Peach and Ricotta Spelt Scones

Summertime in the south means peaches, peaches, peaches! These ephemeral delights are best enjoyed at peak ripeness, whether raw, baked, blitzed into ice cream, or preserved. For this peach and ricotta spelt scones recipe, adding a bit of spelt flour into the all-purpose helps the mixture stand up to the juicy peach chunks, while ricotta makes for a moist, loose crumb. With just 1/4 cup of brown sugar, these scones are scarcely sweet at all, allowing the peach flavor to really shine!

These scones are not a low-fat food! While the addition of real fruit chunks and spelt flour does help to offset the added sugar, ingredients like ricotta, heavy cream, and butter bring the dough together. Fat content aside, these scones are fun to bake and a treat to eat.

What is Spelt Flour?

If you are a seasoned baker, you understand different flours tend to behave…differently. Some have higher protein content than others, like bread flour. Some have low protein content like cake flour. Then there’s the wide range of alternative flours, like rice, tapioca, chickpea, amaranth, etc. And let’s not forget about whole wheat!

While each of these flours is worthy of a lengthy discussion in and of themselves, let’s start by taking a look at spelt flour.

Spelt flour is a stone-ground ancient grain that was a precursor to modern wheat. It can be used in lieu of all-purpose flour or, commonly, whole wheat.

Once a prolific crop in the Middle Ages, spelt flour has a pleasant, sweet and nutty flavor. It adds a reddish tint to your baked goods, and is capable of light and airy baking. Whole grain spelt flour and spelt berries are available at most grocery stores or online at Bob’s Red Mill’s website.

Reasons to Use Spelt Flour

Whole grain spelt flour is an ample amount of fiber as well as:

  • Vitamins B1, B3, B6
  • Vitamin E
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Manganese
  • Iron
  • Phosphorus
  • Selenium
  • Zinc

This is a far cry from all-purpose flour, even enriched flour, which has additives not naturally occurring in the wheat flour. For a list of the nutrition facts of enriched flour, click here.

Furthermore, spelt flour helps in reducing blood sugar spikes after eating, making these scones taste even sweeter. Because of spelt’s easy digestibility, it has even been shown to reduce inflammation in the gut and promote healthy digestion!

Ways to Use Spelt Flour

Spelt flour is more versatile than it might seem! A wonderful way to begin incorporating spelt flour into your baking is to add it half and half with regular flour. (For example, if a recipe calls for 3 cups of flour, add 1.5 cups of all-purpose flour and 1.5 cups of spelt flour.)

When you’re not making peach and ricotta spelt scones, some popular ways to use spelt flour include:

  • cakes
  • muffins
  • waffles or pancakes
  • breads
  • cookies

Looking for a savory application? Check out this recipe for herbed spelt scones packed with parsley and lemon zest!

Juicy Peach and Ricotta Spelt Scones

This recipe comes together with a few choice ingredients. Gather your perfectly ripe peach, dry ingredients, ricotta, cream, and lemon.

ricotta peach scones ingredients

Then add butter to your whisked dry ingredients and chop your peaches.

chopped peaches, ricotta, butter in dry ingredients

Cut the butter into the dry ingredients using a pastry cutter, fork, or your fingers.

cut butter

Toss in your chopped peaches.

chopped peaches in butter and flour

Mix to incorporate, then mix your buttermilk with your ricotta.

wet and dry ingredients

Mix the wet into the dry ingredients until just incorporated.

Shaping Your Peach Ricotta Scones

peach ricotta spelt scone dough

Mold into a disk about 1 inch thick on a floured surface. Cut into 8 even triangles, or into squares if you prefer.

peach spelt dough disk

I chose triangles 🙂

cut peach scones

Brush with cream before baking.

peach scones brushed with cream

If you like, sprinkle some large crystal sugar over the top of these beauties!

cream brushed scones

Bake for 15-17 minutes aaaand…

finished peach and ricotta spelt scones

Best eaten warm. These scones keep wrapped up tight or in an airtight container up to 3 days.

juicy peach and ricotta spelt scones

Juicy Peach and Ricotta Spelt Scones (Low Sugar)

Based of of Smitten Kitchen's Rasperry Ricotta Scones recipe!
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 17 mins
Course Appetizer, Breakfast, Dessert, Snack
Cuisine American, baking, Intuitive, Seasonal, traditional
Servings 8 scones

Equipment

  • pastry brush

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup spelt flour
  • 1 Tbs baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 6 Tbs cold butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 heaping cup peaches, cut into cubes (about one large peach)
  • 3/4 cup whole milk ricotta
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing
  • 1/2 lemon, seeds removed, juiced
  • large crystal sugar for sprinkling (optional)

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 425°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
  • Add strained lemon juice to heavy cream and stir. Let mixture sit 10-15 minutes.
  • Whisk dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl and set aside. Cut the peach into cubes and remove the pit. Cut butter into 1 Tbs pieces.
  • Using a pastry cutter, fork, or your fingers, cut the butter into the combined dry ingredients. Once the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, add the peach chunks and stir to combine.
  • Combine ricotta and heavy cream with lemon juice (buttermilk replacement). Using a spatula, mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined.
  • Heavily flour a countertop or cutting board and shape the dough into a disc about 1" thick. Cut into 8 even scones (square or triangular work).
  • Place scones on baking sheet, brush heavy cream and sprinkle with optional sugar. Bake 15-17 minutes, or until scones are lightly golden brown. Allow to cool to room temperature before eating. Best enjoyed within 3 days after keeping in an airtight container.
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Creamy Coconut Cauliflower Rice (Vegan and Keto)

If you are looking for a cauliflower rice recipe with simple ingredients and a big flavor, this is it. Plus, it happens to be vegan, paleo, and keto! It’s a great side for anyone monitoring how carbs and dairy react with their body. This creamy dish is surprisingly filling, and pairs well with just about any protein.

Health Benefits of Cauliflower

You’ve been told to eat your green vegetables before, but what about your cauliflower? (…or romanesco, for that matter–I mean, nature really outdid herself with that one!)

You may have heard that brightly colored foods contain more vitamins and minerals, but don’t be fooled: cauliflower ranks with the best of ’em for nutrition. With a high fiber content and low carb count, this low-glycemic food is a great addition to any diet. Whether you are on a plant-based food plan or an omnivorous one, a full serving of cauliflower will likely make your body happy. Aside from fiber, a serving of cauliflower contains:

  • Vitamin C. One cup of cauliflower contains 77% of your vitamin C intake for the day.
  • Vitamin K. In fact, some blood-thinning medications advise not to eat too much cauliflower too quickly, as its high vitamin K content may affect the medicine!
  • Vitamin B6 and folate
  • Phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium
  • Antioxidants. One of these, indole-3-carbinole, has been shown to reduce the likelihood of breast and reproductive cancers in men and women.

In short, eating these compounds has medical associations with improved memory, digestion, blood circulation, and bone strength. Sounds pretty good, right?

Is Coconut Milk Good For You?

If you’ve ever looked at the back of a can of coconut milk, you’ve probably noticed that it is a high calorie food. Even the “lite” coconut milk has about the same caloric value as an equivalent amount of whole milk. Conversely, 1 cup of coconut cream (a common ingredient in many curry dishes and soups) contains a whopping 552 calories, as well as 57 grams of fat.

You may be thinking, “That’s a lot of fat!”

If you are, you’re correct–roughly 93% of coconut milk’s calories come from fat. But the fat present in coconut milk is primarily composed of saturated fats known as medium-chain triglycerides (or MCTs). Generally, these fats are known to decrease appetite and increase energy, and may even improve your cholesterol levels!

Coconut milk and coconut cream also contain several vital nutrients, including copper, potassium, selenium, iron, folate, manganese, and magnesium.

To boot, coconut-based product contains lauric acid, which fights viruses and bacteria. This is why some people partake in coconut oil pulling to boost their oral hygiene.

Coconut oil has also been shown to reduce swelling and inflammation in several studies.

So yes: full fat coconut milk is rich in saturated fats. Luxuriate in it! With all the associated health benefits, adding coconut cream to your cauliflower rice will take your vegetable game to the next level.

Best Way to Cook Cauliflower

According to research presented by CNN, the best way to prepare vegetables is to steam them. This provides the highest level of nutrient retention in the vegetable, as opposed to boiling, which causes cauliflower to lose up to 50% of its antioxidants.

In short, the less water you use in your vegetable preparation, the more likely your veggies are to retain their nutrients.

Creamy Coconut Cauliflower Rice

First, chop the shallot, peel and chop the ginger, and zest and juice the lime.

ingredients for coconut cauliflower rice

Blitz the cauliflower in a food processor until it resembles rice.

uncooked cauliflower rice

Heat the coconut oil in a large skillet and sautee shallot and ginger for several minutes. Add riced cauliflower and sautee several more minutes. Add lime juice, zest, red pepper flakes, salt, and coconut milk. Cook until the coconut milk has reduced and the mixture is homogenous. Add cilantro as a garnish. Keeps up to 3 days in the fridge.

cauliflower rice garnished with cilantro

Creamy Coconut Cauliflower Rice (Vegan, Keto)

This cauliflower rice recipe calls for full fat coconut milk and lots of lime!
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 40 mins
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Diet, keto, Special Diet, vegan
Servings 4 people

Equipment

  • food processor

Ingredients
  

  • 2 Tbs coconut oil
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 head cauliflower, "riced" in food processor
  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 large lime, zested and juiced
  • 1 tsp fish sauce, optional
  • salt, to taste
  • cilantro, for garnish

Instructions
 

  • Cut and core the cauliflower into individual florets. Run the florets through the shredding blade of a food processor until the cauliflower resembles rice. Work in batches to avoid overloading the food processor.
  • Heat the coconut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the minced shallot, ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes and sautee until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  • Add the cauliflower and saute until the cauliflower releases steam, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.
  • Add coconut milk and cook, stirring frequently, until the coconut milk has reduced and the mixture is homogenous.
  • Remove from heat and stir in lime zest and juice. Season with salt.
  • Garnish with cilantro and serve immediately. Keeps up to 3 days in the fridge.
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From Hummus Origins…to Aquafaba!

Have you ever wondered who first loved chickpeas enough to blitz them into a creamy, spoonable purée? Because it has been beloved by so many, the origins of hummus are somewhat disputed. Greek and Arab cultures both lay claim to the delightful spread–so, where did hummus come from? And what on earth is aquafaba!?

Is Hummus Greek or Arabic?

If you’ve ever shopped for hummus at the grocery store, you’ve probably noticed packaging with Greek names or inspiration. Yet the word “hummus” actually means “chickpea” in Arabic. Are you confused yet?

Regardless of where hummus comes from, Greeks and Arabs historically traded many goods, sharing ideas, music, and food for a very long time. Both cultures also happen to enjoy stuffed grape leaves and baklava, no doubt reaching back to their intermingling during the Ottoman Empire. It’s no wonder they both claim to be the inventors of hummus! We may never know its true origins.

What we know for sure is that the earliest mention of hummus dates back to 13th century Egypt. Since the 1200s, however, hummus has come in many different forms. A quick Google search yields recipes for “Egyptian hummus,” “Greek hummus,” “Israeli hummus,” “Lebanese hummus“…the list goes on. The basics of these recipes are all fundamentally the same, however; blend cooked chickpeas with lemon juice, tahini, and seasonings together and enjoy!

The happy additions of tahini, lemon, and raw garlic make this simple dish enjoyable as an appetizer or first course–or as part of an epic charcuterie platter! So, what makes my recipe different? For this version of hummus, I include a no-cost secret ingredient: aquafaba!

What is Aquafaba?

Aquafaba is the water reserved from the process of cooking chickpeas. This water is rich in starches and, when whipped, makes a colloidal foam not dissimilar to egg whites. This is why aquafaba is popular among vegans and egg-intolerant individuals. The liquid from a can of chickpeas is so reliably fluffy when whipped, it can even be used to make vegan meringue cookies!

Other Ways to Use Aquafaba

Because of its fluffy characteristics when whipped, aquafaba affords bakers and home cooks many options in the kitchen. Here are some of the primary ways chefs use aquafaba:

With aquafaba, the only limit in the kitchen is your imagination! Use it in lieu of egg whites in sweet or savory recipes.

Not Everyone Loves Aquafaba…

While vegans and egg-intolerant people shared a lot of excitement since aquafaba hit the food scene in recent years, some nutritionists remain skeptical. Despite its fluffy characteristics, there’s more to “bean water” (“faba” and “aqua” in Latin) than meets the eye.

Some think consuming the liquid from canned beans can have a deleterious effect due to the BPAs in canned food. (However, the FDA maintains that trace amounts of BPAs do not have harmful effects.) However, you can make your own aquafaba using dried chickpeas if you are concerned about the BPAs in canned food.

Others think the starchy water from the beans causes undue gastrointestinal distress because of its oligosaccharide content. This can cause gas and bloating in folks with a sensitive digestive system, and some claim it can even lead to leaky gut syndrome.

However, due to aquafaba’s recent arrival in the culinary world, there’s not much research to dispute or confirm any potential health benefits (from avoiding eggs) or harmful effects (from BPAs and starches). Cultures have long consumed stews containing the cooking liquid from pre-soaked dried chickpeas, so as is usually the case with intuitive eating, listen to your gut here (literally)! Everything in moderation, right?

Why I Use Aquafaba in This Recipe

The addition of some of the starchy water whips together with the chickpeas to create a truly fluffy, creamy texture without adding excess oil. I personally don’t eat a lot of canned food, am not pregnant, and am not overly concerned about–erm–passing wind. I’m pretty sure my dog doesn’t love me any less if I fart…so I’ll take the cut in unnecessary fat and the boost in texture, please! 🙂

Basic Hummus Recipe

Here is the basic skeleton of the recipe for hummus, which you can “dress up” any way you like. I doctored mine with extra raw garlic for a little punch.

ingredients for aquafaba hummus

I crushed the two heads of garlic and left them to soak in the lemon juice for around 15 minutes. The lemon juice takes some of the pungent bite and tempers garlic’s “rougher” edges. For maximum “garlic taming,” mince or press the garlic into the lemon juice.

Blitz everything in a food processor, gradually adding aquafaba until the hummus is of the desired thickness. Garnish with chopped toasted nuts, pomegranite seeds, sesame seeds, fresh herbs…I topped mine with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of sumac.

finished aquafaba hummus
What a good day to treat yourself!

Serve with your desired dip-able foods! Keeps well covered in the fridge up to 1 week.

Basic Oil-Free Hummus (With Aquafaba!)

The addition of aquafaba eliminates the need to use olive oil as a binder and makes for a fluffy, addicting dip!
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 0 mins
Total Time 15 mins
Course Appetizer
Cuisine greek, middle eastern, traditional, vegan
Servings 4 people

Equipment

  • food processor or blender

Ingredients
  

  • 1 can chickpeas, drained, with liquid reserved
  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • aquafaba from chickpeas, about 3/4 cup
  • juice from 1 large lemon, about 1/4 cup
  • salt, to taste

Instructions
 

  • Juice the lemon. Peel and chop garlic, then add to the lemon juice to macerate, about 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, drain chickpeas using a fine strainer over a bowl or large measuring cup. You should have about 3/4 cup of aquafaba. Add chickpeas to a food processor or blender along with tahini, a pinch of salt, and the lemon juice with garlic. Pulverize in pulses, gradually adding aquafaba until the hummus is of a desirable consistency.
  • Taste, and season for salt. Garnish with chopped toasted nuts, pomegranate seeds, sumac, olive oil, sesame seeds, pine nuts, and/or fresh herbs and serve. Keeps well in the fridge about 1 week.
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For other ideas on how to use chickpeas, check out this my recipe for simple chickpea ricotta pasta, or this recipe for butternut squash and chickpea tahini salad!

Nik Sharma’s Spicy Collard Greens and Legume Soup

A few days ago I woke up with a splitting headache and an achy kind of nausea. I say “woke up” loosely, because I laid in bed for several hours just trying to figure out what’s what. Even though it is July in the South, and plenty hot, and plenty humid, I knew what I needed. The answer? Hot, nourishing soup with plenty of collard greens, which happen to be the state vegetable of South Carolina.

You may be thinking, “You crazy woman. It’s 1000 degrees outside where you live and 900% humidity. A walk halfway ’round the block is enough to get you sweating. Why are you making hot soup?”

And reader, I must say: valid point…

However, the body needs what the body needs, and sometimes silver-green bunches of bitter collards and turmeric-coated chickpeas can work some of the profoundest miracles.

I leafed my way through the picture-rich Flavor Equation gluttonously, lingering over pages that contained ingredients I’d never heard of. If you need some magic injected into your culinary life, consider this beautiful book by Nik Sharma. He breaks down some of the science of what makes ingredients big players in the kitchen and throws in some really interesting recipes for adventurous eaters intent on culinary play.

I saw the picture of this chili-spiced soup and just knew it would cure me.

What’s not to love about stewed greens in bright tomato and tamarind, with spiced chili, turmeric, cinnamon, and black pepper seasoning two kinds of legumes?

I ate not one, but two bowls of this for early dinner and was back on track by 8.

Health Benefits of Collard Greens

These broad, leafy greens have more to offer than meets the eye. Here are some of the top nutritional benefits to eating collard greens regularly:

  1. Liver Detox: Collard greens are rich in glucosinolates, which cleanse cells of toxins and gradually purify the body over time.
  2. Vitamins and Minerals: Rich in vitamins A, C, K, and B-6 as well as iron, magnesium, and calcium, collard greens offer your body the building blocks to do everything from producing hemoglobin in your red blood cells, to boosting the immune system, to improving skin health.
  3. Fiber: High in both water content and fiber, collard greens are very beneficial to your gut in “keeping regular.” Fiber not only cleans out your lower intestine but also slows down your liver’s processing of sugars, lowering the chance that sugar will be converted to fat. Fiber also lowers cholesterol levels and may even have associations with bolstering mental health.

In South Carolina, it’s standard to purchase collard greens in giant bunches, too large to fit in the average grocery bag. Most folks cut the tough rib out of the center of the leaf, chop the greens into forkable chunks and stew them in a deliciously seasoned liquid. Here is a recipe for classic Southern Collard Greens from Grandbaby Cakes.

The Recipe

Collards aren’t all this dish has to offer. From the healing punch of warming spices to the healthy protein contributed by the chickpeas and lentils, this soup will have you going back for another bowl.

First, I prepped all of the ingredients. I thawed my homemade stock…diced the onion…soaked the red lentils…peeled and chopped the ginger and garlic…washed and cut the collards….etc. It was my day off and I had all day to make magical soup, as far as I was concerned. A mini “vacation,” if you will.

(If you are looking for other ways to use up your gorgeous red lentils, check out this recipe for dal from one of my previous posts!)

Once the ingredients were prepped, it became a matter of bringing out the best in all of them. Sauteeing the onions until translucent, just cooking through the ginger and garlic, caramelizing the tomato paste and blooming the spices, stewing the tomato and collards…then adding the beans and stock to simmer until everything married together.

Serve yourself a bowl, add a healthy amount of fresh herbs on top, and you’ve got yourself a wellness boost:

Bet you can’t eat just one bowl.

Nik Sharma's Spicy Collard Greens and Legume Soup

Nik Sharma
This collard-packed soup is doubled down on legume-y goodness with both red lentils and chickpeas. With warming spices and brightness from fresh tomato and tamarind, this vegetable stew will leave you both refreshed and comforted!
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Total Time 1 hr 15 mins
Course dinner, Main Course, vegan, Vegetarian
Cuisine Comfort Food, Intuitive
Servings 4 people

Equipment

  • heavy bottomed dutch oven

Ingredients
  

  • 1/2 cup red lentils
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 medium onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1 tsp red chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric powder
  • 2 Tbs tomato paste
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 7 oz collard greens, rinsed, midribs removed, and coarsely chopped
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed
  • 1 quart low-sodium vegetable stock, or chicken stock
  • 1 Tbs tamarind paste
  • salt, to taste
  • chopped parsley, to taste
  • chopped cilantro, to taste

Instructions
 

  • First, rinse your lentils in a fine mesh colander and pick out any impurities. Cover lentils in a bowl with 1 cup of water and let soak for 30 minutes.
  • While the lentils are cooking, peel and dice the onion, garlic, ginger, and tomato and set aside. Remove the midribs from the rinsed collards and roughly chop.
  • Heat oil in the bottom of a large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sautee for about 5 minutes, or until translucent. Add ginger and garlic and cook 1-2 minutes, or until fragrant. Add cinnamon stick, pepper, chili, and turmeric followed by the tomato paste and cook 2-3 minutes.
  • Drop in the diced tomato and collard greens and stir until the leaves are bright green and begin to wilt, about 1 minute. Drain the soaked lentils and add to the pot along with chickpeas and stock.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook uncovered about 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender but still retain their shape. Season to taste with salt.
  • Garnish with freshly chopped herbs and serve immediately.
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Gooey Lemon Meringue Pie Bars

With the passing of Memorial Day came a swift–if not entirely unpredictable–craving for sugar. Coupled with the knowledge that I had four or five lemons which were on the precipice of going bad, I knew there could only be one delightful conclusion: lemon dessert.

While most of us are familiar with lemon bars and lemon meringue pie, perhaps not all of us have had the great pleasure of sinking our teeth into these beauties. Gooey, sticky, lemony, and slightly tart, these bars make an excellent BBQ dessert. While they are fun to share, I ate nearly an entire pan to myself over the course of five days before finally demanding that my boyfriend take them away to share.

Y’know, for science. So for the record, they keep surprisingly well in the fridge.

While one could hypothetically eat these pie bars with ones’ hands (and I’ve definitely stuffed a bite-sized morsel into my mouth while running out the door on my way to work) they are an INCREDIBLY sticky mess and are best eaten with a plate and a fork. This way, you know how to prepare for that potluck dessert you were puzzling over. (Gatherings are beginning to happen again, thank everything good.)

Another bonus of finding this winner of a recipe? Trying my hand at another kind of meringue. This recipe calls for Swiss meringue in order to add a silky smooth finish to your lemon pie bars.

Different Kinds of Meringue

There are three basic kinds of meringue. Chances are, you’ve been exposed to them at some point in your life–maybe even eaten and enjoyed them–without knowing just what they are. From meringue cookies to pie toppings to Baked Alaska, mastering meringue is a pivotal step for any baker or home cook.

French Meringue

French meringue is created by whipping egg whites until soft peaks form, then gradually adding sugar while beating until firm peaks appear. For this process, it is best to use fine sugar or confectioner’s sugar for easier absorption and maximum dissolvability. This particular kind of meringue is often folded into desserts like Julia Child’s chocolate mousse in order to create a fluffy, airy quality.

Italian Meringue

While this touted as the most stable of the three meringues, it can also be the trickiest to get right. It is undoubtedly the least forgiving of the meringues, but the results are versatile and have been used in everything from macarons to buttercream. First, egg whites are beaten until soft peaks form. Then, sugar syrup (simple syrup) is heated to 236°F-240°F. Gradually, the syrup is added to beaten egg whites as you continue to whisk. When all the sugar is incorporated, you will have glossy, firm peaks that will set quickly unless incorporated into another ingredient.

Swiss Meringue

For this meringue, sugar and egg whites are whisked together over a simmering pot of water until they are very warm to the touch. The heated mixture is then beaten until smooth, firm, glossy peaks form. Adding the sugar to the egg whites in this way makes for a less voluminous result, but improves the overall texture, especially when compared to French meringue. (Hint: THIS is the meringue used for lemon meringue pie!)

Ways to Use Meringue

One of the great qualities of meringue is that it is essentially sticky, edible play-dough; once it’s met with time and/or heat, it holds its shape forever. Torch your meringue when you want it to set, and you’ve made an edible creation. Because of this aspect of meringues, they make a fun addition to nearly any dessert. Improvise, and have fun!

Okay, Now You’re Ready To Play With Meringue

Roll up your sleeves, gather your ingredients, and get to work!

We start with the graham cracker crust. Who doesn’t love a graham cracker crust?

You’ll need two sleeves, butter, sugar, and salt for this sweet step. A food processor makes the procedure more enjoyable, unless you love smashing things in zip top bags until they are a fine powder. Sometimes this can be cathartic?

Once par baked, it’s time to make the lemon filling. I love this lemon filling because juice, flesh, and rind are all blended together, creating a complex and robust lemon flavor. Yum!

Once blitzed together, it gets baked. It WILL look bizarre and even unevenly browned. But trust me (and the recipe!), once you slather some of that sweet, sweet Swiss meringue on top, nobody will bat an eye.

 

That’s the beauty of Swiss meringue: everything goes in one bowl (ideally the bowl of a stand mixer)!

Chill that sucker! While it’s cooling, whip up your Swiss meringue.

That’s the beauty of Swiss meringue: everything goes in one bowl (ideally the bowl of a stand mixer)! Put it over heat until it is very warm, whisking throughout.

It won’t look very “meringue-y” at first (I confess I had a brief moment where I wondered if I was doing it right) but once you put the warm mixture under a whisk, magical things happen. Spread the finished meringue over your cooled lemon bars and torch.

Before!

After! Serve immediately. If you can’t eat them all in one sitting, don’t worry. They are still just as delicious five days later, and I have to say they were even better on day two.

Gooey Lemon Meringue Pie Bars

With a buttery graham cracker crust, blitzed sugar and whole lemon filling and a sweet Swiss meringue topping, this crowd-pleasing dessert makes an excellent addition to any gathering. Keeps up to five days in the fridge. This recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen.
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Cooling Time 2 hrs
Course Dessert
Cuisine American, traditional

Equipment

  • Blow torch or oven broiler
  • Stand mixer or electric hand beater

Ingredients
  

Graham Cracker Crust

  • 2 sleeves graham crackers, original
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 pinches fine salt
  • 10 Tbs cold butter, cut into cubes

Whole Lemon Filling

  • 2 whole lemons, scrubbed
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 8 egg yolks, with whites reserved
  • 1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Swiss Meringue Topping

  • 8 egg whites
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Instructions
 

Crust

  • Heat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9x13 pan with two pieces of parchment paper large enough to overhang on the sides of the pan. (This is to remove the lemon bars after they've cooled.)
  • Place graham crackers, sugar, and salt into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until fine crumbs form. Add the butter and pulse until incorporated. The mixture should look and feel like wet sand. Transfer to the parchment papered baking pan and press the crumbs down into it in an even layer, taking care to send crumbs all the way to the corners. Bake for 10 minutes, or until just golden. Allow to cool.

Filling

  • Trim the ends off of your lemons and slice two lengthwise. Cut into thin half moons (about 1/8th of an inch thick) and remove the seeds from the slices. Wipe out the food processor and place lemon slices, juice of one lemon, sugar, egg yolks, vanilla, salt, and butter and blend until smooth. (Alternatively a blender works well for this.) Pour the mixture over the par baked crust and return to the oven, baking for 30 minutes more. (Don't worry of the graham crust is still warm when you pour the lemon filling into it.)
  • Pull the lemon bars from the oven after 30 minutes and allow to cool completely in the fridge at least 2 hours or freezer at least 1 hour. Don't worry if the top looks unevenly browned or unsightly as it's going to get covered with meringue swirls!

Meringue Topping

  • Once the bars have cooled completely, pull from the fridge. Using the parchment paper handles, pull the bars in one mass from the baking pan and discard the paper. Return the bars to the baking pan.
  • Add egg whites, vanilla, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer (or other heat safe bowl, if using electric hand mixer) and place over a pot of simmering water (even 2 inches of water in the bottom of the pot is enough. Whisk continuously until the mixture is homogenous and very warm to the touch.
  • Transfer the bowl to the stand mixer and beat until firm, glossy peaks form, 2-3 minutes. Plop the meringue over the cooled lemon bars and swirl using an offset spatula until desired effect is achieved.
  • Using a torch or your oven's broiler, heat meringue until golden and toasted, around 1 minute. Keep a close eye on the meringue so it does not burn.
  • Serve immediately. Keeps well up to five days in the fridge.
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Vanilla and Plum Clafoutis

I know what you’re thinking.

How did it get to be nearly June already? How has this year been simultaneously so fast and so slow?

Oh, you weren’t thinking that? Maybe it’s…just me??

So, maybe you were wondering what in the lord’s name a “clafoutis” is. Y’know, until a few days ago, I didn’t know what on earth it could be either. It sounded French and according to the internet, it is made of a few simple ingredients. I decided to give it the ol’ college try. If you’ve ever made and/or enjoyed a dutch baby, chances are you will probably enjoy a clafoutis. If you did a DNA test, I’m sure it would tell you they are siblings; or, at the very least, first cousins. And tasty too!

What’s a Clafoutis and How Do I Pronounce It?

According to the dictionary, a clafoutis (klah-foo-TEE) is a tart made of fruit baked into a sweet batter. A traditional version of this is made with cherries, so stone fruits are a natural choice. The spongey batter is higher in eggs and milk than it is in flour, which makes for a springy forkful. What’s not to love about this simple confection?

Tell Me More…

So, your typical cherry clafoutis as it would be made in France (after all, it IS a French word) would be served warm and dusted with powdered sugar. Fun fact: the French traditionally leave the pits in the cherries to impart an almond character to the sponge. (If you, like me, feel that you already spend enough time and money at the dentists’ office, adding a kiss of almond extract is a safe substitute for the pits.)

Originally from Limousin, France, “clafoutis” comes from the root “clafir,” meaning “to fill.” Thus, it is a baked dessert “filled” with fruit. However, while the simple nature of the recipe makes for easy substitutions, the French have dubbed any version containing a fruit other than cherries a “flaugnarde.” Being a little more–erm–progressive, I personally am willing to call this plum version a clafoutis. One can only keep so many French words in ones head, after all.

Not All of Us Live in South Carolina…

If I am going to tout myself as a seasonally-minded blogger and eater, I have to address the fact that the plums I found at the farmer’s market are not available everywhere in the U.S. Strictly speaking, it is a little early for plums. The good news? Strawberries are starting to emerge, and rhubarb has been in full force for some time now. There is absolutely no reason why you can’t make yourself a strawberry rhubarb clafoutis, and enjoy every minute of it. (If using strawberry rhubarb, replace vanilla bean with 1/2 tsp vanilla extract.)

However You “Clafoutis,” Here’s How It Goes:

Assemble your ingredients. Chop your plums into chunks, macerate in sugar. Scrape vanilla bean into milk, and throw the pod in with the plums to hang out and impart flavor.

Whip up your batter and arrange plums in the bottom of a cast iron or oven-safe pan; no need to go overboard arranging your fruit. Chances are, the batter will cause the plums to float off the bottom of the pan.

Before pic, featuring floating plum wedges and aromatic batter. Make sure not to overbake your clafoutis to prevent it from becoming rubbery. This recipe calls for a high egg/milk: flour ratio, which should further prevent a rubbery dessert. If, however, you encounter a clafoutis quandary, consider adding another egg and/or more milk in the future.

After! Feel free to dust with powdered sugar and serve warm. Or, add a scoop of plain vanilla ice cream or full-fat yogurt and enjoy!

This dessert is light, so feel free to dish yourself a hearty slice.

Serves 8 people, keeps in the fridge up to four days, and reheats well. Who’s ready for summer?!

Vanilla and Plum Clafoutis

Fruit studs a custardy sponge in this simple and rustic dessert. Enjoy with vanilla ice cream or yogurt, or with a dusting of powdered sugar!
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Total Time 1 hr 20 mins
Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine French, Intuitive, Seasonal
Servings 8 people

Ingredients
  

  • butter, for buttering the cast iron or oven-safe dish
  • 6 plums (mine were small so I used 7)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp fine salt
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise with seeds scraped (alternatively, use 1 tsp vanilla extract)
  • confectioner's sugar (optional)
  • vanilla ice cream or yogurt (optional)

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter baking dish and set aside.
  • Remove pits from plums and cut into thin slices. Place in a medium bowl with 1/4 cup sugar and vanilla bean husk and toss. Set aside, allowing the fruit to macerate at least 10 minutes.
  • In another medium bowl, whisk sugar, flour, and salt. Add eggs, milk, vanilla bean seeds and whisk until a smooth batter forms.
  • Arrange macerated plums in the bottom of your baking dish. (You can add the vanilla bean husk if you want, but keep in mind you will have to remove it after it bakes as it is inedible.) Pour batter into the skillet and place on the center rack in the preheated oven. Bake until set, between an hour and an hour and 10 minutes, or until lightly golden brown and puffy.
  • Allow to cool before slicing into wedges. Dust with powdered sugar and/or add a dollop of ice cream or vanilla yogurt and serve immediately. May be frozen up to one week, and keeps well up to four days in the fridge.
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Salt-Cured Egg Yolks

Have you ever bit into something so delicious it was nearly impossible not to crave another bite? Snapped into the perfectly-seasoned chip, slurped some savory ramen, chewed through mouthfuls of crusty, tomato-y pizza?

Have you ever wondered just what it is about these dishes that makes them so hard to pass up?

The answer is “umami,” a Japanese word which literally translates to “pleasant savory taste.”

Umami has roots as far back as 1908, when it was discovered by Kikunae Ikeda, a Japanese chemist. This flavor sensation is often described as “brothy” or “meat-like” with a lingering, mouth-watering effect which coats the tongue. This phenomenon correlates to the presence of glutamates and certain ribonucleotides in food, which can be made even more pronounced by adding salt.

Fermented fish sauces and soy sauce are some of our most ancient representations of umami, which have been traced back as far as the third century in China. Dried bonito flakes, kombu seaweed, tomato paste, parmesan cheese, shrimp, nutritional yeast, shiitake mushrooms, and leeks are some examples of ingredients which are rich in umami. One easy “cheat” for enhancing umami is created by adding MSG powder, short for monosodium glutimate*–this is a powdered combination of salt and glutamic acid, otherwise known as sodium salt; this provides a great savory boost to whatever you are seasoning.

Glutamates make up approximately half of the ingredients in breast milk, so you may be even more familiar with umami than you thought! Interestingly, some studies suggest that umami both stimulates appetite and contributes to satiety, making it an ideal addition to nearly any dish.

I am always looking for more ways to sneak umami into dishes. Salt-cured egg yolks are an easy way to add a flavorful boost to your meal, and could even be used to replace parmesan cheese for those who are sensitive to dairy or are simply trying to cut back. What’s more, they keep almost indefinitely in an airtight container in the fridge!

All you need for this recipe are high quality egg yolks, preferably from local hens, fine kosher salt, cheesecloth, and time.

Here I’ve separated my yolks and poured my salt into a bowl.

The yolks are then nestled into depressions, then completely covered with salt. These sit this way undisturbed for one week in the fridge. Here’s what they look like after seven days:

At this stage, the yolks are wrapped loosely in cheesecloth and hung in the fridge to air cure one to two more weeks, or until they are completely dry. (Note, they will still be a little tacky to the touch, but should be generally firm.)

Gloriously lumpy, these yolks have already graced the top of my pasta carbonara and may even find their way onto my popcorn later…recipe for carbonara coming next week!

*Some have drawn correlations between MSG consumption and asthma, migraines, and brain damage–however, the FDA still regulates MSG as safe. Glutamates are abundant in nature (as I mentioned earlier, they make up over 50% of the ingredients naturally occurring in breast milk), and glutamic acid works as an excitatory neurotransmitter. This means that in order to relay a message, it stimulates nerve cells. Some folks argue this can be done to excess, which is why MSG has been labeled an excitotoxin. A study was completed in 1969 during which mice were given large injections of MSG, which caused harmful neurological effects. However, when consumed in normal amounts, dietary glutamate should have imperceptible effects on the brain as it cannot cross the blood-brain barrier. Of course, there are those who are more sensitive to MSG than others; symptoms of this include flushing, muscle tightness, tingling, numbness, and headaches or migraines.

Salt-Cured Egg Yolks

Using the simple ingredients of high-quality eggs and fine kosher salt, these hardened egg yolks make for an easy burst of flavor to grate over anything from pizza and pasta to popcorn.
Prep Time 5 mins
Curing Time 21 d
Total Time 21 d 5 mins
Course Seasoning, Side Dish, Spice
Cuisine American

Equipment

  • cheese cloth

Ingredients
  

  • 4 high quality eggs, preferably local
  • 1 box fine kosher salt or pickling salt

Instructions
 

  • Crack the eggs and separate the yolks from the whites. Reserve the whites for later use.
  • Pour about 1/2"-3/4" of salt into a bowl or tupperware large enough to fit all four yolks widthwise with at least 1/2" space in between. Using your finger, create little impressions in the salt for the yolks, making sure to leave some salt at the bottom of the depression and not scratching the bowl bare. Carefully place the yolks into their depressions, then cover completely with salt. Seal or wrap with plastic wrap and place in the fridge undisturbed for one week.
  • After one week, remove yolks from fridge. Carefully comb through the salt and brush the yolks free from the majority of the salt.
  • Wrap yolks loosely in cheese cloth and allow to air dry or "cure" in the fridge 1 to 2 more weeks, or until thoroughly hardened. (Note: They may be a little tacky but should be completely firm.) These keep almost indefinitely in an airtight container, and can be grated over a dish to accentuate umami flavors.
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Red Lentil and Yam Dal

If you love Indian food but often feel daunted by the idea of making it yourself, dal (sometimes spelled “daal” or “dahl”) is a great entry point. With simple ingredients and minimal effort, dal requires basic knife skills and a little patience. To boot, this recipe also happens to be vegan; but while it is free of animal products, it is no way lacking in flavor. When I first sampled a bite to make sure the lentils were cooked through, I ended up standing for several minutes over the stove, eating spoonful after spoonful and groaning over just how delicious this dish actually is.

What’s more, it’s arguably even better the day after you make it, after the ingredients have had more time to meld in the fridge. I love making a big pot of dal and nursing it over the course of the week; you can doctor it several ways to add some variety, and eat it for literally any meal. (I had it for breakfast the morning after I made it!) Add some fresh cilantro, a squeeze of lime, coconut cream, crispy fried onion slivers, or some raita or yogurt. Eat it with naan, roti, on toast, or with brown or basmati rice. This dish is complex and balanced enough to stand up to a little tweaking, but really is remarkably good straight out of the pan.

What Is Dal?

Usually including onions and/or tomatoes and a host of spices, dal is essentially savory lentil porridge.

The word “dal” comes from the similarly named Sanskrit root verb, meaning “to split,” and is commonly used to refer to lentils of all colors and sizes. (In this case, however, we are talking specifically about the dish.) Made from either lentils, peas, or beans which do not require soaking (also called “pulses”), dal comes in three primary forms: made from unhulled pulses, split pulses, or hulled and split. When a pulse is hulled, its outer shell is removed, thereby making it easier to digest; in turn, however, it looses some of its inherent nutritional value in the process, such as dietary fiber.

According to Wikipedia, India is the leading producer and consumer of pulses in the world, no doubt why lentils and other legumes contribute so much to Indian cuisine. Most Indian households eat lentils in some form at least once throughout the day (either sweet or savory), no matter where they fall on the financial or class spectrum. In this way, pulses are a great equalizer in Indian cuisine.

One popular way of finishing a bowl of dal is to pour “chaunk” over the top of the bowl. Chaunk is generally whole spices fried in a neutral tasting oil, such as fenugreek, red pepper seeds, or cumin or mustard seeds. However, chaunk varies regionally and comes in a wide variety of forms.

India’s Legume History

Tracing back well before the Christian era, a baked, sweetened lentil paste dessert known as “mande” or “mandaka” reaches back to the Buddhist era. Two legumes which show up in India’s historical texts are chickpeas and horse gram, both of which are still eaten in India to this day.

In texts dating back to 1130 AD, pulses are mentioned as the main ingredient in common dishes, with dals made from cereal grains also present. Pulses can be cooked with or without soaking, but can also be ground into a flour and used to make traditional Indian breads such as papadum, or moong dal paratha.

Lentils are also considered the first meal of someone in mourning, because they are round and sorrow (like a wheel) is thought to come around and touch everyone in their turn. Additionally, the lentils’ smooth shape is thought to symbolize the silence indicative of the mourning period in Indian culture.

It is said in lore that during King Avadh’s reign, a cook was hired exclusively to cook lentils. He took the job on the condition that the king eat the lentils while they were good and hot, never allowing them to grow cold. This worked for a while, until the king was unable to come as planned for dinner one day.

In frustration, the cook threw the whole dish away and walked out, saying “yeh mooh aur masoor ki daal” or “you are not worth this lentil!”

Health Benefits of Dal

Aside from being a low fat, low cholesterol dish due to being pulse-centric rather than meat-centric, dal also contains hearty doses of ground spices like cumin, coriander, and ginger. Thought to contain healing properties in India’s Ayurvedic medicine tradition, dal nourishes on a cellular level and promotes overall wellness in several ways.

Lentils are high in

  • B vitamins
  • zinc
  • potassium
  • magnesium
  • folate
  • manganese
  • phosphorus
  • phytochemicals, which prevent diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes
  • fiber
  • iron
  • and are 25% protein

They have been linked to heart health, blood sugar management, lower blood pressure, and general fitness, as they increase satiety and discourage overeating.

Fresh cilantro has been linked to reduced symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s, reduced anxiety, and blood sugar management.

In this recipe, ground cumin, coriander, ginger, and turmeric are all used; each of these spices is thought to host a litany of health properties, essentially adding up to reduced inflammation, blood sugar management, improved heart health, weight loss facilitation, and improved brain health and digestion.

(If you are curious about learning more about yam nutrition facts for this dal, please refer to my previous blog post for Sweet Baked Yam With Tahini, Cilantro, and Pepitas.)

It’s hard to have a bad day eating such colorful food…perhaps this is why golden turmeric is linked with depression relief.

Onions sauté in a little oil followed by yams, ginger, garlic, and red pepper. In go the lentils, spices, salt, tomatoes, and some water…

Everything simmers for about 35 minutes. Stir in some coconut cream for some richness and just try not to immediately scoop yourself a bowl! And don’t worry–dal freezes beautifully!

Red Lentil and Yam Dal

Adapted from Nigella Lawson's NYT recipe.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Total Time 1 hr 5 mins
Course healthy, Main Course, Side Dish, Vegetarian
Cuisine Indian
Servings 4 people

Ingredients
  

  • 3 Tbs neutral flavored oil, such as canola
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2 cups sweet potato, finely diced
  • 1 inch peeled ginger, finely minced
  • 2 large cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 tsp aleppo chili flakes
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1 1/2 cups canned diced tomatoes
  • salt, to taste
  • 1/4 cup coconut cream
  • cilantro, for garnish

Instructions
 

  • In a large, heavy-bottomed dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and sautuntil translucent, about 5 minutes. Add yam and sautee for another 5 minutes.
  • Reduce heat to low and add ginger, garlic, and pepper flakes, and stir. Add lentils and ground spices to the pot, and stir until fully incorporated. Add tomatoes and 3 1/2 cups water, and raise heat to high until the mixture boils.
  • Once boiling, reduce heat until mixture is at a rapid simmer and cook about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until lentils are fully cooked and the liquid is absorbed. Season to taste with salt.
  • Remove from heat once liquid is absorbed and lentils are cooked, add coconut cream and stir. Garnish with cilantro and serve immediately.
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Chicken and Spinach in Cream Sauce

I will never forget the first time I had mushrooms and cream sauce: the tang of white wine tempered the silken nature of the heavy cream, creating a luxurious blanket for the simmering creminis. It’s hard to argue with the allure of heavy cream, even when we are trying to be eco- or animal-conscious.

I don’t buy it often, and my fridge almost always has milk alternatives in it such as oat or almond–but every now and then, ya just want something so creamy it’s basically liquid butter.

This flavorful sauce beautifully coats tender poached chicken breasts and cooks fresh spinach in a matter of minutes. Grounded in earthy greens and brightened by white wine and a splash of lemon juice, this truly is a decadent, simple dish that makes enjoying dinner a no-brainer. Plus, it comes together in under an hour and utilizes only one skillet, which makes clean up a breeze.

While I would be hard pressed to label this a “healthy” dish, there are certain benefits to eating lean protein like chicken breasts (low cholesterol, high protein) and spinach.

Health Benefits of Spinach

Aside from containing vital nutrients like calcium, potassium and magnesium, spinach is also high in vitamin A and folate.

Vitamin A has been linked to eyesight, skin, and hair health, as well as reduced risk of certain cancers like cervical, lung, and bladder cancers.

Vitamin A also helps to fight acne and is an essential micronutrient necessary in collagen production, responsible for keeping us looking young and healthy, as well as boosting bone health and nutrient absorption.

Folate plays a key role in red blood cell formation and general cell health and function.

Isn’t it fun to know that, on a cellular level, our foods are working to keep the machinations of our amazing bodies in order?

What’s even more fun is knowing that folate is a nutrient that requires fat in order to be absorbed by the body, thus making this rich cream sauce the perfect vehicle for your leafy greens. How’s that for a justification? 😉

Simple ingredients means minimal effort, but it also often means crystal-clear flavor that is easier to balance.

What do I mean by “balance?”

Fat vs. acid is a great place to start. In this dish, the cream is obviously the major contributor in the “fat” column, while white wine plays heavily into the “acid.” The reason these two ingredients come together in this straightforward sauce is the fact that they play off each other nicely, making for a surprisingly complex, savory relationship. Add some garlic for pungency and shallot for character and you’ve got an excellent backdrop for whatever you like, whether that be chicken, fish, mushrooms, or vegetables.

Part of what keeps the chicken in this recipe so moist is the fact that it poaches after it sears. This has the double benefit of cooking off some of the alcohol in the white wine and further thickening the sauce.

Add some parsley for color and a squeeze of lemon for a burst of freshness. What this dish lacks in color it makes up for in flavor. Serve with rice or over a bed of fresh spinach, and enjoy!

Chicken and Spinach in Cream Sauce

This simple dish comes together in minutes and makes and excellent date-night or special week-end meal!
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Course dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American, French, Intuitive, traditional
Servings 2 people

Equipment

  • cast iron pan or heavy bottomed skillet

Ingredients
  

  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • salt, for seasoning
  • freshly ground black pepper, for seasoning
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 2 small shallots or one large
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup dry white wine, such as pinot grigio
  • 3 cups fresh spinach, packed
  • fresh parsley, to taste
  • fresh lemon wedges, to taste

Instructions
 

  • Season chicken breasts to taste with salt and pepper. Coat (dredge) in flour and set aside.
  • Grate shallot(s) and press garlic and set aside.
  • Heat oil over medium-high in a cast iron or heavy bottomed skillet. Sear chicken until golden brown on both sides, about 8 minutes each turn. The chicken should read 165°F on an instant read thermometer. If using high-quality, organic chicken, feel free to heat chicken to the "chef's temperature" of 155°F, if you are comfortable. Keep in mind the chicken will continue to poach in the white wine in the following steps.
  • Reduce heat to medium and add butter, garlic, and shallots. Cook, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes. Add wine, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, and simmer about 10 minutes or until the liquid has reduced by half. Flip the chicken breasts after 5 minutes, then remove using tongs. Place on a cutting board and cover with tin foil, allowing the meat to rest for several minutes while you finish the sauce.
  • Once the wine mixture has reduced significantly, add the cream and cook until the sauce can coat the back of a spoon, between 5 and 10 minutes. Once the sauce is complete, turn off the heat and add fresh spinach, stirring until incorporated and fully cooked, about 1 minute.
  • Cut chicken against the grain into 1/2" strips. Plate with spinach and cream sauce, ideally over a bed of rice. Serve hot with fresh parsley and lemon wedges.
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Coriander-Crusted Tuna Steak With Coconut Rice and Quick Pickles

One thing I have truly loved about exploring the South is venturing into local butcher shops. One can find anything from alligator and frog legs to bacon, boxes of cow, and lamb. It was with great self-restraint that I passed up the pricey swordfish in favor of the slightly-more-economical tuna steaks.

If you’ve never had freshly ground coriander, pairing it with tuna is an excellent introduction. Its subtly bitter, floral quality is a delight to the senses and sidles up to tuna’s meaty character with a surprising amount of acidity. If you’re not sure what else do to with whole coriander, consider using it as a chicken rub or brewing it as tea with a little fennel and cardamom.

This truly is a “treat yo’self” dinner; your plate will be full of fresh herbs and healing whole spices, healthy fats from the coconut milk, and protein from the tuna. Great for a date night or weekend dinner, or post-workout protein binge.

Why Tuna?

Tuna is very low in fat and calories, and contains no carbohydrates. This means it is nearly pure protein. In a 3.5 ounce serving, tuna contains 20 grams of protein. This is good for folks who are trying to watch their weight or cholesterol intake. Tuna also contains antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids as well as several minerals, including magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, and selenium, which helps to counter the deleterious effects of any trace amounts of mercury which may be present. Google recommends eating tuna no more than three times a month, for those of you who might be concerned about mercury. The average tuna can is about five ounces, whereas most steaks are around eight.

After my ingredients were prepped, it was just a matter of cooking the rice, soaking the quick pickles in an air-tight bag with their sugar-vinegar solution, and searing the steak.

Chopped cilantro, scallions, lemongrass, fish sauce, and lime juice percolate in a bowl while the cucumbers pickle and rice and tuna cook. Slice up your steak, spoon up some of the herb mixture, and enjoy!

This will definitely be in my rotation for favorite dinners…

Coriander-Crusted Tuna Steak With Coconut Rice and Quick Pickles

Low-carb, high protein dinner.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 50 mins
Course dinner, healthy, Main Course
Cuisine Healthy, Intuitive
Servings 2 people

Equipment

  • rice cooker (optional)

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup white rice, ideally jasmine or sushi rice
  • 1 cup chicken or veggie stock
  • 1 cup full-fat coconut milk
  • 2 6 oz tuna steaks, about 1 inch thick
  • 2 Tbs untoasted sesame oil, plus more for brushing
  • salt, to taste
  • 4 Tsp whole coriander seeds, ground in spice mill or mortar and pestle
  • 4 Tsp freshly cracked black peppercorns
  • 3 Tbs sesame seeds, untoasted
  • 3 Tbs black sesame seeds (optional)
  • 1 large lime, juiced
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, with tops removed and tender bulb sliced into thin medallions
  • 2 Tbs fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • 2 scallions, sliced halfway up the stalk
  • 1 medium-heat red pepper, such as an Aji or Cayenne, sliced into thin rounds (remove the seeds if you are sensitive to heat)
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar, unseasoned
  • 2 Tbs white sugar
  • 1 Persian cucumber, sliced into thin rounds

Instructions
 

  • If using, add rice, chicken or veggie stock, and coconut milk to the rice cooker and turn on. Otherwise, combine the three ingredients in a medium sauce pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer undisturbed until rice is tender, about 25 minutes.
  • Using a mandoline or sharp knife, thinly slice cucumbers and red pepper into rounds. Combine rice vinegar and sugar together and stir until completely dissolved. Pour vinegar into a quart sized zip-top bag with cucumber and pepper slices and seal, removing as much of the air as possible so veggies are coated in the solution. Set aside.
  • Meanwhile, pat tuna steaks dry with a paper towel. Brush with 2 Tbs sesame oil and lightly season with salt, bearing in mind you will be topping the steaks with fish sauce and lime juice which accentuate salty flavors. Generously pat ground pepper, coriander, and sesame seeds onto the steaks until the surface is completely covered. Set aside.
  • Combine chopped cilantro, lemongrass bulb medallions, scallions, fish sauce, and lime juice in a medium bowl and stir. Set aside.
  • Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat until smoking. Add roughly 3 Tbs of sesame oil to the pan, followed by your steaks. Steaks are cooked after 2 minutes per side, but I prefer my steaks closer to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool. Cut into thin strips and place on a plate with coconut rice and drained quick pickles. Top steak strips with cilantro mixture. Serve immediately.
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