Unfarmed Project

We started a new project that’s all about foraging, wild crafting and the natural bounty around us. We’re exploring edibles, medicinals, natural dyes, mushrooms, all sorts of things! If you think about it, it’s the ultimate Cooking by Heart in that we’re documenting recipes and traditions that often go back much further to primitive times or at the very least, times when we were more connected to our environment and taking advantage of what it has to offer.

Here’s the first episode for your viewing pleasure. There’s a really nice Clam & Chorizo Pasta recipe at the end. Recipes and more Unfarmed here.

Chinese Style Ground Turkey & Shiitake Dumplings

I’m a little late to the Lunar New Years party this time around, but some of you know I’ve been busy with another video series venture, called Unfarmed. Make these dumplings and then check it out.

This recipe was adapted from Serious Eats to be slightly more healthy – instead of using pork, we used ground turkey and shiitake mushrooms.


For the Dough:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup boiling water

For the Filling:

  • 1/2 pound napa cabbage (about 1/2 a small head), roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 scallions, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 pound lean ground turkey
  • 15-20 shiitakes, roughly chopped
  • 2 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tbs. Shaoxing wine
  • 2 tsp. sugar

For the Dipping Sauce:

  • 2 tbs. soy sauce
  • 2 tbs. Chinkiang vinegar (or rice vinegar)
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tbs. finely sliced scallion greens
  • 1 tsp. minced ginger

To Cook:

  • Sunflower oil


For the Dough: place flour in bowl of food processor. With machine running, slowly drizzle in water until cohesive dough is formed (you probably won’t need all the water). Allow dough to ride around processor for 30 seconds. Form into a ball using floured hands and transfer to a bowl. Cover with a damp towel and let rest for at least 30 minutes.

For the filling: Place cabbage and salt in food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer to a fine-mesh strainer and set over a bowl. Allow to rest for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, place scallions, shiitakes, ground turkey, soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, and sugar in bowl of food processor. Pulse until homogeneous. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.

Squeeze remaining moisture out of cabbage with your fingers, then transfer to the bowl with the turkey mixture. Fold together with a spatula until homogeneous. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To Make the Dumplings: Divide dough into 4 sections, and each section into 10 small tablespoon-sized balls, making 40 balls total. On a well-floured work surface, roll each ball into a round 3 1/2- to 4-inches in diameter. Be generous with flour, otherwise they may stick together.

To form dumplings, place 1 tablespoon of filling in the center of a wrapper. Moisten the edges of the wrapper with a wet fingertip or a pastry brush. Fold in half and pinch the bottom-right corner closed. Pleat the front edge of the wrapper repeatedly, pinching the edge closed after each pleat until the entire dumpling is sealed. Place the formed dumplings on a lightly floured wooden or parchment-lined board.

To Make the Sauce: Combine all sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside at room temperature.

To Cook the Dumplings: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a 6 to 12 dumplings and boil until they float (About 1 minute). Continue boiling for 2 minutes longer, then transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon. Heat 4 tablespoons vegetable oil in a nonstick skillet or the bottom of a well-seasoned cast iron wok over medium heat until shimmering. Add dumplings flat-side down and cook, swirling often at first so they don’t stick. Take them out when they are golden brown and crisp. Serve immediately with dipping sauce. 

Poached Egg Bruschetta w Shallot Vinaigrette

This is a weekend brunch favorite in the Lowe + Helzer household and it has guided my education in the art of the poach. At long last, revealed below is my technique for the perfect poach. The recipe is adapted from Alice Waters’ In The Green Kitchen. The primary difference is that in her version the vinaigrette involves macerated tomatoes and halved garlic cloves which are removed before serving. I do that sometimes when tomatoes are in season. But on a normal basis, even if my kitchen is low on everything, I’ve got the makings for this brunch poach. And it’s super tasty.

If you’ve ever had dinner at our place, you’ve had a variation on this dressing recipe. It’s the Lowe + Helzer House Vinaigrette and we literally make it every night. I love it. You can use more or less vinegar, just depends how strong your vinegars are and how you like it. I do 1:1 ratio olive oil to vinegar; Paul does more of a 2:1 ratio. I am a fan of using multiple vinegars, some combos work better than others. You can use different vinegars, balsamic and red wine vinegar go well together if you like it a little sweeter. Rice vinegar is really nice on its own – that’s the Schwartz version I grew up with. Oh I should also add that in the Helzer household, salad dressing is made in the bottom of the salad bowl, then after the lettuce is washed, it goes into the bowl on top of the dressing and then it is fatigue‘d so the dressing coats the salad. Is that too much detail?

Mix together:
1/4 – 1/2 minced shallot
2 tbs. olive oil
1 tbs. red wine vinegar
1 tbs. sherry vinegar
1 tsp. nutritional yeast
salt and pepper to taste

Poach Method:
I’m not sure there is one magic bullet technique, but here’s what I’ve found works for me – fresh fresh fresh eggs are best. We have the pleasure of purchasing our eggs most often from the local farm, Gospel Flat, so they are crazy fresh. Another important variable, regardless of freshness, is temperature. Because the temperature tends to be cool here in Bolinas, and because we spent time in France and were enchanted by the way folks do it there, we leave our eggs out of the fridge, so they are always at room temp. If you keep them in the fridge, it’ll help to take them out an hour before you’re going to poach.  I’ve experimented with the tornado technique – the theory being that it helps the egg hold together – but I find that truly fresh eggs hold together naturally, so there’s no real need for the spin cycle.

Boil enough water to cover an egg, shell and all, say 2-3 inches.
Add a dash of salt to the water as well as a dash of vinegar. Red wine or sherry vinegars work great. I use the less expensive stuff for this.
Now take a small strainer, like a tea strainer and crack your egg into it. You’ll notice the sack and then there’s some extra bits of the white, those will drip through, giving you fewer flyaways in your poach. Let it strain for minute but don’t let it sit for too long, otherwise, it’ll get a bit stuck.
You want your water to be just below boiling, where it’s sort of got a wave of heat movement but it’s not bubbling.
Drop your egg into the water. It’ll just drop to the bottom and sit.
Once it’s got a bit of white to it, I usually give it a little nudge so it doesn’t stick to the bottom. A gentle tornado around the egg works here so that you don’t break the white sack or the yolk. It’s fragile!
Use a slotted spoon to check it every so often. You can tell if the white looks like it’s too runny inside. You want the white to be soft but not liquid-y. And the yolk to be super soft. Give it a soft touch and you’ll know when it’s done.

Poached Egg Bruschetta w Shallot Vinaigrette:
Toast up some good bread – a nice baguette or a slice of a wonderful country loaf. (Locally, we are big fans of Brickmaiden, made in Pt. Reyes.)
Pour a few spoons of vinaigrette over the bread
Place your poached eggs atop
Season with a sprinkle of Fleur de Sel and Pepper, another splash of vinaigrette if you’d like
Garnish with a sprig of greens or parsley
It’s really nice served with a small green salad too. Enjoy!

Tarte á l’Oignon (French Savory Onion Tart)

I’m a big fan of the savory tart. Sometimes I think about starting a tart business, maybe a fresh frozen dough company, maybe opening a little tart stand where I serve savory tarts and salad. Anyhow, this is another tart favorite at home.  It makes the house smell amazing and the result is a super tasty dish. This recipe is a French Alsatian delight from my mother in law, Brigitte Helzer. For a perfect flakey dough recipe see below. Timing tip: Have savory dough ready – I like to have it rolled out on my tart pan then I keep it cold in the fridge til I’m ready for it. Vegetarian optional – cut the ham if you’d like.

Music: “Cabin by the Sea” by The Diskettes

Onion Tart Ingredients:

4-5 large onions, roughly chopped
1-2 tbs. unsalted butter
salt, pepper
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
2 slices ham or prociutto, roughly chopped
1 tbs. all-purpose flour
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 cup emmentaler, grated (could sub in some gruyere or swiss or other cheeses)


Preheat oven to 450
Heat butter over low-medium flame
Add onions, stir and cover to sweat
This is a good time to grate cheese, roughly chop ham or prociutto
Add ham or prociutto to sweated onions
Add flour
In a separate bowl, whisk egg and milk together
Turn off flame, add mixture to onions
Pull out your prepped dough, pour in onions
Generously sprinkle grated cheese on top
Bake at 450 for 20 mins, then reduce heat to 350 for another 20 mins, cheese and edges of crust should be golden brown
Let cool for 10 mins on cooling rack before digging in

Savory Dough Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. salt
1½ stick butter
1/3 cup ice water (more if air is dry)


Combine flour, salt and butter in cuisinart or bowl
Prepare the dough
Add ice water slowly while pulsing in cuisinart until it gets clumpy
Gather the dough together, being careful not to over handle it (if overworked it won’t be light and flaky)
Place the dough in the fridge for at least 15 minutes before rolling it out. (It can be stored in the fridge for a couple of days or can be stored in the freezer for a couple of weeks. Just thaw in the fridge the day before you’ll use it.)

Something else – by Heart

It’s not food but can you blame me? My dad recently had some old family footage transferred and he gave it to me to play with. I found this, cut it together, found this song(!) and voila. I had to share it here. It’s not cooking by heart, but it’s certainly from the heart. The comedian and dancer is my paternal grandmother’s sister’s daughter, Ruthie (Pearl’s sister Ettie’s daughter). I think that makes her my second cousin. This silly strip tease captures a certain humor of my family, and of its era. The footage was shot in the early 50s when Ruthie’s husband Abe Mazlish got a camera and fooled around shooting 8mm footage of family occasions and vacations to Atlantic City or the Jersey shore. Ruthie is in her 90s now and lives, as she always has, in New Jersey.

More cooking, playing and creating by heart to come.

French Baguettes

My guy, Paul, is a lover of bread. In particular, he loves a good baguette. Through him, I have been initiated into a life of baguette enthusiasm.  A good baguette is dark and crusty on the outside, fluffy and light on the inside. That seems simple enough, most baguettes should fit that description vaguely, but there is a scale within that description. In France we found that the artisanal handmade loaves are usually best and everything else is, well, not best.

In France, bakeries prepare baguettes and other breads daily, usually preparing a morning batch and an evening batch in order to provide the freshest loaves all day long. In order to stock the shelves with the freshest breads when the shop opens at 6a, Boulanger William Courderot begins his day at 1am. When we arrived to meet him at 5am, he was well into his daily routine. Each day, Courderot rolls out 600 traditional baguettes and each day they fly off the shelf.

There are many types of baguettes. The hand rolled ones are usually called tradition or l’ancienne, they are made in the old French way. You can literally taste the love with which they are made. This is why I advise you to steer clear of the standard machine made baguettes! They are usually lighter in color, less crispy. They are longer and more uniform, there is no trace of flour on the finished crust, and they are maybe 10 cents cheaper. I’m not sure why anybody buys them.

In the states, it’s getting more and more possible to find quality bread but it’s still always fun to see what you can do yourself. When we were in France, I made a pact to learn how to make a good baguette by baking them daily. But after a couple of sad attempts, I gave in to the fact that everywhere I looked I saw perfect baguettes for €1 or less. I was in the land of incredible baguettes and I wasn’t about to waste time and empty calories on bad ones! It takes a lot of patience to come up with a method that works for you in your setting. It’s tough for a recipe to account for the moisture or dryness of the air in your environment. Consumer ovens just don’t get as hot as industrial ones. But have no fear, Julia Child is here! Julia offers a thorough recipe with helpful pictures in her book Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1, and you can see her recipe sans photos here.

One useful tip I can offer to fresh bread lovers: the best way to keep baguettes and other breads fresh and tasty is to wrap them in aluminum foil and freeze. If you have a big country loaf, cut it into smaller more manageable meal-size pieces and wrap each piece separately. When you want to eat some bread, place it in the oven or toaster oven at 350°F for about 10-15 minutes. When you can easily squeeze the baguette in your hand (with a glove of course), remove the foil, turn off the oven and put the bread back in the oven for another 5 minutes or so to crisp it up. Enjoy!

William Courderot’s French Baguette


1 kg farine / ~7 cups flour

650 g eau / ~3 cups water

20 g sel / ~3.5 tsp salt

20 g levure / ~5 tsp yeast


Mix all ingredients in kitchenaid or cuisinart mixer until smooth. Let rest for an hour and a half.

Flour prep area and separate dough into three equal pieces. Generously flour a linen cloth. Gently fold the dough over itself and roll while pushing the dough outwards until it becomes a long snake. Notice how little Courderot handles the dough as he forms it into baguettes. Don’t handle the dough more than you have to. Place the baguettes on your floured linen cloth, cradling each loaf in fabric so they don’t touch one another. Leave to rest for one hour.

Preheat oven to 550°F (or as high as your oven will go).

Use a new razor blade or very sharp knife to score the bread with evenly distributed diagonal marks, about 4-5 scores per loaf. Fill a cast iron pan with ice water and place it on the bottom rack of your oven. This helps keep a good amount of moisture in the oven while the bread bakes. Place the baguettes in the oven for 20-30minutes or until they are crusty and brown. When they’re done, let them cool on a rack for 10 minutes or so before you break bread.