passion fruit parfaits + the beauty of improvisation

Image + styling: Olaiya Land

I had a big post planned for you this week on the importance of improvisation. But then the week turned into an insomnia-induced shitshow that saw me stumbling through my days like a member of the walking dead. So it turns out I’m improvising this post on improvisation. Ta-da!

Is that meta? Karma? The Universe calling my bluff?

I’m not entirely sure. And I’m too sleep deprived to untangle the metaphysical ramifications just now.

Image + styling: Olaiya Land

But here’s what I do know: Last fall we were staying with our friends Cecilia and Michel in Brussels (who, on a side note, are two of the coolest people I know. I mean he’s an actual physicist. And she’s an art historian. And they live in this gorgeous old house full of flea market finds and photographs and friendly cats. We’re talking major #goals here people.) Anyhoo, when we were staying with our way-cooler-than-us friends Cecilia and Michel, Beau and I ended up at the local market trying to figure out what to cook for dinner that would allow us to appear half as cool as they are.

As we wandered around the store cramming our cart full of exotic European ingredients like sheep’s milk yogurt and rye crispbreads and chestnut paste, I spied a bin full of pruney, sad looking passion fruit. Real talk: I had never actually laid hands on a passion fruit before. But I had a vague notion that they were supposed to be wrinkly. The wrinklier, the better even. Also, they were cheap. I tossed the whole binful in my cart and rolled on, triumphant.

Image + styling: Olaiya Land
Image + styling: Olaiya Land

When it came time to actually do something with my prize produce (as opposed to just feeling like a superstar for snagging a bushel of cheap but potentially rotten passion fruit), I was at a loss. I crossed my fingers and cut into one.

The papery shell revealed a center full of black seeds suspended in a neon orange jelly. Sort of like radioactive tadpoles. But it smelled amazing. Not rotten or overripe at all. I gingerly slipped one of the tadpoles into my mouth.

It was like I’d stepped into a tropical jungle. All musky and floral and fruity. More sour and intense than the passion fruit macarons and eclairs and jellies I’d tasted. I bit down on the seed and it shattered between my teeth. It was a crisp, brittle crunchiness that immediately gave way to a flavor explosion. Like the sexiest Pop Rocks you’ve ever tasted. I was hooked.

Image + styling: Olaiya Land
Image + styling: Olaiya Land

I rummaged around the kitchen and was able to unearth some stray containers of coconut yogurt, a jar of honey and a half bag of pistachios. After five minutes of chopping and layering and artful swirling, these passion fruit parfaits were born. They were the hit of the evening.

I’ve since made these for guests of our retreats. For dinner parties. For Beau and I to take down on the couch while binge watching The Office. These parfaits are easy, delicious and come together in less time than it will take you to read this blog post. Making them ideal for almost any occasion.

And they started with a willingness to take a risk on a pile of shriveled discount passion fruit. (Ok, if we’re being honest, a deep love of bargain-basement prices and the desire to impress our friends might have played a part as well.).

Image + styling: Olaiya Land

But the point is, this is where my big, philosophical post on the beauty of improvisation was headed anyway: You can’t control everything and when you try, you lose out on some of life’s sweeter moments.

Which is a lesson I, personally, need to be reminded of daily. So if you need me, I’ll be over here eating passion fruit parfaits and trying to remember that a spur-of-the-moment improvisation is sometimes the surest move.

Passion Fruit Parfaits

  • 8-12 ripe passion fruit (this should be enough for 3-4 parfaits)
  • Coconut yogurt
  • Honey
  • Pistachios, roughly chopped
  • Pinch flaky salt

*Notes: Since this is a post on improvising and since this parfait is super flexible, I’m not going to give you specific quantities. Just taste and sweeten to your liking depending on how sour your passion fruit and yogurt are. Use as much yogurt and pistachios as makes you happy.

- Counterintuitively, the sweetest passion fruit look like they’ve gone bad. They are wrinkled and shriveled but they will smell sweet and fragrant. If you can’t find ripe passion fruit, buy them when their skins are smooth and leave them out on the counter for a week or so to ripen. Here’s a guide to choosing and using passion fruit in case you need a little help.

- If you’re in Seattle, you can buy passion fruit at Uwajimaya. Be forewarned, they are expensive.

- I make homemade coconut yogurt using this recipe, but any coconut yogurt will work. If I’m using store bought, I like Coyo (available at most Whole Foods). You can also use dairy yogurt or a mix of the two. I sometimes use half greek yogurt + half coconut yogurt.

- A few coconut flakes would not be amiss here. And a layer of not-too-sweet granola turns this into a healthy breakfast in my book.

Image + styling: Olaiya Land

Cut the passion fruit in half and scoop the seeds into a small bowl. You can add the honey to the seeds a little bit at a time and stir to combine until you get the sweetness you like. But I’m usually too lazy for that. I just layer my ingredients together and then stir it all together as I eat.

I do think it looks nice to have a layer of yogurt on topped with a few pistachios, a drizzle of honey and a pinch of salt. But that’s just me. There really is no way to go wrong here.

If you want to get fancy, you can do 2 (or more) layers of each ingredient.

grilled zucchini with ricotta, honey and toasted barley


I’m writing to you today from one of my favorite Paris coffee shops. I’m a little loopy from jet lag and an unsuccessful attempt to drug myself to sleep with cold medicine last night. And coffee. Lots of coffee! (In retrospect, I can see this maybe wasn't my best plan ever.)

grilled zucchini with ricotta, honey and toasted barley on millys-kitchen.com

Anyhoo. I’m just popping in with a quick recipe for you today. I don’t know what it’s like where you live but it’s hot as satan’s attic here in Paris. I was a little sad to be leaving summer behind when I boarded my flight in Seattle last Sunday. But my fears were unfounded--summer has accompanied me across the Atlantic and is still in full swing. 

So. I have another easy-peasy summertime recipe for you this week: Grilled Zucchini with Ricotta, Honey and Toasted Barley. 

grilled zucchini with ricotta, honey and toasted barley on millys-kitchen.com

You might recognize this from my post on the pop-up dinner I hosted with my friend Kyle a few weeks ago. This was my favorite dish of the night. It’s fitting that I’m sending it to you from Paris since it’s my adaptation of an amazing dish I had here at Au Passage last May. The beauty of this dish--like everything served at Au Passage--lies in its simplicity and first-rate, seasonal ingredients. And it hits all the right summer notes with its smoky grilled squash, creamy ricotta, chile-spiked honey and nutty toasted barley. (Whatever you do, promise me you won’t skip the barley! It makes the dish.)

grilled zucchini with ricotta, honey and toasted barley on millys-kitchen.com

Alright. I’m off to wander the streets of Paris in an over-medicated, over-caffeinated, sleep-deprived daze. It should be an interesting day!

I’ll be back soon with some of my favorite things to do and see here in Paris. XO!


grilled zucchini with ricotta, honey and toasted barley on millys-kitchen.com

Grilled Zucchini with Ricotta, Honey and Toasted Barley

  • ½ cup hulled barley (not pearl barley)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Flaky sea salt
  • 4 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise
  • 6-8 small pattypan squash, halved (yellow summer squash works, too)
  • 3 cups best-quality ricotta
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons aleppo pepper
  • Juice from ½ a small lemon
  • ¼ cup loosely packed mint leaves

*Note: The toasted barley and aleppo honey can be made several hours in advance. 

grilled zucchini with ricotta, honey and toasted barley on millys-kitchen.com

Place the barley in a fine-mesh sieve and rinse under cold running water to remove the excess starch. Place in a small bowl and cover with cold water. Set aside to soak for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325°. Drain the barley and place it on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Toss it with olive oil to coat lightly and sprinkle generously with salt. Roast, stirring often, until the barley is golden and crunchy, 25-30 minutes. To determine if the barley is done, take a grain out and taste it; you want it to be crunchy like a partially-popped grain of popcorn. It will seem like the barley is never going to cook through, then in the last few minutes of roasting, it turns crunchy and delicious. So watch it carefully. Set aside to cool. 

While the barley is roasting, make the aleppo honey: Place the honey and aleppo in small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the honey has loosened, 1-2 minutes.

Heat a grill or grill pan to high heat. Place the halved squash in a large bowl. Toss with olive oil to coat and salt generously. Cook the squash, turning as needed until it has nice char marks, and has softened a bit. The exact time will vary depending on the size of your squash, but 5 minutes is a good starting point. The pattypan squash will take a little longer than the zucchini. You want the squash to remain firm, so be sure not to overcook it. Set aside to cool slightly.

To assemble, cut the zucchini on the bias into 2-3 inch pieces. spread the ricotta onto a serving platter and salt lightly. Arrange the squash over the ricotta. Salt lightly and squeeze a little lemon juice over the squash. Drizzle with some of the honey and sprinkle with the barley. Tear the mint leaves if large and scatter them over the top before serving.

Makes 4-6 servings. 

roasted chicken with smashed peas, rhubarb and aleppo honey

roasted chicken with smashed peas, rhubarb and aleppo honey on millys-kitchen.com
roasted chicken with smashed peas, rhubarb and aleppo honey on millys-kitchen.com

As promised, this week I have a fantastic recipe for you from my friend Kyle. For those of you who don't know him, Kyle currently runs the kitchen at The London Plane and has honed his skills cooking at Sitka & Spruce, The Corson Building and Le Pichet. He's the real deal: a first-rate chef, a teller of cheesy jokes, a connoisseur of dope sneakers. In short, an all-around a cool guy. 

roasted chicken with smashed peas, rhubarb and aleppo honey on millys-kitchen.com

He came over last week and cooked this Roasted Chicken with Smashed Peas, Rhubarb and Aleppo Honey. And holy crap was it good. I never get that excited about roasted chicken. Because how sexy can chicken be, right? Well I’m here to tell you this is one sexy bird.

roasted chicken with smashed peas, rhubarb and aleppo honey on millys-kitchen.com
roasted chicken with smashed peas, rhubarb and aleppo honey on millys-kitchen.com

Kyle roasted our chicken to golden perfection, perched it atop a pile of tender English peas smashed with crème fraîche and garnished it with tart roasted rhubarb and spicy-sweet aleppo honey. Gorgeous? Yes. Delicious? Yup. Easy? It came together in under an hour start-to-finish. 

So this weekend, I urge you to go forth and roast up this chicken while there’s still some rhubarb kicking around at the market. (If there’s no more rhubarb where you live, I’m thinking some tart cherries would be brilliant, too.)

roasted chicken with smashed peas, rhubarb and aleppo honey on millys-kitchen.com

And for all my Seattle-area people, Kyle and I are hosting an al fresco pop-up dinner on August 6th! We’ll be preparing a seasonal, family-style meal and serving it to you under the summer stars. So gather up your people and come sit at our table for a leisurely evening of food, wine and new friends! 

Menu, details and registration are here. I hope to see some of your lovely faces there!



Roasted Chicken with Smashed Peas, Roasted Rhubarb and Aleppo Honey

  • 1 whole chicken, halved or butterflied
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 heads garlic
  • 12 sprigs fresh thyme, divided
  • 2 lbs. English peas, shelled
  • ½ cup crème fraîche (or heavy cream in a pinch)
  • 1 ½ lbs. rhubarb, trimmed
  • ½ cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon Aleppo pepper (or other chili flake)
roasted chicken with smashed peas, rhubarb and aleppo honey on millys-kitchen.com

Roast the chicken: Liberally season your chicken with salt on all sides. There shouldn't be any bare spaces nor any sections with clumps of salt. Let your chicken sit out at room temperature until your oven is preheated. This gives the salt a little bit of time to permeate the meat. Alternately, you can salt your chicken up to 12 hours in advance. Store it in the fridge until about an hour before you plan to cook it.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. If possible set up the rack roughly 4-6 inches below the top of the oven. (Heat rises, so keeping it this close to the top will help your bird get that golden, crispy skin you are looking for.)

Once the oven is preheated, line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Cut your garlic heads in half crosswise to expose all the cloves on both cut sides. Set the garlic cut-side-up and half of the thyme in the center of the sheet pan. Coat your chicken with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and rest it on top of the garlic and thyme. 

roasted chicken with smashed peas, rhubarb and aleppo honey on millys-kitchen.com

Roast for 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of your bird. The skin should be lightly golden brown and crispy. If you feel worried about the doneness cut into the skin between the leg and the breast; the juices that come out should run clear. If there is a tiny pink hue, don't worry--the chicken will continue to cook as it rests. Let your chicken rest for at least 5 minutes. Don’t cheat and cut into the meat early as you will loose all your delicious juices! Reserve any drippings on the sheet pan to add to your honey later.

While the chicken is roasting, prepare your peas: Fill a large saucepan about ¾ full with water. Place over high heat and season the water so it taste salty like the sea. (They key to proper blanching of vegetables is having a good size pot, well seasoned water, and a rolling boil when you drop your veg in.)

When the water comes to a boil, set up a medium bowl with ice water so when your peas are done they can go immediately into the cold water. This shocks them and keeps them from overcooking. Drop your peas into the boiling water and cook for roughly 4-6 minutes. Your peas should be bright green and just tender. Pull them from the water and transfer to the ice bath. Once cooled, strain your peas. Reserve about ¼ cup for garnish and place the rest in a medium bowl with the crème fraîche. Mash them with a potato masher or a large wooden spoon. Add another pinch of salt if needed. Set aside.

roasted chicken with smashed peas, rhubarb and aleppo honey on millys-kitchen.com

Roast the the rhubarb: Cut the stalks on the bias into 2-inch pieces. Toss with the remaining tablespoon olive oil and a light pinch of salt then spread out on a parchment-lined sheet pan. When the chicken is almost done roasting, place the rhubarb in the oven. Roast until it’s lightly caramelized, but still holds it’s shape, about 10 minutes. Take care not to overcook the rhubarb or it will turn to mush.

While the chicken is resting, prepare the honey sauce: Place the honey, aleppo, remaining 6 sprigs thyme and any juices from the cooked chicken in small saucepan. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes to bring the flavors together.

To serve: Cut the chicken into quarters. Divide the smashed peas between 4 plates, top with the chicken, roasted rhubarb and reserved whole peas. Drizzle with aleppo honey and serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings
Recipe by Kyle Wisner

roasted chicken with smashed peas, rhubarb and aleppo honey on millys-kitchen.com