Saturday, October 29, 2016


My mother told me there was a black walnut tree growing in the front yard of her childhood home in Waterford, Virginia. She made the most delicious black walnut pound cake and probably got the recipe from her mother, Annie Louise Middleton Markham.
Back in the early 1980s, my husband and I took a couple of friends to visit Waterford, Virginia. We walked up the hill to my mom's home and it was in shambles. Apparently someone bought the property, with over 70 acres of land, and was ready to renovate and restore the house. I walked through the house and opened every door on the second floor. She told me every room had a fireplace—and they sure did.
There was an old black walnut tree in the front yard and I picked up an empty shell lying on the ground and kept it. 
My husband fashioned it into an owl, and I still have that little black walnut 'owl'.
Black walnuts are difficult to find in the Pacific Northwest. I ordered them online and for extra flavor, I also ordered black walnut extract.

Butter a 4 by 8-inch loaf pan.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
3 T honey
1 t black walnut extract
2 cups pastry flour or all-purpose flour
½ t baking powder, preferably non-aluminum
1 t sea salt
1 ½ cups chopped black walnuts

In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with a paddle, gently cream butter and sugar.
In a 2-cup measuring pitcher, add eggs, honey, and black walnut extract.
Whisk with a fork and then gradually pour into mixer while mixing on slow speed.

Sift flour with baking powder into a bowl then add the salt and slowly add to mixer.

Mix until well incorporated, scraping down the bowl once or twice in between.
With a rubber spatula, transfer batter to the prepared pan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake, comes out clean.

Cool in pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes.  
Using a table knife, run it around the sides of the pan to loosen and then turn out onto a plate.  

Let cool another hour or so before serving.

Monday, October 24, 2016


For very special celebrations, such as birthdays or anniversaries, my husband and I go to a popular seafood restaurant in Seattle. I always order their crab bisque. They are made with Dungeness crabs from the Pacific Northwest. Over the weekend, two friends of ours caught several Dungeness crabs in the pristine waters off the coast of Salt Spring Island. They very kindly gave us several cleaned crabs. Thank you so much Jim and Cec! If you live where Blue crabs are available, the bisque will taste equally as delicious.

Lee's Kitchen Tips:  
If you prefer to buy crabmeat already cooked and cleaned or you do not want to make the crab broth with the shells, buy a carton of seafood broth or crab base to use in place of the 4 cups of water. Omit the first part of the recipe and go directly to cooking the onion and carrots.

2 large Dungeness crabs, cleaned, shells intact or 8 Blue crabs
4 cups water, divided

4 T unsalted butter
1 medium onion, shredded or minced
2 medium carrots, shredded or minced
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup dry sherry
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 to 2 t Old Bay Seasoning
3 cups half-and-half or cream
3 T tomato paste
¼ cup Whiskey
Sea salt and finely ground black pepper
Finely chopped chives, for garnish
Paprika for garnish

Place cleaned crabs in a Dutch oven with 2 cups water and lined with a steaming basket.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes.

Set aside to cool and when cool enough to handle, remove meat from shells and place in a bowl.
Place shells on a baking sheet and bake in a 400 F degree oven for 15 minutes. This enhances the crab flavor.

After shells have baked, place shells back into the Dutch oven and add the crab-cooking broth and the other 2 cups cold water.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.
Strain crab-cooking broth into a 4-cup measuring pitcher and discard shells.

In the same Dutch oven, heat the butter over low heat and add the onion and carrots. 
Sauté for 10 minutes, until vegetables are tender. 
Stir in the flour and cook for another 2 minutes while stirring.
Add the sherry and crab-cooking broth and simmer another 2 minutes.

Turn off heat and using an immersion blender, blend soup until smooth.
Alternatively, you can pour the soup into a blender to puree, and then pour back into the Dutch oven.
Add the cayenne, Old Bay, half-and-half, or cream, and tomato paste.
Simmer until soup is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the whiskey and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Add crabmeat (saving some for garnishing the bisque) and simmer for a couple of minutes, just to heat through.

Ladle into 4 warm bowls, top with some crabmeat, and garnish with chives and paprika.

Sunday, October 23, 2016


This must be one of the healthiest breakfast, brunch, or lunch entrées. 

Lee's Kitchen Hints: Cold smoked and Nova lox salmon are cured in salt, then rinsed and cold-smoked. Cold smoking is done around 99 degrees F. Nova lox comes from Nova Scotia, Canada. Gravlax is a Scandinavian way of curing salmon using spices and lots of dill; and it is not smoked.

2 ripe avocados, flesh scooped from shell
1 clove garlic, pressed or minced
Zest and juice of ½ lime
3 scallions, minced
2 to 3 T minced cilantro leaves
Pinch of chipotle powder or your favorite chile powder
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Sea salt

4 slices pumpernickel bread or your favorite bread, toasted

1 T extra-virgin olive oil
4 thin slices cold smoked salmon, Nova lox, or gravlax
2 T store bought crème fraîche, or homemade (recipe follows)
Fresh chopped cilantro, for garnish

Place the scooped avocado in a bowl and mash with a fork.
Add the garlic, if using, zest and lime juice, scallions, cilantro, chipotle powder, cayenne, and sea salt.

Spread a little extra-virgin olive oil on each piece of toasted bread.
Divide the avocado mixture between the 4 toasts.
Add a slice of salmon, top with a small spoonful of crème fraîche or sour cream.
Top with a sprinkling of chopped dill or cilantro.

Serve with a fruit salad, and coffee or tea.

Serves 2

Homemade Crème Fraîche 
(Start this at least 2 days before making your Avocado Toast)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 T fresh lemon juice 

Pour cream into a clean canning jar fitted with a clean lid and screw on band.
Add the lemon juice.
Screw on lid and shake vigorously.
Remove lid and cover with a clean cloth secured with a rubber band or loosely covered with plastic wrap.
Let sit in a warm spot for 24 hours.
Stir contents and screw on lid and refrigerate up to two weeks.