced lemons all over them before dropping them into a bowl filled with water and more lemon juice. When all the quince are processed, take them out one at a time and chop, returning the pieces to the bath. When ready, drain all of the water. Add the quince, with a healthy scattering of sugar and the lemon juice, to a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add a splash of water (or white wine). Cook over medium-high heat until the quinces have entirely broken down and turned into a sort of quince nectar. 

Peel the ripe persimmons. Cook over medium-low heat in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, with lemon juice and more sugar, letting it bubble and simmer for a while until the juice thickens and it becomes pasty (and tastes delicious). Set aside. 

Chill both the quince and the persimmons completely, then combine, adjust to taste with lemon and more sugar, then freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions, OR pour into a tupperware and freeze, taking out every hour of the first evening to break up the ice crystals with a fork. 

Muenster, mustard, and roasted garlic on beer bread

The grilled cheese sandwich. Very little is better. The combination of childhood nostalgia, ease, and I'm-a-grown-up-and-can-eat-whatever-the-fuck-I-want makes it one of the all time greatest weeknight dinners. If you want to go lighter, make the one sandwich and eat halves with your romantic partner, good friend, or spoiled dog. Pair it with tomato soup (my recipe posted below) and/or a simple salad.  This particular variation on the grilled cheese sandwich is easiest and best when you just happen to have roasted more garlic than you needed the day before, which is how this recipe came about.  

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  • roasted garlic
  • muenster cheese
  • good mustard
  • beer bread
  • butter

If you are freshly roasting the garlic, turn the oven up to 375º. Tear the papery exterior from the garlic bulb. Make small cuts around the tops of the individual cloves to open them up. Pour olive oil directly onto the exposed parts. Shake plenty of salt over the cloves.   Place into a baking dish and into the oven. It should take 45 minutes to an hour for the skin to darken and the gloves to soften completely. Take out, let cool, then pop out the individual cloves. 

Slice the bread thickly but not too thickly. A beer bread from a German-leaning bakery would be ideal for this sandwich, though really any yeasty-tasting bread with pillowy interior and nice outside crust will be great. 

Slice the muenster thickly but not too thickly. Butter one side of a piece of bread, spread mustard on the other side, then lay slices of muenster on top. Place your favorite sandwich pan on the stove over medium-low heat. Set the buttered end into the pan and cook for a few minutes as the pan heats up. Once you can really feel the heat when holding your hand over it, turn the burner down to low. 

When the muenster is first showing signs of melting, press several whole cloves of garlic into the cheese, with your fingers or a palette knife-ish tool. Layer the rest of the muenster on top of the smashed garlic, trapping it in the center. Spread mustard on the inside of the other piece of bread, butter on the outside, and set on top. After a minute or two, after checking to see the first side starting to crisp up a little, carefully flip the sandwich.

At this point, just keep being patient until you have two crisp sides with oozing, garlicky, cheesy insides. 

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Very easy but seriously good tomato soup

Eating really good tomato soup on a cold fall/winter day gives a similar sensation of comfort to putting your feet up and pulling a wool blanket over them. Something easy to repeat, something you should do more often. 

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  • fresh tomatoes (or whole canned tomatoes)
  • oniony vegetable stock
  • 1 can fire-roasted, diced tomatoes
  • salt
  • pepper
  • quality whole milk
  • butter
  • paprika

optional finishing touches:

  • fresh herbs, chopped
  • extra sharp cheese, grated

De-stem and wash the tomatoes, or pull them from the can or jar. Pile them into a stock pot and turn the heat up to medium-high. Cover.  They will start to burst pretty soon. Stir them and encourage the exploding of the tomatoes. Keep returning the cover. 

Make or defrost a really good, oniony vegetable stock. Pour it over the tomatoes. Stir, continue cooking until all the tomatoes have sort of become one with the stock. It should already taste really good. 

Add a can of fire-roasted tomatoes, good salt, and pepper. Let bubble and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Take an immersion blender and just give it a few spins to smooth things out a bit. Spike with a touch of cayenne, if you want a little heat. 

Pour in some milk, stir, reduce the heat low, and cover. When back up to temperature, add a few knobs of cold butter. This will thicken and enrich the soup and also cut down on the acidity of the tomatoes. 

Finish with a dusting of good Hungarian paprika, and if you want some fresh herbs, or grated extra sharp cheese, or all of the above. Eat with grilled cheese or other warm, soul-satisfying sandwiches. 

Brussels sprouts with mint and pumpkin seeds

I say that despite Thanksgiving having come and gone, it is the season to eat Brussels Sprouts. This refreshing, unusual side dish is the perfect way to work the "little miracles" (as my father fondly calls them) into your between-the-Holidays cleanse. 

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  • brussels sprouts
  • very good mint; spearmint
  • raw, dark green pumpkin seeds
  • lemon juice
  • nut or pumpkin seed oil if you can, olive oil: always great (you know that though)

Blanch the brussels sprouts, whole, in boiling water for about 3 minutes. Remove to an ice bath. A minute or two later, replace the lukewarm water with fresh, cold water and add some lemon juice.

When the brussels sprouts are chilled and bright green, drain, pat dry and slice with a very sharp knife into 1/6 inch pieces. Dress with more lemon juice. 

Make two piles of mint leaves. Chop one, leave the other whole. Toss them with the brussels sprouts and the pumpkin seeds, then dress the whole thing with a bit of pistachio (or other fine nut or maybe pumpkin seed) oil and flaky salt. 

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Chicken-of-the-woods Croque Monsieur

Chicken-of-the-woods is an astoundingly good wild mushroom, with the taste and texture of its namesake. One year, my friend Lucas and I found a large old tree, split and fallen over, with pounds of these mushrooms growing from the exposed inner trunk. We came up with this sandwich, to serve at a big fall harvest gathering, as a way to use the giant haul of mushrooms before they deteriorated. We ran tray after tray of them from under the broiler to the people mingling on the farm grounds, where they were eaten in the hand, hot and comforting in the autumn breeze.

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  • chicken of the woods mushrooms (probably only available at farmer's markets or very good small grocers near areas where they might be found, but you can also very much make a mushroom sandwich using this recipe with any other mushrooms)
  • naturally-leavened french country bread. (the absolute best you can get, like, make a Tartine loaf yourself or find a bakery that can get close)
  • extra-sharp white cheddar and gruyere, grate it all ahead of time
  • dijon mustard: the best you can find

Make the basic béchamel. A knob of butter, a teaspoon of flour, a thorough whisking, biscuity smell, some whole milk or cream, until thickened. Add a chopped clove of garlic and some white pepper. Let sit on the back burner on low while you make the rest of the sandwich.

Melt lots of butter in a cast iron frying pan over medium heat. Add the brushed/pulled apart mushrooms (they will pull away all stringy, like chicken). Cover, briefly, until the moisture starts to leave the mushrooms. Uncover and cook, adjusting the pieces in the pan, until they are lightly browned on all sides.

Slice the bread, spread with mustard. Spread on some béchamel. Add a pile of the cheese mixture. Top with pieces of mushroom, then more cheese. Broil until bubbling, finishing with flaky salt and cracked pepper.

Best Polenta, Mushrooms, and Kale

A quick supper for an autumn weeknight, celebrating some staples of the Northwest. 

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  • About a cup of crimini mushrooms 
  • Butter 
  • Olive or canola oil 
  • 1 cup polenta (preferably some special kind, grown near you, with no GMOs! Try Lonesome Whistle, or the stuff sold in Bulk at People’s Food Co-Op!) 
  • Salt 
  • Kale, just a few leaves 
  • About 1 cup of oyster or other more unusual mushrooms 
  • Black pepper
  • Mustard
  • Beer or wine (optional) 

Slice the crimini mushrooms. Put butter and a small drizzle of oil in a cast iron pan, raise the heat to high and add the mushrooms. Stir to coat, reduce the heat to medium and cook without crowding until they start to color on one side. Flip them with a spatula and cook until colored on the other side. Towards the end, turn the heat back up to high and press down on them with your spatula. The remaining water should sputter out and evaporate, and the edges should crisp just perfectly. Swiftly remove and set aside. 

Cook the polenta in a heavy-bottomed saucepan: mix the polenta with 4 cups of water, 1 teaspoon salt and olive oil, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, stir. When it first starts to really thicken, add the cremini mushrooms and a knob of butter. When it starts to thicken dramatically, reduce the heat to as low as it’ll go and stir in another pat of butter. De-stem the kale leaves and cut them into ribbons. Stir them in, cover the pot and turn off the heat. Let the polenta rest so that the kale can steam. 

In the mushroom pan, add more butter and oil. Cook the fancier mushrooms in pulled-apart pieces. Add a drop of mustard, maybe a splash of beer or wine if you are drinking any. Add some salt and a heavy cracking of black pepper. 

Serve the polenta with kale ribbons in a bowl, topped with the fancier mushrooms and a dusting of flaky salt. 

Extra ideas: 

This kind of dinner can also be made with delicious polenta triangles. This is an adaptation of “Erico’s Easy Polenta,” on the back of the Golden Pheasant bag. 

  • 31⁄4 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for frying
  • 1 tablespoon butter, plus more for the dish

Butter a ceramic baking dish. Pour in the water. Stir in the salt to dissolve it. Add the polenta and olive oil, stirring to distribute the oil and avoid clumping. Bake at 350 degrees F, uncovered, for 50 minutes. Run a fork through it, spread melted butter over the top with a rubber spatula, and bake for 10 more minutes. Let cool, then cut into triangles. Fry up in oil, and top with mushrooms and kale or other delicious things. Roasted squash, roasted garlic, roasted cauliflower?  Chickpea curry? Ratatouille? 

Green bean, zucchini, poached egg, red onion, little lettuce, and fancy mayonnaise sandwich

A veggie sandwich with an extremely satisfying texture. The grilled zucchini and green beans, offset by the pickled onions, the crisp lettuce, the tangy mayonnaise, and runny egg yolk make this one a real party in the mouth. 

This recipe does appear in the first edition of the book, but will not appear in the upcoming second edition. So here it is for your long term reference. A great thing to make now in August when these particular vegetables are so good and picnicking so appealing. Also, you can watch Andrew making this particular sandwich in our Kickstarter video. 

green beans (5-6 per sandwich)
zucchini (half of a small squash, per sandwich)
red spring onion (a few slices per sandwich, pickle one or two whole ones though)
little lettuce (a few leaves per sandwich)
fancy store-bought or scratch made mayonnaise
one egg per sandwich
muscatel vinegar (alt: red or white, both are fine)
tarragon white wine vinegar (alt: plain white wine vinegar)
olive oil
salt
pepper
arugula flowers if you have access to them (or nasturtium or other edible flower)

Peel and slice the onion, sprinkle the slices with a little sugar and a little salt, then cover in muscatel vinegar. Let sit for at least half an hour.  Slice the zucchini thinly, lengthwise, and toss into a bowl. Drizzle with tarragon wine vinegar and olive oil. 

At the stove, bring a medium shallow pan of water to a boil, while heating up a grill pan. Prepare a small ice bath. Start cooking the zucchini on the grill pan. Meanwhile, blanch the green beans for 30-45 seconds in the boiling water, and transfer to the ice bath. When the zucchini is going tender and has grill marks on one side, flip using a pair of tongs to grill on the other side. Transfer the finished zucchini to a plate on the counter and replace them with the blanched green beans. Brush the green beans with olive oil, roll them over with the tongs, grilling for about one minute on the one side, pressing down once to ensure a good grill mark.

In the water left from the blanching, poach your egg via your preferred method. Wash and dress the lettuce with the smallest amount of oil, vinegar and salt. 

Break open the roll, spread on the fancy mayonnaise.  Stuff in the zucchini pieces and green beans. Top with the little lettuces and pieces of pickled onion. Stuff with the poached egg. Break it a bit so the yolk runs into the vegetables. Add a big cracking of black pepper, some flaky salt and the spicy flowers, then serve.

Arugula, Carrot, and Mint Salad

A very very simple salad that goes with pretty much anything. It's at home with sandwiches on a picnic, burgers in the back yard, aaaand lots of inside places with lots of other foods too!

Like many of the salads in The Myrtlewood Cookbook, this one can be adapted pretty easily, if you think about it in part like thiss: crunchy vegetable, spicy leaves, sweet herb, salty cheese, simple dressing. You could make it with kohlrabi, mizuna, basil, and feta. Or celery, escarole, parsley, and goat's cheese. And so on!

arugula sylvetta (the 'wild' kind that is small and jagged, but any kind will do!)
purple-skinned carrots
mint
flaky salt
black pepper
olive oil
lemon juice
grated parmesan or pecorino


Peel the carrots, discarding or keeping the skins depending on their toughness and cleanliness. Continue using the vegetable peeler to make sort of ribbons/strips. If you're working on this salad as part of a larger, more complicated meal, put your prepared carrots in water with lemon juice or vinegar. If not, just rinse them briefly to perk up the pieces. 

Wash and dry the arugula.

Pull the mint leaves from the stalks. Slice about half of them in half, keeping others whole. 
Combine the carrot slices and arugula. Drizzle olive oil and lemon juice around the sides of the bowl. Toss the carrots and arugula around the edge of the bowl to get them properly dressed. Add flaky salt and a healthy cracking of black pepper. 

The kind of pecorino that has been aged with black pepper is great here, but can obviously be faked with just, y’know, cracking over a bunch of black pepper. 

Portion the salad into bowls, add the mint, toss once again, top with the sprinkling of cheese.

Blackcurrant Fool

The school where I used to work had an inconsistent gardening situation. Things would grow, things would die, they'd hire someone new, it would all start again. One happy day, waiting for a ride outside on the hot pavement, I noticed a mature blackcurrant bush had been planted, as if it had rained down from the heavens. I watched it like a hawk, then picked them at their peak, on the sly. 

handful of blackcurrants
red or blackcurrant jam (other jams work just fine too)
lemon juice
3 dried juniper berries
scattering of sugar
thick cream
cream of tarter
powdered sugar


Whip the cream with a generous pinch of cream of tartar, and a pinch or two of powdered sugar. I like it less sweet. The cream of tartar lends a tangy note that is quite complimentary to that of the black currants. I also like the cream to be slightly less stiff. If it whips too thoroughly, I add more cream and just stir until it has evened out. 

In a small saucepan, place the currants (de-stemmed, top/tailed) with a tiny amount of water and a scattering of sugar. Raise the heat to high. Smash three juniper berries and add them to the mixture with a dribbling of lemon juice. If you have no juniper berries, but do have gin, a splash will do great. Cook for about 2 minutes at the most. Stir in a spoonful of jam. Turn off the heat. If it's too thin, strain out the blackcurrants, continue cooking the liquid until it has reduced, then add the blackcurrants back in when you take it off the heat. Let cool completely. 

Fold with the cream. It can be served right away for a softer dessert, chilled until set for a medium-soft dessert, or nearly frozen for a on-its-way to semifreddo dessert. Serve with almond biscotti or an almond cookie of some kind.

Berry & Beaujolais Summer Drink

Perhaps this Saturday night would be made better by a "Berry & Beaujolais summer drink."  For sipping in a shady corner, while watching the shadows of the leaves dance around on the wall. 

half a glass of beaujolais wine
a few spoonfuls of strawberry/beaujolais compote (or other soft berry compote)
half a glass of sparkling water


A drink to make the day after the Black Pepper Cheesecake with Strawberry/Beaujolais Compote in the book, or to approximate at other times with other ingredients. This could easily be done throughout the later summer with currants, raspberries, marionberries, or blackberries. 

Spoon a couple of strawberries (or other fruit) into the bottom of a glass, with a few more spoonfuls of jammy compote. Fill the glass half with beaujolais, then the other half with sparkling water. Stir, let mingle for a second, and enjoy.