Desserts, Snacks

Olive Oil, Almond and Candied Ginger Mandelbrot

I am a pizza bagel.

Maybe you’ve heard me say this before? I can’t remember how or when or where I was introduced to this term for those with Italian and Jewish roots, but I love it. I love it even more because the two places I’ve called home for the longest amount of time are New Jersey and New York; if you know anything about these spots, you KNOW they take their pizza and bagels seriously. And with good reason. The bagels I found in my dining hall in Massachusetts were slightly chewier pieces of white bread that crumbled at the merest smear of cold cream cheese or butter. I’ve had that deep-dish thing everyone in Chicago is so obsessed with, and while it was good, (how can dough + sauce + cheese not be??) it wasn’t *pizza* as I know and love it.

You get the gist. So when I was developing a recipe for The Nosher, a blog that focuses on Jewish food, I knew I wanted to make a snack –dare I say, a nosh,– that highlights both the pizza and the bagel sides of my family. And that led to Olive Oil Mandelbrot (also known as Mandel bread. Also also known as biscotti.) Check out the article and recipe here!

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Breakfasts, Food Party, Main Dishes, Sides

Assorted Recipes from a Brinner Party

When it was still a billion degrees out, my friends joined together to eat a lot of food. Brinner food, to be specific. It was the third food party we had this summer, and they just kept getting better. So many of my favorite people were in one backyard and it honestly was hard to keep up. One of my favorite ladies from Smith just moved to Brooklyn, and she actually got on the train and trekked out to Jersey (you rock, Kelsey!) AND another of my best girls from high school was randomly visiting home from D.C., where she’s been living as a real person with a job and apartment and such. Not to mention a whole host of others from Montclair who were back in town for the summer/indefinitely (like yours truly~~) It actually made me waaaay too happy to see so many rad people in one space! As you’ll be able to tell, I was being the paparazzi and taking all these pictures (thanks for not slugging me while I photographed you eating, friends!)

I think my favorite part about being a “grownup” (planning to use the air-quotes until I no longer have to text my parents with questions when filling out a tax form. Not that that happened at work this week or anything. ANYWAY) is the fact that a group of us can get together on a Monday night and drink a lot of beer without a care. No more sneaking sips of tequila/cheap wine out of plastic cups in between slices of pizza in the basement! We now drink cherry-flavored malt beverages out of the bottle in BROAD daylight (hi Eve) and it is pretty darn wonderful. Read on for the inside scoop of the recipes behind the brinner, made by my lovely friends Emily, Rebecca, Eve– and me!

Vegan Zucchini Bread (adapted ever so slightly from About.com)

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 cups coconut sugar
1/4 teaspoon cloves
3/4 cups melted coconut oil
1/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 scraped vanilla bean (or 2 teaspoons extract)
3 1/2 cups grated zucchini

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease four mini-loaf pans with vegan butter  or oil. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon. Set aside. In another mixing bowl whisk together the sugar, oil, vegan milk, and vanilla for a minute or two or until the mixture comes together (any oil separation is fine!) Add the wet ingredients to the dry, along with half the grated zucchini. Mix until combined, then fold in remaining zucchini. Divide batter among prepared loaf pans. Bake for 40-45 minutes, testing with toothpick after 40. You can also bake 2 9-inch loaves at 325 degrees F for 70-80 minutes.  Allow loaves to cool completely on a wire cooling rack before removing from the pans. The original recipe also includes an optional crumble topping, but I found the bread sweet enough on its own! Plus, I tend to slather loaf breads in jam, so the less sweet the better.

Charred Carrots w/ Lemon Mint Butter (recipe by Rebecca Klein)

3 pounds large carrots cut on the bias
1/2 cup butter
1/2 fresh mint
2 lemons
salt to taste
vegetable/canola oil for cooking
1 teaspoon honey (optional)

Chop mint, reserving one tablespoon and set aside. Zest and juice the lemons, separating the zest from the juice. Melt the butter in saucepan over low heat, making sure it doesn’t bubble. Once the butter is very hot, and zest and majority of the mint. Remove from heat and transfer into a bowl large enough to fit all the carrots

In the largest skillet you have (preferably a cast iron,) add enough oil to just cover the bottom of the pan. Heat on high until it just begins to ripple or smoke. Add in a single layer of cut carrots. Sprinkle with salt on the top side. Allow the carrots to cook until parts become black and charred, but not so long that the whole side is burnt. Once the first side is slightly charred, flip carrots and repeat the same process on the other side (omitting the salt.) Once they have cooked on both sides, transfer to the large bowl along with the mint-lemon-butter mixture. This way, the carrots acquire a nice charred flavor without becoming too soft, so keep your heat up high, as once you remove them from the heat they will continue to cook. Repeat with remaining carrots. Once all carrots are cooked, add the lemon juice and the honey if using to the mixture, along with the reserved mint, and toss it all together.  Allow to sit at room temperature for twenty to thirty minutes, so. This can be served hot, but I prefer it at room temperature, so you can let it sit until fully cooled.

Frittata

2 white onions
1 bunch chard
2 cloves garlic
1 bell pepper
a solid amount of feta cheese (we recommend buying a block and crumbling it yourself, there’s better flavor there)
1/2 cup dairy (2% or whole milk, sour cream, crème fraîche, etc.)
12 eggs

Caramelize the onions in a pan with a few glugs of olive oil. When the onions are done, transfer them to a bowl. Mince the garlic and dice the bell pepper. Wash, chop, and sautée the chard in the caramelized onion pan with the minced garlic and more oil as needed. Add chard to the onion bowl, then sautée the peppers in the same pan, adding more oil as needed along the way. Add to the onion/chard bowl. Crumble the feta. Follow these instructions using the aforementioned add-ins. We used a cast iron skillet because they are perfect.

Vegan Onion and Tofu Quiche (from Another Dinner is Possible; measurements converted from grams, so they are subject to change/standard deviation)

8-inch Crust (aka “flan case”)
±2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon mixed herbs, optional
±1/2 cup margarine or 1/3+2 tbsp vegetable shortening, or other solid vegan butter substitute
ice water

Filling
8-10 onions
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon vegan butter
sprig of fresh thyme
17 ounces extra firm tofu
pinch of nutmeg
2 tablespoons miso
±3/4 cup vegan milk
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
yeast flakes (optional)
salt and pepper

Make the crust: Sift flour, salt, and herbs if using in a large bowl. Cut the butter substitute into chunks and cut into flour mixture with a pastry blender or your fingers until mixture makes coarse crumbs. Add 2 tablespoons of water and blend, then add more water by the spoonful until the dough just begins to come together. Turn out onto a floured work surface and gently knead it to form a ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (or up to 24 hours)

After crust has chilled, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch pie or tart pan with vegan butter or oil. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and roll out to form a ~10″ circle. Carefully roll the dough onto your rolling pin to transfer onto greased baking pan, fluting the edges if you so desire. Prick all over crust with a fork to let steam out. Cover the crust in foil and fill cavity with pie wights or dried beans. Bake for 15-20 minutes, removing the foil for the last five to let the crust let a little brown. Remove from oven and set aside. Can be made 1 day ahead.

Assemble the quiche: Thinly slice onions and caramelize in a pan with the vegan butter and oil over low heat for 20-30 minutes, adding thyme halfway through. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Blend the remaining ingredients together in a food processor or blender, tasting along the way for seasoning. Spread onions onto pre-baked crust and pour tofu mixture over. Bake for about 20 minutes, until filling seems mostly set and golden brown. Set aside to set up further for another 15  minutes or so.

Also on the menu
Bon Appétit’s Plum and Fennel Salad
Jessie Snyder’s Berry Scones
Roasted Potatoes (like these)
Toaster waffles (thanks Sam!!)
Beer
Ice Cream from Emily’s freezer, consumed straight from the container after a few too many of the aforementioned beers

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Desserts

Prune Plum Galette

“There are a million reasons to be unhappy, all the time, for all of us. I mean, the world is in terrible shape. The future looks grim…one in eight children in America goes to bed hungry. If you want to be miserable, it’s not hard. But, balancing that, there are all kinds of things, little things, that can give you great pleasure in life. Different people like different things, I truly like everything that can happen in a kitchen.”
— Ruth Reichl, Burnt Toast, “Ruth Reichl Is Coming To Dinner”

I am eating a meringue cookie right now. It’s crumbly on top and little chewy on the bottom. It’s sticking to my teeth. They’re supposed to have this bi-textural thing going on though, I’m 87% sure of that. The other 13% knows that I probably just didn’t let them dry out completely. I think I like the top section more. I may have bitten off the tops of two others, but I’m not saying anything for certain.

I’m okay with little imperfections, like this batch of less-than-pâtisserie-perfect cookies. Imperfections like these are good. So are the masses of concentrated melanin that make freckles– constellations on faces that are far more interesting to look at than my own. My favorite two baking pans: Tin Man-colored, except for the black bits of caramelized sugar that no amount of scrubbing can erase are others on this list of imperfect, but lovely. An apple picked right from the tree that has a few more bruises than preferable would also be included.

But there are imperfections that are decidedly not good. The hole developing in my car’s tire after an ill-timed encounter with a pointy rock. The skin on my hands, chapped from washing them thirty times today after seeing an alert about flu season. The things I’m too self-conscious to write about– words I’ve typed and then deleted because I know that once I print them here they become real. I notice them. I’m trying to let them bother me less. This is not to say I’ve adopted anything resembling –god forbid– the Chill persona. Nor is it that I’ve achieved a new level of self-actualization and am no longer letting the “little things” bother me. I didn’t even get a cool job or anything. But I am trying to notice those not-so-good-imperfections less. It’s probably healthier, though I don’t know how long it’ll last.

Speaking of imperfections: galettes. While one can trim the dough to be an even circle, lay out each slice of fruit into a balanced twisty spiral, and painstakingly flute every two inches around said circle, I don’t recommend it. While flawless desserts are incredible to look at in an Vogue-airbrushing sort of way, I’m constantly drawn to rustic pastries. Fruit bubbles over the top and onto the sides of crust, chocolate oozes down the layers of a cake that leans slightly to the right. Some of the best food styling comes from just making the thing and placing it in a natural space.

Prune Plum Galette

1 batch pie crust

~20-30 prune plums (about 2 pounds)
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons coconut sugar
zest of 2 clementines (or one large orange)
1 tablespoons clementine or orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon orange flower water or 1 teaspoon Grand Marnier
1-inch piece fresh ginger, grated
a few tablespoons flour
pinch of salt

1 egg
1 tablespoon heavy cream or milk

Make the crust: Make and chill the crust according to these directions. Instead of the egg white, mix a whole egg with cream or milk.

Make the filling: Wash, halve, and pit the plums. Slices thinly and place in a large bowl. Add 1/4 cup sugar, zest, juice, extract, orange flower water/Grand Marnier, ginger, and 2 tablespoons flour and combine well. Set aside.

Put it all together: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Turn the crust out onto a floured work surface and roll until you have about a 13-inch round (no need for perfection.) Carefully wrap the crust around the rolling pin and unroll onto the baking sheet. Mix 1 tablespoon of sugar and flour together and sprinkle it onto the center of the crust. Dump the fruit into the center, spreading it out evenly, but leaving an inch or two boarder. Fold the dough over the filling, fluting it every few inches to ensure no fruit leakage (brush the underside of the flute with cold water if they’re not sticking together.) Brush the crust with egg mixture and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon of sugar. Bake for 30-40 minutes, checking after 25. It’s done when the filling is starting to bubble and the crust is golden. If the crust starts to get too dark, tent with foil until the last 5-10 minutes.

 

 

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Musing

lately // september 2015

Happy start of fall! I wish everyone birkenstocks + socks, mulled wine, fresh figs, and fisherman sweaters in the coming month~

these perfect colors at the Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life exhibition at the Bronx Botanical Garden // shanah tovah and such for everyone out there who celebrated Rosh Hashanah (stay tuned for the SLAMMIN French toast recipe I made with the leftover challah) // my best gal since ’92 Sarah came to Jersey and all the brunch was eaten. // One-pan pasta is all I plan to eat this winter, just fyi // getting rustic with air-dried herbs // fries dipped in mussel broth in between sips of rosé DEAR SUMMER PLS DON’T LEAVE ME // rustic life pt. 2 with a gingery plum galette (or is it a crostata?)..recipe coming soon // enjoying the rain and these bad boys from under a blanket in my pjs, jealous??

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Outside Eats

Outside Eats // MishMish

MishMish, Montclair

The kind folks at the Montclair Dispatch are letting me write about food! Once a week, I’ll be sharing my opinions on various Montclair eateries– with as many whimsical references as they’ll let slip by! My first review was published this week. I spoke with Meny Vaknin, the unbelievably busy but extremely kind chef at MishMish, a Mediterranean restaurant that is serving up so much more than hummus and pita. Check it out here, and keep your eye on my Outside Eats page for updates.

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Desserts

Herby Summer Fruit Crisp

It was dark this morning. Overcast. Windy. Yet it won’t rain. Why won’t it rain?! I feel like I used to happily read a book on my back porch while listening to fat raindrops pelting down upon the glass at least once a week. This isn’t the case anymore, and it makes me nervous.

But the selfish part of me is the teeniest, tiniest bit pleased that it’s not raining quite yet. It’s just now becoming the perfect temperature for eating outside. And after reading that, you’re probably wondering if I’ve gotten a little forgetful, as outdoor dining seems to be all I can Instagram about these past few months. But hear me out: last night I was at dinner, drinking rosé and dipping crispy fries in garlicky mussel broth. I was sitting outside, but for the first time in months I wasn’t slapping at mosquitoes or surreptitiously wiping away sweaty strands of hair. Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles! Every few minutes there was a little breeze rustling the stamped-paper tablecloths. It felt cool against my back. It made the food taste better.

The sun is out now– it never rained. I went running, even though I definitely drank a glass or two more of wine than I should’ve last night. Mile one. Mile two. Mile three. A little bit more so I could run through the sprinklers of folks who are still watering their lawns EVEN THOUGH WE’RE IN A DROUGHT (I know Montclair is not California but still.) Ran up my driveway, opened the freezer and defrosted some fruity, herby crisp. Ate it all with my fingers, dyeing them a truly alien shade of purple. Full disclosure, it was not the one pictured in this post. That one was devoured by yours truly and Emily (making another hand/general modeling appearance here) on a lazy afternoon a few months ago. But I did use this method to make the crisp. And it is the best.

Just FYI, the following recipe is a little different than the precise measurements one may expect to find in a food post. But I rarely, if ever, use a recipe for crisp. And you shouldn’t feel like you need to either! It couldn’t be more simple, read on and discover.

Herby Summer Fruit Crisp (serves as few as one or as many as 20, depending on serving size)

Things you’ll need, see directions for further clues:
Fruit
Fresh herbs
a little bit of sweetener plus about 1/4 cup more for later
cornstarch
Vanilla (extract, paste, or scraped bean)
~1/2 cup coconut oil
~1/2 cup nondairy milk
~1/4-1/2 cup flour
Oats
Chopped nuts
pinch or two of kosher salt and cinnamon or allspice

Select and prep your fruit. You’ll need enough fruit to fill your desired baking dish, but no need to get out the measuring cup. Just start slicing and stop when it feels right. In terms of which fruit to use: when in doubt, go with whatever is in season. The fruit is the shining star of this dessert, so it’s definitely worth it to look into what is thriving when you decide to make one. Check out a farmer’s market or do some internet sleuthing before spending all your money on bushels of out-of-season berries. You also shouldn’t feel pressure to make just one kind of fruit crisp: raspberries and peaches go beautifully together, as do apples and cranberries. Or you can do what I did and use as many perfect summer fruits as you can carry. Once you’ve added all the fruit to the baking dish, toss with a good dash of vanilla and a tablespoon or two of the sweetener of your choice (really, anything goes!) and a tablespoon of cornstarch. Set aside.

Decide which herb you want to use to add a little extra zing to the topping. It may sound strange, but it is worth it. A subtle hint of thyme, mint, basil, sage, or rosemary does wonders with fruit. Grab a sprig or a handful of leaves and chop well; you won’t be sorry.

Pick your desired dairy replacer. Far be it from me to suggest anything that challenges the gospel of Julia Child, but for a delicious fruit crisp you need neither dairy-based butter nor cream. I like to use unrefined coconut oil because I enjoy the taste, but any vegan butter will do. You’ll need about ½ cup. Now for milk: pour about ½ cup of the dairy-free milk of your choosing (almond! coconut! soy! hemp!) into a small saucepan. Add the butter and the herb you decided on in the previous step. Place over low heat until the butter melts and the kitchen smells herby. Let cool slightly.

Choose your flour. If you’re gluten-free, this part is for you. Though I will admit, I didn’t miss my trusty all-purpose nearly as much as I thought I would when trying out almond, garbanzo bean, and coconut flours. Go for about a cup of flour at first, you can always add more later. Mix the flour with however much sugar you feel is right. A good rule of thumb is to start with ¼ cup and work your way up to ½ cup. At this point, I throw in a few handfuls of rolled oats and sometimes chopped almonds or pecans for texture. Pour the non-dairy mixture over the flour, adding a good pinch or two of salt and cinnamon or allspice. Mix it all up with your fingers until coarse crumbs form, adding more flour or oats if things get sticky.

Put it all together! Dump the topping over the fruit, resisting the urge to fill in any imperfect spots. We’re making a rustic dessert here, people! Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes. Top with your favorite ice cream or coconut whipped cream. Or if you’re like me, you may even put it in a bowl and drown it in almond milk and pretend it’s breakfast.

Fabric from the featured image: scarf c/o Rain Lily Shop, a lovely Fair Trade accessories shop supporting artisans from around the world!

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Book Review, Breakfasts

182

Written by Carla Bartolucci in an effort to create a solid collection of recipes for her daughter, who is sensitive to gluten, Einkorn: Recipes for Nature’s Original Wheat is a refreshing alternative to fully phasing out wheat for health reasons. Einkorn acts similarly to regular wheat in recipes, but has been proven not to bother the digestive systems of those who are sensitive. Since it is not 100% gluten free, this is not a book for those living with celiac. While all wheat is a descendant of wild einkorn, the einkorn available to consumers today is the same that was available hundreds of years ago, as it’s the only wheat that hasn’t been hybridized. Essentially, hybridization is the crossing of two different species of wheat form a new variety. These new hybridized strains of gluten can be rougher on the stomach, while others do offer comfort to those with gluten aversions. We’ve all heard of spelt at least in passing, right? It’s one of those “miracle” grains for those with gluten sensitivity. Well, spelt emerged as a result of the hybridization of emmer and wild goat grass. Since emmer was already a hybridized wheat, spelt contains six sets of chromosomes. Since einkorn only has two, it’s often been ignored by farmers in favor of higher-yielding varieties. Science aside, einkorn is also a great new ingredient for cooks who are simply interested in making foods using alternative grains (hi.)

The book opens with a comprehensive history of grain (did you think I just knew stuff about wheat hybridization?) There’s a charting of the levels of protein the grain contains as opposed to its contemporaries, like quinoa, oats, spelt, and so on. An extremely intriguing passage was the discussion of why einkorn’s gluten is different. The grain is not lower in gluten; in fact it has comparable or even higher levels than modern wheat. However, einkorn’s gluten is lacking in the –to use Carla’s excellent phrase– “extreme stickiness” of normal wheats used in baking, particularly of bread. Basically, the gluten-forming proteins in einkorn don’t act in the same manner as they do in standard wheat, and as a result, those with gluten sensitivity can often handle the levels of gluten in einkorn. There are other sections that explain the basics of bread-baking, the correct way to begin sourdough starter, and how to properly sprout and flake wheat berries.

The recipe chapters of Carla’s book are full of a great variety of sweet and savory recipes that essentially swap standard wheat for einkorn. But this is not a book of simply altered standards. The recipes are original and innovative (olive oil & wine cookies, spiced wheat berry custard tart, tomato rosemary focaccia) with a few classics thrown in for good measure (sticky buns, pizza.) I’m particularly fond of the “Street Food” sections, which boasts wheat berry arancini, Korean dumplings, and crêpes. A few of the recipes involve sprouting/soaking einkorn wheat berries for several hours, so make sure you read the recipe closely (basically, don’t be me and get extremely pumped for einkorn veggie burgers TODAY and then realize the recipe takes well over 24 hours to come to life. Sadness. I am v impatient sometimes.)

Even though there is a shop section of Carla’s website where one can purchase einkorn products, I will say that the book could have benefitted from a sourcing section. I couldn’t find einkorn products at my local Whole Foods, A&P, or Kings. I didn’t try Shop Rite, Trader Joes, or the larger Whole Foods in a neighboring town (but I bet the latter would have it,) so I ended up purchasing the wheat berries on Amazon. It didn’t really change my life, other than the fact that I had to wait for the two-day shipping.

For the first recipe I made from Carla’s book, I went for a basic breakfast porridge, because I love bowl food and I love breakfast. The porridge is very mild, a cross between cream of wheat and very soft oatmeal. While I realize the rest of the world doesn’t care for baby food-textured things as much as I do, I really think the rest of the world ought to reconsider. Ease into the mushy food. Don’t think too hard about it. Focus on the flavor. Maybe add some toasted almonds and maple syrup. I think you’ll change your mind.

Einkorn Porridge (from Einkorn: Recipes for Nature’s Original Wheat; serves many by the bowlful)

1 1/2 cups einkorn wheat berries
1/2 teaspoon salt
desired fixins: milk, syrup, jam. nutella, honey, shredded coconut, chia seeds, toasted nuts, dried fruit, sliced avocado + olive oil (sounds weird, but was definitely my favorite)

Soak the wheat berries in 3 cups water overnight. In the morning, drain the wheat berries in a fine mesh seive and rinse thoroughly under cold water for 5 minutes. Place the rinsed berries in a food processor. Pulse until the wheat has cracked (resembling steel cut oats) and then add 1 cup water. Process until the mixture is coarse and creamy, about 30 seconds.

In a medium-large saucepan, bring 5 cups of water to a boil. Add salt and ground wheat berries/ return to a boil, stirring constantly, then lower heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and let the mixture stand for 10 minutes. Serve warm with desired fixins. This recipe makes a lot, so luckily it keeps in the fridge for up to three days and is easily reheated with a bit of water or milk. If you’re planning on being the only one eating this, I’d recommend halving the recipe. If you’re feeding a group of 3+ you’ll be good to go.

NOTE: I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review. Check out this review on their website too!

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Musing

lately//august 2015

The days are getting shorter, the stores are starting to put out orange displays. It’s getting real. Summer will not in fact last forever. But I’m refusing to think about it by continuing to look at pictures of all the festive warm-weather things I’ve done recently.

Let’s see what other parts of the blogosphere are doing in this final lazy hazy crazy days of summer. (Bonus points if anyone gets this reference!)

Grapefruit + mint-grape cooler with crushed mint on Dolly and Oatmeal

Pickled vegetables and Denmark and figs (oh my!) from Renée Kemps

Praise the end of summer corn with spelt berries and seared tofu on Faring Well

Watermelon Tomato Mentsuyu Salad from Le Jus D’Orange

The prettiest picnic and potato salad at Green Kitchen Stories

Straight-Up Peach Pie from Apt. 2B Baking Co. because we really don’t need anything more than that.

augustlately11

this one-ingredient ice cream is b-a-n-a-n-a-s // remember my Tahini Date Shake? It was voted a Community Pick on Food52 hooraaay! // the most gourmet lunch (note the illicit beers,) enjoyed beachside // post-run breakfast cookies and plants, summer is pretty chill // finished all the rosé whilst crashing my parents’ date night at a hip mtc spot heyo // drank for free and got to chat with the curators of the China: Through the Looking Glass exhibition at the Met rooftop bar, and by chat I mean I basically did this all night. I’m so good at networking!!! // if you can, go see this show. Don’t let the glitterati’s questionable interpretation of Chinese fashion deter you // Really though // Asbury Park killin it, even when like eight seconds after I took this picture it started to sun-rain // drinking beers on a roof and sharing a pretzel that tastes like butter with someone I like was not too shabby, just fyi // Superiority Burger is aptly named // VERY aptly named // changing up my nightly glass of bourbon by smashing up a bunch a figs and honey and boyyyy was it worth it

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Desserts

Blackberry Fig Cornmeal Cake

    

Outside is changing. It’s getting darker earlier, and cooler. I bring the usual dinner fixin’s to the table on our little backyard patio at 7pm and the sun is setting. The light is tinted with the oranges usually reserved for hours later. By the time we’re finished eating it’s nearly dusk, mosquitoes nipping at my ankles all the while. It’s crisper in the morning, too. The air is less thick and it’s much easier to run. The sun feels warm, not oppressive. The wind doesn’t feel reminiscent of someone breathing in your face on the subway. It feels practically chilly, compared to those 95 degree days last month. But that doesn’t last long. You could miss it if you aren’t a person who stays awake after getting up at 5 am from particularly unnerving dreams you’re not an early riser. By 8, it’s just as hot as it was in July, when summer was in full swing. It’s only at nighttime that the looming season change is unmistakable.

The other morning I woke up and all the windows were open. I think I was supposed to shut them before going to bed, but I won’t tell if you won’t! The golden August light streamed through the glass. Breeze blew in, disturbing the not-at-all messy and horrifying stack of newspaper clippings and magazines I have piled on my desk. The air was so NOT hot and sticky it almost made me want to put pants on. Almost. I think the thing I’ll miss most about summer is the relative acceptability of pantless-ness. No, actually, beers outside. No, pants. No. Yes. Uh uh uh can we call it a tie? The temperature is going back into the nineties later this week though, so I think this is just a fluke.

But maybe the real thing I’ll miss most about summer is the blackberries. I’ll come clean: I intended to make this cake many weeks ago, but every time I bought blackberries, most ended up in my mouth before I could get the rest of the ingredients together. I finally had to buy several cartons: one use to jazz up my breakfast smoothie, one to munch on, and one for cake. It was worth it.

“As she approached the corner of the barn where the sugar maple stands, she plucked a few blackberries from a stray bush and popped them into her mouth. She looked all around her – back at the house, across the fields, and up into the canopy of branches overhead. She took several quick steps up to the trunk of the maple, threw her arms around it, and kissed that tree soundly.”
—Sharon Creech, Walk Two Moons

I find this cake to be most enjoyable very early in the morning with a large cup of coffee or around 4 pm with…another large cup of coffee. It’s not too sweet, so you could definitely pile on the vanilla ice cream/whipped cream if you feel the need, but I rarely do. It’s also very acceptable to eat half the cake tiny slice by tiny slice with one’s fingers directly from the fridge. Not that I did that or anything.

Blackberry Cornmeal Cake (loosely adapted from Tastebook)

1 1/4 cups non-dairy milk (I used unsweetened almond)
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1/3 cup melted coconut or olive oil
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 scraped vanilla bean
1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup blackberries
2 fresh figs*, sliced very thinly

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Oil and line a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine the milk, sugar, oil, lemon juice, and vanilla. In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt. Pour the liquid mixture into the dry, and whisk until combined. The batter will be very runny. Pour into the cake pan and bake for 15 minutes, then take it out of the oven and quickly top with figs and berries. Bake an additional 35-45 minutes, testing at every 5 minutes after 35. When the cake is done, the top will spring back when lightly pressed, and the edges will start to pull back from the sides of the pan. Let cool completely and slice with a serrated knife as not to disturb the berry magic!

*note: some vegans/vegetarians don’t eat figs because the plants have a tendency to pull an Audrey II on wasps. I’ll leave it at that, but you can read more here if you’re concerned/interested, and use your own discretion when it comes to eating figs. 

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Main Dishes

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Zucchini Parmesan (GF)

Want to hear a story? When I was 7, or maybe 8 years old my mother made veggie burritos for dinner. She sautéed onions and zucchini and a pepper or two. She nestled the warm vegetables between toasted tortillas and a whole bunch of grated sharp cheddar. There was probably guacamole involved. Salsa was definitely present as well. She rolled up the burritos and served them up to me and my sister with a hopeful smile.

We were not amused.

Don’t get me wrong, we grew up eating vegetables. I won’t say we were forced to eat them, but I will say that there was always something green on the dinner plate and we knew better than to not munch away. And it’s not even as though we didn’t enjoy it. Carrots and hummus? Sure. Broccoli with garlic on top of pasta? Absolutely. Salad? Puh-lease. We ate salad for BREAKFAST. (While I am in fact saying that idiomatically, knowing my mom I wouldn’t put it past her.) So you get where I’m coming from. We certainly weren’t those kids that turned up their noses at the healthy stuff, but we had our limits. Eggplant, tomatoes, summer squash. Zucchini. Basically anything squishy or viscous didn’t quite do it for us. And by didn’t quite do it, I mean this. Yet, those zucchini burritos found their way onto the dinner plate one fateful evening. We looked at the offending objects. Mom smiled. I think my sister may have been a champ and managed to choke down a few bites. Not so much for yours truly. I bit. I chewed. I thought entirely too hard about the fact that I was eating a smushy, pulpy mass. Aaaaaand I spat it right out onto the kitchen floor. Geesh.

I can only imagine what ran through my mother’s mind. She probably wanted to make me sit at the table and eat every last bite of that squishy burrito, even if it took all night. She likely wanted to scream.  She definitely wanted me to clean the floor. But I’m pretty sure she just ate the rest of them herself and made us chicken nuggets or something. So this is a rambling way of saying that I was not a zucchini fan (and that’s clearly putting it mildly) until this year, when I made a vow to myself to try new things, pulpy vegetables included. It has been a treacherous journey, but I’ve lived to tell the tale.

I’ve always been more of a lasagna gal when it comes to Italian casserole dishes, but this zucchini parm has really changed my mind. I’ve eaten my fair share of eggplant parm too, but I think I find the texture of zucchini more pleasing than eggplant. The veggies are baked, which is a really nice alternative to the usual frying (in terms of both preservation of vegetable taste and of kitchen not smelling like a diner.) As I mention below, this was inspired by a recipe featured in the Times last month, but I used my own tried and true sauce recipe instead. I make it at least once a week. It’s just as good on pasta as it is on pizza. Or right out of the pot on a spoon (so what who cares, I’m Italian!) I’ve also gotten reaaAAally into spiralizing things this summer, and I think this tomato sauce + carrot/zucchini noodles is AMAZING. But we’re not talking about the spralizer right now (all in good time!!) This is a post about zucchini parm. So okay. Final thoughts: this is a great dish if you’re in the mood for something hearty, but not quite as intense as a giant bowl of pasta. It’s also great if you’re serving someone who is avoiding gluten. It is not great for vegans. There’s a lot of cheese up in here. To the recipe!

Parm (adapted from the New York Times)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large white onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-oz can peeled tomatoes
1 28-oz can diced fire roasted tomatoes
4 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
18 basil leaves, chopped
several glugs red wine
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
salt and pepper

2 to 2¼ pounds zucchini
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 garlic clove
~2 tablespoons olive oil
¾ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup pecorino romano cheese
4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
4 ounces fresh smoked mozzarella cheese, sliced

Make the sauce: Heat the oil in a large saucepan on medium, then add the onion and sauté until the onion is translucent (5-7 minutes.) Add garlic and cook for another 30 seconds or so, then add tomatoes, thyme, and basil, stirring well. Turn the heat up to medium high and cook until mixture comes to a boil. Add wine, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Stir well and bring to a boil again, Return heat to medium, cover, and let cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding more wine, salt, and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.

Prep the zucchini: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F and line two sheet pans with parchment paper. Slice off the ends of the zucchini and cut them in half crosswise, then lengthwise into 1/4 to 1/3 inch-thick slices. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper and drizzle with two tablespoons olive oil. Place zucchini on the baking sheets in one layer. Roast for about 12 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and reduce heat to 375 degrees F.

Put it all together: Rub a 2-quart gratin with the half garlic clove and about a tablespoon of olive oil. Spread 1/4 cup tomato sauce into the bottom of the dish. Lay a third of the zucchini in an even layer over the sauce. Spoon another 1/4 cup of sauce over zucchini and sprinkle with 1/4 cup parmesan and a third of the pecorino and both mozzarella cheeses. Repeat for 2 more layers, ending with the remaining cheeses. There will be leftover sauce. (Aren’t you lucky! Make some pasta later this week and then go to town on the sauce. Or just break out a baguette. You won’t be sorry.) Drizzle on a tablespoon of olive oil. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, until bubbly and golden brown. Allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving to firm up a bit. I like to top my portions with a dollop of sauce and cheese, and thick slices of chewy bread to mop up every last bit from the bowl, but you can listen to your heart.

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