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—known more commonly as Hemsley + Hemsley—launched 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 Wellsolidified 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—delicious, 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—for 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 puréeing 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
1½ -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
±2 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.

🔜🔜🔜 #popsicleweek

A post shared by Rebecca Firkser (@ruhbekuhlee) on

 

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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 crème brûlée 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
– coconut 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 350º 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.
—Robert 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—albeit unconsciously—given 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.

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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.

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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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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

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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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, 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. Sauté 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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Book Review, Drinks

177

Mint Julep [from The Art of American Whiskey] (V)

There’s something about summer that makes cocktail hour come sooner and last longer. You step out of work, walk into a pub, and order a beer at 5:03 and no one thinks anything of it; in fact, you’re not the first one to arrive– not by a long shot. You walk into a bar on a Tuesday night and you have to squeeze in between the hipsters to get a seat. No one looks at you funny for ordering a second watermelon tequila smash. Or a third. It’s the most wonderful time of the year! I’ve been getting very into making festive post-work cocktails lately, so just stay tuned.

Don’t tell anyone, but I think I like developing cocktail recipes more than food ones. Flavor combinations are more delicate. There is the finest line between a good cocktail and a great cocktail. Sure, I can throw a shot of this and two fingers of that and some muddled fruit in a highball glass and it’ll be pretty darn good. Add a squeeze of lime and maybe it’ll be really good. But a great cocktail needs no embellishment, save for a few herbs or citrus peel. Which brings me to my next point: the mint julep.

No, no, I did not invent the mint julep (duh,) but I am using it as a benchmark for my cocktail developing from now on. It’s so simple, but tastes truly amazing. It seriously makes me want to forget the time in my life when I thought a good cocktail was cheap rum mixed with cream soda. Oooof. Anyway, I’ve been digging bourbon lately. Like, having-a-nightly-glass kind of digging it. And when Noah Rothbaum‘s new book, The Art of American Whiskey arrived at my doorstep a few weeks ago, I knew I was about to dive into a full-on love affair. Whiskey is rad. We all know it. Even if you don’t like the taste of it, you know it’s pretty cool. I’ve met many people who claim to be whiskey aficionados –the amount of times I’ve had to listen to mansplaining about which scotch is superior makes my head hurt– but Noah actually knows his stuff. He travels his way through history chapter by chapter, starting with “The Late 1800s and Early 1900s,” “Prohibition,” and “Life After Temperance;” all the way up to “The Swinging Sixties,” “The Seventies, Eighties, and Nineties, aka the Dark Ages,” and “The New Golden Age” (right now.) He details political and economic implications behind whiskey (and liquor in general) during the various decades, as well as how the drinks fit into the social climate of the times. Each chapter features cocktail recipes from various contributors that were originally developed during the corresponding time period. Along the way, he includes images of label art of the top 100 iconic whiskey bottles– easily my favorite part of the book. The recipes take a bit of a backseat to the historical notes, but that didn’t bother me as much as I thought it was going to after the first chapter. It’s definitely much more of a coffee table book than a standard cookbook, but that shouldn’t dissuade you from picking up a copy. Grab the book, make a cocktail, then enjoy it while you read and work your way towards becoming a whiskey buff.

The mint julep hails from the 1800s, and was originally made with the grape-based brandy cognac. But when cognac stock was depleted from pests attacking European grape crops, bartenders were forced to switch to whiskey and gin. I made a julep with cognac after the real thing and it just doesn’t hold up. Try it yourself and see what you think!

Mint Julep (from The Art of American Whiskey, contributed by Allen Katz; makes 1 cocktail)

8 fresh mint leaves + sprig for garnish
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 1/2 ounces bourbon

Muddle mint, sugar, and a small amount of crushed ice in a julep cup (I don’t have one, but this one is now on my wish list. If you don’t have one either, a highball glass or mason jar work just fine.) Add more crushed ice to fill half the cup, then add the bourbon. Stir until the cup becomes frosty, then add more ice to fill the cup all the way to the top. Garnish with mint and drink with a straw (that crushed ice gets everrrrrrywhere.)

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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