Green Food

Driving “Green Bean” (aka our rented green minivan) back to the Portland, Oregon Airport…

Me: “What do you want for dinner tonight?”

Dean: “GREEN.”

Me: “What? (laughing) That’s not a dinner!”

“That’s a COLOR, Daddy,” Anni pipes up giggling.

Dean: “Oh yes it is! After all the brown and white food we’ve been eating all Cannonball… just Abi, GREEN.”

That Finish Line for our 1914 Harley Davidson — the 1st time a single cylinder has won the Motorcycle Cannonball and the oldest Harley on record to cross the United States. Twice. (I’m so proud of Dean and Team Vino!) This was the 4th Cannonball for our team. And it stretched from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon. All bikes were pre-1929.

Sitting shotgun next to my road weary Cannonball Champion husband, I began mentally cataloguing the wilting contents of my crisper: 3 aging artichokes and some seriously geriatric asparagus. But we have kale growing in the garden. Garlic and shallots in the pig. And literally some 11 pounds of Parmesan Reggiano courtesy of Big Swede’s more recent trip to Europe.

Kale Pesto it is.

Green Pesto need not be limited to basil! Go wild with kale, arugula, parsley, and spinach. These leafy greens make wonderfully versatile pestos that freeze beautifully. Add torn burrata, prosciutto, or not. Extra pepper.

Big Green Pesto

Ingredients (Be flexible to your taste):

  • Handfuls of thoroughly washed (& *dried) Kale — really any leafy green works beautifully. I often make this pesto with the dregs of spinach, basil, arugula, Italian parsley. Individually or all together.
  • 5-7 garlic cloves (peeled)
  • Juice 1-2 lemons (Meyer lemons will add a burst of softer citrus when in season)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (lots)
  • Sea Salt & White Pepper
  • 1 cup + of shaved Parmesan Reggiano cheese (Pecorino will do in a pinch.)

Directions: Puree in your food processor to desired consistency. Scrape into a holding bowl and cover with a light film of olive oil. Pesto will brown if not protected from the air. If you’re making ahead? Store in the fridge until ready to use.

Note: Make extra Pesto and freeze for later. This is a GREAT recipe to “save the season” for a deliciously verdant winter meal that sings of the lushness in Summer produce.

Beer well earned! Finish Line, Skamania Lodge, Columbia Gorge, Washington.

As our 1st week home as a family progressed — and welcomed home teammates and ace wrenches (see below) Chrys Miranda (Garage Metallica, Brazil) and Big Swede (our 6’7″ Swedish neighbor) — Fall made her grand arrival to Wine Country.

Chris & Big Swede: Last tune-ups before the final stage of the 2018 Motorcycle Cannonball.

Cool fog wraps around the house. Tucking into vines still heavy with Cabernet and Merlot, Cab Franc and Petit Verdot. Leaves yellowing in their canopies. Grapes aaaaalmost ready to pick… if the dog would stop eating them! And my menu planning shifts towards red-wine friendly fare.

Fall comes suddenly to Sonoma County. One day it’s 92’F and I have ice in my wine. Three days later, the old Japanese Maple begins to flame and I reach unconsciously for cashmere shawls. Extra blankets show up at the foot of each bed. And windows close about 3:00 AM against the increasingly damp, seasonal chill.

I love it. I love Sonoma County with a deep resonance. The seasons, the food, the wine, the people, our farm, my Girl Scouts, and family friends. I love it all.

To think such carnivorous deliciousness began with a vegan recipe.

Never more so than with family back together, a fire in the fireplace, and my no-fuss, delicious risotto baking in the range. Which brings us to dinner #5 post Cannonball: RISOTTO.

Using up garden vegetables can tax any creative cook this time of year. (I’ve been known to ding-dong-ditch tomatoes with a bribe of our Rose on many a friend’s stoop.) But that has changed since developing this dish and if I can crow for a second? It has become one of my keystone dishes. One that fills family tummies with power packed vegetables, soothing pancetta, and rich rice slow-baked in turkey stock.

Perfect leftovers fried up with an egg the next day!

Every time, it’s a bit different: Risotto packed with greens, garlic, onions, pancetta, butter, and cheese.


Caveat: So I’ve been known to overly fill my Risotto with veggies. So the more (or less), the merrier. Ingredients are listed in order of cooking. Be careful not to brown the garlic — hence it’s addition later.

** This is easy to make vegetarian or vegan too.

Ingredients & Recipe (because it works this way):

1.) Gently heat in a sauce pan: 1 QT/ 4 cups Chicken/Veggie/or (my favorite) Turkey Stock

2.) Preheat Oven to 400’F

3.) In a Dutch Oven, add 3-5 tablespoons of salted butter (because salted always tastes better) and a quick guzzle of extra virgin olive oil. (**Using a blend of Olive Oil AND Butter allows each to NOT burn while sautéing.)

4.) Saute in succession:

  • 1 5 oz pack of diced Pancetta (cook until beginning to brown before adding onion)
  • 1/2 yellow onion (course chopped) Let onion soften (2 mins) before continuing…
  • 1-2 carrots split lengthwise and course chopped
  • 2 zucchini (ends removed, split lengthwise, and course chopped)
  • 3-5 cloves garlic sliced or course chopped
  • hearty pinch sea salt & dusting of white pepper AND garlic powder
  • Kick off your heavier greens now: throw anything you like at this dish! Chopped asparagus, wilting kale (I have a lot of that lately), dregs of spinach leftover, a cluster of broccolini chopped bite sized, etc.
  • Saute, saute, saute! Dashing with stock or white wine when needed.
  • The greens will glow verdant and scrape up any yummy, brown bits. Here, add that 1.5 cups Arborio Rice (#gf), 2-3 course chopped tomatoes (or a handful of cherry tomatoes intact!), 2-3 springs chopped fresh Rosemary, and my secret? Halved marinated artichoke hearts.
  • Quick “fry” and then pour in the heated stock.

5.) Allow Risotto to return to a full simmer, stir once, cover, and cook in your preheated oven for 30 minutes.

6.) Remove from oven and check “dryness.” Risotto should taste supple but with individual grains of rice intact.

7.) Stir in 2-3 pats butter, bit of salt (if needed), and then 1 cup+ (to taste) Parmesan Reggiano. Cover & let stand 3 minutes.

8.) Serve with dusting of Italian Parsley and fresh cracked pepper.

Pair with a gorgeous white or red wine (because it goes beautifully with both) and save all leftovers for fried eggs in the morning.

I’m serious: there is no “too much” or “too little” of the amount of vegetables you can throw at this dish! Customize to your whim!

These dish could NOT be more versatile. Easy to use up what you have. Easy to freeze.  Easy to thaw and re-heat. Easy to fry-up. Kid friendly. Husband friendly. And makes this Mama very, very happy.

I’m big on flavor, health, and leftovers… especially as we head into harvest and the holidays.  I hope you make one or both of these two dishes. For they are both very special recipes on happy rotation here in the kitchen!

Happy eating! And welcome to Fall.

NICOLE STRASBURG: An Artist’s Kitchen

Spring Shoreline (24×24”) Oil on Birch Panel

With so much of California’s natural beauty laid waste and charred this Winter, I took comfort in the beautiful Art works from friend Nicole Strasburg. In her celebrations of Nature’s most exquisite beauty! Nicole’s unique eye keenly appreciates atmospheric color, movement, and my personal fave, something I’ve come to think of as “coastality.” As in that special magic where water and land meet.

Island High (22×60”) Oil on Birch Panel

Nicole Strasburg is an Artist collectors (& we painters) avidly admire. As dear Rob Townsend quipped, “Well, yeah. She can do no wrong, right?” And it’s pretty much true.  How she deconstructs even the most complex natural landscapes into something raw and pure… You can feel breeze blowing and waters lapping from her Canvas and Paint. Painting large birch wood panels. Sanding it down. Repainting her scene. Sanding it down. Repainting. Sanding it down… Until her paintings BREATHE.

Maybe it was learning how to paint theatre sets in Santa Barbara with her Dad as a kid? Or her inner talents Nicole tuned up after leaving art school? Regardless, Nicole’s sheer appreciation for California’s magnificent land and central coast sets her apart.

Outgoing Tide (40×60”) Oil on Birch Panel

So of course, I was curious about her favorite foods. Because after writing these many stories, I’ve delighted to discover there really can be a deliciously specific relationship between an Artist and her Kitchen.

And how the recipes Nicole shares with us today does the exact same thing as her Art: Bringing the simply fresh outdoors inside to savor.

Murder at Twilight (40×40”) Oil on Birch Panel



Nicole adapted her green chile enchiladas from a recipe torn out of Sunset Magazine and tweaked it to suit.

  • 2 lbs Anaheim or Poblano Chiles
  • 1 large Mexican Sweet Onion or Sweet Red Onion chopped
  • 3 – 6 cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • 12-16 corn tortillas
  • 3-4 cups of chicken broth
  • Roast Chicken — white & dark meat shredded
  • 2-3 cups Monterey Jack Cheese (Be generous with the cheese!)
  • salt and pepper

To Prepare Chiles: Place all Chiles on a lined baking sheet and Broil until skins blacken and bubble, turning once. Let Chiles cool. Then peel off blackened skins. Nicole says, “this “roasting” enriches the flavor of the chile.”  Next, seed, destem, and dice Chiles. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400’F

Heat olive oil and butter in a skillet. Sauté your garlic and cook until fragrant (be careful not to burn.) Add the onions and cook until soft. Stir in diced Chiles, salt + pepper and cook 3-5 minutes. Stir in Chicken Stock. Nicole’s tip: “I am generous with the liquid 2 full cups at least. You can let it cook down but extra liquid means that the enchiladas stay really moist, even with the leftovers.”

Here is the Recipe “tear out” Nicole swears by from Sunset magazine.

Nicole writes, “You can follow instructions 3, 4 and 5 for filling the tortillas. I use a big 9×12 casserole dish and can squeeze in about 16 enchiladas. Use one baking sheet and lay out 6 tortillas at a time, Fill, roll and put into casserole dish. I also don’t think you need 2 full cups of liquid to do the tortillas maybe 1. Whatever you have left over after filling the tortillas can go in the sauce… I like to make a whole pan and freeze half for later. It’s great for the cabin as is the Tortilla Soup! Oh! And make the sauce you can make a day or two ahead if you don’t want to be in the kitchen all afternoon.”

Served topped with sliced avocado, cilantro and shredded lettuce.

Coastal Grasses (18×36”) Oil on Birch Panel




For Nicole’s Burgers:

  • 2 lbs Ground Turkey
  • 2 Carrots Grated
  • Handful diced button mushrooms
  • 2 scallions diced with greens
  • 1/3 Cup Oats
  • 1/4 Cup Italian Bread Crumbs (optional for GF folks)
  • 1-2 cloves Garlic minced
  • Few shakes garlic salt
  • 1/4 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1-2 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce (skip if GF)
  • Ketchup
  • Hot Sauce (like Sriracha)


  • Corn on the Cobb (to grill)
  • Relish, Cheese, & Condiments
  • Strawberries (sliced and macerated in brown sugar or bourbon. Set aside)
  • Vanilla Ice Cream

Place all ingredients in one large bowl. Mix well by hands. Then form patties to size.  Refrigerate 30 minutes and grill to taste.

KICKING KETCHUP: Whisk your preferred hot sauce into ketchup to taste.

Serve burgers with your favorite relish, Kicking Ketchup, and Corn on the Cobb.

Nicole thinks “Strawberry Shortcake” served over Vanilla Ice Cream (not cake) is the perfect ending for this delicious meal!


Form a turkey meatloaf using the same burger ingredients listed above. Preheat oven to 350’F and bake until cooked through (45 minutes +/-). Let rest covered until serving.


  • 1 Sweet Onion diced
  • 2 packages sliced mushrooms {1 button & 1 cremini}
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 good glugs of dry white wine
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons white or GF flour
  • Whole Milk

Melt the butter in a medium sized pan. Add onions and cook until soft. Add mushrooms and extra butter if needed. Shake pan to coat mixture in the butter. Cover to let mushrooms release juices. Stir occasionally. When mushrooms have cooked down a few minutes, stir in wine and chicken broth. Lower heat to reduce while you prep the flour mixture.

Optional: For Nicole’s Flour & Milk thickener: Whisk 2 TBSP flour add milk while whisking making sure there are no lumps. She elaborates, “Flour goes into separate bowl and I whisk in the milk until it’s creamy like buttermilk. My “container” is a good jar or Tupperware that has a lid so that after whisk it I can seal it and shake it to make sure there are no lumps… I’m probably doing it backwards, I’m sure you could just put the two TBSPS of flour I the pan and make a roux then just add broth afterwards but this is how I remember my mom and grandmother making gravy.”

Slowly add flour/milk mixture to mushroom and onions — adding only 1/4 of the mixture at a time until gravy begins to thicken to the consistency you want (then Stop). Give Mushroom Gravy a few good couple of stirs.


  • 4 starchy potatoes like Yukon Gold — Nicole thinks “these have a high buttery content and flavor best for mashed!”
  • Butter
  • Milk to taste
  • salt and pepper

Thickly slice Potatoes. Cook in hot water until pierced easily with a fork. Drain and mash.

Heat small amount of milk and slowly add to mashed potatoes. Mix in melted butter and salt to taste.

Serve all three dishes together family style and enjoy!