fluffy ricotta pancakes

by Stephanie Salvatore

Amidst the dawn of a refreshing, mild March, a much-needed rain blankets the great state of California.  Low, grey skies looming, high surf whisking the shoreline, and dewy canyon roads lend itself to enjoying the comforts of home for the weekend. So, in lieu of venturing out to farmers markets, I purge the pantry and take to my arsenal of comfort-food cookbooks, in search of rainy-day recipes to draw upon over the coming days.

A brief break in the rain supplies the resident hummingbird with a small window to lap some nectar.

A brief break in the rain supplies the resident hummingbird with a small window to lap some nectar.

The Mast Brothers, as many may know by now, are master chocolatiers who sail the high seas to direct source their cacao beans.  The homegrown Iowans are now Brooklyn-based artisans, where they craft bean-to-bar chocolate so bold & bitter, that the revered Thomas Keller uses their chocolate in his Michelin-starred restaurants French Laundry & Per Se. Grabbing Keller’s attention has only one explanation: it’s that good.

Recently, the brothers authored a magnificent cookbook: Mast Brothers Chocolate: A Family Cookbook. It is hard to decide what is most compelling: the incredible story of Rick + Michael Mast journey to purveying chocolate, the dark + gorgeous photography of Tuukka Koski, or the exquisite recipes by Vesa Parviainen.

After getting lost in the book for a short while, I finally decided on the Ricotta & Dark Chocolate Pancakes. The only change I made was substituting standard flour with Thomas Keller’s Gluten Free Flour, Cup-4-Cup. The result produced wonderfully fluffy pancakes with a delicate sweetness.


Off to temper some chocolate. For more sweet & savory recipes incorporating artisanal chocolate, check out the Mast Brothers' book on Amazon.com.



white bean purée

by Stephanie Salvatore

Growing up in the Midwest, a “spread” traditionally meant some type of soft, processed cheese typically served atop a Ritz® cracker, and “dip” was a concoction of full fat sour cream fortified with onion powder. Folks, times have changed. Decades later, amongst a burgeoning food revolution, a world of antipastos & the tapestries of tapas, we are re-defining the aging nomenclature for the prevailing palate. The term “spread” now parents an array of canapés: liver pâté, horseradish hummus, bacon butters, honey ricottas, pistachio pestos.  Thousands of recipes now proliferate the web. I highly recommend visiting Food52.com for a treasure trove of innovative recipes hatched by a gifted community of chefs + aficionados. As it goes, spreads & dips have seen a new dawn.

Today, I brew a batch of a newer household favorite: White Bean Purée. A beautiful union of roasted garlic, turnips, and cannellini beans, threaded together with olive oil, handsomely seasoned with salt and pepper, this spread is charming by itself; or blanketing a warmed baguette, drizzled with olive oil, and topped with heirloom tomatoes + slab bacon.

If you live in Southern California, I highly recommend swinging by Huckleberry Café and picking up a pint of the white bean purée. Otherwise, if you prefer to make your own, as I do, you will find a great version of this in Paltrow & Turshen’s latest book of cookery: It’s All Good. Six ingredients plus S+P.



almond milk

by Stephanie Salvatore

Almonds have become a staple ingredient to many insiders among the health-food revolution. Donned a "whole food",  a mere handful of these delicate nuts are equipped with a range of health benefits: fiber-filled + protein-packed; zero saturated fat yet high in unsaturated fat; and strong in a host of anti-oxidants, vitamins + minerals like Omega-3, Vitamin E, Copper, and Magnesium. Regular consumption of almonds may reduce the risk of colon cancer, coronary heart disease, and osteoporosis; lower bad cholesterol, aid in weight loss, and alkalize our bodies. Thus, we continue to see this precious nut introduced into the food-supply in new, innovative capacities so that we may incorporate it seamlessly in our lifestyles: almond meal, almond milk, almond butters + oils, almond crusts + toppings; buried in granola, coupled with vegetables, balancing desserts, and of course, the pure, raw almond snack.

As an aspiring health-food gastronaut, and lover of all things almond, I have made an attempt at my very own home-made almond milk.  Below is the recipe. The amount of water used ultimately comes down to an individual preference. One recipe I used called for 6 cups of water for every cup of almonds which was far too thin for my Midwestern palate. I found my preference to be around 2 - 3 cups of water per 1 cup of almonds, creating a nice, creamy consistency closer to whole milk.


Almond Milk

*1 Cup Raw Almonds

*2 - 3 Cups Water, plus extra for soaking

*Optional: Organic Sugar or Honey


*Mesh Strainer, Cheesecloth or Nut Milk Bag

Place raw almonds in a container and fill with water, enough to cover the almonds. Place in refrigerator for 6 hrs or overnight (almonds may continue to soak for up to 2 days).

Strain almonds, do not save the soaking water. Almonds will expand and have a slightly spongy texture post-soak.

Place almonds in blender with 2 to 3 cups of water, and purée until almonds appear finely mealed. I did this in batches with a half cup almonds at a time, using 1 cup of water per batch.

Strain mixture into a glass or jar using cheesecloth, milk bag, or mesh strainer. Press almond meal firmly against strainer to extract as much liquid as possible. Serve or save in airtight container for up to 2 days.

*If you like sweetened milk, start with 1 or 2 teaspoons of preferred sweetener in the blender before straining and work your way up to desired sweetness.