Book Review, Main Dishes, Sides

Hemsley + Hemsley Green Goddess Noodle Salad

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If you’ve ever made a zucchini noodle, gnawed on refined sugar-free chocolate fudge, or dug a fork into a mason jar salad, give a nod to all the health bloggers and wellness sites out there, but mostly thank the Hemsley sisters. Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley‚ÄĒknown more commonly as Hemsley + Hemsley‚ÄĒlaunched their brand¬†in 2010, focusing on flavor and relying less on¬†gluten, grains and refined sugar. Lovers of cooking and eating, the Hemsleys began as healthy cooks and caterers for private clients and events, but soon proved to be working towards a larger goal.

To improve their clients’¬†relationships with food, the Hemsleys emphasize the importance of digestive¬†health, and are generally on a mission to make eating well a joyful experience. Their first book, The Art of Eating Well,¬†solidified the Hemsley + Hemsley name as a go-to for all foodstuffs related to making healthier choices, without perpetuating a culture of deprivation. The ladies’ sophomore book is¬†Good + Simple, which dives deeper into their aim to “coach people away from fad diets and unhealthy eating towards an appreciation of the power of real food, properly sourced and correctly prepared.”

The ingenuity behind the¬†Hemsley + Hemsley philosophy is that these women understand that in order to maintain any sort of lifestyle, (“healthy” or otherwise) the methodology must be simple enough to participate in not just often, but every day. Jasmine and Melissa do not suggest¬†that their audience throw out all evidence of bread in their kitchens and become spiral-slicing,¬†grain- and refined sugar-free droids. But they do want to advocate that their practice is attainable enough to introduce into anyone’s routine. Yes, there is a green juice recipe in this book, and zucchini noodles aplenty; but flip a few pages and you’ll find¬†pulled pork and plum clafoutis.

Further, there’s a¬†notion to emphasize a¬†deeper thought process behind eating and cooking: The food we put into our mouths shouldn’t just taste good and look good, it should be thoughtfully¬†sourced. Their¬†holistic approach to food is broken down¬†to three simple words‚ÄĒdelicious, nutritious, sustainable. H + H uses a 15-principle guide, which I find to be refreshingly contrary to the plethora of touters of Health-with-a-capital-H that are so easily lumped together:

  1. Gut instinct
  2. Boil your bones
  3. Forget calories, think nutrients
  4. Meat and two veg
  5. Going against the grain
  6. Fat is your friend
  7. Sweet enough
  8. Drink to think
  9. The real deal
  10. Know your onions
  11. Prepare, chew and combine
  12. Be mindful
  13. Stress less
  14. Tune in
  15. The “better than” rule

I won’t go into what each point means, but I hope you read through them¬†if you find yourself a copy of the book. (In fact, read through all the text¬†that doesn’t precede a recipe. They have something to say; something I can’t paraphrase in a short review.) ¬†The very fact that there are so many “principles” affirms that the Hemsleys¬†understand there’s more to¬†eating than one defining term for everything one puts in their body.¬†Relying¬†on food guidelines rather than restrictions is not only more attainable, but makes for happier eaters.

In addition to the recipes, Good + Simple includes advice for stocking a kitchen, two weekly menu plans (and shopping lists!), and suggestions for lifestyle habits like having a nighttime routine, drinking water, and making time for gentle exercise.

Good + Simple¬†is a cookbook you can actually cook from, which can be a rarity these days. The following recipe is the first I cooked from this book, and I strongly recommend it‚ÄĒfor dinner tonight, lunch next week, or for any upcoming potlucks. While I was slightly turned off by the title, (“green goddess” dressing is a¬†thick,¬†mint-colored substance I truly despise) the photos led me to believe I was not going to be pur√©eing anything¬†creamy. It’s a fresh and immensely flavor-packed¬†dish that was as satisfying to put in my mouth as it was to look at. After three servings for dinner, I went right back to the (plentiful) leftovers for the next two days. The recipe is¬†a keeper, as is the book.

Green Goddess Noodle Salad [from Hemsley Hemsley Good + Simple, by Jasmine Hemsley and Melissa Hemsley, serves 4 as main]

SALAD
10 ounces buckwheat (soba) noodles
1 tablespoon extra-version olive oil
10 ounces broccoli florets or purple-sprouting broccoli, asparagus, or green beans
1 medium green cabbage or bok choy, leaves shredded
1 meduim fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 cucumber, halved lengthwise, seeds scooped out, and flesh chopped
4 spring onions, finely sliced
1 large avocado, sliced
2 handfuls fresh greens (watercress, baby spinach, lettuce, leftover cooked kale)
1 small handful of nuts (cashews, peanuts, or almonds) or seeds (sesame, sunflower, or poppy)
4 handfuls fresh herbs (cilantro, mint, or basil), roughly chopped

DRESSING
Grated zest and juice of 2 limes or 1 lemon
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, grated
1¬Ĺ -inch piece of fresh root ginger (unpeeled if organic), finely grated
2 teaspoons tamari
A pinch of cayenne pepper or chili flakes (optional)
Sea salt and black pepper

Cook the buckwheat noodles in a large pan of boiling water according to the packet instructions (about 7 minutes). Use two forks to tease the noodles apart during the first minute of cooking.

When they are tender, drain and rinse under cold water for 15 seconds. Drain again and then toss in the EVOO in a large serving bowl to stop the noodles sticking together. Set aside.

Using the same pan, after a quick rinse, steam the broccoli (or other vegetable), covered with a lid, in 4 tablespoons of boiling water for 4 minutes until tender.

Whisk all the dressing ingredients together in a bowl or shake in a jam jar with the lid on. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then drain.

Add the raw vegetables, spring onions and avocado to the noodles with the greens and steamed broccoli. Pour over the dressing and mix everything together. Top with the nuts or seeds, toasted in a dry pan for a minute if you like, and the fresh herbs.

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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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Desserts, Snacks

Vanilla Coconut Popsicles

One of my earliest memories is eating a coconut popsicle. A creamy white pop¬†with little bits of shredded coconut sprinkled throughout. I don’t remember where I was, or who I was with, specifically. And maybe the memory is actually a blur of many popsicles, the result of countless visits to roaming trucks and Central Park kiosks, but I¬†can close my eyes and see my fingers ripping through the flimsy plastic. I know I was three or four, and the moment I unwrapped the pop, it began melting down the stick in the hot Manhattan sun, cream getting dangerously close to my fingers. I’ve had many a coconut “froz fruit” since those first few, and this happens every time. I’m a little more okay with the meltdown now, (I’m fairly sure I was the only kid to really really really hate being sticky)¬†and every time I pass a truck it takes everything in my power not to buy three.

In celebration of summer and Billy’s #popsicleweek¬†(!!) I felt it was high time to take a whack at these in my own kitchen.

All I hoped to achieve with my own version of this popsicle was that slightly chewy consistency that comes from all pre-packaged ice cream truck confections. Let it be known I’m not talking about that taffy-like quality that New England-style ice cream does so well (shoutout to Herrell’s in Northampton, which supplied me with my delightfully chewy birthday ice cream sundaes and homemade chocolate whipped cream from 2011-2015). No, I’m talking about the kind of icy texture¬†that comes only as a¬†result of bumping around in the back of a¬†Mister Softee freezer for months at a time, temperature going up and down by day, even by hour. The treats¬†start to melt, then freeze back up, then melt again. Once they’re unwrapped and bitten, it’s clear the contents aren’t a solid mixture, but a hundred¬†million coconut-flavored snowflakes.

It’s impossible to create the real thing, but I’ve come pretty close. I added a hit of vanilla, which is technically not part of the classic pop, but¬†I think it added a little something special. The recipe is wildly simple too, for more time eating popsicles and less time¬†debating whether this was worth it, and if you should’ve just¬†walked outside to a truck.

A note on the sweetener for this recipe: Anything will do, it simply depends on your preference. If you want to notice the flavor, use honey or maple syrup; if you don’t, use powdered sugar. Completely your call. As for the chocolate, I personally prefer dark chocolate in general, but I’ve found that semisweet makes for that classic, barely cloying magic shell-type coating, which is actually kinda great. Again, the choice is yours.

There can never truly be enough popsicles, so do yourself a favor and head over to the #popsicleweek homepage on Wit & Vinegar for about a million more wildly creative and delicious-sounding frozen treats.

Vanilla Coconut Popsicles

1 (13.5 ounce) can full-fat coconut milk
1/2 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
¬Ī2 tablespoons desired liquid sweetener (honey, syrup, coconut nectar, etc.) OR 1/4 cup powdered sugar (see note above)
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut

Optional:
2-6 ounces 80% dark or semisweet chocolate, chopped (you’ll need more for dipping, less for drizzle)
1 teaspoon coconut oil
flakey sea salt

Place all ingredients in the first list except shredded coconut in a blender and blitz for 25-40 seconds, or until well mixed. Add shredded coconut and blend for a few seconds just to incorporate. Pour mixture into a prepared popsicle mold. Freeze for about 4 hours.

If you’re interested in doing a chocolate dip or drizzle: Melt the chocolate and coconut oil in a double boiler, then remove from the heat. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. If dipping: Pour the chocolate into a tall heat-proof jar. Un-mold the pops one at a time, dip, let excess chocolate drip off, then place the pops on the baking sheet and return to¬†the freezer for a few minutes. If drizzling: Working quickly, un-mold all the pops and place then on the baking sheet. Drizzle the chocolate on with a spoon, then return to the freezer for a few minutes.

ūüĒúūüĒúūüĒú #popsicleweek

A post shared by Rebecca Firkser (@ruhbekuhlee) on

 

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Breakfasts, Musing, Snacks

Breakfast [or Anytime You Damn Well Please] Muffins

Who do you want to be when you grow up?¬†I was asked a few weeks ago at an interview. I knew I wouldn’t find the¬†answer¬†scribbled in my notes, between ideas for recipe development and the blurb about what¬†makes my voice ~unique~. I’ve never been asked something like this¬†by a potential employer, and it was a¬†decently pleasant¬†surprise. And I bet its answer gives a little more insight into a person than asking whether they’re a strategic or tactical thinker, or where they see themself in five years.

When I was very small, I wanted to be an actress. I was that obnoxious eight year old who sang all the time: at family gatherings, in the grocery store, in the bathrooms at school for optimal echoes. I wanted to be on stage so badly. Itching to play Cosette or Belle or Maureen, I memorized the words to every soundtrack I got my hands on. I sang along with the familiar lyrics every week as I spooned out cookie dough onto baking sheets after school.

Then came the crippling stage fright. The heart-pounding, voice-shaking panic overtook me all at once‚ÄĒwhile I was onstage, no less. I was thirteen, auditioning for the middle school musical. Fourteen seconds into singing, I couldn’t hear the music over the pounding in my chest. I don’t remember if I even made it to the chorus.¬†We heard Becca was a really good singer.¬†I overheard one¬†of the girls in the audience say.¬†I wonder what happened?¬†

My greatest dream a crumbled mess of embarrassment, I moved backstage.¬†With the faintest taste of bitter on my tongue, I sewed the hems¬†and smeared foundation and lipstick on the kids who weren’t rendered mute under the spotlight. But I liked being close to the stage, and costuming was fun. I sliced through my best trays of¬†thick fudgy¬†brownies, brought the dark squares to¬†tech week and thought, this is something I could do with myself.

While I applied to college¬†with “journalism” and “studio art” selected on the Common App’s Major intention section, I rolled up to day one at Smith planning to declare theatre design the bulk of¬†my coursework. Which shoes would a¬†Chekhovian woman woman wear to walk around the orchard? How do six identical suits convey the hierarchy of office politics? Who would paint their nails red; why wouldn’t he wear this hat, but that one?¬†I thought about color and exposed skin.

Cutting patterns didn’t give me the same feeling of purpose as it seemed to give¬†my peers and professors. I was good at it, and felt proud seeing the finished productions, but I didn’t enjoy it. I took a job in the art museum over the costume shop. I stopped sketching for fun. I grew to dread those orange walls. The building smelled like stress.

I graduated with a specific degree in this field I’d¬†entered into by default. I wouldn’t be applying to theatres or MFA programs, but I left the Pioneer Valley¬†knowing what I wanted to do.

Food is what drives me, and writing is the way I package ingredients into substance. This past weekend was the¬†fourth anniversary of writing this blog, and this is my 200th official post. I’ve been out of school for a long year. A year of cover letters and¬†internships and¬†almosts.

I snapped to attention to give an answer at the interview. I pretty good one, I think.


I’ve taken to making these muffins every two weeks or so, for easily transportable snacking. There are a million ingredients, yes, but I think they’re worth it.

Breakfast Muffins (GF, makes 12-15)

1 cup oats
3/4 cup almond flour
1/4 cup chickpea flour
2/3 cup brown rice flour
2 tablespoons arrowroot starch (cornstarch gets the job done too)
1¬Ĺ teaspoons baking powder
¬Ĺ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon allspice
¬Ĺ black pepper
¬Ĺ teaspoon sea salt
6 dried prunes
1 large carrot
1/2 green apple
2 very ripe bananas
2/3 cup buttermilk or plain yogurt
zest of 1 orange
1/3 cup olive or melted coconut oil
3 eggs

coconut sugar (though any sugar will do)
sunflower seeds or pepitas

Preheat the oven to 400¬ļ F and grease a muffin tin. Place the oats in a food processor and grind into a¬†course flour. In a large bowl, whisk the oat flour with the rest of the dry ingredients and set aside.

Place the prunes in a bowl of very hot water and set aside. Grate the carrot and apple and set aside.

In a bowl, mash the bananas, then mix in buttermilk or yogurt, orange zest and oil. Blend the prunes into a paste in the food processor, then blend into the banana mixture. Add the banana mixture to the dry ingredients, then fold in the carrot and apple. Crack the eggs into a small bowl and beat for about a minute, then fold into the batter.

Scoop into the prepped muffin tin, then top with a sprinkling of coconut sugar and sunflower seeds. Bake 18-20 minutes.

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Book Review, Desserts

Coconut Orange Cookies

The Whole Coconut Cookbook is a collection of fresh gluten- and dairy-free recipes starring that famous fibrous drupe, the coconut. Nathalie Fraise‘s collection of recipes explores every meal (plus snacks and dessert) injecting each recipe with every iteration of coconut. Some recipes are now-classics you can’t seem to open a brunch menu without, (chia pudding, grain-free granola, nut butters galore) the recipes for which taste good, but weren’t especially stimulating. Others, upon my recitation of their titles aloud, elicited reactions along the lines of “wait, what?” (banana cauliflower Farina.) However, the majority of Fraise’s recipes are new ideas I can’t wait to make¬†and eat (green onion patties with spicy peanut sauce, coconut sesame noodles with bok choy and tamarind dressing. cheesy paprika popcorn, vanilla rosemary cr√®me br√Ľl√©e helllllo.)

According to the introduction, Fraise grew up in Madagascar. Her regular experience with coconuts involved trucks toting the fruit into the town where she lived, and others (when traveling near the coast,) involved buying them directly from children who’d plucked them from their own trees. It’s safe to assume Fraise knows what she’s talking about. And if you doubt her, just check out the back of the book where she lists pages of resources, recommended brands, and texts she consulted in order to make this collection of recipes¬†so successful. I found all necessary ingredients at Whole Foods.

Before you get cooking from this book, here’s a list of coconut-based items you’re going to need:
– coconut oil
– coconut butter¬†(which is different from coconut oil; it’s simply coconut meat that’s processed into a thick butter)
– a few cans of coconut milk
– coconut flour
– coconut palm sugar
Рcoconut nectar (thick syrup, technically the raw liquid sap of the coconut blossom)
*Pick up a copy of the book for more useful ingredients and descriptions*

I chose to make Fraise’s¬†coconut orange cookies, which were essentially an almond flour-riff on macaroons. Chewy, moist, and just salty enough for a dessert, plus topped with toasty sesame seeds, these little cookies were a wildly pleasant surprise. They also go very well with white wine, just saying. I think the next time I make them, I may bump up the sesame factor by adding a good dollop of tahini to the batter. If you’re looking for a way to jazz up your dessert table this Passover, I’d highly recommend taking these cookies for a test drive. They’re thickened with arrowroot starch instead of cornstarch, and the combination of coconut and almond flours + alternative coconut-based sugars make for a pretty¬†complex flavor. Check out these articles if you’re nervous about Passover recipes that include baking powder.

Cookies (from The Whole Coconut Cookbook, makes about 2 dozen cookies)

2 cups almond flour
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 tablespoons coconut flour
2 tablespoons coconut palm sugar
1 tablespoon arrowroot starch
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup coconut butter
1/3 cup coconut nectar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
zest of 1 large orange
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Preheat oven to¬†350¬ļ F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the almond flour, shredded coconut, coconut flour, coconut palm sugar, arrowroot, baking soda, and salt.

Combine coconut oil and coconut butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Melt gently, then whisk in the coconut nectar, vanilla, and orange zest. Pour into flour mixture and combine.

Drop heaping tablespoons of dough (I used my trusty cookie scoop, rolled the cookies into balls with my hands, then flattened them very slightly). Place on the prepared baking sheets, separated by a couple of inches. Do not overcrowd, as they spread while cooking. Sprinkle with sesame seeds (or better yet, roll the whole top of the cookie in seeds). Bake in the middle rack of the oven, until golden brown on top, 7-9 minutes. Make sure the bottoms do not burn.

Remove from the oven, transfer to a wire rack, and allow to cool completely. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container for 2 to 3 days.

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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Breakfasts, Snacks

Crumbly Ginger Date Breakfast Cookies

The existence of ‘self’ is what keeps everybody from confronting their fears about the ground they happen to be standing on.
‚ÄĒRobert Smithson

I’ve never been a part of any organized worship, but I’ve been thinking about it lately. About one thing having enough power for someone to¬†actually single it out as an exalted entity. My parents came from Conservative Jewish and Sunday Protestant¬†families respectively, so my sister and I¬†weren’t raised “religious” in the truest sense of the word. We¬†know why there’s a three-day gap between Good Friday and Easter (it’s actually not this) and we can recite the Hanukkah blessings in Hebrew (which probably¬†has more to do with liking to sing and less to do with studying religious text), but that’s pretty much the extent of it. When I was younger I sometimes felt like I missed out, as never got to complain about Sunday School¬†nor did I have a Bat Mitzvah. Looking back, I understand I was‚ÄĒalbeit unconsciously‚ÄĒgiven¬†a fairly unique¬†opportunity to explore my own relationship with worship. And while I’m attracted to certain aspects of religion, particularly to the sense of community involved in belonging to a¬†house of worship, and to theological storytelling, I didn’t, and still don’t really, have a yearning to practice. Religion aside, I’ve never felt as though¬†I regard anything with enough devotion to throw around the term “worship”. At least, not for something that doesn’t seem cliche or obvious.¬†It means too much.

I prefer¬†when people are honest. I like when it’s cloudy outside. I enjoy¬†85% dark chocolate. But I don’t worship “Truth” or “Nature” or “Theobroma cacao”. Someone asked me last year¬†if I worshiped anything, likely as a test, because this person already had their semi-pseduo-intellectual answer ready to go. I vaguely recall saying¬†something pretentious, like “food and the actions that come with it”, but that was¬†a cop out. I have yet to find something so powerful that I feel the need to¬†proclaim its control over how live my life, because honestly, that feels like it can get tricky. Am I¬†doing things because I like them, or because I made the sweeping declaration to hold myself to a certain set of standards? Maybe it’s good¬†to have dogma, but only if¬†one can admit it may not stay the same forever. This has less to do with religion and more to do with worship in the ritualistic sense.

I can say with certainty that food is a powerful element of my life. I use¬†it to ensure that I feel good. I try not to let it become something that controls every choice I make, but I can often fall into that pattern. I’d like to involve food in my future¬†career, difficult as that may be. It’s personal and important, but it is not Everything (with a capital E).¬†My favorite part about having to feed myself at school last year was that when I went grocery shopping, I controlled every element of my purchases. If I wanted to buy 25 cans of coconut milk¬†I could. If I wanted to eat stir fry (or kale salad or Cocoa Puffs)¬†for dinner five nights in a row, I could. There was no one telling me they’re bored of that meal, or they don’t like this particular vegetable, etc. It’s all extremely selfish, but sometimes it’s good to think about yourself.

Since I moved back home, breakfast seems to be the one meal where I can consistently eat whatever I want. I miss being able to make simply what pleases me, and I know I’ll have that again someday. But that day is not today. So in the meantime I will break up a ginger date breakfast cookie over yogurt and be okay with it.

****

Speaking of worship, horrific events like those that occurred at the University of Missouri on Wednesday, and in Paris¬†(and Beirut¬†and in¬†Baghdad) on Friday¬†only cause¬†me –and many others, I imagine– to question further whether there is any sort of higher power controlling this world. Hundreds of people¬†lost their lives, and hundreds of thousands lost their sense of security this week. No one can give a reason why, except for the chillingly open-ended term that seems to encapsulate so many recent acts of violence. If, like me, you’re another person in the States feeling helpless, it looks like the very least we can do is stay aware, alert, and supportive. I’m trying to read as much as I can about the events, I hope if you can spare the time you do the same.

****

Crumbly Ginger Date Breakfast Cookies (very loosely adapted from The Vibrant Table)

1 1/2 cups brown rice flour
3/4 cup garbanzo bean flour
1/4 cup corn flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup almond milk
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup cocoa nibs
2 large pieces crystalized ginger
4 pitted deglet noor dates

1 tablespoon coconut sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking tray with parchment paper. Combine the flours, baking powder and baking soda in a large bowl. In a small bowl whisk together the almond milk, coconut sugar, and vanilla. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry and fold together.

Finely chop the ginger and dates, and add to the batter along with the cocoa nibs. Using a teaspoon cookie scoop, drop cookies onto the prepared tray.

Bake for 15 minutes, until the tops of the cookies are golden brown. In the meantime, combine the extra¬†coconut sugar,¬†cocoa powder, and¬†cinnamon in a small bowl. Take the cookies out of the oven and while they’re warm place the sugar mixture in a fine mesh sieve and dust over the tops of the cookies.

 

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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 ros√© 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‚Äôll need about ¬Ĺ cup. Now for milk: pour about ¬Ĺ 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‚Äôre gluten-free, this part is for you. Though I will admit, I didn‚Äôt 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 ¬ľ cup and work your way up to ¬Ĺ 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‚Äôre 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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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 ‚Äď 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.”
‚ÄĒSharon 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 2¬ľ pounds zucchini
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 garlic clove
~2 tablespoons olive oil
¬ĺ 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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Main Dishes, Sides

Millet Salad with Turmeric Vinaigrette

Sundays in summer last forever and not long enough. You get up. You rub your eyes, trying to get them to focus. Maybe you had one (or two) more cocktails last night than you’d originally intended to have, but it’s okay. You stumble around looking for socks because you kicked them off in your sleep –how one possesses the ability to remove socks while unconscious remains a mystery– and go on autopilot to the kitchen. Scoop coffee into the pot. Scoop an extra scoop for good luck, like you always do. You like patterns and routine in the morning. Listen to the pot gurgle and hiss and sputter and drip drip drip. Drink a mug of coffee. Drink another. Another. Realize you accidentally drank all six cups and your family will not be amused. Make another pot. Rinse a week’s worth of quinoa because you like to eat it¬†and WHO CARES if people look in the fridge and ask why you made so darn¬†much. It’s your fridge. Spill roughly 1/8 cup quinoa all over the floor and then realize the floor is the same color as the quinoa and finding seven billion grain-beads is not how you wanted to spend the morning. Sweep.

Walk to the park¬†in pjs and birkenstocks¬†¬†becuase running requires too much effort (and a shower afterwards.)¬†Wish you’d remembered to put on sunscreen. Let your mind wander a bit, because that’s okay sometimes. Find yourself smiling again. It feels nice. Notice that it’s getting late (read: 8am) and you have shit to do and people coming over. Get home. Get distracted reading Molly Yeh’s¬†grub street¬†diet. Only be sad for a few minutes that you don’t also have a chicken to share a cucumber with.

Make brunch. Notice that two bunches of swiss chard sautés down to roughly enough to feed yourself. Wash more chard. Remind yourself that everyone always says never to try out a new recipe for guests in case something goes wrong. Remember how you thought this to yourself at the grocery store the other day but then did one of these. Shrug and add more cream to the chard. Cream makes everything better.

Finish cooking with four minutes to get dressed. Drink another cup of coffee. Spend the rest of the day brunching, then having a “business meeting” (because you’re a “grownup” now,) then drink beers on the hammock outside with someone you like to sit next to. Don’t spend all night watching Friends on Netflix because you have work in the morning. And next Sunday will be here sooner than you think.

Salad (serves 3-4 as main, 6 as side)

1 cup millet
1/2 red onion, diced
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 large zucchini, diced
~10 brussels sprouts, sliced very thinly
1 can chickpeas (reserving the water to do crazy shit like this)

2 tablespoons grainy mustard
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
~2 teaspoons fresh thyme
lots of freshly ground black pepper
tiny dollop maple syrup or honey
3 tablespoons olive oil

Rinse the millet well and cook according to package directions (when in doubt, go with the ol’ 1:2 grain-water ratio. Bring to a boil, then simmer covered for 10-15 minutes, then turn off heat and let stand for 5ish minutes. Fluff with a fork and let cool.) Transfer to serving bowl. Saut√© onion in coconut oil until tender, then add to millet. Add zucchini, brussels sprouts, and chickpeas to millet. Make the vinaigrette by combining all ingredients except the olive oil in a bowl. Slowly stream in the oil, whisking constantly. Pour over millet mixture and toss well. Serve cold or at room temperature, depending on your preference!

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Desserts

176

Ginger Sage Cashew Ice Cream (V, GF)

There are certain times of day where everything feels quieter. Calm. Every now and then it feels like this¬†at six in the evening on warm nights, but only when it’s overcast and just about to rain. The feeling is always there at five in the morning, regardless of weather or temperature. I spent a lot of time awake at five am over the past year or so, but now that I actually sleep through the night, I’ve been missing it. I used to crawl out of bed and walk around and just listen to the calm. The early risers on a morning jog. The all night-pullers just leaving the library with their laptops and exhausted faces. For me, being up at that time wasn’t about going for a¬†run or doing work, it was just about being awake and alive. I kinda miss that. But not as much as I missed sleep.

I like this summer. It feels less hectic than others. Without a doubt, I’m busier than I’ve been in years past, but I like keeping my time occupied. I usually tend to let my brain wander into circles, revisiting every possible scenario and outcome of any situation I find myself in. It gets hectic. I don’t like feeling that way.¬†It’s better to be busy and let things just happen as they may, otherwise who knows what I may trick myself into thinking. Now that I’ve started working, I’m pretty beat at the end of the day. Which, for this job, is in fact four in the afternoon. It sounds early, I know. But you try teaching fifteen 12-year olds how to draft a¬†bodice block pattern¬†or corral them around New York City¬†and¬†then you might get where I’m coming from. I’m never too tired to cook though, which is a comfort. This brings me to the reason for this post: sage ice cream. Yes. Yum.

This recipe isn’t complicated at all, it just involves a bit of planning ahead. You have to give the cashews time to soak and the custard time to chill and the ice cream time to freeze. But it’s soOOooOo worth it, let me tell ya! Side note: I’m sure this would be just as good with a dairy¬†custard base (or perhaps a yogurt one?) but I made this dairy free to enter a contest featured¬†by Food52. I really really RLY want to win a Vitamix. Keep your fingers and toes crossed for me!

ps- the fresh sage comes from the herb garden my mother planted and it makes me SO happy. Speaking of which, does anyone need any basil?? Because we have a literal mountain of it..and there’s only so much pesto a girl can make!

A few notes: I recommend using organic cashews, as the nonorganic may be treated with icky pesticides. I know they’re pricey, but I think it’s worth it. But that’s your call! And be careful not to soak the cashews for more than 24 hours, as they can start emitting¬†a weird gel (yum veganism!); it’s easily washed off, but that means you’re getting very close to over soaking, which could turn the nuts rancid. And you don’t want that!¬†

Ice Cream (makes about 1 1/2 quarts)

1 3/4 cup organic cashews
1 cup unsweetened nondairy milk (or regular milk if you don’t care about this being vegan)
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 roughly chopped fresh sage leaves
1/4 cup maple syrup/agave/honey
1 cup water
1/4 cup chopped crystalized ginger
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons cocoa nibs (optional, sub chocolate chips if you like it sweeter)

Place¬†the cashews in a large jar and cover with filtered water. Soak for at least 6 hours or overnight (highly recommend an overnight soak if you don’t have a Vitamix or other high-powered blender.) Drain and rinse well.

Place the vanilla bean paste, scraped vanilla bean, chopped sage leaves, and milk of choice in a saucepan on medium heat, stirring occasionally until the mixture is almost boiling. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep for 10 minutes. Let cool. Pass through a fine mesh sieve.

Place the rinsed cashews, vanilla sage milk, sweetener, and 1 cup water in a blender or food processor and blend into a smooth creamy custard. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least one hour.

Transfer to the bowl of your ice cream maker and freeze according to the instructions. Once the custard starts to thicken, add chopped ginger, sea salt, and cocoa nibs. Eat it right away or store in a freezer-safe container until snacking time! If it’s frozen solid, let the ice cream thaw for 20+ minutes before digging in.

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