Monthly Archives: May 2012


When Kristen Wiig announced that she was retiring from Saturday Night Live, I was bummed to hear that I’d never again enjoy the hilarious, neurotic and attention-seeking Penelope, one character that Wiig plays so well. I relate to her “topper” antics, not that I’d consider myself a competitive person, but in the cooking world, sometimes chefs get a little one uppish.

When I found out my friend’s husband, who loves strawberry pie, hits Marie Calendar’s for one of their abundantly-stacked, red-gel glazed marvels when the craving arises, I wanted to top that. For his birthday, I made an easy strawberry lemon tart with a zingy, buttery shortbread crust so punched up with flavor he’d never miss MC’s. This one is for you, Penelope.

 Strawberry Lemon Shortbread Tart

Makes two 8-inch tarts

For the shortbread

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (I use organic white whole-wheat flour)

2/3 cup sugar (again, organic works fine here)

1/4 cup cornstarch

1 tablespoon finely-grated lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, cut into cubes and chilled

For the tart filling

1 pint strawberries, tops removed, cut into slices

2 tablespoons of good-quality strawberry jam, mixed with one teaspoon of lemon juice

8 ounces of prepared lemon curd (found in the jam section of specialty markets)

Make the shortbread: Heat oven to 300 degrees. Blend the first 5 ingredients in a food processor.  Add butter; cut in using on/off turns until moist clumps form. Gather dough into ball (dough will be crumbly); divide in half. Press 1 dough half onto bottom of each of two 8-inch-diameter pie or tart pans. Pierce dough all over with fork.

Bake shortbread until cooked through and lightly golden, about 40 minutes. Remove from oven and cool for about 10 minutes. Gently toss the cut strawberries with the jam and lemon juice mixture. Divide the lemon curd onto both shortbread tarts, then arrange glazed strawberries on top in an even layer. Slice tarts with a very sharp knife and serve with whipped cream if you like.

With easy tips like using a food processor (make sure your butter is extra cold) and jarred lemon curd, this tart comes together effortlessy.

Farm Box Day

Such a gorgeous day to open up the farm box, which included a collection of vegetables perfect for a Summer Minestrone soup. I immediately got them prepped for the pot, dicing a crunchy Maui onion, nipping the ends of crisp green beans, and cubing tender, golden sunburst squash. Ribs of rainbow chard sautéed in the mixture, along with their curly ribbon-cut leaves. In went fennel seeds that I crushed in a mortar, dried oregano and thyme, a can of organic tomatoes and homemade chicken stock. I left it bubbling away on the stove top, making my house smell like a walk through Tuscany. White beans, pasta, a splash of olive oil and a zip of fresh basil will finish it off.

As my daughter and her friend blew bubbles and squirted water guns in the backyard, I started preparing Farm Box Meals for a few families. In addition to the summer minestrone, I’ll deliver Grilled Thai Chicken, utilizing a leafy bunch of cilantro, and Asian Red Cabbage, Radish and Peanut Slaw. I’m jazzing up Crunchy Lemon Tilapia with a zingy Radish and Greens Salad Dressed with Brown Butter. I’ll also prepare my favorite Farm Box Veggie Enchiladas with the remaining rainbow chard and the giant Maui onion. As for the picture-perfect blueberries and strawberries, I’ll make breakfast parfaits with yogurt and granola.

The Memorial weekend promises good food and lots of fun. Enjoy your family and your farm box!

Summer Minestrone Soup

Serves 6

Olive oil

1 onion (or use half of the sweet Maui from the farm box)

4 carrots, peeled and sliced

4 celery stalks, trimmed and sliced

3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

4 cups of summer vegetables, such as summer squash, chard, green beans, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 tablespoon dried oregano

2 teaspoons dried thyme

1 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds

1 bay leaf

1 15-ounce can organic diced tomatoes in their juice

 8 cups of homemade or good quality prepared chicken or vegetable stock

1 can white or red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

2 tablespoons of chopped basil

2 cups prepared pasta, such as penne or fusilli

Grated Parmesan cheese and olive oil

Heat a large stock pot or dutch oven over high heat, then add olive oil. Add the onions, carrots, celery and garlic, and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the 4 cups of summer vegetables, and cook while occasionally stirring, until vegetables start to wilt, about 10 minutes. Add dried herbs, salt and pepper, and cook for another 3 minutes. Add diced tomatoes and stock, stir, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until vegetables are tender. Add beans and basil cook until heated through. Portion prepared pasta into individual bowls, then add soup. Top with grated cheese and olive oil just before serving.

Strawberries and Maui Onions

What could the two of these possibly have in common, Maui onions and strawberries? It makes me think of the silly jokes my 6-year-old makes up, “Mom, why did the strawberry go out with the onion? So it could be stinky!” At which point, we are obliged to make a big show of laughing, which isn’t hard for me, because I do think she is quite amusing. But in the interest of food and farming, they say everything that grows together, goes together, and strawberries and Maui onions seem like a laughable match.

Last summer, when Bella and I visited Tanaka Farms for their strawberry tour, we found out just how well the two crops grow together. You see, Maui onions are planted with the strawberry plants to keep critters from eating the sweet fruit. The noxious smell of the onion naturally repels them, in place of using a chemical pesticide. Isn’t that brilliant? As it turns out, there are some very yummy ways to enjoy the two crops together.

Strawberry and Maui Onion Salsa

1 pint strawberries, diced

1 cup diced Maui onion

1 serrano chile, seeds and membranes removed, diced

1/4 cup fresh mint, stems removed, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 lemon, zested and juiced

Kosher salt and black pepper

Combine the strawberries, onions, chile, mint, olive oil, vinegar, lemon zest and juice, and salt and pepper to taste in a medium-sized bowl. Stir and adjust seasoning, if needed. Chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes or up to 24 hours, and serve with grilled fish, chicken or pork.


I mashed up a batch of guacamole with our tender, fragrant bunch of cilantro. It was a flawless clear and warm day with a tickle of a breeze that whispered for margaritas on the deck. California avocados, Roma tomatoes from the farmer’s market, lots of citrus and a crispy bag of tortilla flax chips made the day taste like the best things to come this summer.

Cilantro-ey Guacamole

Serves 4 as an appetizer

4 ripe avocados (slightly yielding to gentle touch at the neck of the avocado)

4 Roma tomatoes, cored, seeded and cut into a small dice

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 bunch cilantro, leaves picked from the stems (discard or repurpose stems), chopped

1-2 lemons, juiced

Kosher salt and pepper

Cut the avocados in half and remove pits. Using a paring knife, cut the avocado flesh while in the skin, scoring into cube shapes. Use a spoon to scoop the flesh from the skin into a medium bowl. Add tomatoes, garlic, cilantro and the juice of one lemon. Stir to combine and soften the avocado chunks, and then taste for acidity. Add additional lemon juice if needed, then season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, or refrigerate with plastic wrap sealing the top of the guacamole to prevent oxidation. I like to keep an avocado pit in until I serve the guacamole, I swear it keeps the guacamole from browning.