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Saturday, November 2, 2019

Spanish Travel Tales: Barcelona Once More

Traveling very lightly, I left behind many things I normally bring along.

Dressy clothes.

Laptop. (this is the third time I've written this on my I-phone and its getting shorter and shorter.)

Uncomfortable but pretty, shoes.

Other things are less tangible, but equally cumbersome; the desire to have a perfect day, perfectly fed, perfectly comfortable and efficiently seeing everything that is deemed the best or the perhaps, to use food lingo, the creamiest views.

On the way towards imperfection, here's a few most memorable scenes.

Iberian ham sandwiches at the crowded and televised Catalonian Independence Day Demonstration.

A very naked and Independent Catalonian leaning out the window across from us at the Hostal Campi.
(luckily only my jaw dropped, but still, no photo!)

Boqueria Mercato Tapas Bar Mirrors reflect on huevos and desayuno (breakfast).

Lone shopper leaving the market.

Did past pilgrims prepare for their long journey by coming to Barcelona? Anyone know?

Write With Me: Levain is Like Story

Over the years I have kept and fed bowls of levain from all manner of millet and figs. grapes and fresh cherries..and I am guilty of feeding my levain almond flour and chestnut flour.. until it practically gurgled in protest; Arret!

There have been manuscripts of parallel stories, and just to be really sure that those didn't work, I wrote from both first and third person POV's and a test run over hundreds of pages about looking for an obscure and allegorical place to find this novel, The Way of Psomi.  

You might say, if you are inclined to analyze your life and levain :) that it was a very dante-esque experience.

"In the mid–path of my life, I woke to find myself in a dark wood," writes Dante in The Divine Comedy.

"woke up anxious to feed the levain before setting out
this morning. 
but journeys of any kind ~ 
paths in the mountains, 
through vineyards, 
past unknown villages, 
call to mind similar walks, 
and dartings - 
if dartings can be a noun for a few minutes 
- along the edge of the forest."   

The Levain is like the Story..The Levain is like the Story..
Keep it pure and simple. 

Here is the latest test bread for the Way of Psomi..

Boule of Einkorn, Barley, Spelt, and Garbanzo 

~ please forgive the ounce and standardized measurements. this was baked on a stone in a gas oven.

3 oz liquid levain
2 cups warm water
1 teaspoon yeast
1 cup einkorn flour
1, 1/2 cup spelt flour
1 cup cooked barley
2 teaspoons salt 

knead in:
1 cup garbanzo flour
1 and then 1/2 cup bread flour, if needed

begin this baby a full 24 hours ahead of when you want it. of course this is assuming you already have a levain.

feed and then ladle out your levain in a nice size crockery bowl. add the first list of ingredients in the order given. stir until smooth - with a wooden spoon - and let sit for 4-6 hours. 

later in the afternoon, knead in the cup of garbanzo and bread flour..depending on the weather you might or might not need the remaining 1/2 cup of bread flour. the dough should be still somewhat sticky. let it rest at room temp with a towel over the bowl. then, lay it to rest for the night in the refrigerator

the next morning get it out and have a cup of coffee while you wait for the dough to wake up. after a couple of hours knead it around in the bowl and let it rest again for a good six hours while you make a pit fire outside and burn your tax info from 2007, as well as the entire pile of printed out manuscripts from last year.  the woods welcome the sun going down and the children run in the cul de sac behind where we live. their voices echo back to the days when it was our two sons and the boys of the barkers and the mchales at play. 

that done, turn the oven with the stone already in, on to 400 Fahrenheit. divide the dough in two.  shape into two round boules and let rest for 30 minutes. when the oven has heated for an hour scoop up your boules and carefully place them on the hot stone. 

bake for 40 minutes..i think..or until the crust is golden brown with darker edges, grigne. 

much love, dorette

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Read With Me: The Secret Life of Mrs. London

The Secret Life of Mrs. London by Rebecca Rosenberg

Publication Date: January 30, 2018
Lake Union Publishing
eBook & Paperback; 348 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
San Francisco, 1915. As America teeters on the brink of world war, Charmian and her husband, famed novelist Jack London, wrestle with genius and desire, politics and marital competitiveness. Charmian longs to be viewed as an equal partner who put her own career on hold to support her husband, but Jack doesn’t see it that way…until Charmian is pulled from the audience during a magic show by escape artist Harry Houdini, a man enmeshed in his own complicated marriage. Suddenly, charmed by the attention Houdini pays her and entranced by his sexual magnetism, Charmian’s eyes open to a world of possibilities that could be her escape. As Charmian grapples with her urge to explore the forbidden, Jack’s increasingly reckless behavior threatens her dedication. Now torn between two of history’s most mysterious and charismatic figures, she must find the courage to forge her own path, even as she fears the loss of everything she holds dear.

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

Praise for The Secret Life of Mrs. London

“The Secret Life of Mrs. London is a heart-wrenching portrait of a marriage between two people who utterly depend on one another, but ultimately aren’t enough for each other. With skillful precision of language, Rosenberg weaves a narrative that defines the complexities of love, passion, and art. This is a perceptive, deeply moving novel by a great new talent about a couple who has gone unnoticed in historical fiction until now. Anyone who has ever loved another person will want to read this book.” —Victoria Kelly, author of Mrs. Houdini: A Novel “One of Houdini’s best kept secrets was his affair with Charmian London in 1918. Now Rebecca Rosenberg tells the story using an elegant blend of fact and fiction, creating a Houdini book like no other. The Secret Life of Mrs. London is a true peek behind the curtain and a page-turner.” —John Cox, Wild about Harry

About the Author

A California native, Rebecca Rosenberg lives on a lavender farm with her family in Sonoma, the Valley of the Moon, where Jack London wrote from his Beauty Ranch. Rebecca is a long-time student of Jack London’s works and an avid fan of his daring wife, Charmian London. The Secret Life of Mrs. London is her debut novel. Rebecca and her husband, Gary, own the largest lavender product company in America, selling to 4000 resorts, spas and gift stores. The Rosenbergs believe in giving back to the Sonoma Community, supporting many causes through financial donations and board positions, including Worth Our Weight, an educational culinary program for at-risk children, YWCA shelter for abused women, Luther Burbank Performing Arts Center to provide performances for children, Sonoma Food Bank, Sonoma Boys and Girls Club, and the Valley of the Moon Children's Home. For more information, please visit Rebecca's website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook and Goodreads. Visit the Facebook page for The Secret Life of Mrs. London.

My Review of The Secret Life of Mrs. London

The Secret Life of Mrs. London is a fabulous read and lingered long after I closed the back cover. From the opening scenes of Charmian and Jack sparring in the boxing ring, it keeps me turning the pages. From intriguing political debates, to their writing life, Jack and Charmian London’s friendship with Harry Houdini and his wife, Bess, plus their love triangle is told through a lot of delicious details.

Even though I am a long-time admirer of Jack London’s work, I haven’t read anything before about Jack or his wife, Charmian. And as the title of the novel suggests, the character I am most interested in is Charmian. Her education, spirit, and literary pursuits in the early 1900’s must have seemed daunting. Inspiring. Both Jack and Charmain are big personalities and colorful people full of as much magic as a Houdini act. But this is the heart of their conflicts too.

Charmian’s tale weaves it’s way around and beside Jack’s, and Charmian does achieve success as a writer of her own material. Some of that success she achieves is in the later part of the story, and who better than Charmian to put on the boxing gloves again, so to speak, and fight for the right to write the biography of Jack.

Some of the delicious details are related to food and this is no surprise because Rebecca also is the director of Worth Our Weight, an educational culinary program for at risk children, in California. 

Please visit the C'est si Bon! Cooking School's website for Hawaiian Sweet Potato and Papaya Salad, a recipe reminiscent of the London's time spent in Hawaii.  

Here’s a description of Thanksgiving at Jack and Charmian’s Beauty Ranch.

“Dinner is served, everyone.” I hold my hand out to Bessie. “Follow me.” Nakata opens the heavy wood doors to the dining room, and our guests reel back and gasp. I myself can’t believe the sight. “Oh my goodness, oh my goodness.” Bessie flutter claps. “It’s a fairy tale.” Garlands of colorful leaves festoon the stone walls, lined with French wine barrels. Our long table, hewn from a giant redwood, stretches twenty feet into the far side of the room. Down the middle, beeswax candles in wine bottles illuminate plump, round pumpkins; gnarled gourds; and Indian corn speckled scarlet and gold. Woven palm place mats set with pewter plates and utensils flank the sides of the table, replete with four different wineglasses for Buena Vista sparkling wine, Kunde Gewürztraminer and Cabernet, and our own late-harvest Riesling. Jack says we can never have too many wine glasses.”
I hope you’ll agree that just as you can never have too many wine glasses, you can never have too many good books, and one of those surely is “The Secret Life of Mrs. London.”  

Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, January 30 Review at A Bookaholic Swede

Wednesday, January 31 Interview & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Thursday, February 1 Guest Post at Let Them Read Books Feature at What Is That Book About

Friday, February 2 Review at View from the Birdhouse Feature at Historical Fiction with Spirit

Monday, February 5 Review at Creating Herstory

Tuesday, February 6 Review at Planting Cabbages

Wednesday, February 7 Review at A Bookish Affair

Review at History From a Woman's Perspective

Thursday, February 8 Interview at Planting Cabbages

Friday, February 9 Review at Bookish

Sunday, February 11 Review at Carole's Ramblings

Monday, February 12 Review at Cup of Sensibility

Tuesday, February 13 Review & Giveaway at The Maiden's Court

Wednesday, February 14 Review at Donna's Book Blog

Thursday, February 15 Review at Jorie Loves a Story

Friday, February 16 Guest Post at Short Book and Scribes

Monday, February 19 Review at Reading the Past

Tuesday, February 20 Review at The Lit Bitch

Friday, February 23 Review at Pursuing Stacie

Monday, February 26 Review at Back Porchervations

Tuesday, February 27 Guest Post at My Reading Corner

Wednesday, February 28 Review & Giveaway at Suzy Approved Book Reviews

Thursday, March 1 Review at What Cathy Read Next

Friday, March 2 Review at Svetlana's Reads and Views

Monday, March 5 Review at Caryn, the Book Whisperer

Tuesday, March 6 Review at Bookish Beck

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Walk With Me to Market

Can you walk?
Of course you can!

But why? You've got SO much to do. You don't have time. 

Or do you? 

Come join me! 

Walk To Market in Mezin, France

In the wee hours of the morning I love mimicking our walks on the Camino in Spain or France or Portugal!

With nothing more than a backpack, a headlamp, and some water, often we take Lucy, our golden girl, we set out for an hour or so just to see what we can be.

The feeling is exhilarating.


And frightening.

You've walked away, you're doomed, never coming back, what is new out here? What kind of bird is that?

Ok, you can do this. Just look at this forest! Where are we? Just ahead is a cup of coffee. And a great breakfast. Friends. And then, after the walk, I sit down to write, all full of birds and songs and the trees of these woods.

Would you like to join me? Leave a comment below.

Walk and Grow. In Carrboro. 

You don't need have much experience.

After all, we're just walking. 

What will walking do for you?

What are you walking towards in your life? 

Walks we drive to from C'est si Bon!

The Ice Cream Walk

The Buckhorn Walk

The Carolina Friends Walk

The Hillsborough Walk

Walks we walk to from C'est si Bon!

The Carrboro Market and Pizza Walk

The Elementary School Walk

The Lake Hogan and Winmore Walk

The Wild Walk

Come join me. Leave a comment below!  

Monday, May 1, 2017

Teen-Chef Alumni Series: Meet Taylor, and Get Pink and Arty in London!

In 2010 Taylor joined in whole-heartedly with our Carolina on My Pate program. Among the itinerary events was shrimp and grit-ing, pizza-making, portrait painting, and Anathoth garden cooking. Even then Taylor had a certain style. I would recognize her sweet smile anywhere!!!

Here's where she is now! 

"Since C’est si Bon, I have graduated from Wake Forest in 2016 with a degree in Art History. I currently work at an auction house in Hillsborough. In September, I am moving to London to attend graduate school and get my masters in Art History. After school, I am hoping to be a museum curator specializing in Renaissance and Baroque art. Cooking and baking in particular, are still a huge part of my life. Although not part of my current career aspirations, I love coming home and being able to cook something delicious." 

Taylor, today, on Lefty Living Life

Taylor, broaches the topic of pink! 

Keep up with Taylor's scene by following her blog posts on Lefty Living Life, including a recent and very special trip to Rome to visit an art exhibition featuring an artist who greatly influenced her thesis!  

"I love hot tea, good books, puppies and kittens, chocolate- who am I kidding...sweets in general, and Netflix. I also have an obsession with pink, high heels, and hats."

Lefty started as a creative outlet for me. It has continued to be that, but has also grown to be much more. I think that style and fashion are a reflection of your personality. I have always been interested in fashion, but that doesn't mean it's always easy for me to find something to wear that shows who I am. 

The name comes from the fact that I am left-handed. Most people don't think about being right-handed or left-handed, but I have always identified very strongly as left-handed. It has become an important part of who I am and now it is an important part of this blog. 

I hope you enjoy my adventures as much as I do. XO"

We do Taylor! And looking back at your entry essay, so many ingredients are already in place. Italy, culture, and cheese for one, or er, three! 

Taylor's essay from 2010

The main benefit of cooking in another culture is learning about the culture that you are cooking in. Cooking is a big part of the culture of an area so when you cook in another culture, you are immersing yourself in the culture and learning about that culture. The cooking of a culture reflects that culture and the people who are a part of that culture and by cooking in it; you become a part of that culture. For example, the people in Italy eat lots of pasta and cheese. 

Taylor and Grace, 2010

If you look at these foods as reflecting the culture, then you could say that the pasta represents the warm weather and the warm natures of the people because pasta is warm. You can say that the cheese shows the diversity because there are lots of different people just like there are lots of different cheeses.

Carolina on My Plate Crew 2010
back row, left to right, Jeremy, Noah, Chloe, Ben, Grace, Taylor, Naomi, Jack, Maxwell, and Megan
front row, left to right, Dorette, Aileen, Emily
foreground: Shadow Snover

Another main benefit of cooking in another culture is that not only do you immerse yourself in a different culture; you are also learning how to cook in a different way. Every culture is different which means that every culture has a different way of cooking. When you cook in another culture, you learn how the people of that culture cook. This helps the chef to learn more about a culture and also learn more about cooking in general.

With Grace and Emily at Anathoth Community Garden

The benefits of cooking in another culture are similar to the benefits of going to another country; you learn about how different people live and in this case cook. Through this experience, you also learn more about yourself because you learn about other people and possibly look inside and see something that you wouldn’t have seen before. 

Taylor shows off her work of art at Miel Bon-Bon in Durham!

We can't wait to see where your art journey takes you next....

"I've included this chocolate cupcake recipe which is one of my favorite desserts and has been something I have loved since I was a kid. My mom got the recipe from her college roommate’s mom who would send these to them in college. They are simple and delicious. My favorite part is the chocolate chips inside. They are an unexpected crunch and add the perfect texture to the inside of the cupcakes." 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Teen-Chef Alumni Series: Meet Jeremy and Make Langos, Fried Potato Bread with Garlic and Honey

Ready to Start Your own Taste Adventure?

Take Europe by storm by canoeing water ways and learning how to craft traditional Spanish and French cuisine on this summer adventure. See how to sign up for one of the last remaining spots on our Taste the Adventure for teens trip!

Thanks for joining the continuing series on our Teen-Chef Alumni and discover Where Are They Now? 

I invite you to catch up on NoraElijahMayaJonathan, Cary,  and Grace

As well as learn more about my son, Erick, co-leader and instructor of our very talented Summer Taste Team! 

Please meet another member of the C'est si Bon! Team of whom we are very fond, Jeremy Salamon! 

You can follow him on Instagram @jeremycooks of @fondnyc

Jeremy in 2008

Between 2007 and 2012 in June and July, Jeremy Salamon would fly up from Boca Raton to the cool climate of North Carolina to assist with kid-chef classes. Jeremy was fond of contemplating the day with a cup of coffee sitting at the cherry wood kitchen table in the house at C’est si Bon! He loved watching the birds fly to and from the feeder and likened them to the kid-chefs who would be arriving in less than an hour. And as I write this post on this morning in April, there’s a tweeting and fluttering at the front door. A bright red male and dusty brown female cardinal perch on the straw wreath building a nest. They fly back to the bird feeder at the white oak tree. And just like the parents driving to Brace Lane to drop off their of kids for feeding at the summer classes, so I feel a pang of gratitude not only for the generations of yellow finches, woodpeckers, bluebirds, and simple wrens who have raised their babies around the cooking school in the last 20 years, but for Jeremy, who returned and returned and who I felt honored that C'est si Bon! and this kitchen and garden could nourish him a little, and in the same way as my own two sons, Erick and Jaryd. But like in the best of all life, the tables turn, and so it is that he nourishes me and the continuing work at C'est si Bon! 

Twelve years ago on a Sunday in late June I pulled into the long driveway at Fickle Creek Farm. There were cars already lining the driveway and I saw Jeremy calmly pulling his suitcase. We said hello. I had talked at length with his Momma, Robin, on the phone from Boca Raton about the week and how much Jeremy was looking forward to it. His Poppa, Jeff, smiled when we toured the barn. The teens claimed their spaces and got settled. I saw concern and doubt on Robin’s face all rolled up in a hush puppy moment. I wouldn’t see them again until Friday night and the Gumbo Mumbo Feast when parents returned.

Jeremy wrote this essay as part of the application process. He was twelve at the time.

        “I have loved cooking for as long as I can remember and my dream is to one day become a chef. My mom and Nana are great cooks and have learned a lot from them. I have created dishes with mussels and clams as well as Rack of Lamb among many other dishes. I even baked a 3-layer anniversary cake for my parents made with fondant.

        I enjoy eating at fine restaurants and trying new dishes. Each time I eat out I imagine one day owning my own restaurant and creating my own dishes.

        I have taken classes at the Florida Culinary Institute and Rivets Gastronomic cooking school and camp. My hope is to attend West Boca High School, which is a magnet school for students with culinary interest.

        My grandparents have a summer home in Banner Elk, N.C. and I have been visiting them almost every summer. I like the mountains and the cooler temperatures. I look forward to staying on a farm as it will be a great experience. I hope to learn new things about the whole culinary process. Not just cooking but how to get fresh ingredients, how to buy and maybe how to have my own business.

Thank you for this opportunity.”

And Jeremy has realized his dream of becoming a chef, and is now pursuing another dream with fond, his very special series of pop-up dinners in NYC in April and May. Dinners with compelling & revisioned food of his Hungarian ancestry.

That year, 2007, at Carolina On My Plate when we returned to Fickle Creek, sometimes there was a stray chicken on the second floor of the barn. We giggled at owls and ghost stories as the stars came out. The temps were unheard of cool for that time of year. Our alarm clock was the pink sherbet light streaking across the sky and the sound of the feeder banging open and closed as the pigs went about getting breakfast.

Jeremy was good company during all of the weeks adventures, and became curiouser and curiouser. At the end of our program he stood up at the Gumbo Mumbo Feast, and thanked me for braving the same conditions they did. I was like, what? Who’s kidding who? I felt incredibly lucky and grateful to have witnessed all the movements and changes of the week. How we had all grown from being nervous and scared to being at home with each other, and cooked up a week of amazing memories and mousse. And without air conditioning.

During the years Jeremy was at C'est si Bon!, I got to see him transform. Like a recipe or a dish that was shared, he worked with a synchronicity to feed our turkey poults, turkey and lurkey, and also to glaze the gargantuan turkey legs from Cliff’s meat market for the welcoming dinner and the food styling workshop the first night of Carolina On My Plate, now transformed into Taste the Adventure in North Carolina.

Since 2012 Jeremy has attended the CIA and worked in NYC restaurants such as Prune, Loconda Verde, Buvette, and most recently was Executive Sous at the Eddy in the East Village.

During the years before he graduated high school he competed for Junior Chef with the ACF in Atlanta. He interviewed Giada and Jamie for his blog. Then the day of his graduation flew out to Arkansas to be a guest teen chef on the Great Food Truck race with Tyler.

Jeremy is still Hungary. Hungary for change.

A few weeks ago he called me one morning from Paris burbling about his very much long awaited visit to his homeland, Hungary, where he foraged with family, explored his heritage cuisine and ate a wealth of salami and pickles, and discovered that the essence of Hungarian cuisine comes from the very challenges it has endured; war and poverty and is on the verge of some very cool explosions that may not be entirely goulash. But they are based on his love of simplicity and vegetables.

“If my family came to this dinner they might not recognize the dishes. I’m trying to follow what the younger generation of Hungarians are doing.”

And so was born his latest project, fond, but which has been in the works for some time.  Probably centuries! Jeremy is recrafting his family legacy into dishes utilizing NY’s bounty of spring produce. You can learn more by visiting his website, fond. He is working with Chef Daniel Storck to launch these dinners. 

“Announcing our first Pop-Up date: Monday, April 24th 2017 – at Brooklyn dessert bar, Butter & Scotch will be our home for the evening. Join us for New Hungarian fare, plus inspired desserts and cocktails courtesy of @drunkbakers . Further details will be posted as we get closer. Stay tuned. Artwork by the wickedly talented Emma Louthan.

The charming West Village bistro, Wall Flower NYC, will be our home for the evening of Tuesday, May 9th 2017. Expect new Hungarian fare including wild mushroom goulash & rose sugared Lángos! Tickets and full menu to be announced. This tasteful garden is brought to you by Emma Louthan 

Mark your calendars! Our trilogy of dinners ends with a feast - Saturday, May 20th 2017: We'll be offering up a ticketed prix fixe menu in this intimate and rustic East Williamsburg spot @fitzbk . Athena Bochanis of @palinkerie wines will also be joining us for a unique Hungarian wine paired option. Further details to be announced! Plus check out our newly refurbished site by the brilliant Emma Louthan.”

Just in! Kerry Drew interviewed Jeremy for the next installment of #TheDish on @fox5ny!
If you are in NY you do not want to miss this!! Visit fond soon for the menus! You can follow him on Instagram @jeremycooks of @fondnyc

But if you do, you can visit Jeremy when he returns to teach kid-chefs this summer at C'est si Bon! We are thrilled to have him return, and to again spend a quiet moment at the cherry kitchen table.  

Jeremys Langos, Fried Potato Bread with Garlic and Honey

 (yield 20 small fritters)


-  490 grams Yukon - Gold Potato, peeled / cubed
-  1 Tablespoon instant yeast
-   2 teaspoon sugar
-   1 cup warm milk
-   3 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
-   1.5 teaspoon salt
-   2 cups 00 flour
-   1 quart canola oil, for frying
-   Salt, for seasoning


Submerge the potato in a small pot of cold water. Bring to a boil and cook until potato is fork tender (about 10 minutes). Drain the water and while still hot puree ( or mash ) the potato until smooth. Let cool.

In the meantime, stir the yeast and sugar into the warmed milk. Let the yeast bubble and foam. Preferably in a food processor (or by hand), stream the milk mixture, olive oil, and salt into the cooled potato. Pulse the flour in 1 cup at a time until the mixture has formed a semi-sticky ball. Let rest in a large oiled bowl in a warm area of the kitchen (about 1-2 hours).

In a medium heavy bottomed pot, begin to heat the oil until it registers 350F on a candy/oil thermometer.

By now the dough will be big and fluffy. Punch it down and with oiled hands scoop out on to a floured surface. Knead the dough ever so gently until it comes together once more. To form the Langos, pinch a tablespoon sized ball from the dough. Working from the center pinch with your finger tips to the edges. You want a thin tiny saucer (there’s no right or wrong here).

Working in batches, carefully fry each piece until golden brown. 1-2 minutes per side. Drain on a  paper bag or towel and immediately  season with salt. 

Langos is typically brushed with garlic oil and topped with grated cheese. Be creative! Try tossing in flavored sugar and serving alongside jam!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Teen-Chef Alumni Series: Meet Grace and make Tortellini di Ricotta e Spinachi!

Ready to Start Your own Taste Adventure?

Click here to learn more about Teens in Europe this summer!
Thanks for joining the continuing series on our Teen-Chef Alumni and discover Where Are They Now? 

I invite you to catch up on Nora, Elijah, Maya, Jonathan, and Cary

As well as learn more about Erick, co-leader and instructor of our very talented Summer Taste Team! 

Grace takes her joy of cooking with her wherever she goes! 

"At its root, cooking is a joyous act of love and service that is incredibly rewarding--especially when shared with others. It is also a bit of everything: a way to commemorate past traditions and a way to explore the world, a science and an art, ancient and modern, and commonplace yet extraordinary."

Grace Lutfy in DC

I am excited to share Grace's story with you!

Grace Lutfy was the first teen to arrive at RDU airport for Carolina on My Plate that summer. Her curiosity led her from Michigan to search out this experience, and as she went through the week, she gained comfort in a new kitchen, and all the kitchens we worked in. Whether at Fickle Creek Farm, Anathoth Community Gardens, the Carrboro Farmer's Market, Sunshine Lavender Farms or at C'est si Bon! 

But the kitchen was a place that Grace already loved, and where she had a strong family food and cooking connection that stretches over the Mediterranean.  And still does. 

This was her essay:

"I think the life benefits of knowing how to cook are… numerous. Knowing how to cook is a valuable skill that many people are taking for granted lately. It is a rarity now, with all of the new fast food chains springing up along with the overextension of people trying to do too many things at once. Food and the meal have lost their importance in modern-day society, so learning how to be a good cook would empower me and strengthen me because I could be set apart from the rest of society and be able to raise myself on my own, without depending on restaurants and other people to feed me.

Another benefit that learning how to cook has to offer is that if I was to learn how to cook well, I could teach others and those others could teach more people, and so on. It is a tool that allows people to be creative, have fun, enjoy themselves, and learn new things about the world around them. It can familiarize people with different cultures around the world and bring people together. It can change people’s lifestyles and encourage others to try new things and go outside of their comfort zone.
I love food and all of the variety it has to offer. Once these benefits are put to use, I’ll feel stronger and more independent. The life benefits of learning how to cook are too numerous to count, and I would love to learn how to cook to better the lives of myself and others around me."

And so where is Grace today? Here's where!

I graduated from the University of Michigan last year and received a BA in Public Policy with a focus in international security—or international relations and national security issues. Through my program, I was able to study multiple languages, various regions around the world, the challenges we face, and ways to solve them. I was even able to travel to Greece and take a course about the Anthropology of Food and the Mediterranean Diet. Now, I am in Washington, DC, looking for work in my field and keeping my passions for cooking and food alive. Luckily, it isn’t hard when there is so much to learn, new recipes and techniques to try, and amazing restaurants in the area for exploring new flavors!

I aspire to better understand the world’s history, people, cultures, and movements. My experiences and studies have allowed me to learn so much about these things and more easily connect with any person I meet. Aside from all of this, they have also led me to learn more about myself, my family, my culture, and my history as a Chaldean, Lebanese, and Syrian Detroiter. On an everyday basis, I would say meaningful interactions give me a sense of satisfaction—whether it is helping someone, meeting someone new, talking to an old friend, keeping up with family, cooking for and with others, or sharing a meal. No matter where the future takes me, I know I will have my love for cooking and food. I always have, and I always will.

Grace was recently in Sicily with her mom and sister, who lives there, and they took a pasta-making class at a local pasta shop.

Grace and her sister, Katrina, in Sicily,
cracking a few eggs in the name of pasta!

Grace contributing to the ricotta and spinach filling for the tortellini! 

Grace's sister, Katrina. 

Katrina and Grace's mom, Michelle, with Guiseppe and Andree. 

Katrina, Grace and Michelle, with their Italian instructors, Guiseppe and Andree, holding "certificates" after completing the class.

Grace says, "Class was very tasty and very fun!" 

Merci, Grace for spending time with us again. We can't wait to see where you are headed, but where you are is a delicious place. 

Now who will be next? Join us for the next post on our Teen-Chef Alumni. 

tortellini di ricotta e spinachi ~ tortellini with ricotta and spinach served with a cremini mushroom sauce

this tortellini is from the C’est si Bon! recipe vaults of 2003, when we made a lot of pasta dishes in the school. Long before the whole no carb low carb no gluten craze.

pasta is still very satisfying. but if you are on a no gluten diet, you might try making little bundles with collards or swiss chard. 

4 shallots, finely chopped
1 large handful fresh spinach, shredded
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ tsp. dried or 1 tsp. fresh oregano and thyme, chopped fine
1/2 pound whole or part-skim ricotta
1 t. pine nuts, chopped
3 tablespoon fresh grated parmesan cheese

sauté the shallots, garlic and spinach in the olive oil, add in the ricotta, the chopped pine nuts, and the parmesan.

store in the refrigerator until ready to roll. 
3-4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
4 eggs
1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoon each olive oil and butter
1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh garlic, minced
½ bulb of fennel, coarsely chopped
3 cups fresh mushrooms, your choice, coarsely chopped
1-2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup each fresh parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme, chopped
½ cup red wine or ¼ cup red wine or balsamic vinegar
1 –2 cups chicken or veg stock

in a heavy pot heat the oil over medium heat. add the onions, then the garlic, the fennel, and the herbs. sauté these, stirring and tossing, for 7-8 minutes, or until softened. remove to a bowl and reserve. add the butter to the pan, and saute the mushrooms. add the flour and stir till incorporated, then deglaze with the wine or vinegar, scaring up any browned bits of vegetables. add the reserved garlic mixture and the stock and bring to a boil. taste ad season with salt and pepper. simmer for 30 minutes. 

making pasta:
to make the pasta without the aid of a food processor, mound the flour on a smooth work surface.  make a well in the center of the flour and break the eggs into it.  (remove the shells, please!)  add a generous pinch of the salt and the olive oil.  with one hand gradually incorporate the flour from around the edge of the well into the eggs, stirring with your fingers to form a doughy batter.  use the other hand to support the edge of the flour well and prevent the eggs from flowing out.  continue incorporating the flour until the batter feels fairly stiff but still pliable.  if it still feels too soft, work in a bit more flour, until the needed consistency is reached. i truly believe its easier to make pasta this way because you can control the amount of flour and get a better consistency.

rolling pasta:
divide the dough into fist-size portions.  when you're ready to roll, flatten this portion slightly, and fully open the rollers.  flour the flattened dough and pass it between the rollers.  fold the rolled sheet into thirds and turn it 90 degrees before passing it through again.  repeat the folding, flouring, and rolling process four or five times, until the dough is smooth.  reduce the setting by one notch and pass the dough through again. continue taking the machine down a notch until the pasta sheet is thin enough to see your hand through when held up to the light.  now you're ready to get the tortellini in shape.

shaping tortellini:

use a 3" inch biscuit cutter or a well-floured rim of an upside down glass to stamp out circles from the sheet of dough.  in the center of the circles, place a teaspoon of the filling. using a small pastry brush or your fingers, moisten the edge with water. fold the circle of dough in half and press the edges to seal them and form a half moon shape.  you can stop here, or go on to make tortellini.  grasp each half moon, fold up the lower sealed edge to form a cuff, and pinch these curled ends together at the same time to make the familiar tortellini shape. set these aside on a lightly floured surface or sheet pan to dry a little before cooking, maybe half an hour.  usually this is no problem, as you roll more, the first ones dry as you become knee deep in tortellini, then as you begin to cook them, the last ones have a chance to dry.

cooking tortellini:
bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the stuffed pasta, and cook al dente, about five minutes.  drain and serve with your chosen sauce.  

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