Hone your knife skills with Calphalon’s new SharpIN collection (recipe)

Anyone who has seen the film “Julie & Julia” can recall the scene above.  Meryl Streep as our beloved Julia Child enrolls in classes at Le Cordon Bleu and learns on her first day exactly how important knife skills are if you want to become a chef.

You must hold the knife,
first of all, like this.
Wrist, easy. Leave the thumb here.
The hand and the knife are one.
And the hand, the other hand,
you must protect it.
Here, you must cut only the onion. Yes?  
And then, you put your thumb here
and the other fingers here.

Practice most certainly makes perfect when it comes to knowing how to slice, dice and mince with ease but the key to success is a set of sharp knives.  Yes, I know, it sounds dangerous but a finely honed blade can actually safeguard you from needing stitches.  A dull knife can’t slice a tomato but press hard enough and it could slip and mean an afternoon in the emergency room.

A while back, I collaborated with Calphalon to road test pans from their Calphalon/Williams Sonoma Elite Nonstick line.  I was pretty excited when they contacted me again to test drive one of their new knife sets.  The block has a great feature for the every day kitchen warrior:  SharpIN™ ceramic sharpeners built right into all straight-edge knife slots. Whenever a blade is removed or replaced, it’s primed for use so there’s no need for that separate, how-do-I-use-this-again? sharpener.  Wash and dry them by hand and you’ve got yourself a great set that will last a long time and let you focus on learning.

Calphalon Knifes
The 8-inch Chef’s knife (top two) cuts like a dream.  It has a nice weight and feels good in the hand.  I sliced some portabella mushrooms for a dish but this knife went right along with me for the rest of my afternoon of recipe testing, from cutting tofu blocks to breaking down a chicken.  The two gems in this set are the 5-inch Santoku (bottom left) and the 4.5-inch Parer (bottom right).  I fell in love with these two little work horse knives when I used to kitchen assist for a cookbook author.  Besides the chef’s knife, this duo are most useful.  There’s also a set of kitchen shears, which I learned were an invaluable tool in the tiny kitchen drawer I had when I lived in Japan.

Zucchini Noodles

Test your knife skills with this dish.  If you have the Calphalon SharpIN™ set, you’ll need the santoku and pairing knives.

Flat Noodles with Zucchini, Garlic and Chili Pepper

1 package wide egg noodles
2 medium zucchini
1/4 cup olive oil
1 red chili pepper, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, rough chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp flat leaf parsley, rough chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Cook the pasta in a large saucepan, according to package instructions.  Save a few tablespoons of the pasta water when draining.  Set noodles and water aside.
  2. Wash zucchinis and pat dry.  Carefully pare the green skin into long strips.  Once finished, arrange pieces and slice into thinner strips.  Save the fruit itself for a nice summertime soup or bread.
  3. Heat the oil in a skillet on medium-high to cook chili and garlic until fragrant.  Add zucchini and cook, stirring gently, until soft and golden.
  4. Stir pasta, pasta water and zucchini mixture together.  Add parsley last then season with salt and pepper plus a hearty sprinkle of cheese.  Serves up to four.

Sarah Platanitis grew up a “restaurant kid” and spent most of her childhood pretending to be Julia Child. Her blog sarahinthekitchen.com is a place for kitchen musings and her food writing, photography and illustrations.

The Art of Cheese – Castello Aged Havarti Lasagna and Broccoli Raab

This month’s Good Eats is all about Castello Aged Havarti cheese.  Part of Honest Cooking’s latest campaign, The Art of Cheese, you’ll learn about how to make a delicious dish with it.

HC Havarti Lasagna

This comfort food dish is perfectly sized for two hungry people. A “petite” arrabbiata lasagna, this recipe calls for a glass loaf pan and the ingredients that can be made ahead to help out busy schedules.

It starts with a simple tomato basil sauce, seasoned to taste with garlic, onion, and red and black pepper.  The lean chicken sausage has a spicy kick that’s cooled by the creamy, buttery Castello aged Havarti cheese.  You wouldn’t know it but it’s a spot-on substitution for the typical mozzarella/ricotta mix.

I served this dish with a side of steamed broccoli raab.  It adds a touch of bitterness to balance the sweet and the healthy greens make you want to reach for that second helping.  It’s truly delicious!


1 block of Castello aged Havarti cheese, grated
1 bunch of broccoli raab
5 links Buffalo style chicken sausage, medium heat
1 tablespoons olive oil
28 ounce can crushed tomato with basil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
1 tablespoon dried basil

HC Havarti Ingredients


Prepare broccoli raab by cutting off the dry ends of the stems and pulling off any yellowing leaves. Cut just below the flower heads and stems into 2” pieces. Bring water to a boil in a small saucepot cook until the green pops, about 3-5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Bring water to a boil in a medium-sized pot. Add sausages and cook for 8-10 minutes. Drain and cool sausages for 5 minutes before carefully using a knife to score the link and peel away the casing. Crumble the meat with a wooden spoon and set aside. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and brown sausage until browned, about 6-8 minutes. Add crushed tomato with basil, mix well and simmer for 10-12 minutes. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 1-1/4 glass loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray or olive oil. To create lasagna layers, pour a little sauce and spread evenly. Top with three sheets of oven-ready lasagna then pour one ladle’s worth (1 cup) of sauce and one handful (1 cup) of grated Castello aged Havarti cheese. Repeat for three more layers, or until reaching the top of the glass pan. For the final layer, be sure to cover pasta with remaining sauce and cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Once baked, remove foil and bake an additional five minutes to brown the cheese. Let rest for 15 minutes before cutting.

Sponsored Post – Honest Cooking and Castello Aged Havarti campaign.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Good Eats: Delicious Dishes with Rioja Wine

This month’s Good Eats is all about wine from the Rioja region of Spain. Part of Honest Cooking’s latest campaign, A Match Made in Heaven, presented by Rioja Wines, you’ll learn about why this wine is so special and how to make two delicious dishes to serve with it.

HC Rioja (55) Wine

Rioja is a picturesque region in northern Spain and home to some of the most food-friendly wines in the world. It’s also the next-door neighbor to Castilla and León, the region where I lived for a while in my early 20s.

My two favorite things to do with friends were travel the countryside and eat. I still dream about the foods that we found and it has become a habit to pick-up a Rioja wine for everyday pours and special occasions because it pairs well with a wide array of culinary styles outside the Iberian peninsula.

Rioja wines are made with tempranillo grapes, a black grape that ripens early and known as the king of grapes.  They give notes of plum, tobacco, leather and vanilla.  The alcohol and acidity are deftly balanced and I’ve even seen sorbet made with sweeter Garnacha grape blends.

Riojas can be found in traditional ruby red, as a white (blanco) and a rose (rosado). Winemakers don’t rush their wines to market but rather release them from their cellars ready to drink. This means a perfect wine every time. Most bottles are priced around $15 and a fine vintage runs $30 or less.

In the dusty city of Salamanca, a place with ancient architecture that I once called home, tapas are called “pinchos” because of the toothpicks that pierce the savory snacks. The place we used to visit often would first serve us tiny bowls of piping hot potato stew, the abuelita’s healthier riff on patatas bravas, or fried potatoes, then we’d order up a big plate of lamb “lollipops” with whole fried garlic cloves and a Rioja red.  Trust me, there’s no better way to sip away spend an evening.

Rioja Meal

Lamb cutlets with fried garlic
8-10 lamb chops
½ cup olive oil
20 cloves of garlic, peeled and whole
Salt and pepper (have shakers at the ready!)

Instructions: Rinse and clean lamb. Pat dry. Season heartily with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil and fry cloves of garlic until golden. Transfer to a container and keep hot. Fry cutlets on both sides in oil, about 2 minutes a side.  Serve hot with garlic cloves.

Potato stew
¼ cup olive oil
1 onion, peeled and sliced
1 green pepper, seeded and diced
1 lb. potato, peeled and diced
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
2 red bell peppers, dried
1 bay leaf
½ cup white wine, dry
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

Instructions: Heat olive oil and saute onions and green pepper until brown. Add diced potatoes, garlic, red bell pepper and bay leaf. Add white wine and top with enough water to cover veggies. Season with spices. Bring to a boil, cover then simmer for 25 minutes or until tender. Remove red bell pepper and bay. Mince red bell pepper and set aside. Adjust stew seasoning with salt and cayenne. Serve hot and top with a dollop of red bell pepper.

Stay connected to your favorite wine region by joining the Rioja Wine mailing list. It’s fast and simple! Just click on the banner above and fill out the form. You’ll automatically be entered for a chance to win a festive wine dinner. Good luck! #riojabuzz

Sponsored Post – Honest Cooking and Rioja wines campaign.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

On The Road: Seattle Eats

It’d be no surprise to say we ate our way through Seattle and its suburbs.  Below are some of the nosh and noms we found that made our tumblies a lot less rumbly.

Nosh Noms Seattle

What’s What:  (left to right)
Healthy veggie and baked tofu snack with pineapple tamarind to share at Kigo Kitchen.  Catching up on work emails with a cafe au lait at the philanthropic Street Bean Espresso.  Spam onigiri (before being devoured) at the 39th Seattle Cherry Blossom & Japanese Cultural Festival.  Perhaps the cutest beer can I’ve ever seen?  Gluten-free pizza and Caesar salad at The Pike Brewing Company.

A hearty plate of rice, beans and carne asada tacos at Blue Water Taco Grill our first rainy night there.  Remember the lime crisis?  Here’s a sign if you don’t.  Powering up smart phones and a break for DIY frozen yogurt treats at Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt.  Pickle parade at Moshi Moshi Sushi’s Happy Hour.  Rosy taking a photo of her red velvet cheesecake pop from The Confectional.

Pal Lisa Jane Persky and our somewhat perplexing New American Thali-style dinners at Poppy.  Japanese mochi, chestnut and red bean gluten-friendly sweets from Umai-Do.  Hello, smashed garlic potato and scramble breakfast! at Lola.  A Pixies-inspired Surfer Rosa, made by the most handsome, plaid-shirted bartender at Tavern Law.  The modern table setting at Poppy.  Sunomono and yakitori teriyaki from Moshi Moshi Sushi.

Know where you are in Seattle but not sure what to eat?  Check out this nifty neighborhood list:

Lola – 2000 4th Ave, Seattle, WA 98121
Street Bean Espresso – 2702 3rd Ave, Seattle, WA 98121

Moshi Moshi Sushi – 5324 Ballard Ave NW, Seattle, WA 98107

Capitol Hill
The Confectional – 618 Broadway E, Seattle, WA 98102
Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt – 507 Broadway E, Seattle, WA 98102
Poppy – 622 Broadway E, Seattle, WA 98102
Tavern Law – 1406 12th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122

Umai-Do Japanese Sweets – 1825 S Jackson St #100, Seattle, WA 98144

Pike Brewing Company – 1415 1st Ave, Seattle, WA 98101

Lower Queen Anne
Blue Water Taco Grill – 515 Queen Anne Ave N, Seattle, WA 98119

South Lake Union
Kigo Kitchen – 210 Westlake Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109

On The Road: Pike Place Market

A Thursday with sideways rain meant only one thing: a trek to photograph Pike Place Market.

Pike Place Collage

What’s What:  (left to right)
The often under-photographed second sign of Pike Place Market.  Buskers.  Tulips and the length of the middle market with fabulous neon overhead signs.  Wondering if that fish is really dead?  Taking a picture of some guy taking a picture of the original Starbucks sign.  Pike Place Fish Company, yet too shy to catch a fish with them.  The cranky lady from the Oriental Mart in the heart of the Market that Andrew Zimmern met one day to have salmon collar soup.

Seattle Rainy Feet

In The Kitchen: Women and Food Project Summer Update


I have been working on the Women & Food Project as many of you, my dear readers, know.  The website is looking pretty stellar, just in time to welcome three new participants (left to right):

Alison Ladman, owner of Crust & Crumb Bakery in Concord, NH, and manager of the AP Test Kitchen.
Mary Lou Heiss, co-owner of Tea Trekker in Northampton, MA.
Jamie Paxton, sous-chef at CrossRoads Food Shop in Hillsdale, NY.

Visit womenandfoodproject.com to see photographs of all the participants, watch selected “mini docs” and read handwritten memories.

Good Eats: Chocolate Hibiscus Ice Cream

Last month’s Spicy Peanut ice cream was such a big hit that I decided to come up with yet another interesting flavor:  Chocolate Hibiscus.

Choco Hibiscus Ice Cream

My recipe uses Wild Hibiscus Flower Company’s Heart-Tee and their Flowers in Syrup.  I made a candied ginger-almond topping to make it even more yummy.  I recommend eating it with good friends from the cutest bowls you can find.  I found my darling one at Kobo Shop & Gallery in Seattle.

Chocolate Hibiscus Ice Cream with Candied Ginger-Almond Topping

 Ice Cream Ingredients:

4 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup of whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup cocoa powder
4 hibiscus tea bags, such as Wild Hibiscus Flower Company’s Heart-Tee
4 diced hibiscus flowers, such as Wild Hibiscus Flower Company’s Flowers in Syrup

Ice Cream Instructions:

  1. Whisk together eggs and sugar in a tempered-glass container then set aside.
  2. Bring milk, cocoa and tea bags (tied together with tags cut off) to a simmer over medium heat, or until edges start to bubble. Remove tea bags and set aside to use again later.
  3. Very slowly add milk and eggs, whisking constantly.  Pour the mixture and tea bags back into the saucepan and heat over low, stirring constantly for 8-10 minutes.  Use a thermometer to check your temperature, which should be between 165-180 degrees.  As the mixture thickens, it will coat your whisk.
  4. Please note: If at any time your milk or mixture boils and burns, pitch it and start over.  Some people say you can save it with an immersion blender and hope but it never tastes right. Also, the tea bags may break apart. If so, you may strain them out OR embrace the hibiscus nubbies because they are tasty.
  5. When your timer buzzes, pour the custard mix into a deep-sided, freezer-safe container with a cover (fits perfectly into a 1-1/2 quart ceramic baking oval) and chill completely for a few hours in your fridge. Once your custard mix is cool, whisk in 1 cup heavy cream and the diced hibiscus flower. If you have an ice cream maker, this is when you would pour and freeze according to manufacturer instructions.
  6. If you don’t, roll up your sleeves because we’ve got some work to do! For the next five hours, your job is to stir the mix every 45 minutes.  Sure, it sounds like some bicep-building craziness but it makes for a really nice soft texture. If you’re lazy and don’t want to stir, leave it overnight. You’ll have a dense block but the custard-based ice cream won’t turn icy like a cream-based recipe would.

Candied Topping Ingredients:
1/2 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup chopped almonds
1/4 cup fine diced ginger

Candied Topping Instructions:

  1. Measure out ¼ cup almonds and chop them into thirds. Peel 1-1/2” ginger then julienne and fine dice. Set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, bring water and sugar combo to a boil over high heat. Stir constantly until sugar dissolves. Add almonds and ginger, reduce to medium and stir constantly until sugar crystallizes, about 5 minutes or when the mix becomes difficult to stir.
  3. Continue to stir and watch carefully as sugar will re-melt and turn golden brown. Pour mix onto pre-prepped cookie sheet covered with foil and sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Use a fork to separate the mix while sugar is soft. Let mix set at room temperature and break apart for topping once cooled.

Good Eats: Black Rice Brussels Sprout Quiche

Brussels Sprout Quiche Black Rice

I’ve been obsessed with Brussels sprouts lately! This week at Costco I discovered black rice and a giant wedge of Jarlsberg, my favorite cheese. Wondering what I could make with the pair, I decided to incorporate my vegetable crush to make a gluten-free and vegetarian-friendly Brussels sprout quiche with black rice crust.

A word or two about black rice:  It’s just as healthy as brown rice but packs a serious anthocyanin antioxidant punch.  Some folks call it “purple rice” and it was known as “forbidden rice” in ancient China since only royals could eat it. Black rice can be tricky to cook but you can still use a rice cooker if you don’t mind a little purple mess.  Be prepared for the inevitable skeptical look when the amazing cook that you are presents a dish that looks a little “over done”.  Rest assured, black rice takes heat well, doesn’t burn and has a nice nutty crunch.  You can also sub it in place of brown or white rice and is perfect for dessert recipes, like rice pudding, because it is naturally sweet and starchy.

The quiche recipe below is very easy to make, especially if you have a food processor with blades that can slice and shred. Give it a try on a busy weeknight!

Brussels Sprout Quiche with Black Rice Crust

2 cups black rice
1 egg white
8 oz. Brussels sprouts (about 10 sprouts)
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp olive oil
3 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
6 oz. grated cheese, such as Jarlsberg Semi Soft Part-Skim Cheese
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 1/2 tablespoons dried basil
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Brussel Sprout Quiche Ingredients

Rice crust: Cook black rice according to directions on package. Cool completely. Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix egg white and black rice by hand. It helps to have wet hands so the rice mixture won’t stick. Press rice mixture into 9-inch pie pan prepped with non-stick cooking spray. Bake for 10 minutes.

Quiche base: Use food processor to thin slice Brussels sprouts. Quick steam with 2 tablespoons of water then add 1 tablespoon of olive oil for a quick sauté. Set aside in medium bowl. Use food processor to grate cheese. Add eggs, milk, herbs and salt then blend for 30 seconds.   Pour mixture over Brussels sprouts and combine well.

Bake quiche at 350°F for 35-40 minutes or until top is golden brown.  Makes 8 hearty servings.

On The Road: Lola & Dahlia Bakery

We began our first full day in Seattle with a hearty breakfast at Tom Douglas’ Lola.  Our first stop was Dahlia Bakery across the street to buy some of that blueberry jam that completely rocked our world.  They typically don’t sell this but, if you ask nicely, they just might!

Lola Dahlia Collage

What’s What:  (left to right)
Lola’s fun menu, a view from our booth and my asparagus scramble with feta and dill and those killer smashed garlic fried potatoes.  Douglas’ Dahlia Bakery cookbook is proudly on display in the teeny space, that yummy blueberry jam, a peek at lemon cake tarts and flourless hazelnut choco pies and our very favorite shop boy.