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Awake at the Whisk: March 2011

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Tender: A Cookbook Review

What do you get when you combine fresh farm-grown food, a commitment to supporting that food, and women with passion? You get Tender: Farmers, Cooks, Eaters, a newly-published cookbook alive with stories, full-color photos, and thoughtful recipes that express the joys of eating locally. 

Tender: Farmers, Cooks, Eaters by Tamara Murphy

Tender, written by Tamara Murphy with Marlen Boivin, Jody Ericson Dorow, and Nancy Gellos focuses on Seattle-based farmers’ market fare much like its California counter parts: Amelia Saltsman’s The Santa Monica Farmers’ Market Cookbook and Placer County Real Food by Joanne Neft with Laura Kenny—also by women committed to eating locally.

The book expresses the culinary choices of a chef who is truly awake at the whisk. Murphy writes, “I am grateful to be living in a time when I must pay attention… The [food] choices that we make affect our communities and the planet where we play and live. TENDER is the result of my own growing awareness through the years of how I can meet the challenges of making better choices.”

There’s something about a book that comes to life as the result of a dream, and in the case of Tender, a collective dream. The book reads like the author’s personal kitchen notes with glimpses of the people and farmers who make up her community. Food acts as a foothold to bring this community together.

Tender is more than a cookbook. It’s an experience. It’s the kind of book you can curl up in bed with, or as you’re sharing one of its market-inspired recipes with friends, pass it around the dinner table.

One of the produce-based recipes you'll find in Tender: Roasted Farmers' Market Corn with Herbed Chili Butter

The easy font, the earth-toned and life-like color photos, and the texture of the rustic paper all work together to create a mood that forces you to slow down, linger, and learn. The book isn’t divided into chapters. The seasons in the book blend quietly into one another.

The recipes hold true to farm-fresh fare by using practical techniques that take advantage of the full food item purchased. For instance, there are recipes for roasting whole fish, ducks, and chickens.

Meals like Mediterranean Tomato and Bread Salad use multiple ripe fruits and plenty of garden herbs so the market fare commands center stage in each dish. For instance, Chermoula, a North African pesto, calls for four glorious bunches of fresh herbs.

In Tender, vegetables, herbs, and fruit become sauces, soups, and the stars of the show. While farm-raised meats certainly gain necessary attention, Tender celebrates cauliflower, fennel, grapes, and sage. The simple recipes allow busy people to become active participants in using the bounty of our farmers’ markets—and in this case, specifically those in the Seattle region.

Of course, you don’t have to live in Seattle to benefit from this book. Most of the featured foods can be found at the Sacramento farmers’ markets—and likely at a market in your neck of the woods. Since you don’t need a culinary degree to create these unique and delicious meals, this book is a good fit for anyone who wants to use more farm-grown food in their kitchens. 

Tender: Farmers, Cooks, Eaters
By Tamara Murphy with Marlen Boivin, Jody Ericson Dorow, Nancy Gellos
ShinShinChez LLC, 2010, $40.00, 263 pages

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011


St. Patrick's Day Recipes & Kerrygold Prize Winner

A few weeks ago, I presented a challenge: create a vegetarian-inspired Irish recipe using Kerrygold butter or Dubliner cheese to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. The brave rose to the challenge.

The winning recipe (drawn from my husband's baseball hat) improvised on a classic favorite, Shepard's Pie, to create a veggie-filled and delightfully cheesy main dish fit for a Leprechaun king. Congratulations to Ann at Sacatomato for winning a Kerrygold prize package bursting like a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow with Kerrygold butter and cheese!

Cottage Garden Pie oozing with Kerrygold goodness from Sacatomato. Photo taken by Ann.
Find Ann's Cottage Garden Pie recipe at

The runner-up (drawn second from my husband's hat) was Hungry Girl's Cabbage & Apples recipe. She wins bragging rights instead of butter. You can find her recipe, and a link to all the contestants' recipes, here.

Thanks to everyone who participated! I'm especially grateful for having more Irish-inspired vegetarian recipes to eat with my husband. And that's no blarney!

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Sunday, March 6, 2011


Marmalade Popover Recipe

I’m not sure how I made it to the age of 34 without ever eating a popover, but I’m sure glad I’ve corrected this culinary error. Allow me to share this newfound joy with you!

Popovers are made of just a few simple ingredients: eggs, flour, milk, a little melted butter. Simple. They gain rising power solely from the eggs, and come bursting out of their cozy muffin-like tins, reaching for the sky.

Marmalade Popover with Meyer lemon and cardamom marmalade

Within moments of being removed from the oven, they deflate, which will make you sad. But don’t let it get you down. Part of what makes them so luscious is their hollow middle. What they lose in fluff they make up for in flavor! They are light and airy in your mouth. 

I made mine using a muffin tin (I don’t own a popover tin). While a popover pan will make a skinnier, taller version of these breakfast bites, the muffin tin works sufficiently.

I used Marion Cunningham’s recipe from The Breakfast Book—a must-own for anyone who loves breakfast and is tired of the same old recipes. This book is packed with original ideas, and from the success of its popovers, I can only assume that everything in this cookbook is a winner.

This recipe calls for a heaping teaspoon of marmalade placed in the bottom of each muffin mold. I was recently given a jar of tantalizing Meyer lemon and cardamom marmalade from my friend, Elise. Boy, did that boost the excitement of these pastries!

The popovers were airy and chewy with a glistening coat of sweetness, bites of pucker-y citrus rind, and the earthy “pow” of spicy cardamom. When served with a cup of warm chai, this combination made for a warming, happy breakfast on an otherwise rainy morning.

Hello, Popovers! So nice to have met you!

Marmalade Popovers made in a muffin tin
 Marmalade Popovers Recipe

Here’s Cunningham’s recipe with two minor adaptations from me: instead of grinding rolled oats in the food processor, I simply used oat bran. Also, instead of orange marmalade, I used Elise’s Meyer lemon and cardamom version.

In her book, Cunningham stresses the importance of placing these into a cold (i.e., not preheated) oven to start.
Marmalade Popover Recipe
Marmalade Popover Recipe Ingredients
2 eggs
1 cup raw, organic milk (I used skim)
1 Tablespoon butter, melted
1/3 cup oat bran
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup marmalade (I used Meyer lemon & cardamom marmalade)

Grease muffin tins. Drop a heaping teaspoon of marmalade into the bottom of each cup.

Mix the eggs, milk, melted butter, oat bran, flour, and salt in a medium mixing bowl just until blended. Fill each muffin cup half way with the batter. Set the pan inside a cold oven.

Turn the heat to 450 degrees and bake for 15 minutes. Then, reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, or just until golden and round.

Remove from the pans and serve piping hot.

Serves: 12

Other Popover Ideas:
Davis Lebovitz has a donut-inspired popover recipe that I’m excited to try.

My friend Michelle has a savory popover recipe great for making with kids.

My friend Sarah shares her Nana’s recipe for a basic popover. 

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