Carrot Top Quiche


Quiches are just a cross between omelettes and pies.

One of the perks of living in Portland is the amazing year round farmer’s markets, boasting seasonal produce from local sources. Buying produce at the market has caused me to cook seasonally, which has  expanded my horizons in terms of ingredients, but carrots are one of the few veggies available almost all year round and are one of my favorite staples. At the farmer’s market, carrots are sold with their tops. The tops go great in recipes calling for parsley, such as in herb pesto, or cooked in place of spinach. Today, I decided to use them in a quiche with a white wine dough. It was a good way to use up the rest of my carrot tops from last week’s market.

By the way, when I buy carrots with carrot tops, I usually cut all the tops off and store them separately in a plastic bag in the fridge, otherwise they seem to suck the life out of the carrot roots, and make them go floppy.

If you can’t get carrot tops, don’t worry. You can replace them with another leafy green like spinach, or just omit them altogether. A quiche is just a savory pie with egg filling — you can actually put in anything you like!
For the dough:

1 3/4 cup flour
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon salt

Put all ingredients into a bowl. Mix to make a dough ball (using a spoon at first and then your hands). If the dough ball seems too shaggy, add a little bit more olive oil until you can get it to stick together. Roll the dough ball out to the size of your pie dish and gently transfer it to the dish.


Cooking seasonally: putting basil in everything all summer long.

For the filling: 

around 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium sized onion
1 bunch carrot tops
1 medium sized tomato
a handful of fresh basil leaves
1 cup shredded cheese (any kind you like)
4 large eggs
2 cups milk
a pinch of salt

Roughly chop up one medium onion and about the same amount of carrot tops. Heat up a pan with the vegetable oil, and throw in the onions. Cook until they start to brown (around 15 mins), and add the carrot tops. Cook another 10 minutes. Also chop up one medium sized tomato and tear up a handful of basil leaves.

Finally, whisk together 4 large eggs, 2 cups milk and 1/2 cups of the cheese.

Assembly and cooking:

Throw the onions, carrot tops, tomatoes, and basil into the quiche and spread them all out. Cover with the egg mixture, then top with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Cook on 400 degrees F for around 30 minutes or until the quiche is set and slightly golden. Let cool a little and enjoy! (Be careful cutting into it at first since it will be molten.)


We never grow up. Not really. I squeeze the liquid soap bottle and watch the light dance off tiny glistening bubbles. They surround me as they make a slow, swirling descent through the small kitchen. I’ve always thought those bubbles were wondrous. I thought I would grow up, and do so many incredible things, but I can’t remember what they were now. I learned to hide those hopes from the world, because hiding them was expected of me. I hid them by convincing myself I could have them later, by convincing myself that it was all ahead of me. We don’t cry in public, because we tell ourselves we can do it later, in private. But later is too late, and so we never cry at all, even if we need to.

Sometimes I feel like giving up. Like crawling into bed under all the covers and letting myself cry all I want. Sometimes I try, but I find that I just can’t bring myself to do it. It always feels a bit too much like a ridiculous luxury. When I was a kid, I cried all the time and never felt ridiculous about it. There was always someone there to fix it. But now I have to be the one to fix it for myself.  There’s no one to cry to. Crying is wasteful.

So I remind myself of the incredible things I have already seen and done, of all that I have and my incredible fortune. I remind myself of all the wondrous things still out there, that I just have to reach for. I remind myself that no one can realize those hopes for me. It takes work and dedication.  And so I set about carving a weaving path through life, and even if it looks like the squiggly lines of bark beetles at the end, at least it will have been my own.

Pistachio-Lavender Shortbread Cookies

Since I’ve moved to Portland, Ken’s Artisan Bakery has become one of my go-to places for lunch, bread, and sweets. They have these amazing hazelnut shortbread cookies that I kept buying, so one day I decided to try my own shortbread, and I am pretty proud with the result. These cookies have a bit less sugar than usual since I prefer my sweets less sweet. Even though they are crumbly (from the old meaning of the word “short”), the pistachios actually make them feel creamier as well, and the lavender gives a fresh fragrance. I’ve made these a few different times now, so I will add some hints as I go on how to get them just right.


Pretend this picture includes a bag of flour, sugar, and cornstarch too.

  • 16 T butter (2 sticks)
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 and 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 1 cup shelled roasted pistachios (unsalted is better)
  • 1-2 T lavender flowers, to taste

First, throw 1 cup of pistachios and 1 to 2 tablespoons lavender flowers into a food processor and whirl them around until the pistachios are finely chopped up. In a bowl, combine 3/4 cup sugar and 2 sticks of butter and mix using either a pastry knife or your hands. Then throw in the 1 and 3/4 cups flour, 1 cup cornstarch, and the pistachio mixture.

Nice and chopped.

Nice and chopped.

Mix together until you get a dough ball. I usually just use my hands for this. It might be a little crumbly, but you should still be able to form it into a dough ball (it shouldn’t be a smooth paste). Depending on the creaminess of your butter and/or if you are working at a higher elevation, you may need to add a little bit of extra flour to get the right consistency.

Now tear the dough ball into two evenly sized pieces. Lightly flour a surface and roll the pieces into logs. Wrap with cling wrap, and put in the fridge until it firms up. This should take around 30 to 60 minutes, but you can also leave it in there overnight if you’ve got other stuff to do. On the other hand, if it still seems a little soft after 30 minutes, it’s possible that you actually don’t have enough flour in the mixture. This is ok, the cookies will still taste delicious, they might just be a little extra buttery.

A slightly crumbly dough ball.

A slightly crumbly dough ball.

If you have a cookie cutter that you want to use, you can also throw them in the fridge just as a ball and roll them out after chilling. I think the logs are easier though. When ready, take the logs out of the fridge, and use a knife to cut them into 1/2 inch (1 cm) thick slices. Place the slices on an un-greased baking dish, and bake  at 325 degrees for around 20 minutes, or until the edges start to turn a little golden. If the edges are getting dark or turning brown, it means they are starting to burn, and I would take them out. Don’t panic, they still taste good even if they are a little darker brown.

After taking them out, transfer to a cooking rack (or a plate) and let cool. When taking them off the cookie sheet, they will be a little crumbly, but if they seem to completely come apart and crumble into pieces, this likely means you didn’t cook them for quite long enough. I would throw them back in the oven for another 5-10 minutes, but watch them very carefully for over-browning on the edges.


Thick, crumbly, creamy.

That’s it! The final product should look a little bit like this. Store in a paper bag outside of the fridge for up to a week. I like serving them with tea or ice cream, or just on their own!

Herb-Cheese Scones

Warm, cheesy, delicious.

Warm, cheesy, delicious.

Every third Thursday of the month, I participate in a Kickstarted cheese club here in Portland. It works like this. When that month’s cheese is announced on Kickstarter, you buy a ticket to the cheese party or a ticket plus a pound of cheese. If the Kickstarter gets funded, the restaurant owner and cheesemonger, Sasha, buys the whole wheel of cheese, and puts on a pick-up party for everyone involved. If it doesn’t get funded, Sasha tries again next month. (It has never failed to get funded.)

At the pick-up party, Sasha explains what the cheese is all about, the cheese is usually prepared into a delicious recipe for you to try, you get your pound to take home (if you paid for that Kickstarter level), and you vote on next month’s cheese.

Every single cheese that has come out of this cheese club has been completely mindblowing; these are top quality cheese from all over the world. I think my favorite was Harbison– a brie-like cheese with a very creamy texture, aged in pine bark– but Brian seemed to prefer the Burrata.

Anyway, Last month’s cheese was a French comté, which we decided to use for herb-cheese scones. The recipe is adapted from a similar one that Sasha emailed out many months ago for a tea-rubbed cheese called TeaHive, but it goes well with any grate-able, sharp cheese. An English Cheddar (the cheese for the month before last) would probably have gone very well with this recipe. We are hoping a Dutch gouda (this month’s cheese) will do well with it too, since we have company coming and would love to share these amazing scones.

  • 2 cups white flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 stick (2 oz) cold butter, cut up into small chunks
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 5 oz cheese of choice, grated (comté, sharp chedder, gouda etc.)
  • 1 teaspoon each of basil, dill, and/or other herb*

*I found that 1 teaspoon or so each of basil and dill worked well with the comté, but depending on your taste preferences and your cheese, you may want to pick different herbs. I recommend slicing off a thin piece of the cheese and trying it with a small pinch of each herb to find the perfect combination. Once you find the herb(s) you want, mix them in with the dough mixture until it is lightly speckled with the herbs. You may want to use a little less or a little more than the amount I listed, because you don’t want your herbs to overpower the flavour of the cheese — as always, your taste is your best tool!

To make the dough, combine 2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Put the butter chunks in and mash with your fingers until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Then mix in the sugar, herbs and cheese.

In a separate bowl, whisk together 1 egg and 1/2 cup of milk. Pour most of the mixture into the dough, setting aside just a little for the glaze. Knead the dough with your hands into a rough ball. The dough will seem dry and shaggy, and may take a moment to come together. If needed, add a little bit more of the egg/milk mixture. Once it sticks together, turn the dough out onto a board and knead 10 or so times, just enough to get it to stick together without overworking it.

Flatten out the dough into a round about 1.5 inches thick. Cut it up into 8 wedges. Place the wedges onto an ungreased baking sheet. Brush the wedges with the reserved egg/milk mixture, or if you used up all of the mixture in the dough, whisk together 1 egg for some glaze.

Bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 10-15 minutes, or until golden.

That’s it! Super easy, and very tasty. They can be frozen for later consumption or otherwise held in a covered dish at room temperature for a couple of days. Enjoy!

Note: To give credit where it’s due, I want to say that this recipe was adapted from a recipe sent out by Sasha Davies of Cyril’s Cheese Club, and was written by Laura Birsham for TeaHive cheese scones. However, Ms. Birsham adapted that recipe from a recipe by Molly Wizenberg, which may or may not have involved cheese.


EDIT: I have since made this recipe with an English cheddar and a Dutch gouda in addition to the French comté and they were all great in it. =)

Free to Play, Free to Learn

Language learning has always been a big part of my life, and increasingly so has language teaching. It is always difficult to find motivation to start a new activity or language, just as it is difficult to instill enthusiasm in new students. So what better way than building off of an activity you already enjoy?

My fiancé and I are huge gamers. Between the two of us, we have played every genre on every device capable of running games (including the tabletop). So when I suggested we launch up the free to play (F2P) version of Russian World of Warcraft (WoW), he seemed intrigued. As a heritage speaker of Russian, I rarely get the opportunity to acquire gaming lingo, and as a beginning second language learner of Russian, my fiancé rarely gets exposure to the language at all, let alone “in the wild”. This was going to be fun.

After downloading the massive 22GB client, and getting past the inevitable start up hiccups, we began making our characters. Already, my fiancé was enjoying reading the Russian translations of menu options and race names. These were not our first WoW characters, and the extra grounding in a familiar setting seemed to help him navigate. He modified his character’s appearance, chose a name, and hit завершить (accept) followed by вход в игровой мир (enter the game world).

A declension table for my character's name.

A declension table for my character’s name.

Bam! Name declension table, in your face! When you first create your WoW toon, the game needs to know how to address you, and how to talk about you. So before you complete your toon, they give you a table to read through with the grammatical cases and some short sentences using your toon’s name in that case.

It’s been a while since my fiancé’s last Russian class, so we took this opportunity to do a mini refresher course in case. The sentences were great reading practice, and they were simple enough for us to be able to focus on the key concepts. We made sure the provided declensions sounded right, and logged into the game.

At the end of the intro sequence, we predictably found ourselves in the starting area for our race, with one combat ability on our action bar. After running around for a few moments and talking to the starting quest giver (whose on-click speech was voiced by an absolutly epic voice actor), we decided our interface needed some tweaks. Incredibly, many of the addons my fiancé had dumped over from his other WoW client were already localized into Russian, and Just Worked on this client. He stumbled a bit through the menus, mostly going on memory with a little bit of translation help from me, until we got it all set up. I have to give huge props here to the addon creators for how seamlessly their addons were integrated and localized. For many of them, you would have never guessed that they didn’t originally belong in the Russian version of this game.

Ok, our UI was set up, what next? Well, since we were playing together, we wanted to group. But that requires deciphering the target right-click menu. Reading the menu items, we recognized some words he had heard before in very different contexts. Шепот (Whisper) was the name of one of my old cats. Запомнить цель (focus target), осмотреть (inspect), обмен (trade)… приглошение (invite)!

Now here comes one of my big dissapointments with the free to play version of this game…. So, they cut out a lot of functionality for this version: you can’t play certain classes, you can’t get above level 20, you can’t trade with another character. All of this is probably to get you to buy the full version. That makes sense…

What doesn’t make sense is that they cut the ability to group. Why? I have no idea. WoW is a social game. Peer pressure is a great way to leverage people to buy things (not that I condone that, but it is a fact). If one of your friends continues on to the full game, you may be more likely to buy it as well so you can keep playing with them. If all your friends are having fun grouping together, you may all want to pick it up so that you can keep playing together. In the meantime, it’s more fun, as well as more evocative of the full game’s social focus, for you to group with other players. I have no idea why they would cut this central feature out of the starter version. That really sucks.

Well, there was nothing left to do about it. We could still sort of play through the starting zones together, even if we weren’t grouped. And so with my sword drawn, and my frostfire bolt prepped, I headed down to where the first mobs were for the starting quests… only to realize my fiancé hasn’t even loaded his crossbow. “Hold on, I have to read my ability names!”

This was probably the coolest part of the night for me– he initiated the continuation of our Russian lesson on his own. We logged on originally to play some WoW, but by the end we spent nearly two hours total just practicing and learning Russian.

We went over the powerful sounding ability names, reading their descriptions right up to the points of damage they do, including a brief refresher on counting and numbers. We got to talk about roots and suffixes too. Since he had made a hunter, many of his abilities mentioned shooting. Стрелба (the act of shooting), выстрел (a shot), and стрелять (to shoot), all share the same root “стрел”, and it took him a second to realize that they were the same. Overall, we really went through a lot of Russian and very little WoW… what a great way to learn for free!

Pardon my UI, it's a bit slapped together right now.

Pardon my UI, it’s a bit slapped together right now.

For my part, I have to say, I was very impressed with the Russian localization of WoW. I have played a few other games in Russian, including some of EverQuest2, and have always felt that the translations were somehow forced. It was always clear that the game you were playing was not intended to be played in Russian. Some of these concepts in fantasy and magic are very difficult to translate into Russian culture in the first place anyway, but WoW does this nearly seamlessly. The quest text is rich, the voice acting is amazing, the community is active (so that even addons are masterfully localized), the visuals are lovely as ever… and best of all, it’s a great free language learning and language teaching tool for beginners and experts alike. It’s a shame they took out the grouping functionality for the F2P version, as I feel grouping really is a cornerstone of the social gaming genre. I don’t know if we will buy the full version, the cost is pretty steep when combined with all the expansions, but if nothing else, we have 20 levels of Russian left to learn… well, 18 now. =)

Spicy-Creamy Thai Curry Soup


Spicy, creamy, hearty.

Difficulty estimates on recipes don’t make much sense to me. Anything can seem easy once you know how it’s done; until then, it seems hard. Some recipes look easy on the outset, but take years to master (such as the perfect white rice). Others look complicated, but only because of their long ingredients list (stir fry is as straight-forward as it’s name suggests– cut, fry, and stir). Time estimates are also misleading. They don’t account for the procurement of materials, nor for the reader’s experience.

For the longest time, I was afraid of Asian soups, because they seemed very difficult. Now I have made a couple, and I have to say, not only are they are more than manageable, but the preparation was well worth it. I crafted this recipe from a few different concepts and ideas, and once it was ready, my professional taste-tester, a.k.a. the fiancé, told me it tasted like something you would get at a swanky restaurant for an exhorbant cost. Does it deserve such high praise? I will let your taste-testers decide.

– 5 cups chicken broth (make Fried-Egg Soup one day, use the remaining broth the next)
– 1/2 can coconut milk
– 3 tablespoons fish sauce (nam pla)
– 1-2 tablespoons lime juice
– 2 teaspoons brown sugar
– 4 teaspoons red curry paste
– 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
– 1/2 stalk lemongrass, sliced
– 3 or 4 shiitake mushrooms
– 2 japanese turnips, sliced into thin rounds (substitute with a different root vegetable if needed, such as a yukon gold potato)
– 2 avocados
– 2 inch piece of ginger root, grated
– 2-3 sprigs cilantro, chopped up
– 1 green onion, sliced
– 1 teaspoon powdered  coriander, or whole coriander
– chili oil or dried chili flakes to taste (I used about 4 teaspoons)
– 2 cups shrimp (raw is better) or cooked chicken (such as the remainder from that Fried-Egg Soup broth)

As usual, your own taste will dictate exact amounts, particularly of the spices. Taste as you go!

Combine vegetable oil with lemon grass, grated ginger, and red curry paste in a large saucepan or pot, and cook for about a minute or so. Pour in chicken broth while stirring. Add coconut milk while stirring until the color is more pastel and the texture is somewhat creamy.

Now begin adding chili oil, lime juice, brown sugar, coriander and fish sauce, as you taste and mix. If it isn’t salty enough, add more fish sauce. If it isn’t sweet enough, add sugar. Too spicy– some more coconut milk and a little more lime should help. Or maybe it’s not spicy enough?  ; )

When you get the right flavor, add the mushrooms, and turnips. When the mushrooms are soft, add the raw shrimp and/or chicken and bring to a beief boil, all while stirring. The shrimp should turn red and only be a little translucent. If using pre-cooked shrimp, keep in mind, it’s very easy to overcook, so don’t boil it for too long.

Finally, slice up half an avocado for each bowl, and garnish with a bit of cilantro and green onion (I also added enoki mushrooms in the above picture, and they took on a bit of a pasta-like texture). Serve with a side of plain cooked white rice, which each person can add to their own soup bowl as they please. This recipe should fill about four bowls. Enjoy!

Mixed-herb pesto

Despite months of neglect and mistreatment, my poor herbs have been clinging to life in their cramped little pots, their roots desperately reaching for the last few drops of water in soil that has been parched for weeks, their leaves reaching into a single beam of sunlight that shines through the balcony fence, like a convict grasping through prison bars for his last meal, their stalks shuddering against the raging wind, even as their fellows are viciously cut down, one-by-one, all in the name of… pesto!

Yes, pesto. I have been perfecting my pesto recipe all summer, and am now ready to share it with you.


Those herbs never stood a chance…

As you read the ingredients list, keep in mind that this pesto recipe should not be followed step-by-step. Pesto is all about the fresh herbs. I have given options, so that you can substitute what you may not have, and if you have something completely different, feel free to toss in a bit of that too! Taste your pesto as you go, and add more or less of the ingredients depending on the flavour. Treat this recipe as merely a guideline while you work on creating your own glorious method to the perfect pesto.

– olive oil
– 4 carrot greens, or 5 sprigs of curled pasley
– 3 sprigs of leafy basil
– 3 green garlic stalks, or 2 cloves garlic
– 5 sprigs lemon-thyme
– 1 cup pine nuts, or 1 cup shelled roasted no-salt pistachios (pine nuts will give a creamier texture, pistachios will give a nuttier flavour)
– 1 cup shredded parmesan
– a pinch of salt
– a teaspoon of lemon juice (optional)

Put the pine nuts or pistachios in the food processor with the garlic, and chop up for about 5 seconds. Toss in the herbs in equal parts, however much will fit in your food processor, and chop some more. Keep adding herbs and chopping until you’ve fit them all in that little food processor! Give the mixture a taste. Does it need more garlic? Probably– garlic is the best! Is it too bland? Toss in that salt and add in more thyme/green onion. Too grassy? More basil. Too sharp? Add a little bit of lemon juice. Keep chopping and tasting. Also keep in mind that some of the grassy bitterness will level out as you add olive oil.

Now that you’ve got a good mix of herbs, it’s time to start adding olive oil. Turn on the processor and slowly pour in the olive oil until you get the right consistency. Most recipes say you should keep adding oil until you get an emulsion. I prefer less oil, but instead a thick creamy mass of spreadable pesto. When you have it how you want it (keep tasting it as you go), add the Parmesan, and give it one last pulse, and you’re done.

The pesto takes about 10-15 mins to make. I usually make it with one box of Rotini pasta (I like the kind made with spinach), which can feed up to 4. I have the water boiling and  pasta going as I’m doing the pesto. I also like to throw some cut up  cherry tomatoes and Crimini mushrooms into the pasta as well. Sometimes I add some green olive swai on the side for even more deliciousness. Since it’s just the two of us right now, that makes enough for dinner and lunch the next day for the both of us.