salt-roasted beef with lemon-hazelnut pesto, pears and celery root

salt-roasted beef with lemon-hazelnut pesto on

Hello from Paris!

I hope you had a beautiful Christmas. I was a bit under the weather/jet-lagged, so Beau and I had a pretty mellow holiday: a walk over to Notre Dame to hear the Christmas bells toll, a leisurely stroll through the Luxembourg gardens with a stop for coffee at the Café de Flore. A seafood extravaganza for two and early to bed. We didn’t even pop the bottle of champagne we bought!

salt-roasted beef with lemon-hazelnut pesto on
Salt-Roasted Beef with Lemon-Hazelnut Pesto, Pears and Celery Root

But I’m planning to make up for our rather subdued Christmas celebration in a few days. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no better place to ring in the new year than the city of light. Beau and I have a table booked at one of our favorite restaurants. There will be oysters. There will be champagne. There will be all manner of other deliciousness and then there will be heading out into the chill to watch the Eiffel Tower sparkle over the city. 

salt-roasted beef with lemon-hazelnut pesto on
salt-roasted beef with lemon-hazelnut pesto on

But before all that, let’s talk about your New Year’s Eve dinner. 

If I were home, I’d be fixing this Salt-Roasted Beef with Lemon-Hazelnut Pesto, Pears and Celery Root. My friend Kyle and I served this at the pop-up dinner we hosted earlier this month. This beauty is Kyle’s invention. How he comes up with such creative dishes, I have no idea. Also, it takes him about two seconds to whip up an entire menu. Without cracking a cookbook. While I am jealous, I am also thrilled to be the beneficiary of his chef-brain. And even more thrilled that I got to eat this dish three times in one month: once while we were testing it, once at the dinner and again when I shot it for the blog with my friend Carrie

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This roast sits at the intersection of easy and impressive. Exactly what you want on a holiday where you should be sipping champagne with your guests instead of sweating away in the kitchen. The salt crust seasons the meat while sealing in all the delicious juices. The roasted pears and celery root are a meltingly soft, subtly sweet base for the beef--far sexier than mashed potatoes. And the bright, herby pesto makes it all sing. Plus, how often do you get to smash open your meal with a hammer? Very exciting stuff.

However you decide to ring in 2017, I hope it brings you joy. Thank you for following along here and for all your kind comments and emails over the past year. You make this adventure I’m on so much more fun! 

With much love,


Salt-Roasted Beef with Lemon-Hazelnut Pesto, Pears and Celery Root

  • 2-3 lb boneless cross-rib roast (also known as a flat iron roast)
  • 6 cups kosher salt
  • 3 egg whites
  • ½ cup cold water
  • Freshly-grated black pepper
  • 1 recipe Lemon-Hazelnut Pesto (below)
  • 1 recipe Roasted Pears and Celery Root (below)

Lemon-Hazelnut Pesto

  • ½ cup hazelnuts

  • ¼ cup mint, gently packed

  • ¼ cup parsley, gently packed

  • ¼ cup cilantro, gently packed

  • 2 tablespoons dill

  • 1 preserved lemon

  • ¼ cup minced shallot (about 1 large)

  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

  • Juice of 1 lemon

  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 cup hazelnut or olive oil


Pears and Celery Root

  • 2 slightly underripe pears

  • 1 large celery root

  • Extra-virgin olive oil

  • Kosher salt


*Notes: My wonderful neighborhood butcher turned me onto the boneless cross-rib (or flat iron) roast called for in this recipe. I love this cut because it’s flavorful and a great value when you’re feeding a crowd. It does have more connective tissue and marbling in it than some other cuts (sort of like a prime rib roast). If that’s not your thing, you might want to consider a different cut of beef. They’re considerably more expensive, but a tenderloin roast or strip roast never disappoint. 

- If you roast or grill a larger cut of meat even once a year, I recommend you purchase a corded meat thermometer like this one. You stick the probe in the middle of your roast, while the display sits on the countertop by your oven. Set the desired temperature and it will beep when your meat is ready. No opening the oven door and letting out the precious heat. No guessing as to when your roast will be the exact doneness you like. A corded thermometer will take your roast game to a whole new level. 

salt-roasted beef with lemon-hazelnut pesto on

Remove the beef from the fridge about an hour before you want to cook it so it can warm up slightly.

Preheat your oven to 375°F. Spread the hazelnuts on a rimmed sheet pan and toast until the nuts turn golden-brown and fragrant, 8-12 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool. When cool, roughly chop the nuts or crush them with the side of a chef’s knife or with a mortar and pestle (no need to peel). Place the nuts in a medium bowl. Roughly chop the herbs and add them to the bowl. Cut the preserved lemon into quarters and scoop out the flesh and toss or reserve for another use. Finely dice the peel and add it to the bowl. Add the minced shallot, lemon zest and juice, salt and olive oil and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking. Set aside to let the flavors come together.

To prepare the beef, mix the salt, egg whites and water in a large bowl until the salt is evenly moistened. Place a thin layer of the salt mixture just wider than your beef roast on a rimmed sheet pan. Place the beef on top of this layer and generously sprinkle with black pepper. Use the rest of the salt mixture to cover the roast, pressing to seal the beef in. Place in the oven and roast to desired doneness: 120°F for rare, 125°F for medium rare, 130°F for medium. Remove from the oven and set aside to rest, without breaking open the salt crust. (Don't worry if the crust has a few cracks in it when it comes out of the oven; that's fine.) Rest the beef for at least 15 minutes before you crack open the crust and slice it. 

While the beef is roasting, prepare the pears and celery root. Remove the skin and any roots from the celery root and slice into ⅓-inch thick pieces. Core the pears and slice into ⅓-inch thick pieces. Place the pears and celery root on a parchment-lined rimmed sheet pan. Sprinkle generously with salt and  toss with olive oil to coat. When the roast is about 10 degrees under the desired doneness, place the pears and celery root in the oven. When you remove the beef, increase the oven temperature to 475°F and roast until the pears and celery root are tender and golden brown, turning occasionally, 30-35 minutes. 

When the pears and celery root are done, crack open the salt crust on the beef using a rolling pin, meat mallet or hammer. Brush the salt off the beef and slice. Transfer the roasted pears and celery root and the beef to a serving platter. Spoon some of the pesto over the beef and serve immediately, passing the rest of the pesto alongside. 

Makes 6-8 servings.

Recipe by Kyle Wisner

salt-roasted beef with lemon-hazelnut pesto on

broccoli-leek soup

broccoli leek soup on

Fake it til you make it.

Something about that glib little nugget of advice calls to mind the worst sort of self-improvement columns. Yet scores of scientific studies indicate there’s real value in acting as-if. 

Headinginto another grey and rainy Seattle spring, I’m finding myself in need of a huge dose of as-if. 

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There’s something about spring in the Pacific Northwest that’s particularly maddening. Seattle erupts into bloom almost overnight. The city’s sidewalks are a symphony of tulips, hyacinths, magnolias and cherry blossoms. And of course there are stretches of sunshine. But for the most part, it’s rain. Hours and hours of grey and drizzle. Naturally, Seattleites are used to wet weather. But in March and April, when spring is so patently in the air, there’s something unbearable about more rain. 

Having just returned from ten sun-soaked days in Palm Springs, I’m finding the grey skies especially frustrating. I’m having a hard time hauling myself out of bed in the mornings. I’ve been moping around, uninterested in activities I normally find fun. I down a ridiculous (possibly unhealthy) quantity of coffee every day in an attempt to jolt my brain into action. 

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In the kitchen, too, we’re in that odd in-between season. I am no longer excited about winter squash, parsnips and kale. I’m craving tiny, sweet strawberries. Bright rhubarb. Asparagus and tender spring peas. None of which will be making an appearance at the farmers market for weeks.

So in an effort to lift my spirits, I’ve been forcing myself to get out of the house. Taking walks as soon as the sun makes even the briefest of appearances. Trying out different coffee shops in my new neighborhood in order to fit some human contact into my workday. Trying to dwell on the beauty of all these spring flowers, rather than complaining about the rain. 

And making batches of this soup. 

broccoli leek soup on

There’s nothing especially spring-y about broccoli soup, I know. But the bright green color and the delicate flavor of leeks sautéed in butter make me feel like sunny days are right around the corner. A dollop of basil pesto adds a layer of summertime flavor. And this soup comes together in 30 minutes flat. Which means I can manage to cook myself a homemade meal even on low-energy days.

So until sunnier days roll around, you’ll find me faking it til I make it and whipping up pot after pot of this bright, mood-lifting soup.

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Broccoli-Leek Soup with Basil Pesto

  • 1 lb broccoli
  • 4 tablespoons butter (or olive oil)
  • 1 large leek, halved lengthwise and sliced into ¼-inch half moons
  • Coarse sea salt, to taste
  • 3-4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • ¼ cup basil pesto (high quality store-bought or homemade--I’ve included a recipe below in case you need one)
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 1 oz (2 tablespoons) cream cheese
  • Good quality olive oil, to garnish
  • Pinch ground chile flakes or cayenne, to garnish
  • 4 fried or poached eggs, to serve (optional)

*Notes: For most pureed soups, I like a super-smooth texture so I puree them in a blender and sometimes even strain them. For this soup, I prefer a more rustic texture so I opt for my hand blender and don’t process it for very long. 

- If you don’t have a hand blender, you can puree the soup in batches in a blender. If you go this route, take care not to fill your blender jar more than ⅔ full, otherwise the steam from the hot soup can blow the lid off your blender. Getting burned by hot soup is no fun--trust me on this one. 

- If you need a little guidance on poached eggs, this is how I do it.

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Cut the florets off the broccoli stalks and set aside. Trim any brown spots off the stalks, halve lengthwise if thick and slice ¼-inch thick.

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the sliced leeks, broccoli stems and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until the broccoli stems are just starting to become tender, about 5 minutes. Add the broccoli florets and 3 cups of the stock. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the soup is hot and the florets are just tender, about 5 minutes more. The goal is to keep the soup bright green and for the broccoli to keep some of its texture, so take care not to overcook it. 

Remove the soup from the heat and stir in the pesto, cream and cream cheese.  Puree with a hand blender until there are no large chunks of broccoli or leek. Add a little more stock if you’d like your soup a bit thinner. Taste and adjust seasonings. 

Spoon hot soup into serving bowls and top with a fried or poached egg (if using). Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with chile. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

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Basil Pesto

  • 2 ounces (1 packed cup) basil leaves

  • 1 ounce (¼ cup) grated parmesan cheese

  • 3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

  • 3 tablespoons or more good olive oil

  • 1 clove garlic

  • Splash of lemon juice

  • Pinch sea salt

Pulse all ingredients in a food processor until the pesto reaches desired consistency. Thin with a little olive oil if desired. Taste and adjust salt and lemon to taste. 

roast leg of lamb with cilantro-pistachio pesto and white bean puree

roast lamb with cilantro-pistachio pesto //

I don't remember the first time I tasted lamb. I was raised on the sacred American trinity of beef, chicken and pork, so it was likely when I headed off to New Haven for college. I suspect it was under the tutelage of my more cosmopolitan friends who also introduced me to Indian food, real bagels and homemade hamantaschen sent in care packages from Brooklyn. (Thank you Mrs. Levine!) What I do know is that once sampled, lamb quickly became one of my favorite meats. Despite this, I rarely cook it at home. Or at least I rarely cooked it at home until now. 

roast lamb with cilantro-pistachio pesto //

A couple weeks ago, I discovered a stupendously easy technique for cooking a boneless leg of lamb while reading Diana Henry's excellent cookbook, A Change of Appetite. This is one of my favorite cookbooks and my go-to for healthy meals that lack neither flavor nor sophistication. 

With Diana’s technique there’s virtually no prep and the lamb is in and out of the oven in 30 minutes, cooked to rosy perfection. No need for marinating, trussing or even a thermometer. My kind of recipe.

Of course, because I can’t not tinker with a recipe and because I always want something garlicky with lamb, I added a garlic-cumin rub. I also added a bright and slightly spicy cilantro-pistachio pesto to jazz things up a bit. 

roast lamb with cilantro-pistachio pesto //

At a recent dinner party, I served this lamb alongside a white bean puree and thought the creamy, earthy beans were a nice foil for the heat of the pesto and richness of the lamb. So I’ve included that recipe as well. I recommend a green or shaved vegetable salad dressed simply with lemon juice, salt and a drizzle of olive oil to round out your supper. 

I’ve made this recipe twice in as many weeks, so I’m going to say it’s officially entered my repertoire. If you love lamb, it should most definitely enter yours. Let me know in the comments if you give it a go!

roast lamb with cilantro-pistachio pesto //

Roast Leg of Lamb with Cilantro-Pistachio Pesto

  • 2 ½ lb butterflied boneless leg of lamb, trimmed of all but ⅛ inch of fat cap
  • 3 cloves garlic, divided
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 tablespoon toasted and freshly-ground cumin seed
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup shelled unsatled pistachios, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup loosely-packed fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup loosely-packed fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • 2 red Fresno chiles, seeded (if desired), and finely diced (or a generous pinch of chile flakes)
  • 1 tablespoon finely-grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

*Notes: You can use the same technique and cook times on a larger piece of lamb if it is butterflied. The thickness determines the cook time here, not the weight of the roast.

- If you don’t want to fuss with the garlic-cumin rub, just generously salt the lamb before roasting.

- The pesto will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 3 days. It is also delicious on roasted salmon and roasted root vegetables, especially carrots. Bring to room temperature before serving.

roast lamb with cilantro-pistachio pesto //

Pound 2 cloves of the garlic and ½ teaspoon of the salt in mortar. Add the cumin and pound to combine. Add 1 teaspoon of the olive oil and stir until you have a thick paste. Rub the spice paste all over lamb and set aside to rest for at least 30 minutes. (You can season the lamb up to 24 hours in advance. Keep refrigerated until 30 minutes prior to roasting.)

Preheat oven to 425° F. Place the seasoned lamb on parchment-lined sheet pan, fat side up. Roast for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven oven temperature to 375° F and roast for 15 more minutes for medium-cooked lamb (20 for medium-well). Remove from oven and rest for 15-20 minutes.

While the lamb is roasting, make the pesto: Mince or press the remaining garlic clove. Combine the garlic, pistachios, cilantro, mint, chile, remaining ¼ teaspoon salt, lemon zest and juice in a small bowl. Add the remaining oil and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings to taste.

After the lamb has rested, slice to desired thickness. Salt the interior of the lamb and serve atop the white bean puree (recipe below) with the pesto spooned over the top. 

Makes about 6 servings of lamb and 2 cups pesto.


White Bean Puree

  • 3 cups cooked white beans, preferably homemade (this is the equivalent of 2 cans if you don’t have time to make your own)

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

  • 2 tablespoons tahini

  • 2 cloves garlic

  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

*Notes: I highly recommend making your own beans for this recipe as they taste so much better than canned. Post in the comments if you have questions about how to cook great beans. :)

- My favorite brand of tahini is Joyva. Whatever brand you choose, make sure you get a roasted sesame tahini and not a raw sesame paste.

- If you want to serve this white bean puree warm, you can either heat the beans in their liquid or a little bit of stock or water until hot, then process and serve immediately. Or you can make the puree and heat it in a large metal bowl set over a pot with 1 inch of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until hot.


Place the beans, lemon juice, salt, tahini and garlic cloves in the bowl of a food processor. With the motor running, add the oil in a thin stream. Process until the puree is very smooth, 3-5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.

Makes about 4 cups.