I don’t know about you, but as the seasons slowly develop into the colder months, I crave fresh foods from spring and summer all the more. This isn’t to say I don’t love the indulgences of the holiday season…but the snap of a freshly picked pea can be the sweetest memory in the depths of winter.
In the same way that dried flowers can hold their charm for years if treated properly, preserved foods are decidedly delicious–but they will always be just that: preserved.
I have learned to compensate for this fact by throwing in fresh herbs wherever I can. Not only does this taste delicious and feel wholesome and healthy, but I can also grow herbs inside by the window regardless of the time of year. This way I don’t feel like I’m cheating too much about the whole “seasonal eating” thing, not that I’m prepared to crucify myself by keeping kosher with an exclusively biodynamic diet. I am an intuitive eater, after all. Sometimes you just want an orange, carbon footprint be damned.
This dressing is a great way to pack in a lot of the freshness and flavor and make your vegetables a little more exciting. Heck, you can even use it as a marinade for grilled chicken skewers, spread it on a sandwich in lieu of mayonnaise, or use it as a dipping sauce for chicken wings. To say that I am obsessed with this recipe would be an understatement. I probably make a batch of it once a month, and mix it up based on whatever herbs I have on hand, especially if I’ve got some which have been wilting in the fridge and need to be used up, stat.
Part of the beauty of this recipe is the simplicity of the process: everything goes in a blender or food processor and gets blitzed until it’s of a cohesive texture.
This will keep for several weeks in the fridge and still taste great–but I dished myself up a bowl immediately…
Do you have once a week pizza night in your house? Do you WISH you had once a week pizza night in your house, but are intimidated by the “hassle” of homemade crust?
Worry no more. The simplest, tastiest pizza crust recipe is now available to you. The hardest part about making this recipe is waiting the extra 48 hours for the flavor to develop in the bulk ferment in the fridge. But if you have the patience to wait three full days for your pizza (yes, anticipation IS part of the flavor) your dinner will taste high calibre even if you’re simply using up leftovers from your fridge to top your ‘za. So, for the sake of your tastebuds, try and give this dough the full time to “grow” into itself.
Another perk of this recipe is there’s flavor without the fuss of sourdough. All this batch of dough needs is 1 gram of yeast. That’s it. The rest of the flavor comes from natural yeasts in the air, and time.
I mean, just look at this beauty after she’s been partitioned into individual bowls and left to come into her own:
Add some of your favorite toppings while your oven sits at 550°F and bake for 8 minutes. And boom! Hearth-fire-style pizza, right at home. Date night with your Other just got a little bit better.
But why trust a picture? This cheap project yields handsome rewards. Besides, there’s a pandemic. You’ve got nothing but time! (Sorry, sorry…too soon? …it might be too soon.)
I topped my most recent pizza with a few hearty spoonfuls of ricotta, fresh basil and red sauce, ground Italian sausage, and a generous crack of fresh pepper. Needless to say, there were no surviving pieces to enjoy for lunch the next day.
Add the water and mix with a wooden spoon, spatula, or your hand until just combined, being careful not to overmix. Once mixture is combined, lightly flour a countertop and knead for several minutes to remove clumps. Dough should easily come together in a ball.
Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit at 24 hours at room temperature, undisturbed. It should bubble and roughly double in size.
Lightly flour a large cutting board or your kitchen countertop and place the dough on it. Divide dough into 4 equal portions for 10 inch pies.
Place the dough balls into oiled, airtight containers or small bowls covered in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for another 48-96 hours.
Remove from the fridge at LEAST 1 hour before use to allow the dough to come to room temperature. This lets the gluten relax and allows you to more easily shape the dough into a disc for baking.
To make pizza, preheat the oven to 550°F while the partitioned dough is coming to room temperature from the fridge. Place a pizza stone, flat baking sheet, or cast iron in the oven to preheat while you stretch the dough into a flat shape. Place onto a pizza peel or another flat baking sheet with a fine dusting of rice flour or cornmeal, so the dough can freely slide off and into the oven. Add desired toppings, and bake for 8 minutes, or until browned and bubbling. Let rest at least 1 minute before cutting.
What better way to kick off soup season than with that old fan favorite, tomato?
A truly great sendoff for even the most overripe of tomatoes, this vibrant soup is the perfect backdrop for cream, yogurt, grilled cheese, crackers, croutons, etc…but can also stand on its own.
Stewed, reduced tomatoes become a medium of sweet, tangy umami. Add some sautéed onions, some fat, and some time: and boom, you’ve got a delicious–and beautifully simple–soup.
I cooked the tomatoes with sautéed onions and roasted poblanos in olive oil until some of the tomato juice had reduced, about 30 minutes.
After pureeing the cooked veggies in a blender and tasting to season with salt and pepper, I decided to get to work on the herb puree.
This puree became sort of a catchall for herbs and greens I already had on hand, so many substitutions or omissions could be made in terms of the greenery–after all, not everyone saves their carrot tops for just such an occasion!
This puree integrates beautifully into this simple soup and offers an aromatic freshness to the buxom flavor of stewed tomatoes. Needless to say, I ate this bowl of hot soup straight from the blender within minutes.
Basic Tomato Soup with Herb Puree
10-12 medium tomatoes, stemmed and cut into 1” chunks
3 medium poblano peppers
1 medium onion, diced
2 Tbs + 4 Tbs olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 bunch parsley, stems removed
1 bunch carrot tops
2 cloves fresh garlic
1 Tbs capers, drained
1 anchovy filet
Juice of ½ lemon
½ c quality olive oil + more as needed
Salt, to taste
Roll poblano peppers in first measurement of oil and place on a baking sheet. Broil in the oven on high until skins are blistered and charred, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside until cool.
Add second measurement of olive oil to a heavy bottomed pot with salt, pepper, and onions. Sautee until onions over medium heat until they are translucent and tender, 10-15 minutes. Add cut tomatoes and turn heat to medium low, stirring occasionally to prevent the tomatoes for sticking. You are looking for some of the liquid to be reduced, about 30 minutes.
While tomatoes are stewing, remove the stem and seeds from the roasted poblanos. Dice the peppers and add to the cooking tomatoes.
After 30 minutes has elapsed and soup is of desirable thickness, puree everything in a blender or food processor until smooth.
Set soup aside in a large, preheated serving bowl. Combine all of the ingredients into the rinsed out blender or food processor and puree until smooth. You may require more than ½ c olive oil to achieve this, depending on the size of the herb bundles.
Serve the soup hot with a generous scoop of herb puree, or yogurt, or both. Croutons or grilled cheese are advisable.
Well, this week certainly put me through my paces. (Oh, you too? TGIF.)
It’s a good thing I have whole wheat bran muffins for breakfast…I mean, it’s a really good thing.
What’s even sweeter is the fact that they were made with blueberries harvested with a dear friend at a “secret” blueberry farm. And to cinch it all together: these muffins have no refined sugar, but taste like you’re sort of getting away with something when you bite into them before 9 am.
What’s not to love about that?
If you’ve been following with the blog, you have probably gathered that I pretty much always have sweets in the house. When I’m halfway through one baked treat, it’s time to dream up the next one. (As I pen this, there is half of a loaf of bread pudding perched in my fridge, screaming to be eaten…I must remind myself, “adults” eat dinner then dessert…)
So it came as no surprise that I felt compelled (and I absolutely mean compelled) to try my hand at bran muffins this week, like, STAT. I guess I just couldn’t handle looking at the bag of Bob’s Red Mill wheat bran which has been staring me in the face for the last month, hinting ever so subtly that I should, ahem, make it into something delicious and vaguely nutritious already!
Thus, I plucked it from the shelf and did a little internet rummaging. (“How can I recreate those totally spectacular blueberry bran muffins featured at that coffee roaster in Portland?”)
With just a little digging, I found an approximation that brought me one step closer to that goal.
Adapted from this recipe from Food52, this muffin batter creates the perfect backdrop for whatever seasonal fruit, seeds, shredded vegetables or coconut you wish to spotlight. It’s simple to put together, with little mess. They taste like a treat but they’re sort of, like, a super food or something…at least, that’s what I’m telling myself.
Like many recipes in baking, the ingredients were placed in “wet” and “dry” bowls respectively, making for simple assembly and easy clean up.
Mix it all together…
Another beautiful aspect of this recipe is how perfectly it fills a 12-part cupcake pan. Less mess and cleanup, and you have 12 perfect muffins at the end of the process–I didn’t weigh or measure at any point during the batter scooping!
Then bake! And voila:
For those of you who like to nerd out a little bit about food, part of what’s so great about these muffins is the amount of fiber paired with the natural sugar. As you probably know, your liver processes sugar as well as alcohol. When you consume an excessive amount of sugar in a short amount of time, it “panics” and transforms the sugar into fat rather than processing it as fuel for the body. I guess it’s kind of like hitting the snooze button when your alarm goes off.
Eating fiber with your sugar reduces the chance of the snooze button being hit; it slows down the process of digestion and gives your liver a chance to keep up with your carbohydrates. This is one of the many, many reasons that we love fresh produce.
So, not only are you getting antioxidants from the honey and blueberries and minerals from the molasses, but you’re getting our friend fiber from the whole wheat flour, wheat bran, berries, and coconut to boot. Are you psyched yet??
Molasses Blueberry Bran Muffins
Note: You can add whatever seasonal fruit is desirable, coconut flakes, dates, hemp hearts, toasted seeds or nuts…you can even sub applesauce for mashed baked sweet potato with a few tablespoons of water. It’s all about texture and natural sweetness with these muffins!
butter or oil for muffin tin (optional)
1 c wheat bran
1 ½ c whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 ½ c blueberries
½ c walnuts, lightly toasted and chopped
¼ c shredded, unsweetened coconut
1 c milk
½ c molasses
3 Tbs honey
2 eggs, beaten
½ c applesauce (or scant ½ c mashed, cooked sweet potato with 3 Tbs water)
2 Tbs melted coconut oil
Preheat oven to 400°F and butter or oil a muffin tin or line with paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together bran, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
Stir in fruit, nuts, coconut, and any other desired accoutrements to the flour mixture.
In a medium bowl, mix together milk, molasses, honey, eggs, applesauce or sweet potato mash, and oil.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Divide the batter evenly between the 12 cups. (They will feel perilously full, but this is how they should look!)
Bake for 15-18 minutes–no longer than 20 minutes. A toothpick should come out clean when inserted into the muffin. Enjoy!
Another week passed at the bakery, full of trials, tribulations, and “firsts,” including my first time successfully completing macarons. This has been a bucket list item for me since I first saw an array of colorful macarons about a decade ago, and I bought one of those teeny tiny prosecco bottles from the grocery store to celebrate. Now, to make the perfect olive or walnut levain…
…but one day at a time! For now, champagne out of a mason jar.
Assuredly you are aware, delightful reader, that it is pumpkin spice season. I mean, we are even working pumpkin spice into the patisserie. And I may or may not have started ordering pumpkin spice lattes as soon as they were available in my area. It’s a comforting taste, and we can all use a little comfort right now.
But, with great flavor comes great curiosity (or something like that) and I began to get a little more curious about chai spice.
I cobbled together a few recipes from various sources and created my own tip of the hat to this season: chai spice, vegan pudding (pumpkin not included).
I mean, if one can make spicy chocolate pudding, why not? What were rules made for, if not to break them??
Though I initially set out on this quest with sweet, sweet dairy in mind (I was envisioning an egg-yolky custard, rich and sweet, and so, so fattening–) I opened my fridge to behold two large containers of oat milk and a perilously full jar of coconut cream that I opened this week by mistake, thinking it was coconut milk. (This has proven to be a happy accident, however, as I have been adding a scoop of cream into my earl grey tea in the mornings.)
“So,” I thought, “can I apply myself here to use what I have and make a truly delicious vegan pudding?”
Reader, if you want a healthy fat, low-sugar, guilt-free seasonal dessert, you’ve come to the right place.
First, I gathered my ingredients.
I toasted the spices and orange peel in a medium saucepan before adding oat milk, coconut cream, vanilla bean paste, and slices of peeled ginger, simmering this gently for about six minutes. The beauty of this recipe is, you can take the spice as far as you like. The longer you simmer, the spicier your pudding is going to be. I like ginger, like, a lot, so I stretched that flavor out as far as was palatable to me. It’s so important to taste as you go!
When the flavor tastes right to you, or just barely to the point of “omg, maybe this is too spicy,” drain the liquid into a medium sized bowl using a fine mesh sieve or cheese cloth draped inside a colander. (You are going to dilute the flavor a little bit with the second addition of liquid, so be bold with your flavor concentration!) Return liquid back into the pot, add cornstarch/oat milk solution, and whisk over medium heat, until mixture thickens.
Pour into ramekins or a medium bowl, cover in plastic wrap, and chill. And voila! Vegan, spicy, not-too-bad-for-you, on-theme dessert. Win.
Obviously, you can use whatever milk you like. And, the original recipe I riffed off of called for whole milk or half and half–so if you’d rather make your pudding with good, old-fashioned dairy: please, be my guest! Whether you prefer your dessert to be righteous or indulgent: chai spice is the great connector.
Spicy Chai Pudding (V, GF)
Note: This recipe could very easily be adapted to contain dairy by substituting whole milk or half and half for the oat milk and coconut cream. I also used honey to sweeten, but an equal trade of brown sugar would make this recipe fully vegan. Follow your gut!
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
6 cardamom pods
7 whole black peppercorns
6 whole cloves
1/8th tsp nutmeg, preferably freshly ground
1 1/2” strip of orange zest, with little to no white pith
1 ¾ c oat milk
4 Tbs coconut cream
1 whole vanilla bean, split lengthwise with seeds scraped, or 1 tsp vanilla paste
1” peeled ginger (roughly 0.5 oz), cut into matchsticks
½ c oat milk
3 Tbs cornstarch
½ c honey or brown sugar
¼ tsp salt
In a large liquid measuring cup or in a small bowl, combine first measurement of oat milk, coconut cream, vanilla, and sliced ginger.
In a medium sauce pot over medium heat, toast cinnamon, star anise, cardamom, peppercorns, and cloves, stirring or shaking the pan occasionally until spices have started releasing their odor and “dancing” around in the bottom of the pot, about 5 minutes. (Take care to turn your spices with a wooden spoon, smelling for anything burning, until cardamom pods appear toasted and cinnamon stick has darkened considerably.) After spices are sufficiently toasted, turn off the heat and add nutmeg followed by orange peel, stirring for 1 minute more. When orange peel has begun to sweat and shrivel, remove from the hot burner and let the pot cool for a few minutes.
While the pot is cooling, whisk together cornstarch and second measurement of oat milk in a small bowl until no lumps remain.
When you can put your fingers on the pot without burning yourself, add oat milk, coconut cream, vanilla, and ginger mixture into the toasted spices, followed by honey and salt. Place back over the hot burner and cook over medium heat until mixture is just below a simmer. (It should be steaming but no significant bubbles emanating from the bottom of the pot.) Stir consistently so the liquid does not form a skin or burn on the bottom of the pot.
When spiced oat milk mixture is at a bare simmer, cook, stirring constantly, for 5-8 minutes. Taste as you go: the longer the mixture simmers, the spicier the pudding will be. When pudding has reached desired spiciness, drain the contents of the pot into a medium bowl using a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth placed over a colander, discarding spices. Return the mixture back to the sauce pot over medium heat. When steaming, add the cornstarch and oat milk mixture, whisking constantly until pudding thickens and barely begins to boil, about 5 minutes.
Reduce heat to the lowest setting and stir 3 minutes more, or until pudding is of a desirable consistency.
Divide into ramekins or pour into a bowl, covering in plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled. When ready to serve, garnish with 1 tsp coconut cream and a modest shake of ground allspice or cinnamon. Best eaten within 24 hours.
Edit: If it pains you to throw away whole spices and several dollars worth of ginger, after steeping your spice blend in the milk of your choosing, consider candying the ginger matchsticks for a garnish and drying your spices on a piece of parchment paper for another use, such as adding to a mug of tea or making a hot toddy.