Archive for May, 2013

American Flag © Dina Avila

© Dina Avila 2013

I wish Memorial Day was everyday. I think we should remember the fallen soldiers, the hurt soldiers and the soldiers who are still fighting every day. Veterans on street corners with cardboard signs should not occur in our country. But it does, and I have yet to wrap my head around that one. I’m not a fan of war, in fact I loathe it. But it’s possible to be anti-war and also be pro-soldier. So hug your soldiers, feed a vet and take a moment to remember. Do this every day.


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Pot Roast ©dinaavila

©dinaavila (1 of 2)

Chocolate Tart © Dina Avila

All images © Dina Avila 2013

DinaFlourish (1)22

One of the (not always) fun things about the building we live in is that there’s a table near the mailboxes where folks leave stuff they don’t want anymore. Not really an offering to their neighbors, but more of a “I don’t feel like schlepping this stuff to the Goodwill 3 blocks away”. Sometimes it’s great. Most of the time is crap that someone will undoubtably take. I recently spied a copy of The Newlywed Cookbook by Sarah Copeland and quickly swooped it up. Not to be confused with The Newlywed’s Kitchen by Lorna Yee. Because that is exactly what I did when I picked it up. I’m not sure how Sarah’s book compares with Lorna’s, but finding it for free was a score. The pages are peppered with personal stories and simplish meals for two. As I was flipping the pages later that evening, two recipes jumped out at me. I’ve been craving beef stew lately, despite the warm weather we were having, and thought her pot roast would be a great alternative and a way to welcome back fall. Read: Cold and wet outside. It’s a time-consuming recipe but worth it. The key with the roast is to let it come to room temperature before seasoning it. Then letting it rest for another half hour before cooking. Genius.

Oh, and the other recipe that caught my eye is a chocolate tart with smoked sea salt. Nuf said :)


PS I’m back on Instagram, after a long absence, and have been posting my adventures in the kitchen and elsewhere. Some of those photos may end up on LS, but…if you’re curious and would like to follow me: :)


Three Hour Pot Roast with Basil Mint Sauce

Adapted from The Newlywed Cookbook by Sarah Copeland


1 – 3 lb chuck roast

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

3-4 shallots, peeled and halved or quartered depending on size

Splash of apple cider vinegar

3-4 cups of water

One bunch parsley stems

2 bay leaves

1 bunch of carrots, cut into chunks

1 fennel bulb, trimmed, sliced and cut into chunks

About 15 small red potatoes, halve or quarter the larger ones

Pinch of crushed celery seeds


Unwrap the meat and leave it on the counter for about an hour to come to room temp.

Season the meat with generous amounts of salt and pepper on all sides and let rest for another 30 minutes.

Warm your oven to 325.

Warm the oil in your largest Dutch oven or other oven proof pot over medium-high heat.

Brown meat on all sides until a dark brown crust forms. About 15 minutes.

Add the onions and brown.

Add  the apple cider vinegar and use a spatula to scrap the brown bits off the bottom of the pot.

Turn off the heat and add the water until it comes half way up the meat.

Using kitchen twine, tie the parsley stems and bay leaves together. Tuck in to the side of the pot.

Cover the pot and place in the oven for an hour.

After an hour stir in the carrots, fennel and potatoes and dust the veggies with the crushed celery seeds.

Cover and cook for another hour and a half.

Remove the pot from the oven and place meat on a cutting board to rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Pour the gravy into a bowl and serve alongside the basil mint sauce with the meat and veggies.

Basil Mint Sauce:


Half a bunch of basil, finely chopped

Half a bunch of mint, finely chopped

About a cup of olive oil

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Juice from half a lemon

Pinch of sugar

Pinch of salt


Place all of the ingredients in a mason jar. Tighten the lid and give a it a good shake.


Chocolate Tart with Smoked Sea Salt


For the crust:

1/2 cup, 1 stick, butter, melted

3 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch of sea salt

1 cup all-purpose flour

For the Filling:

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup whole milk

2 tablespoons sugar

Pinch of sea salt

7 oz chopped bittersweet chocolate.

1 egg, beaten

Smoked Sea Salt

Creme Fraiche


Warm your oven to 350

Whisk together the butter, sugar, vanilla and salt in a medium bowl.

Add the flour and stir until well combined.

Butter a 9″ springform pan, or tart pan if you’ve got one, and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Press the dough evenly into the pan ensuring the crust comes up the side at least an inch.

Using a fork, prick the crust all over and chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

Place the chilled crust in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes.

For the filling:

Bring the cream, milk, sugar and salt to a simmer over low heat.

Remove from heat and add chocolate. Do not stir. Let sit for about 2 minutes.

Whisk the chocolate until it’s melted and creamy. Whisk in the beaten egg.

Pour the chocolate into the hot crust and bake at 300 for about 15 minutes until the chocolate is set.

Let the tart cool on a rack completely. Just before the tart is cooled dust with the sea salt.

Serve the tart with creme fraiche.

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Still life of Peonies ©dinaavila

All images © Dina Avila

DinaFlourish (1)22

Because what’s in the oven at the moment may be too epic a fail to share. Even for Leek Soup ;), I offer you this still life of breathtaking peonies grown by the hands of my beautiful mother-in-law. They are magical.

Happy Mother’s Day!


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Pickled Fig Tarts © dinaavila

All images © Dina Avila

DinaFlourish (1)22

Well this was interesting. Did you know phyllo dough and puff pastry are not the same thing? Similar, of course, but not necessarily to be used interchangeably as I learned this morning. It was one of those early mornings of chopping onions with weeping eyes wondering why I got started before having enough tea. These crazy warm summery spring days we’re having in Portland means the light changes so quickly – beautiful soft light turns into harsh sun in a flash in my kitchen – which means I need to crawl out of bed fairly early if I want to shoot for the blog. So here we are, after a mildly shaky morning with a paring knife wondering what the heck Saveur is talking about, with these, shall we call them ‘rustic’?, savory tarts.

Oh, but they’re good. As we know, rustic is my style, right? So let’s call the whole thing intentional. Julia Child always said to never apologize for your mistakes in the kitchen. So here you go. I made them this way :)



Pickled Fig Savory Tarts with Kale and Fennel

Adapted from Saveur

I used a fig spread that I received as a gift for Christmas (thank you Heather & Brett). 

Feel free to substitute the figs for 1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives.


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, diced

1 medium fennel bulb cored and thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 bunch kale, chopped in to bite-sized pieces

1/3 cup sheep’s milk feta, crumbled, plus more for topping

1/4 cup picked figs

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

Freshly ground black pepper

1 170z box phyllo dough, thawed

3 tablespoons butter, melted

Coarse sea salt


Warm oil in a large pan over medium heat.

Add onion and cook until softened and beginning to brown. About 5 minutes.

Stir in fennel and garlic and cook for about another 5 minutes.

Lower heat to medium low and stir in chopped kale.

Add a splash of water, cover and let cook for another 5 minutes.

Remove the pan from heat and fold in feta and parsley.

Season with a few grinds of fresh black pepper.

Warm oven to 375.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Lightly flour a large work surface and lay thawed phyllo dough down.

Divide the phyllo in half, laying the two halves side by side.

With a paring knife, cut about 9 squares out of each half of phyllo.

Take each square and slice an L shaped slit that’s about an inch long onto each corner.

Fold the corners toward each other so they overlap – Trust me, it’s hard to explain which is why I had so much trouble this morning. Fold them in a way that makes sense to you, but you basically want to create a pocket for the filling to rest in.

Using a large spatula, place six of the tarts onto each baking sheet.

Spoon about 1-2 tablespoons of the pickled figs into the center of the tarts.

Spoon about 1-2 tablespoons of the kale mixture on top of the figs.

Crumble a bit of feta on to each tart.

Place the pans in the oven on two racks and bake for about 30 minutes rotating the pans halfway through.

Serve warm with a bit more crumbled feta and a dusting of coarse sea salt.

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