Mexico, Tortillas + a Tuesday Tradition

There’s nothing like a rainy Thursday afternoon for telling a tale you meant to tell on Tuesday. This past Tuesday, to be exact, when I was eating this very stack of quesadillas in my kitchen. The tale goes like this...

We were smack in the middle of a blissful honeymoon week in Mexico, András and I, when we had our first fight as a married couple. We had spent three amazing days and sultry nights in the buzzing Condesa neighborhood of Mexico City, strolling and eating our way through the scene, feeling not so far away from the life we left behind in New York City. Then, we then traveled down to the South Pacific via Taxco, the charming colonial silver capital nestled in the mountains of Guerrero halfway between Mexico City and a little surf spot called Troccones, our final destination.

I have no memory of what our fight was about. Certainly something not worth the fuss. Most of our fights have gone like that, thankfully. But we were both sure of our stance. So, in this gorgeous old village I marched ahead of him straight up a steep hill lined with white colonials until I stopped, dead in my stubborn tracks, straight in front of a line of women and young girls forming outside of the local tortilleria. Each had a worn, bright colored cloth, which they would hand over with a few pesos to be returned with 20 or 30 freshly minted corn tortillas steaming in their hands. I stepped in line, and before long, András and I were sitting arm in arm at the foot of a cathedral overlooking the entire city, laughing and eating our way through a stack of fresh tortillas with nothing but salt, lime and a smashed avocado. It was the perfect feast.

In the three years since, tortillas have earned special status in our home. They are often our fresh bread, our starting point, our inspiration for at least one week a meal. We turn tortillas --sometimes made by our hands but not always -- into fish tacos and enchiladas and endless combinations of quesadillas like this one {made of squash, Manchego, thinly sliced garden radishes and a sprinkling of feta}. They are always simple and intensely satisfying meals. And in that vein, I almost always document them in the most pared down form possible, Instagram. Forgive the lack of fluff and perfect pictures, but this is how, mostly likely, I’ll also bring my tortilla inspirations to you.

In the spirit of forming traditions, I love the idea of our tortilla meal falling on the same day every week—like Tuesday, week after week until our kids are grown and still talk about that thing we do as a family. I’m prone to getting carried away. But for now, in our busy, insanely inconsistent life with a little one, our Tortilla Tuesdays could happen on Tuesdays or Wednesdays, and Thursdays, and Saturdays too. But, it will be Tuesdays when I share them with you.

Welcome to Tortilla Tuesdays. 


Squash Quesadillas with Radishes

Serves 2 to 4

8 corn tortillas
2 cups roasted winter or summer squash
1 cup shredded Manchego cheese
4 or 5 radishes, sliced paper thin
Fresh feta, crumbled, to taste

Heat a large cast-iron skillet or grill pan over high heat. Add two or four tortillas, depending on the size, and stack each with a handful of cooked squash and shredded Manchego. Add remaining tortillas to the top and press lightly together. Cook until the tortilla is toasted and the cheese has melted enough to hold the two tortillas together. Flip and continue cooking until both sides are crispy and golden brown and the cheese is entirely melted.

Cut in half and serve with thinly sliced radishes and fresh feta to taste. 

{in the test kitchen} poppy strudel

This is what I'm working on today in the test kitchen. It's kind of top secret, but I know one Hungarian boy who is going to love me extra when he comes home.

P.S. are poppy seeds hard to find in your neighborhood?


{eat cake} Rhubarb Upside Down Cake + Our Little Secret

{photo by Sara Remington}

This is the story of the best cake I've ever made, the cake that got me on The Martha Stewart Show. It is my mother's, and originally my grandma Pollock's famous Rhubarb Upside Down Cake. The making of this cake is as clear as any memory I have of childhood. Mom would send one of us into the backyard to snap off fat stalks of rhubarb that grew up over our heads. I remember the ruby color, the first crack of the fibers as she sliced them into plump chunks, rhythmically rocking her well-used Chicago Cutlery against the cutting board. The smell of the house as the cake cooks is like a wave of browning sugar that washed over every sense, and it can still take me back to the sounds of my dad, smacking his lips with a gleeful “oh honey, honey, hon-ey” aimed at my mother as he drizzled fresh cream over his steamy portion. To me, this cake is all innocence and childhood. It is bliss.

Years later, when I was learning French pastry at the New York City restaurant Café Boulud, I made mom's cake for the staff, and my pastry chef Remy Funfrock, whom I both feared and adored. I brought him his portion rather sheepishly -- he was a renowned three-star French pastry chef and this a humble farm dessert. He spouted rave reviews in his thick French accent, claiming he wanted to put it on his menu, and making me, the awkward and normally silent new pastry cook, feel like a sudden star. His praise was a strong, early lesson to always be proud of where we come from.

Since then I've made this cake proudly for friends and colleagues far and wide, including for my dear friend Nikki while we were working side by side in the Food Network Kitchens years ago. Knowing I wanted to save the recipe to include in my own cookbook one day, I shared the recipe with her but with the promise never to reveal its contents, especially, the secret ingredient -- marshmallows. 

Packaged miniature marshmallows go against all the principles of fresh, local, seasonal food. But you’ll have to forgive yourself just this once. They are the magic ingredient in this irresistible cake, that brûlée into an alluring crust along the top of the cake, balancing the tart, tender rhubarb that's making its fleeting appearance in the market as we speak. 

Needless to say, Nikki kept her promise and our secret until years later when, while running the kitchen at The Martha Stewart Show, she made this cake for Martha Stewart herself. And that's how my book won Martha's heart. 

Sunday night I'll be teaching a group of newlyweds how to make this cake, along with five of my other favorite late-spring, early-summer dishes from my book. I sincerely wish you could all be there with me (I love a packed house!). Ugh. Why do you all live so far away? So we can be together in spirit, here's my recipe so you can make Rhubarb Upside Down Cake and have a little "honey, honey hon-ey" in your kitchen too. 

Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake

Serves 6

5 tbsp/70 g unsalted butter {plus more for the pan}, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups/140 g cake/soft-wheat flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 3/4 cups/350 g sugar
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 cup/120 ml whole milk
1 large egg, beaten
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 large stalks rhubarb, cut in 1/2-in/12 mm pieces {about 4 cups/2 kg}
Handful of miniature marshmallows
High-quality vanilla ice cream, for serving
Heavy/double cream {optional}, for serving

Preheat the oven to 350˚F/180°C/gas 4. Butter a 9-in/23-cm-square baking pan.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, 3/4 cup/150 g of the sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Mix in the 5 tbsp/70g soft butter with a fork or your fingers. Whisk together the milk, eggs, and vanilla in a small bowl. Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture, using a fork to bring all together into a loose batter.

Toss together the rhubarb, the remaining 1 cup/200 g sugar, and marshmallows in a medium bowl; spoon in an even layer in the prepared baking pan. Spoon the batter over the top in an even layer. The batter will drip down between the rhubarb allowing some of the rhubarb to show {don’t worry if some of the marshmallows and rhubarb show, they will melt into a caramelized crust as the cake cooks}.

Bake in the center of the oven until the rhubarb is bubbly, the top is puffed and caramelized {slightly golden-crisp in spots}, and the cake springs back lightly when touched, about 40 minutes.

If you can resist the intoxicating smell, let the cake cool a few minutes on a rack. Then spoon out into small bowls, flipping the cake so the rhubarb side faces up, and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. If you’re feeling really decadent or have a bit of Southern in you, drizzle fresh cool cream over the top.  


{in the test kitchen} playing with....

bloomsdale spinach. snap peas. fiddlehead ferns. strawberries. ramps. 

{in season} Bloomsdale Spinach

Lately I've been blown away by the bold pinks and greens found in the garden that practically scream of spring. Radish sprouts with tender pink roots. Blushing ruby rhubarb with pale green streaks. And voluminous, ruffled Bloomsdale Spinach stemmed with a splash of hot pink. Until you grow it yourself or find it at the farmer's market, you may never see the bright pink stems of fresh Bloomsdale spinach. I had never had until I gathered this homegrown batch in the sink and practically mediated over the power of these colors. No offense to the pre-washed bagged baby version (which has its place), but it has nothing on this tangy, almost-sweet spring green.

This spring I've been putting Bloomsdale spinach on DIY pizza {Jim Lahey no-knead style}, tossing it together raw in salads, and stuffing it into grilled cheese and quesadillas. And today, for lunch, there will be Spinach Soup with Rosemary Croutons, just the thing for another rainy spring day. Savor it now before fresh spinach fades away into the hot days of summer.


{show + tell} A First Family Garden

{photo by stacey beuster}

I get so excited when my friends or families write or call to tell me their putting down roots, a little family plot. And sometimes, when I get lucky, they send me a picture.
I love when a family just dives in, little by little. This sweet garden is the first ever for the Buester family of Washington, IL. From 6 X 6 square feet of raised bed, they might get a dozen home-grown salads,  endless handfuls of tiny tomatoes, and enough cucumbers to munch on with their favorite dip. They aren't setting out to supply their table with each and every meal, because that's not truly the point. The point is, these little babes, Lauren (5) and Lincoln (3) are a part of something living and real. They're learning that food doesn't grow in grocery carts or magically appear on their plate, but that it grows by sun, soil, water and hands like theirs. They'll weed, water (mostly each other) and create a new tradition that I'll bet will grow stronger and more delicious each year.

Gardening is as easy as you make it. So, if you're just starting, start simple. Start small. Just start. Raised beds are great solution for any size family garden. They are cheap and easy to make for DIY-types, and easy to find in garden centers (try here and here) for putting down a fast plot in your yard. I love these smart tips for growing in raised beds, and you can stop in here any time with questions. I'd love to hear from you.

If you have a family garden you'd like to show + tell, write to me at inquiries@edibleliving.com.


{Newlyweds Cook} Annie + Oliver

{images courtesy of Martha Stewart Weddings}

Wedding season is upon us, and since my sweet brother and his long-time girlfriend, Karen, are recently engaged, we're all abuzz around here about wedding details once again, something I hadn't thought a lot about since my own magical day. And, since we're having a Martha moment over here, I thought it was a perfect time to share with you one of the most beautiful weddings I have ever seen, which was featured in the pages of Martha Stewart Weddings. The betrothed, Annie and her sweet groom Olly, are the sister and brother-in-law of my friend Katie, of Mom's Kitchen Handbook. When I saw their wedding, my jaw literally dropped. Annie is a couture dress designer, and her utterly romantic line Annie Sullivan | Couture Bridal,  recently launched. So it's not surprising that there were so many elegant details applied to her own wedding day. On the eve of Annie and Olly's first year anniversary, I asked Annie to recall their sweet story.

Annie says...

I have always had a fixation on all things French. I moved to France in my twenties, sure that I would fall in love with a French man and have French-speaking children who would drink hot chocolate out of little bowls and call me “maman.”  

Instead, after a couple of years on French soil, I returned to New York City and fell head-over-heels for Oliver Cobb, a hunky Englishman who was kinder than anyone I'd ever dated, French or otherwise, and had an accent that made me swoon.   

On our first date, while throwing back copious amounts of oysters and Sancerre, Olly casually mentioned his family's house in the south of France. As if I wasn't already hooked by his entirely charming self, this little tidbit was the icing on the cake. We have been together ever since.

On our first trip to Paris together, after a boozy lunch in Saint Germain, I led Olly through the teensy, twisted streets to Rue Bonaparte so he could sample what I considered pure heaven: an olive oil and vanilla macaron from the pastry shop, Pierre Hermé. We ordered several other flavors -- caramel with fleur de sel, rose, lemon, chocolate -- and stood in the square in front Saint Sulpice church with our waxed paper bag, nibbling our way through each one, warmed by Paris' afternoon sun. We were in love. 

Fast forward to our wedding. I wanted the day to feel like a spectacular European dinner party set in a far gone era.  The dessert had to be just right, and I am not a fan of English sweets. The likes of  Battenberg cake, fruit cake, bakewell tart, and something called “spotted dick," are not for me. Sticky toffee pudding is the one exception, but lacks the elegance I had envisioned. Going with French desserts seemed like a no-brainer.

We decided we would have a dessert table laden with classic French sweets, something the likes of which Marie Antoinette would have approved. Making the traditional French wedding cake, croquembouche, the centerpiece, would be the crowning touch. 

Croquembouche is essentially a tower of crème puffs or profiteroles, shaped into a tall cone, bound with spindly ribbons of spun sugar. Since pastry chef Francois Payard makes them magnificently, we asked him to do ours, along with all of the wedding desserts. 

Aside from the croquembouche, the table was laid with assorted diminutive goodies, everything from macarons to miniature lemon tarts, madelines, and petite éclairs. It was whimsical and decadent and the perfect end to the day. 

Lucky for us, Payard Pastry is a subway ride away, where we can go and reminisce about our first macaron together in Paris, and our first one as a married couple.

In the end I got what I wanted: the love of my life. I figure I can just teach our children to call me "maman."



{show + tell} Mom, Martha and My 1000-Layer Chocolate Chip Cookies

{Photo: Rob Tannenbaum/The Martha Stewart Show}

{Photo: Rob Tannenbaum/The Martha Stewart Show}

Tops in my Good Things files today ~ these photos of me, Martha and Mom. Thanks so much to The Martha Stewart Show and their fab producers for sending these my way.

p.s. You can find my recipe for the 1000-Layer Chocolate Chip Cookies on Martha Stewart Living today. For the recipe for mom's famous Rhubarb Upside Down Cake that we ate with Martha at the end of the show, look for The Newlywed Cookbook at these retailers.

{inspired by} Color, Sustainable Seas + Halibut for Every Eater

{photo by John Kernick for Whole Living}

Every once in a while I come across a recipe or photo that stops me in my tracks --an I wish I had thought of that recipe like Barton Seaver's Broiled Halibut with Shaved Spring Vegetable Salad that ran in Whole Living magazine last month. This is my kind of food -- fresh, colorful, and full of life. 

Everything on this gorgeous plate is in season now, including my favorite radish of all time, watermelon radishes. And it stars my go-to fish, halibut. Hooray for halibut! Why? 

First, you'll be hard pressed to find anyone who won't eat halibut, even kids (Greta eats it with gusto at least once a week) since it's mild, moist and meaty and takes on any flavors, from salsa to marinara sauce with aplomb. And that's great news, because Pacific Halibut is one of the fish on the best choice list for sustainability from the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch

We can get a lot of amazing, fresh and sustainable fish here in New York, but I love halibut best of all because wherever I travel, even home to the land-locked state of Illinois, I can usually find it frozen, in great shape and ready to become the star of another meal. Look for wild-caught Alaskan or Pacific Halibut

If you're interested in eating more sustainably raised fish, Seaver is the author of the book For Cod and Country: Simple, Delicious, Sustainable Cooking, and the creator of these 3 Simple Steps to eating seafood more sustainably that can be helpful in navigating the ever-changing waters of our planet. And in the meantime, here's the one thing you can do today. Pick up some halibut, pluck your radishes from the soil and cook this tonight. 


{show + tell} The Martha Stewart Show , The Full Report

There's only one thing better than being told you've been invited to be a guest on the The Martha Stewart Show--your mom calling to say she's flying out to come with you. 

When the producers of The Martha Stewart Show called to ask me to come on the show for the spring wedding special, with an entire audience made up of newlyweds and newlyweds-to-be, I was so excited. Imagine, getting to meet the perfect audience for my book face to face?  András is such a huge part of my book, and everything I do, I knew I wanted him there with me. But, the week I was set to go on the show, he had to make a last-minute business trip to Costa Rica. As disappointed as I was that he couldn't be there, there are so many parts of that day that no one could have enjoyed better than Mom. 

For starters, only mom could have truly appreciated my habit of splurging for black car whenever I have to be someone important (a huge extravagance to most more practical men) and how much fun it is to pretend you're fancy, if just for the day. Only mom could have adored the darling row of eager newlyweds waiting outside the studio when we arrived as much as I did. And, only mom could have truly relished the hallways lined with vintage of modeling photos of Martha herself that led to the greenroom. 
Only mom would have remembered to take photos of me studying my notes, and reminded me to nibble a little bit from the cheese tray they brought us so my stomach wouldn't growl on live TV. She was calm and sweet, as she always is, while I was giddy as a school girl taking behind the scenes photos of the set littered with paper lanterns and bowls of eggs collected from Martha's farm earlier that day. 

I couldn't be luckier that my friend and former Food Network colleague, Nikki Elkins, who has run the kitchens on the show for the last 6 years, was there styling the set, making sure my 1000-Layer Chocolate Cookies looked as lovely as ever, and that everything I needed for my demo was an arms reach away. And then came the moment I'd be waiting for -- the escort into the makeup room. 

There's nothing like a professional hair and makeup duo to make you feel confident and glamorous. It is such a treat to sit back and watch your best self appear in the mirror. And just minutes before I was set to go on, the show's producer, Courtney Knapp, decided we better spin my mom through hair and makeup too, just in case Martha asked to meet her on air. And guess what? She did!  

The show was a wonderful blur, fast and fantastic. Martha was gracious and so personable, and hearing that she loves my cookies was ultimate flattery. It truly couldn't have been more fun. 

After the show, we were all dressed up with no plans but to pick up Greta about an hour later. So, we did what is only natural for gals in false eyelashes and silk shirts, we went to the farmers market. We decided to have an impromptu photo shoot while we were all glammed up, but there was only one tiny glitch -- out coats, garment bags and my guest swag bag full of Martha Stewart Cleaning supplies were weighing us down. Mom helped me charm Chris, a young farmer from Mountain Sweet Berry Farm selling tiny heirloom potatoes and chips, into letting us stash our goods by his van for our very official photo shoot.

It turns out Chris' artisan chips were amazing, so we bought three bags, and desperately tried not to think about eating them the whole subway ride home (glamorous girls don't eat on the subway).

Greta, mom and I celebrated with teeny tiny chocolate cupcakes from our neighborhood favorite, Astor Bake Shop, before we came home and made fast farmer's market feast of baby La Vala potatoes, oyster mushrooms, kale, orecchiette and purple sage, a send off to winter and one insane, crazy rich week in our lives. 

I can't think of a more fun memory or day to share with my sweet mom just weeks before Mother's Day. You can see her and I both on the show tomorrow morning.

Tune in to the Hallmark Channel tomorrow morning, May 8
10 am Easter Standard Time /9 Central 



{highchair chronicles} Radishes + Waiting for Dinner

Greta and I just came in from checking on our babies in the garden. There are dozens of tender pea shoots, mustard greens galore, and row upon row of radish sprouts. She's learning, little by little to be gentle with each tender seedling. When her curiosity gets the best of her and she pulls one up, it's a perfect opportunity to taste. Yummy she says to radish sprouts, which makes me very happy. They are my favorite. 

Last spring, Greta didn't have enough teeth to partake in radish season, but the curiously shaped bulbs and their fuzzy leaves were wonderful distractions while she waited for me to make dinner. She's usually on my hip while I make most meals, but sometimes I need two hands. When I do, I wheel her high chair up to the countertop where I’m working and give her something we’ve just picked to play with.  Radishes, my old favorite spring standby, became new and beautiful in her wondering hand, and the most alluring way for her to discover the colors, shapes and textures of real, whole foods.

We're having friends for tortilla soup tonight.  I can't wait to shave the punchy pink bulbs over the top as garnish, and give Greta her first sliver, now that she's a serous eater, 11-teeth-strong. I hope radishes are making their way into your meals and menus this week, and that your little ones are become curious food explorers from where they sit on high too.


{Pedaling} May is National Bike Month!

I've always been fairly good at pretend. When I was little, I had to pretend Ken was about 10 years younger, so he could take Skipper out on a date. I pretended to run away once or twice. And when I lived in Ireland for a spell, I had to pretend I was getting married so I had an excuse to peruse the gorgeous celtic dress shops along Dublin's fanciest rue.  

For my 30th birthday, Andras built me a bike. I know, he's pretty awesome. Except Andras is a racing bike kind of guy, and at the time, his idea of a good ride was pedal to the medal for 60 miles at 6 AM on a Saturday. Mine was 5 miles, slowly winding the gears of my beach cruiser toward the farmer's market, wicker basket awaiting fresh produce. I love my birthday racing bike. I feel lean on mean on that puppy. But sometimes I close my eyes just for a second and careen left and right and pretend I'm back on my old granny bike, or even a sweeter version, much like the one above, with a baguette and full picnic packed in the back. 

It's probably better not to mention this sort of make believe to the bike maker. Needless to say, he's somewhat reclaimed that racing bike as his own.

Anyway, it's national bike month, so whatever kind of ride you prefer, give your wheels a whirl. We finally got a bike seat for Greta, so when you don't hear from us, we're probably off pedaling somewhere, wind through our hair,  earning our next feast. 
My photo
New York City, United States
Sarah Copeland is a food and lifestyle expert, and the author of Feast: Generous Vegetarian Meals for Any Eater and Every Appetite, and The Newlywed Cookbook. She is the Food Director at Real Simple magazine, and has appeared in numerous national publications including Saveur, Health, Fitness, Shape, Martha Stewart Living and Food & Wine magazines. As a passionate gardener, Sarah's Edible Living philosophy aims to inspire good living through growing, cooking and enjoying delicious, irresistible whole foods. She thrives on homegrown veggies, stinky cheese and chocolate cake. Sarah lives in New York with her husband and their young daughter.