Wasabi, roses, books and great dirt.

Last Thursday I realized a moment too late that I was driving straight past my exit off of I-70 coming back from Topeka. I thought it was the second exit that puts you out on to Iowa Street when I realized that it was indeed the East Lawrence exit, my exit – the exit I have turned on to a million times – that I was whizzing past. I had a lot on my mind.

It was a busy week with promotional speaking for my novel Joy Again. The Thursday I missed  my exit I was speaking at one of my favorite places, The Lawrence Public Library.


Behind the wheel of my Volvo station wagon, I was mentally reviewing what I would say about why I wrote this book, the process I went through to publish it and trying to dredge anything else up that might be deemed interesting. I admired my dog Lucy’s shave in the rear view mirror (so pretty!) as I thought about the morning in Topeka.

I had accompanied my mom to her vet’s office earlier to put her beloved dog Cocoa to sleep. Over all of our combined years neither of us had gone through this experience. Cocoa was a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel she adopted from a rescue. She was a faithful companion – completely deaf, always hungry (she would get into uncooked oatmeal at our house) and affectionate. Her passing was about as peaceful and loving as any I can imagine; it was also sad. It made me long for a different end for Bear, our precious ‘firstborn’ who died years ago while we were in London. We had picked him up when we returned to town – the vet had frozen his body so we could bury him and he was in a black plastic trash bag. Cocoa was wrapped in a soft coral towel of my moms, the weight surprisingly heavy as I carried her to the car. We drove to my aunt Mimi’s house where she has a lovely shaded area in her large backyard that many of her animals have been buried. My mom brought flowers from her garden, their aroma sweeter and stronger than any I have experienced.


The Shelton sister wore gardening boots as it was muddy from recent rains; I had not had such foresight as my grey sneakers got smeared. We remarked on the fabulous dirt as I dug – thick, dark, dense and rich. It seemed anything should be able to grow there. When the tears seemed over, we said our final goodbyes and went for donuts.

I thought of my signature dessert as a pastry chef: Apple-celery granita was layered atop vanilla panna cotta in a champagne flute. A wasabi glaze drizzle and pinch of black Hawaiian salt accented the layers and the presentation was finished with a dried Granny Smith apple chip and candy sugar sticks. (Link to recipe)  This dish was special because it was interesting, a study of contrasting flavors and textures. Icy against the creamy, sweet mingles with spicy, salty and tart collide, celery as dessert. In the end it ending up tasting good, even delicious.

So maybe because the morning was intense and sad and tearful I was able to enjoy this moment a few hours later even more…


Aren’t they awesome, these friends who showed up at the library that night? Because all I had to do to get back to Lawrence after missing my exit was go a little bit out of my way and turn around. Maybe it was the right path after all.

Love, Molly

It’s Not Boring

Four years ago I pulled out one of my favorite quotes from Ruth Reichl when posting about upcoming changes at our former restaurant Esquina. I find I am drawn to it again…

“Moderation in all things is a mantra we’ve been hearing a lot about of late. It is healthy. It is sane. It is morally correct. It is also very boring. I much prefer people with passions. There is nothing more exciting than watching someone fall so deeply in love – with a food, an object, a way of life – that they throw caution to the wind and follow their heart.”

Robert and I put the house we have lived in for the past sixteen years on the market last week. It was here that we brought both of our daughters home from the hospital; where we lived with endless renovations to create a beautiful space; where our home restaurant earned a highlight in Food & Wine; where our daughter is currently learning to park the car in the garage in what is admittedly a tricky angle.


This house has been and is good to us. Even during times of neighborhood strife about our home business, these walls have been a refuge. It is not a light decision to consider parting from them. Yet it feels like the right one. Many of you reading this dined with us as customers in this house, during a wonderful time in our career. Never a fan of moderation, our new ventures have brought changes. Robert is expanding the burger concept in New Mexico (look out Santa Fe!), while I am pursuing a writing career. These changes can be uncomfortable – I’ve stopped doing that which what I have many years of experience and expertise; I now often feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. Robert travels often and we are parenting two teenage girls. But I am grateful – for all of it – and I am certainly not bored.

We plan to stay in Lawrence whether or not or house sells. If you are curious about our house (it’s changed a lot since Krause Dining), here’s a link to the wonderful photos our realtor took of it. 

If you want to keep current about events surrounding the launch of my novel Joy Again, I’ll post them on my website www.molly-krause.com.

And finally, thank you for sharing this ride with me. I’ll end with another favorite quote of mine, this one by Sugar aka Cheryl Strayed…

“We’re all going to die, Johnny. Hit the iron bell like it’s dinnertime.”





My All Time Most Requested Dessert From Days Gone By…


Back when I was the pastry chef for Krause Dining, I planned and executed the nightly menu’s two served desserts as well as the small plate of mignardises (at least three tiny sweets) to pass at the table. I tried to change these items regularly, but one dish I put together was hard to ever switch out. Mainly because it was the most delicious, interesting and beautiful dish that I ever created.

Apple-celery granita was layered atop vanilla panna cotta in a champagne flute. A wasabi glaze drizzle and pinch of black Hawaiian salt accented the layers and the presentation was finished with a dried Granny Smith apple chip and candy sugar sticks. After my recent post A Cookbook Story…with Recipes, someone requested this recipe, which made me happy that someone remembered the dish.

This recipe was one of the two hundred that were not included in The Cook’s Book of Intense Flavors. You’ll need a juicer to make it…

“Apple With a Kick”


The bright, tart flavor of apple is beautifully contrasted by a creamy mouth-feel and spanked with an edge of heat. This combination is most intense when the tartness of the apple is the leading flavor. A more mellow flavor combination offers cream as the prominent note and would result in sauces or soups. In any combination, adding the wasabi requires the most sensitivity as it can quickly dominate the entire dish. For other applications, think of sauces for pork dishes, as apple in particular accompanies birds and game meats nicely.

APPLE – For purity of flavor, extract juice in vegetable juicer (or use a good quality natural apple juice) and use for a reduction, gelee or granita. Use raw apples for greatest texture and crisp flavor. Cooking softens the intensity of the apple’s flavor but brings out its natural sugars. Varieties that are nice all-purposes choices are Granny Smith, Pink Lady, and Braeburn.

CREAM – Use as the base for a savory sauce, soup, or starch. Whip, set with gelatin, or make into a custard for ice cream. For this combination, cream can be quickly take these ingredients in new directions by being the vehicle for interesting sauces. Don’t be tempted to replace milk for the cream, the richness of the finished dish is dependent on the additional fat in the cream.

WASABI – Best used as an accent and with restraint! Comes as a powder or paste and generally used as a garnish for sushi. Use the prepared paste for the most strength, or the powder when wanting to tame its heat with other flavors. It can be thinned down with a liquid (water, wine, or juice) to be used to drizzle or as an accent with a sauce. Go easy with it, you can always add more or have portions on the side for those who want it – you want to be able to taste the apple in the dish.

  • Tart ice on silky cream with a wasabi spank
  • Apple-Celery Granita

            Granitas are a wonderful way to make a flavorful frozen dessert without using an ice cream machine.

Serves 4

1 teaspoon ascorbic acid, crushed from 2 vitamin C tablets (1,000-mg)

½ cup sugar

6 Granny Smith apples, skin on, cut lengthwise to fit in juicer opening or 1 ½ quarts of good quality apple juice

6 celery stalks, leaves cut off


Electric vegetable juicer

8 inch square baking pan

Place an 8 inch square, or similar sized baking pan in the freezer to chill.

Combine ascorbic acid and sugar in container that will both fit under your juicer and hold up to 1½ quarts of juice. Juice apples (or use juice) and celery into container. Skim any foam off of the surface. Gently stir until sugar is dissolved.

Remove chilled pan from the freezer and pour in sweetened juice. Put into freezer and set timer for 1 hour. Stir with fork or bench scraper once an hour until no liquid remains and granita has been chopped to a uniform size. Wrap with plastic wrap until ready to serve.

  • Vanilla Panna Cotta With Wasabi Glaze

            This is a wonderful, simple dessert that is very versatile. It’s perfect in the summer months because it doesn’t need to go in the oven. It has a custard-like quality, but because it is thickened with gelatin and not eggs, it is lighter in your mouth. It is delicious with whatever fruit is in season. More refined that whipped cream, it is not much more difficult to prepare.

Serves 4

1½ teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin

1 tablespoon cold water

2 cups heavy cream

1 cup milk

1 cup sugar

1 vanilla bean, cut lengthwise with seeds scraped


4 parfait glasses, small bowls or ramekins

Put water in a small bowl and sprinkle with the gelatin. Set aside to soften.

Combine cream, milk, sugar, vanilla bean and seeds in a large saucepan. Over medium heat, stir to dissolve sugar and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and add gelatin. Whisk to dissolve gelatin in cream mixture. Pass through a fine mesh strainer and transfer to a measuring cup with a spout.

Evenly divide into four glasses, small bowls or ramekins. Chill for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Wasabi glaze

            Adding the sweet element of the juice as a liquid to thin down the wasabi does not diminish the kick it offers, but it does create some complexity that is well suited to the other flavor components.


1 tablespoon wasabi powder or paste

1 tablespoon orange juice

Mix together wasabi and orange juice in a small dish. It should reach the consistency that is freely falls from a spoon in a steady stream. Add more juice or water if necessary.


Place several drops of wasabi glaze over vanilla panna cotta, so that it barely covers the surface. Top with apple-celery granita and serve promptly.

A Cookbook Story…With Recipes

Once upon a time I wrote a cookbook with my husband Robert. We received a nice advance, a tight deadline and a new laptop. I toiled on the content, staying up late after serving guests nightly at Krause Dining. We turned in our manuscript on time – all 300 recipes. We were told months later that 100 of them would be published in The Cook’s Book of Intense Flavors. We were proud of the finished book and I did not mourn the unpublished recipes, I was glad to have the work behind me. The publishers even put out another edition with a new title three years later. I thought that this was The End.


But recently I was told by one of our daughters that the trusty old white Mac laptop that I wrote the book on was acting funny, freezing up and running very slowly. I looked around at its contents and rediscovered those two hundred recipes, languishing in its darkened corners. It saddened me to think that they may never be seen again. So here are a couple. I hope you like them…

(Since I got a delicious mango this week, I wanted to include this)

“A Kick in the Tropical”


Pineapple is so naturally sweet that adding sugar to it, even for desserts, is often unnecessary. Mango has a silky lushness that when put with pineapple, evokes gentle beach breezes. Adding a touch of spicy chilies to the combination awakes your senses from their tropical slumber, playing nicely off the sweetness of the fruit. For maximum kick use the ingredients uncooked; roast or sauté to soften the impact of the punch. Theses flavors work well with seafood, ethnic rice dishes, or for something different, as an accent on a composed cheese platter. The application recipe makes a zippy compote. For an alternative dessert application, how about a mango panna cotta with pineapple granita and chili glaze?

PINEAPPLE – Juice is sweet for drinking alone, or as a base for dessert granitas. Because of its firm texture, it roasts and grills nicely. In this combination, let it shine by using the fresh and juicy flesh. Because of its sweetness it can used easily for dessert applications. To tone down the pineapple element use the juice only.

MANGO – Its juice is a thick mouthful. Use fresh for clarity of flavor in salads and relishes. Cooking softens the texture and brings out its natural sugars. It becomes sweeter when dried and extends its shelf life. If you end up with a mango that is not perfectly ripe, put it in a paper bag with a banana and give it a day or two at room temperature. Or consider roasting pieces of it with orange juice to bring out the sugars.

CHILI – Fresh are the most potent when eaten raw, but are softened considerably when roasted. Dried chilies are readily available and are rehydrated upon use. Powders are used for a flavorful seasoning. All of these types of chilies can work in this combination – raw in a salsa, roasted in a compote, or sprinkle a chili powder-sugar-salt mix over the fruit as a snack like they do in Thailand.

  • Pineapple-Mango Shizam!

A chutney is nice to keep in your refrigerator and can be used as a condiment to spice up many dishes- to top a quesadilla or as a fruit alternative to for cocktail sauce with shrimp. 

Makes about 4 cups

1 whole pineapple, peeled, cored, and sliced into 1 inch cubes (set aside scrap pieces)

2 mangoes, peeled, flesh removed from seed, and sliced into 1 inch cubes (set aside scrap pieces)

juice from 2 limes

finely grated zest from 1 lime

1 cup orange juice

½ cup semi-dry to sweet wine (like Riesling)

¼ cup rice vinegar

½ cup sugar

1 whole dried chili, (ancho or chipotle), stem removed and chopped

1 vanilla bean, sliced lengthwise and seeds scraped (reserve pod for future use)

pinch of salt

sriachi (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix diced pineapple and mango in a large mixing bowl. Add all additional ingredients, except fruit scraps and sriachi, stir to combine. Transfer to a roasting pan, cover with foil, and cook for 20 minutes. Remove roasting pan from oven, take off foil, and reduce heat at 325 degrees. Cook for an additional 20 minutes uncovered.

Add mix to food processor, scraping in all the juices from the roasting pan. Pulse on and off until fairly smooth. Transfer to a large bowl. Finely dice the scraps from the pineapple and mango and stir into the compote. Adjust seasoning with srirachi, if desired. Use immediately or store covered in the refrigerator for up to a week.

(I really loved the beverage chapter that was completely omitted)

“A Sip of Cucumber”


The soothing, vegetal flavor of cucumber is especially satisfying in liquid form. The tartness of lime perks up the taste of the cucumber and leaves your mouth refreshed. Gin often has a natural cucumber undertone and makes this combination go down very (maybe too) easily. The application recipe prepares a cucumber infused gin gimlet. Another option is to take shots of gin with a lime and cucumber chaser. Apart from using for a beverage, this combination could also be used as chilled cucumber-lime soup with a splash of gin as an accent flavor.

CUCUMBER – In the application recipe, cucumbers are infused to the gin by letting them soak together for an extended time. Because of the wax coating on grocery store cucumbers, wash well before using, or buy locally grown cucumbers in the summer. You could infuse cucumber into other light liquors as well like vodka or light rum.

LIME – Juice can be used as an acid component to accent drinks (like garnishing with a squeeze of lime) or as a primary liquid (like in a margarita). Its zest contains concentrated flavor and is a great way to impart lime flavor to liquids. Layer the lime flavor by using both the juice and a lime twist for garnish.

GIN – A neutral grain spirit that has the unique flavor of juniper berries. Most high quality brands are suitable for this combination – we like Hendricks for its nice natural cucumber tones, and Tanqueray makes for a good all-purpose gin as well.

  • Cucumber Gin Gimlet

You do have to get started early to infuse spirits – give this gin a couple of days or up to a month to get the most cucumber flavor in to the gin.

Serves 1 martini-sized cocktail

1 bottle (750 mL) gin

1 large cucumber, washed and thinly sliced

2 tablespoons simple syrup

Juice of 1 lime, about 2 tablespoons



Large glass jar with lid


Martini shaker

Martini glass

Infuse your gin:

Place sliced cucumbers in the bottom of your glass jar. Pour gin on top, stir and cover. Save empty gin bottle and lid. Let gin infuse for at least one week, or up to one month, at room temperature, out of direct sunlight. Strain, discard cucumbers and use funnel to pour cucumber gin into empty gin bottle. Label bottle, if desired.

Fill martini glass with ice to chill. Fill martini shaker with ice, add 3 ounces of cucumber gin, two tablespoons simple syrup and two tablespoons lime juice. Shake, discard ice from chilled martini glass and strain into glass.

Infusing your own liquor is so easy and tastes so much better than the flavored kind you can buy at the liquor store. Be sure to use fresh lime juice, not making any substitutions with anything artificial. It makes a big difference in your finished drink.

What a relief!

I’m home from an extended period of hard work, the kind of hard physical work that I have not had to do in a while. I have not exactly bounced back. I am tired and I am feeling, well…old. There is nothing startling about this, my next birthday is the big four-0. What is startling to me is the feeling of relief that is accompanied by feeling older.

Whatever philosopher taught knowing thyself as the highest goal was on to something. With age I know that I hate rollercoasters, prefer not to drive, don’t enjoy shopping, and love the library. And I am just scratching the surface! Age has given me the awesome by-product of experience, and though I dare not think that I can handle anything, I no longer brace myself for the worst. I do not have it all figured out, but have made it through the struggles of learning new jobs, inconsolable babies, balancing parenting with work, the weariness of caring for the ill, and the heartache of being unable to help someone in need.

When I am distracted by certain aspects of age – creases, veins, unfamiliar parts of my own body – I am reminded of the comment, “it beats the alternative”. I look forward to an incredible afterlife, but I cling to the life I have now. I have held a baby that never got to breathe outside the womb, watched my father suffer a long illness and death, gone to a funeral of a family member my own age, and seen depression take away the desire to live. I can’t help it – I am grateful for this day.

And yet, I am tired. My body seeks to betray the agreement I thought we made to stay the same. I feel almost 40 – no, sometimes I feel more like 60. But instead of spending much time looking in the mirror, I will avert my gaze. See what I mean?

Reading & Cooking

I suppose that if I tallied up all of the hours I have spent in the activities that make up my life, reading and cooking would be towards the top of the list. I have found refuge, stimulation, and inspiration through the pages of books since childhood. I’ve only recently been able to see some qualities that reading and cooking share – and probably some of the reasons that I am drawn to both.

Resolution – Having just finished “The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo”, I am reminded how satisfying it can be to read of mystery. Is this person as they seem? What really happened? Who did what? The questions are answered by the end! And so it goes with cooking…Is this seafood really fresh? What will it taste like to use cumin in this dish? Will this souffle rise? And by the end of the meal, you most assuredly know the answers! People and circumstances can be elusive and murky – books and recipes offer a conclusion. Isn’t that awesome?

Community – Reading can seem like such a solitary activity, but in actuality reading connects me with people who mean so much to me. Robert and I often read the same books which leads to rich conversations and a sense of shared experiences. After years of hearing my kids read out loud, tentatively at first and now with confidence, now we discuss books and go to the library together. Book clubs also connect people and allow conversations that go beyond the superficial. Similarly, cooking can be both a solo pursuit and a tie that binds you to others. I love spending time with Robert in the kitchen, cutting ingredients with our girls to make soup, or teaching a cooking class. Reading and cooking both give me opportunities for both much-valued alone time and ways to connect with others. Isn’t that awesome?

Comfort – I recently re-read a book from my adolescence (was anyone else out there profoundly affected by “Are You There God it’s Me Margaret?” and almost all other Judy Bloom?) and I was surprised just how much I enjoyed it. Just as I had enjoyed it almost 30 (!?) years ago, I felt the same way about it now. I also find comfort in revisiting biblical passages that have affected me in the past. So too it goes with cooking – preparing something that you could do blindfolded and knowing how much you love it is so satisfying. For me scrambled eggs and chocolate chip cookies fall into this category. To be able to know where to go to experience something familiar and delightful…

Isn’t that awesome?

Oh, the things you say!

Am I the only one who talks to their food? I don’t mean expressions about food that are said out loud – like “Man, that looks disgusting” or “I really want to eat that entire cherry pie”. In my limited research I asked Robert if he talked to his food. His response was, “uh, no”. I have realized that maybe I am alone in this. But maybe there are others out there like me who talk do talk to their food – I mean really interact with food as if it may actually, well…talk back.

When I first started in the kitchen at Krause Dining I found myself trying to make deals with the food I was working on. You know, giving it a little encouragement to do what I needed it to. “Okay creme brules, you are looking lovely, but I need you to set up without overcooking. Do you think that is possible?”, “You souffles are going to give me an awesome rise aren’t you?” Yes, it was a silent response but overall cooperative, we got along. I took a parental tone with my dishes and they were mostly obedient subjects.

Now that I have a limited role in preparing food, I spend more time actually serving it at Esquina. I still try to direct the food though, “Pizole, please do not slop on the rim of this bowl. Don’t you want to look nice?” Imagine my surprise recently when I felt it answer me, “Well, you are the one carrying me. If I look sloppy it’s your fault not mine.” Yikes, such disrespect! But you know, the pizole was right, I couldn’t fault that fact – my shaky hand had more to do with it than anything else. I may not have liked it the response, but I grudgingly agreed. But what happened to my obedient subjects – adolescent attitude?

Working at Esquina challenges my goals of sensible eating. The food there is fresh and healthy and I love it, but all I really want to eat every day are the chips. I like them plain, with salsa, with my rice bowl, or most preferably with the habenero-tequila cheese dip. I could eat them for every meal. I walk past the container of freshly fried chips like a hundred times a day. All things in moderation, I say, but chips at every meal doesn’t seem like a good idea. I have limited my chip eating to only after my shifts, and no snacking while walking by. But alas, I am slipping. I have been plucking the most beautifully seasoned one off of the top of the stack and quickly chewing it up as I walk through the kitchen. I am not proud of myself. I had to get tough and tell them, in my best mommy voice while pointing at them, “You are not the boss of me!” It felt good to regain my sense of control. I was smiling as I walked off. But I swear I heard in a tiny voice, as I was almost out of ear-shot, so that I had to turn around..yes, we are.

Next time I think I’ll write a letter.