I’m back…with a recipe! PLUS We get requests.

My friends, it’s been too long. And I’ve been busy. But I’ve missed you! I’ve been cooking so much, I’ve not taken the time to attend to my global family.

Today, I made some very delicious food. One of my clients had some special requests, and among them was that my meals and a special dessert all be gluten free. Now, don’t misunderstand me. I LOVE gluten. I mean I really love it. I would marry it. I kind of am married to it. But when my client makes a special request, I most happily oblige. So I made panna cotta. Vegan panna cotta. And it was as easy as everyone said it would be!

I modified a recipe I found on thekitchn.com, and I think it came out great! Let me know what you think!

Also, please, if you’re looking for a vegan version of a favorite food, please let me know, and I’ll see if I can make it deliciously vegan for you! As I said, I take requests!

Please note, I’ve begun cooking and baking in metric. If you need a conversion to imperial measurements, let me know, but do yourself a favor and get yourself a scale!

Coconut panna cotta with blueberries

500g coconut milk
75g sugar
454g coconut milk yogurt
Pinch salt
6g agar agar flakes
2 small baskets of blueberries, divided

Put the coconut milk, sugar, yogurt, salt, and agar agar flakes in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, whisking regularly. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool for a couple of minutes.

Divide half of the blueberries equally among 6 6- to 8-oz ramekins. Pour the panna cotta over the blueberries, and put the ramekins in the refrigerator to set for 3 hours or so.

Just before serving, divide the remaining half of the blueberries equally between the ramekins, and enjoy!

Fake lahmacun

Fake lahmacun

I have mentioned before that I am a member of a bread makers’ group on Facebook. I know. Whatever. Who cares? This is a group, though, of amazing people from all around the world, and I am inspired by so many of them numerous times a day. So last week, a friend posted that he’d made a Turkish kind of pizza called lahmacun, and several of us nerded out on the subject. At the time, I was baking lemon thyme pitas for my client, had just roasted an eggplant and some peppers, and had some cooked chickpeas out. So of courseI made myself some lahmacun.

I swear.  I moaned with EVERY BITE.

Lemon thyme pitas

  • 4 cups bread flour
  • 1 tbsp instant yeast
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups warm water
  • 2 tsp salt
  • Zest of half of a lemon
  • 1 tsp dried thyme


Place flour, yeast, sugar, water, and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer, and mix on low for 3 minutes. Increase speed to medium, and mix for another 5 minutes. Place the dough in a bowl sprayed with cooking spray, then spray the top of the dough, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours, but give it whatever time it needs!

Uncover, add the zest and thyme, and knead on low speed for about 3 to 5 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°. Pull off little chunks of dough, about the size of a golf ball, roll in flour, then roll out each ball to a thin disk. Place each disk on a cookie sheet coveted in foil and sprayed with cooking spray. Bake for 3 minutes on the lowest rack of the oven, then gently flip over and bake for another 3 minutes.

I made 21 pitas!

Lahmacun for one

  • olive oil for drizzling
  • zaatar, to taste
  • 1/4 cup cooked chickpeas, mashed with a potato masher
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup diced roasted eggplant*
  • 1/4 cup diced roasted pepper**
  • kosher salt, to taste

Preheat the broiler and make sure the rack is as close to the top of the oven as possible. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray, and place your pita on top. Drizzle a little olive oil over the pita, then sprinkle on the zaatar, mashed chickpeas, garlic, eggplant, roasted pepper, and salt.  Drizzle a little more olive oil on, then place under the broiler for just a few minutes, watching closely. Slice into wedges or don’t and get a messy face. The choice is yours. I don’t judge.

*How to roast eggplant – Dice the eggplant into small cubes, about 1/2″ dice, no need to peel. Place the eggplant on a cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray, drizzle with a little olive oil, and toss with your hands. Place under a preheated broiler for about 8 minutes, then flip. Broil until well browned, but not burned. Test with a fork: it should be soft.

**How to roast peppers – If you like roasted peppers, you will never buy them in a jar again. This is so easy and so delicious. Preheat your broiler and place the rack on the second level below the top of the oven. Place a sheet of aluminum foil on your cookie sheet, and spray with cooking spray. Place your washed peppers (I do 6 at a time) on your cookie sheet, and broil for about 25 minutes, turning about every 5 to 7 minutes, until charred on all sides. Remove from the oven, wrap the peppers tightly with the aluminum foil on which they’re sitting, and let steam for about 20 minutes or so, until cool enough to handle. Peel the charred skins off as well as you can, but don’t worry about getting it all off. If you do it under running water, it’s easier, but not necessary.

The best things in life are cake

Pardon me for waxing philosophical here, but as a lady of a certain age, I have come to realize that one does not escape one’s ancestry.  Life is beautiful and rich when you embrace your past and cut your own path with your people at your back.  For me, that means this coffee cake.  When I took my first bite, I felt like I was 80 years old.  In a good way.  You get yourself a steaming cup of coffee or black tea (okay, or rooiboos – whatever your pleasure), you kick your feet up (everyone has to do it once in a while), you schnuggle under the afghan your grandmother crocheted you, and you eat a nice piece of cake.  Revel, rejoice in the simplicity of it.
I suppose first, you must make the coffee cake.  Fortunately, this one is quite simple.
(Adapted from a King Arthur Flour recipe for Polish babka)
Ashkenazic coffee cake
  • 1/2 cup vanilla almond milk, lukewarm (microwave for 45 seconds if cold from the fridge)
  • 1/2 cup applesauce, heated in the microwave for about 30 seconds
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup non-hydrogenated margarine stick (I prefer Nucoa for baking)
  • 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup white or golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup currants

Syrup

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup apple juice

Icing

  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp vanilla almond milk

Place the cake ingredients, except for the fruit, in the bowl of a standing mixer or in a large bowl and mix until the ingredients are well combined.  If using a standing mixer or hand beater, mix on medium for about 2 minutes.  Add the fruit, and mix on low until combined.  Cover your bowl, and let the cake batter rest for an hour.  Don’t worry, it’s really fermenting more than rising or anything else.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and then pour the batter into a bundt pan sprayed with cooking spray, cover, and let rest for 30 more minutes.  Uncover, and bake for 30 minutes until a thermometer reads 190 degrees or until it’s light on top and golden on the sides.

While the babka is baking, put the syrup ingredients into a small saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Whisk occasionally until the sugar dissolves and the liquid is clear.  Set aside.

Remove the cake from the oven, gently poke it with a fork all over, then pour the syrup over the cake.  It may seem like a lot, but it’s what makes this cake so moist!  After about 20 minutes, loosen the cake from the pan, and carefully turn it out onto a plate.

Place the icing ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine.  Once the cake is completely cooled, drizzle the icing over the top.

The old New World

In my dreams, I live in Oaxaca, Mexico. I cook alongside my neighbor mamas with our earthen pots set over communal fires, roasting chilies and cacao beans for grinding…. I can feel the coarse chocolate between my fingers, smell the smoky warmth of ancho chiles, and taste a big pot of something dark and delicious simmering all day over hot coals. Our children play in the fields, boots muddy from nibbling tomatoes off the vine. And for a snack, we serve them pupusas with refried beans and marinated tofu.

Perhaps not. It’s my dream.

Pupusas with refried beans and marinated tofu

Marinated tofu

  • Olive oil
  • Zest and juice of a good lime
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Zest of half an orange
  • 2 tbsp chile powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 lb tofu, sliced into steaks (1/2″ thick and 2×3″ wide/long)

Pupusas

  • 2 cups masa harina
  • 1 1/3 cups warm water
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup peanut oil
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 15-oz can pintos, drained and rinsed
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil for frying
  • Salt to taste

Place the marinade ingredients and tofu in a large zip-top bag, seal, and toss from one hand to the other to distribute the marinade evenly over the tofu. Let marinate for about an hour, tossing every once in a while.

Meanwhile, place the masa, warm water, and salt in a large bowl, mixing first with a wooden spoon, then kneading with your hands for a minute or two. It should be soft, pliable, and not at all sticky. Cover with a damp dish towel and let sit for 10 minutes.

While the dough sits, heat a small cast iron pan over medium heat. Add the peanut oil and the onion, and fry for about 5 minutes. Add the cumin and stir until fragrant, about thirty seconds. Add the pintos, and stir until the beans are coated in onions and oil. Mash the mixture with a potato masher until well mashed and no whole beans remain. Add more oil if the mixture isn’t creamy enough. Taste for salt, turn off the heat.

Divide the dough into 8 balls, and poke a well in the middle of each ball. Add about a tsp of refried beans to the well, cover the beans with the surrounding dough, then pat between your hands to flatten the pupusas into about a 1/4″ thick disk. Place the raw pupusas on a sheet of wax paper.

Heat a large cast iron pan over slightly hotter than medium heat (medium-high was too high on my stove). Add about a tbsp of oil for frying the pupusas. You just want a thin coat, not a pool. Fry on each side for 2 or 3 minutes.

When you’re done with the pupusas, turn the pan up a little more, and add about a 1/4 cup of oil. Fry the tofu steaks for about 5 minutes per side, until they’re crispy golden. Sprinkle with a little salt.

To serve, top a pupusa with more refried beans and a tofu steak. Eat with your hands standing over your earthen pot.

How I learned to stop worrying and buy asparagus

I’m from California’s San Joaquin Valley. Growing seasons, orchards, farms as far as the eye can see…this is my homeland. I generally know when different crops are in season, and as much as I might have a taste for grapes in January, I won’t buy them on principle. I’m heartily committed to buying local whenever I can, and I can’t bring myself to reward grocers for selling out-of-season produce that had to travel thousands of miles to get to me. Corn, figs, grapes, TOMATOES: summer. Apples, persimmons, pomegranates: fall. Oranges: winter.

My problem is that the produce I always thought came in the springtime, the vegetables that ARE spring to me – artichokes and asparagus – have been showing up in the fall. I don’t get it. And they’re cheap. And they’re gorgeous. And they’re from the places they’re supposed to be from in California. Well, I’ve given in, and have bought asparagus the last couple of weeks. Today, I turned it into a creamy soup that warmed me on a particularly blustery fall day, but also reminded me of the blossoms and puffy white clouds of spring. (And it’s low fat. No oil added!)

Cream of asparagus soup

  • 1 lb asparagus, trimmed and chopped into 2″ pieces
  • 4 shallots, peeled and sliced
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 red-skinned potatoes, shredded
  • 1 1/2 tsp freshly grated turmeric
  • 4 cups veg stock
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray, then add the asparagus and the shallots, spray with cooking spray, and sprinkle with kosher salt. Roast for about ten minutes.

Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat, and add the potatoes, garlic, and turmeric (1/2 tsp dried turmeric if you can’t get fresh). Stir regularly, and saute for about 3 minutes. Add the veg stock, cover, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low, and let simmer for 5 minutes. Add the sunflower seeds and the roasted vegetables, and let simmer for another 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Place half the soup into a blender and puree until very smooth. Remove to a bowl, and puree the other half. Stir the soup to combine, and then add the lemon juice and zest. Heat if necessary, and add parsley.