The Cardboard Kitchen Is Haute Cuisine!

The Cardboard Kitchen was featured in the April issue of Jalouse, the French style magazine!

Many thanks to my friend Otilia for providing the translation, and to Florence Valencourt for the virtual interview. Next time I would like to be interviewed while sipping café au lait along the Champs-Elysées!

To get the American version of the recipe, and to see the homage from the Cardboard Kitchen, be sure to read my next post!




Everything that comes out of artist’s Patianne Stevenson’s kitchen is recycled, eco-artsy, and calorie free! A real dream come true for foodies who are concerned about their weight.

“Everything prepared in the Cardboard Kitchen is made from recycled ingredients”, says Patianne Stevenson. “I visit wine stores for boxes with colors, grocery stores for the perfect textures, and art supply stores for that certain thickness. Everyone is very happy to have me remove cardboard boxes, and I love stocking the cardboard pantry! I begin my recipes with an organized work plan. I layout the utensils I will need for each recipe: various sizes of scissors, utility knives, glue brushes, and erasers. I then take a look in The Cardboard Kitchen pantry. I had stored a piece of peanut butter colored cardboard. Mixed with vanilla and chocolate colored cardboard, cut to fit and assembled, I knew this would become a sweet creation. I decided on a cardboard homage to one of my favorite cupcake recipes, Peanut Butter Brownie Cupcake With Peanut Butter Frosting and Chocolate Dipped Cherry. What’s nice about The Cardboard Kitchen is there no waiting until the cupcakes come out of the oven! But sadly, you can’t lick the bowl!

For the gourmands, here is the real recipe:

Makes 12


50g butter
100g creamy peanut butter
256g broken chocolate bar
little vanilla extract
3 eggs
175g of flour
200 grams sugar
10g baking powder

Preheat oven to 180C
Melt butter and chocolate in bain marie, stirring to mix
Add peanut butter, blend well
Beat in eggs one at a time, until smooth
Stir in vanilla

In another bowl mix sugar, flour and baking powder.
Add to chocolate mix. Stir until smooth.

Fill muffin cups two thirds full.
Bake 20 min. Cool.

Peanut Butter Cream:

50g butter
100g peanut butter
150g icing sugar
20-30 cl cream

Use a pastry sock to decorate the cupcakes.

Chocolate covered Cherries:

12 cherries in syrup
75g dark chocolate
20g butter
Remove cherries from syrup and pat dry
Melt butter and chocolate in a bain marie
Dip cherry and place on parchment to set.

Place  cherry on top!

Rooting Around In Spring

It actually was in Spring, during my first trip to France, that I discovered the radish sandwich. I couldn’t believe I had lived so long without knowing about this simple, delicious, and incredibly satisfying meal.

Take spicy, salty, sweet, and buttery then place it all in one package! And if that wasn’t enough, you are treated to the crisp snap of radish, and the pleasurable crack of the crust on a fresh baguette. And let’s not forget the little bit of chew from the soft interior.

So, every Spring I wait patiently for the first and sweetest radishes of the season to appear in the Farmers Market. I can then assemble what Susan Loomis refers to in her  French Farmhouse Cookbook as “France’s finest snack”! And indeed it is. A little research told me that this is actually a staple of the provincial kitchen. Although seemingly simple, the flavors layered here are anything but provincial. I would call them sophisticated simplicity.

I have tinkered with it over the years experimenting with the addition of herbs to the butter, and my recipe follows. However in it’s simplest form it is just as delicious with a split baguette, unsalted butter, thinly sliced radishes, and a sprinkling of fleur de sel.

At Art On The Menu we swoon when we bite into this:  sweet herb butter slathered on a crusty baguette, radishes and salt, and all in under 10 minutes! What’s not to love!

Radish Sandwich

Although traditionally made with the delicate bi-colored finger width French radish, I used globe radishes above.

Serves 4 ( or sometimes 1)

1 16″ baguette
1 bunch radishes (approx 12-15 med size radishes)
3/4 cup room temperature unsalted butter
3 tablespoons finely chopped chives
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon, or 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh tarragon
fleur de sel, or any fine grained salt

Herb Butter

Combine butter and herbs. Mix well. Can be prepared anytime in advance for the flavors to meld. I sometimes prepare it days in advance. Refrigerate if preparing in advance, and remove to bring to room temp for assembling.


Remove greens, and clean radishes well. Thinly slice. You should have approx 2 1/2 to 3 cups  for a 16″ baguette.

To Assemble

Split baguette lengthwise.

Thickly spread herb butter on both sides of the bread. Layer the radishes on, and sprinkle generously with fleur de sel. You will need quite a bit of salt to bring the flavors together. For a 16″ baguette I usually sprinkle 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons of fleur de sel. Cut diagonally into serving size sandwiches.

Or set out a bowl of fleur de sel and let your guests have fun by salting their sandwiches.

After salting consume immediately: the salt brings out the liquid in the radishes. It all becomes deliciously juicy!

Be-et Ever so Humble

There’s nothing like borscht. It’s simple to prepare, and comforting. And beet season lasts from winter to early spring! And while it’s been a long winter and what seems like an even longer wait for spring as my blog hiatus indicates, some delicious beet-y dishes were served the last three months.

This borscht fest began as a conversation with my friends Otilia and Tudor. I wanted to observe their preparation of my family favorite, which was always just a sweet and savory mix of beets and the kitchen sink.

So one snowy day in the Pacific Northwest I watched the windows steam up as Tudor prepared our borscht,  and Otilia gave me the secrets of borscht in Romania.

In a beet shell Romanian borscht is vegetarian, and “borscht” refers to a starter not unlike the sponge we use in sourdough bread. This imparts a sweet and sour taste.

Is this a soup served at holiday time?

“Yes and no. Borscht is not really a traditional Romanian holiday soup, because it’s a dish that Romanians eat everyday, before the main course. It’s the Romanian equivalent for the French salad, if you will. It’s not festive, and yet, it is indispensable. Also, for Romanians, “Borscht” refers to all kinds of soups, it is not specific to the ones based on beetroots.” Otilia explained that soups become Borscht after adding the secret ingredient: the fermented starter.

What, no recipe?

“The traditional ingredients are: beetroots, onions, carrots, a few potatoes, oil, and “Borscht” (which is a kind of sour soup made from fermented wheat bran that Romanians add to any type of soup, to turn it into “Borscht”). In case you don’t have the “borscht”, you can add some lemon juice at the end, to give it the same sour taste. Beetroot borscht is traditionally eaten with a dollop of sour cream”.

So, the defining magic is in the “borscht”?

“In Romania, borscht designates the base ingredient of any sour soup, called “borscht” or “ciorba”. It’s in fact a sour liquid, made of wheat bran and sour cherry leaves. The sour liquid is added at the end of cooking.”

Otilia then told me you need a start from another “borscht”, to produce your own! She also said that only the grandmothers really know how to make this!

Is Tudor always the soup chef?

“It varies between me and Tudor. If you’re interested, we can do it again for another borscht recipe”.

It was absolutely sweet and delicious!! Write me down for another borscht day in your kitchen,  and thank you both!!

The Persimmon Palette

With persimmon’s, it’s about the color!  It ranges right across the oranges, yellows and reds of the cadmium family, and matures with a blush of the earth tones, primarily burnt sienna. Because every flavor has a color in my kitchen, I approach the persimmon through the artist’s palette. The challenge is not only preserving  the delicate and unique flavor of this fruit, it’s preserving the hue and tint as well.

When I taste the silky, soft, intense sweetness of the pulp, I pick up a little spice  and citrus. Since I had an abundance of Hachiya’s to work with, I ignored my usual persimmon recipes which use less pulp, like salsa, and went for the big cheese! I suspended half the pulp in a delicate cheesecake batter which highlights the background flavors. The remaining pulp became a pure glaze of color and flavor.

I found the original recipe on (attributed to “schmecktqut”), read the comments, and came up with a version which created the perfect persimmon package. I substituted  a ginger snap and walnut crust, added 1 less egg, and drained the pulp through cheese cloth overnight, saving the juice. I also cut back on the spices, using a little dried ginger, and half the nutmeg (fresh).

The glaze took a bit of research, but I finally found the perfect solution: a mirror. This is courtesy of theleftoverqueen. I followed her recipe as printed, with the addition of yellow as well as red (makes orange!) coloring to enhance the color.

And because we don’t want to appear to greedy, I baked them in the small 4″ spring forms. That way everyone can have half a cake without guilt, almost! And you have to admit, the color is a perfect cadmium orange-red!

Turn Your Green To Gold!

In spite of the title, this isn’t a post about the economy! It’s a how-to post, dedicated to constructing a really satisfying salad in winter, without those warm climate salad ingredients that we in the northern realms seem to crave.

What brought this on? A discussion with a friend: she lives on salads! We had a great chat exploring how to think outside the salad bar.

One stroll through the farmers market, or vegetable isle in your local supermarket, presents all sorts of wonderful lettuce and tomato substitutes. One of my favorites is squash. Using butternut, pumpkin, or danish, this salad is beautiful as well as delicious. The sweetness of the squash is a scrumptious compliment to the lemon vinaigrette, which also helps to break down the kale or chard ever so slightly. I used fresh squeezed lemon juice from my freezer! And there are a rainbow of substitutions here too, so take your pick.

As a matter of fact, I found coming up with measurements challenging since I usually make this with whatever I have. You can use these amounts as a guideline, or just do your thing to explore the gold.

Now get out your well honed chef knife, cut through that squash, and dice your way to a dish you will look forward to every winter!

Winter Salad With Squash And Kale

(With a nod to my local co-op’s Emerald City Salad, where this all started.)

Serves 6 (or 2!)

2 cups cooked wild rice chilled (make this days ahead!)
6 cups Kale, chard, or a mix (remove stems and chiffonade)
1/2 small fennel bulb very thinly sliced (use your mandeline if you have one)
1/2 cup finely dice red onion
1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley (don’t be tempted to omit this: the brightness adds a great level of flavor)
2 -2 1/2 cups medium diced1 1/ squash (approx 2# butternut whole, 1# danish, or a couple small sugar pumpkins) At times I make this salad with almost all squash and just a a cup of chard/kale, and the parsley for greens. So you could easily reverse the order of squash to greens.
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt to taste

Vinaigrette: or use your favorite vinaigrette, just don’t overdress. The salad should be barely dressed.

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup lemon juice
1-2 teaspoons of minced garlic (to taste)
1-2 teaspoons salt (to taste)
1-2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper (to taste)

Whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients. Toss with rice to marinate. Set aside

Peel and medium dice the squash. Heat olive oil over medium high in a large saute pan. Saute the squash until just soft and a little crusty. Try not to get the squash too soft. Remove from heat.

Lightly salt to taste. Cool.

Combine  greens, fennel, onion, parsley and squash in a bowl. Chill.

Just before serving toss dressed rice with veggies.

This keeps dressed in the fridge several days, if it lasts that long!

Choose your substitution and/ or addition!

Granny smith apples, barley,  sweet potato, cabbage, cauliflower, chopped nuts, dijon vinaigrette

Fall-ing With Apples

In the Pacific Northwest we really do have the very best  local apples.  My inaugural “ode to fall” dish always involves apples. I really look forward to the first Honeycrisps at the farmers market. Sometimes my ode to fall is sweet, but this year it’s savory due to the bumper mushroom crop! Not only were Chantrells incredibly priced, but the Yukon Gold potatoes looked fantastic! Honeycrisps, mushrooms, Yukon Golds: it’s a combination I couldn’t resist.

I love the Honeycrisp because it balances between the tartness of a Granny Smith, and the sweetness of a Fuji with a texture combining both. And, it’s red, with streaks of gold and green! It just perfectly matches the colors of fall and the bite in the air.

My ode to fall recipe comes from Cory Schreiber’s cookbook “Wildwood: Cooking From The Source In The Pacific Northwest”. After making this over the past few years, I have made my own adjustments.  I have added more apple, changed the variety, added mushrooms and occasionally cheese, more thyme, and more potato. What can I say: tinkering is a compulsion!

When I’ve added cheddar or gruyère I mix it into the apple mushroom mix. This addition makes a wonderful  comfort-y dish that is more like a gratin. As is, the Mushroom, Apple, Potato Cake is quite light. And I have to admit: I love it cold the next day for breakfast!

Mushroom, Apple, And Potato Cake

(original recipe amounts given in parentheses)

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 lb mixed mushroom including Creminis, Portobellos, Chantrelles, etc. (cremini/protobello)

1 medium onion finely chopped

2 Honeycrisps or other tart apples (1 Granny Smith)

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme (1 tsp)

1 1/2 teaspoon  kosher salt or to taste ( 1 tsp)

3/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

1 1/2 – 2 lbs yellow fleshed potatoes such as Yukon Gold (1 lb)

Preheat oven to 450°.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over moderately high heat, in 10 inch well seasoned cast iron skillet, until hot but not smoking.

Sauté mushrooms and half the onion stirring until mushrooms are tender and brown. Transfer to a  medium bowl and wipe out skillet.

Peel and coarsely grate apple, and stir into mushrooms along with thyme, half the salt, and 1/4 tsp  of the pepper.

Peel potatoes, and slice 1/8″ thick (I use my cheapie mandoline). Toss them with remaining onion, salt and pepper.

Fun skillet tricks finish the dish :

Heat remaining olive oil in skillet over moderately high heat.

Add 1/3 of the potato slices in one layer: you will overlap. Top that with 1/2 mushroom mixture spreading evenly. Repeat :potato layer, mushroom layer, and end with potato layer. While you are doing all this, the bottom layer is browning.

Put skillet in the  middle of oven, and bake 20-25 min.

Remove skillet from oven, invert a pizza pan or other round platter over skillet and holding firmly, flip potato cake onto platter. Then slide cake, browned side up, back into skillet and continue baking until underside is crusty and potatoes tender when pierced. This takes about 10.

ps. I have even made this in my stainless steel cookware, and it worked great!

Have Your Cake And Felt It Too

In the world of the food obsessed artist it’s not the blank canvas that we have to fill, it’s the empty plate. And look how my friend Heather Laskowski fills hers! Not only is she a talented multi media artist, she’s a bona fide pastry chef as well.

This felted cupcake, with it’s chocolate cake dark enough to satisfy any craving, just crowning over the pink cupcake paper is topped with a meltingly ethereal cloud of white buttercream. And clinging delicately to the buttercream is a scattering of jeweled sprinkles with a big  juicy cherry perfectly balanced on top.

Wait!! Am I confused! Am I describing the felted cupcake or these beautiful Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes  that Heather  baked, decorated, and then posted on her Flickr site?

Life imitates art once again…

If you would like to see more of Heather’s divinely decadent felted sweets you can visit her etsy shop here or her website Merry Moon Designs.

Lemon Love

On my recent trip to CA, land of perpetual citrus, I brought back a suitcase full of  organic lemons. I picked them the day I left  from a family member’s tree.  Lemons are a staple in the Art On The Menu pantry. Eating local aside, there are a few small concessions I have to make. One of them is lemons year round.

I call 10 pounds of fresh organic lemons Christmas in September. It was one citrus-y treat after another: lemon tartlets; lemon curd; fresh squeezed lemon juice in my freezer for future baking; preserved lemon slices; on and on! And oh- the art inspiration!

Rather than make my lemon bars as bars, I made them as tartlets. The pastry, which I normally press in, rolled out beautifully. I cut out 2″ rounds with my fluted cutter, blind baked, filled, garnished with some of the preserved lemon slices and ta da!.

The beauty of this method for lemon bars is it uses 2/3 less filling. This leaves more lemon juice for my endless lemon recipes! Of course you can eat twice as many because they are only 1 1/2 bites! And these tartlets inspired my cardboard lemon tartlet. The real one definitely tastes better!

Farewell To The Late Season Strawberry

The late season local strawberries are the sweetest. I’m not sure if this is because they actually are, or because I know they are the last and so I must wait until next summer for that true strawberry flavor. Because of this I always celebrate their departure by gilding the lily (or berry). I love to embellish these fleeting favorites and make Chocolate Truffle Strawberries. And at first bite you will be in love too, simply because  the crunch of good chocolate, the juicy sweetness of the strawberry flesh, and the ooze of the creamy ricotta filling with just a little crunch of almond is irresistible.

This is a berry most of us pick up by the hull, and bite. We love the immediacy of it:  the juice running down our chins and that incredible sweetness with just a hint of tang. When I am cutting so carefully, and watching just how far up I’m slicing as to not cut through the hull, it gives me a true appreciation of the delicacy and beauty of this berry.

I completely cut through the berry on the left to show the filling process. All those bits that I have scooped out- I use them in yogurt. I close up the berry halves, push through a toothpick to secure them, and dip. In the Art On The Menu kitchen, the last strawberries of the season are really something to look forward to!

I clipped this recipe from a local paper years ago, and have made many changes over the years. I went back to the online archives, but could not find a credit for this recipe. This is my version with many changes to the original.

Chocolate Truffle Strawberries

1/2 # good bittersweet chocolate, chopped for melting
1/2 Tablespoon unsalted butter
12 large strawberries washed and patted dry
1 tablespoon finely chopped slivered almonds
3 Tablespoons ricotta
3 Tablespoons softened cream cheese
1 Tablespoon powdered sugar
2 drops Fiori di Sicilia ( from King Arthur Flour) or any flavoring of choice. I like this flavoring because it is a highly aromatic blend of citrus and vanilla
Baking sheet lined with parchment

Cut each berry in half 3/4 of the way, vertically. Do not cut through the hull. Using the small end of a melon baller, cut a small cavity in one half of the berry. Set these berries aside.

In a small bowl, mix softened cream cheese and ricotta with a spoon until incorporated. Mix in nuts, powdered sugar and flavoring. The mix should be soft while still holding it’s shape.

Spoon a small amount into each berry cavity (1/2 tsp or less). Close berry together and secure with toothpick. Prepare them all, and set aside.

Over medium heat, melt chocolate and butter in double boiler ( I use a 1 quart on top to ensure depth of chocolate). Stir chocolate to test it’s smoothness and liquidity.

Hold strawberry by toothpick and dip into chocolate deep enough to cover 3/4 of each berry. Turn over and allow to set on prepared baking sheet.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Iron Cupcake!

Get your cupcakes on bakers!  If you are baking in the “other” kitchen, let’s see your batter, bowl and spoons and your oven center stage. This little “Mini Cupcake With Buttercream and Cherry On Commemorative Silver Dessert Stand” is the October prize for the Iron Cupcake Competition.

And this cupcake was baked to order in The Cardboard Kitchen. That’s why it comes complete with a silver dessert stand: in the Cardboard Kitchen we can perform such magic as making silver out of gray cardboard.

Here are the specifics: height to top of cherry: 4 1/2″; width including stand: 3″. And your little cupcake arrives with a list of ingredients. Wait till you see what it’s made of!  So have fun and bake your pans off!

Read the winning recipe!: Muffin Cupcake House. Congratulations Fabiola!

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