Vermont Cheddar and Leek Soup. Photo: Heather Platt
“Isn’t it funny how we all remember Vermont?” Said Nana into the land line phone in her nursing home apartment.
I’d called her to tell her that her famous Limpa Bread recipe and the guidance she’d given me over the phone the day before had lead to the most perfect batch yet. So perfect that two entire loaves of the crusty, soft, brown goodness seemed to have already disappeared from our countertop. Mysterious, I know.
Nana was pleased. “Mmmm.” She said, imagining she could taste it too. “It’s the best warm, with butter…” she specified trailing off in thought into the fantasy of Limpa deliciousness. And then it occurred to me. That’s where this came from. This utter obsession with achieving maximum deliciousness, the utmost joy from watching someone happily devour the food you made. I got that from Nana.
“Oh no, I never bothered with any recipes at the restrunt.” She answered after I inquired about the menu items at her and my late-grandfather’s Vermont eatery.
“How did you make everything?” I was blown away. The woman owned, managed and cooked, from scratch with apparently no guidance, everything on the menu at “Bischoff’s Restaurant.” In the 1940s and 50s, hungry skiers and locals alike piled into cozy wooden benches to enjoy her cooking.
“I just made it and tasted as I went along.” She said matter-of-factly. “Have you ever made my split pea soup? I wrote it down for you somewhere.” I will get that recipe as soon as possible. But until then, this Vermont Cheddar soup will have to do. And it does.
Cabbage piroshki. Photo Credit: Heather Platt
Piroshki. Photo credit: Heather Platt
A few months ago, I had the privilege of interviewing Helen Mirren about her role in the film The Hundred Foot Journey. All lovers of food and France should see this film immediately. I must warn you, however, that it will make you want to get on a plane and fly there immediately. It is a love story that focuses on the way in which food conjures up memories and emotions. So during my four minutes with Dame Mirren, I couldn’t help but wonder what dish brought up memories to her. When Helen answered, “My mother’s piroshki.” I was completely fascinated. I had never heard of this, much less tasted it. She went on to describe the warm cabbage pie that she enjoyed during her childhood.
Piroshki dough. Photo Credit: Heather Platt
I would never think to make Russian cabbage pie for myself. It sounds labor intensive and strangely daunting. However, I’m not sure if it’s the way Helen Mirren explained it so deliciously with pure nostalgia in her eyes or the fact that I simply want to eat something that Helen Mirren ate, but I couldn’t help but grow hungry for it too. And seeing as I am part-Russian, my grandfather changed his name from Harold Plotnski to Arnold Platt, (not joking)I felt for the first time that I was connecting with my Russian heritage, surrounded by flour and potatoes while the smell of caraway seeds wafted through my house. Oh, and it tasted really good too!
Little Gems with Reed Avocados, Cara Cara Oranges, and Cilantro. Photo Credit: Heather Platt
I love this salad so much that I’ve made it three times since Suzanne emailed me access to the AOC Cookbook draft. With so many incredible recipes to try, it sounds crazy to be making one of them multiple times. But it’s made up of two of my favorite things, Cara Cara oranges, which are the most special and delicious of oranges, and avocados, which have become a staple in my California kitchen. This salad really is the perfect winter salad to brighten up a table full of hearty and rich winter fare. It is refreshing, light and crisp and since it’s Cara Cara season right now, why not make it while I can? And if possible, get your lettuces from Coleman Farms at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market. They have the most beautiful lettuces in California. And don’t be dissuaded by Farmer Romeo’s serious exterior. He’s so nice that his nickname is “The Jolly Green Giant.”( I prefer to call him “Romeo, Romeo”). In any case, Coleman Farms is where the Lucques chefs go for lettuce. And I suggest you do too!
Coleman Farmers. Photo Credit: Heather Platt
Romeo Coleman of Coleman Farms, the best place to get lettuce! Photo Credit: Heather Platt
Cara Cara Oranges. Photo Credit: Heather Platt
Limes for the avocado dressing. Photo Credit: Heather Platt
Anna, my co-blogger/rock star best friend, called me the other day with a hint of stress in her voice. She was planning a much needed girls-only wine and cheese night at her place and was concerned about food.
“Are snacks okay? I have cheese. Should I make a peach bruschetta? Peaches are so good right now.” She stressed. I had never heard of peach bruschetta and it honestly sounded a little bit weird to me. But as someone who regularly obsesses about food and what to make for guests, I knew all of the right things to say.
“Yes snacks are great! Make whatever you feel inspired to make or just whatever is easiest. No one is expecting you to make a pot roast.” I did, however, throw in some skepticism about the peach bruschetta. But as the day went on and I contemplated what I would bring to the no-boys-allowed wine night, I couldn’t get the idea of peach bruschetta out of my head. So I took Anna’s idea and showed up at her house with it. And the fabulous group of females on Anna’s porch that night ate it up almost as quickly as the girlie gossip going around.
I’ll admit it. I’m a kumquataholic. This time of year kumquats are bountiful at the restaurant where I work. There’s a giant tub of them in the walk-in refrigerator and the bartender always has a perfect glass cup filled with halves of the adorable little citrus fruits. And whether I’m dressed in a white chef’s jacket helplessly searching for Tat Soy in the walk-in, or up front welcoming guests, the little orange gems are calling to me. Normally, admitting that you have a habit of taking something that isn’t yours while others aren’t looking is a shameful confession. But with something as irresistible as the kumquat, can you really blame me? And quite frankly, no one does. Especially Farmer Peter Shaner himself, who grows the flawless kumquats we serve at Lucques. So when I saw at my local farmer’s market last week, a bushel of what appeared to be equally delicious looking kumquats, I bought a lot of them. And instead of hurriedly popping them in my mouth for just a moment of undeniable pleasure, I made this salad.
When it comes to food and the holidays, I have a weakness for tradition. And even though I am the kind of person who will eat anything and everything you put in front of me anytime of day (as long as there is some hope of it being delicious), for the holidays I like to stick with tradition. Because, after all, that’s what the holidays are all about; doing the same rituals year after year after year so that in an ever changing world we at least can rely on turkey on Thanksgiving, prime rib for Christmas and potato latkes for Hannukah. I find comfort in this. For Christmas dinner, which I have made every year for my entire family for the past five years, I always start with a seasonal salad. In my opinion, every elegant holiday meal should start with some hors d’oeuvres, cocktails and conversation, followed by a seasonal salad, a hearty main course and something special for dessert. This spinach and endive salad is the perfect salad for your holiday meal. It’s the ideal combination of this season’s flavors and is so easy it won’t take time away from the the rest of the meal you’ll be perfecting this holiday season.
Filed under Appetizer, Christmas, Dinner, Fall, Gluten-free, Heather Platt, In Season, Lunch, Salad, Thanksgiving, Vegetarian, Winter
On the first night of my annual summer trip to the Maine seacoast, I received the warmest welcome back imaginable, a heaping plate of freshly caught “Steamers” and a dish of melted butter and broth to dip them in. I don’t get to eat seafood like this but once a year, so by the time I came up for air from devouring these ocean treats, I had a pile of clam shells on my plate taller than my two-year-old nephew.
“I’m making up for lost time!” I shrugged, with a huge, buttery grin on my face.
This recipe is exactly how my cousin Ty (a true Mainer and cook extraordinaire) makes me steamers when I come to visit her. It’s a simple and elegant first course to any summer gathering.