Every once in a while, I’m in the mood to cook fancy food. I’m talking stuffed foods, rolled foods, and fritters! While my cooking style is generally ethnic, simple, and hearty, occasionally I like to pretend my house is a pricey farm to table establishment. I have a blast whipping up fancy sauces, experimenting with unusual garnishes, and plating the finished product. It was during one of these fancy food cooking sprees that these crispy beet fritters with leek cream were born, and while they may look and sound hoity-toity, they are actually quite delicious and pretty simple to prepare!
Is it just me or is this summer going by ridiculously quickly? I feel like I’m constantly struggling to keep up with all the wonderfully delicious fresh produce in season right now! And I’m fortunate enough to work RIGHT by the Union Square Greenmarket, a huge NY farmer’s market that constantly reminds me I better get to the kitchen, stat.
In my opinion, one of the best summer meals (and I may be influenced here by my Mexican-food obsessed fiancé) is THE TACO. Yes, the article there is deliberate – in our household, tacos deserve the same amount of reverence and respect as The Macaron or The Rack of Lamb. (Although lamb doesn’t actually get any respect since we don’t eat meat.) But anyway, why is The Taco a perfect summer meal? For starters, you can pretty much make anything into a taco, so it’s a fantastic vessel for keeping up with all the delicious produce that keeps appearing in the summertime. Secondly, there’s not that much cooking involved – you may have to quickly sauté some veggies and heat up your tortillas, but you won’t have the stove/oven on for too long – a definite blessing in the summertime. Thirdly, you get to make your own salsa, which in my opinion is what makes a taco into The Taco.
While homemade salsa in all forms is absolutely delicious, I have always been partial to tomatillo salsa. I love the tangy, pungent, citrusy flavor of The Tomatillo. Okay, sorry – I’m overusing the article trick now :p But seriously, if you haven’t tried tomatillos, you must! They are related to tomatoes, and are used quite often in Mexican cooking. You may have heard them referred to as “husk tomatoes,” since they grow inside a husk – this must be removed before you use them. After removing the husk (and any stems that you see), you’ll also need to quickly rinse the tomatillos, since they will feel slightly sticky. But once husked and rinsed, they are ready to go! You can roast, sauté, eat ’em raw, whatever strikes your fancy! While some recipes call for seeding tomatoes, you will NEVER have to seed a tomatillo – just another of their many benefits.
By “Warm Mushroom Salad,” I really mean “Warm Mushroom Salad with Sweet Tahini Drizzle, Fresh Parsley, and Feta Cheese.” While that’s a bit lengthy for a title, it is just right for a salad!
The way I prepared the mushrooms for this salad is probably my new favorite way to prepare mushrooms, period. They are meaty, juicy, tender, buttery, and oh so flavorful! Add in the freshness of the parsley and the tanginess of the feta and you’ve got a true winner. However, I think it is actually the sweet tahini drizzle (sesame and honey) that takes this dish over the top. The flavors here have an intensity, earthiness, and brightness that left me wondering why people don’t combine mushrooms and honey more often.
When it comes to shakes, I’m a pretty picky eater … er… drinker? In my opinion, a good shake must be creamy, smooth, rich, luscious, full-bodied, sweet but not sweet enough to cause a sugar rush, and most importantly, NOT ICY. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve experienced severe buyer’s remorse after shelling out good $$ (shakes are expensive!!) only to realize my “cacao banana power shake” (or some variation thereof) is half ice and half store-bought almond milk with maybe a couple teaspoons of cocoa powder and a tiny piece of banana. Sadness! Anger! Ice! So. Much. Ice.
While I’ll occasionally throw one or two cubes of ice in a shake I make myself (usually because I have a cat shaped ice cube tray and the kitty ice cubes are so darn cute that I can put aside my ice hatred and remember that all things can be good in moderation) I generally find that if all my ingredients are cold, shakes do not need ice at all. And I much prefer them creamy and rich to cold and watery. This Middle Eastern Shake is no exception – it could probably be eaten as a pudding if you’re into that. Personally, I prefer to consume it in shake form (I mean, for one thing, you get more of it: it is so much more socially acceptable to consume a full glass of shake than a full glass of pudding.) [Read more…]
Isn’t it weird when your tastes start to change? As someone who has gone through life adamantly disliking chipotle peppers for their smoky flavor, as well as less passionately (but still steadfastly) relegating all varieties of chili to the boring school cafeteria domain, this recipe is a bit out of character. But I really like it!
It all started when I remembered a squash tamale recipe I made once with my college roommate – it called for chipotle peppers and I had begged her to leave them out. Miraculously, despite the fruitlessness of my persuasion efforts, I ended up loving the tamales. I had puzzled over it for a day, and then promptly forgot – returning instead to my religious dislike of all things chipotle. Until I got a mysterious craving for those tamales – more specifically, for the characteristic deep and slightly smoky flavor of the chipotle peppers. So, against my better judgment, I went out and bought some dried chipotle, threw it in a pot with some beans, veggies, and tomatoes, and let the simmer setting do its magic.
And once again, I liked it! Was it a fluke? It appears not. I’ve now made this chili three times, and I’ve liked it each and every time.
My favorite thing about bran muffins is their nutty, whole-grain flavor. What I’m not such a fan of is that dense (and sometimes dry) texture you’ll sometimes experience in a less-than-perfect bran muffin. As such, trying to create a gluten-free “bran” muffin was a bit of a task, as dryness is something you have to be extra careful to avoid when there’s no sticky gluten involved!
After a couple tries (I was really muffined out for a while there), I managed to create a delicious gluten-free muffin with a “bran” like flavor but with a texture that is lighter and cakier than a traditional bran muffin. They are so pleasantly light, and so wonderfully moist, in fact, that you can eat quite a few of these guys before realizing just how many you’ve eaten!
I think that tofu scrambles get a bad rap. They are often the token vegan item on an egg-filled brunch menu, which doesn’t do them any favors. And it’s not because they can’t stand up to a good omelette; it’s because they’re often employed as an egg substitute. In my opinion, trying to make tofu taste like scrambled eggs is silly – even if you succeed, a less-good version of scrambled eggs is just not that exciting to eat for breakfast. (If you’re a vegan who really misses eggs, than okay, go for it. I do see the value there.) But I’d rather eat a tofu scramble that isn’t trying to be something else, because it really doesn’t need to be! Since tofu is a neutrally flavored food on its own, it can take on whatever flavor profile you want it to. And that means you can infuse loads of delicious flavor into it, flavor that can provide serious competition for even the most delicious egg dish.
Buckwheat (contrary to its name) is both grain-free and gluten-free. It has no relation to wheat – in fact, it’s actually a seed that is related to rhubarb! Its health benefits are numerous – it’s great for your heart, it helps regulate your blood sugar, and it’s nutrient-packed (high levels of manganese, magnesium, and copper). Buckwheat is also high in protein relative to other grains and contains all nine amino acids.
If you’re not familiar with kasha already, you may be wondering why I’m rambling on about buckwheat. Well, kasha is actually toasted buckwheat, which means A) it has a wonderfully nutty, hearty flavor that makes for some fantastic eating and B) all my rambling about buckwheat is actually quite relevant.
There is nothing like sitting down to a beautiful and delicious plate of steaming pasta. It’s elegance and comfort all rolled into one, which is kind of hard for most dishes to accomplish. Think about it – what other comfort food also brings with it so much elegance and class? Well, actually, all of the ones with Italian roots.
How do you make a sandwich elegant? Turn it into a panini.
What about a pizza? That’s easy. Ditch your NY-style pizza by the slice and go for a wood-oven baked pie with San Marzano tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella.
Fried dough? Sure. It’s a ricotta-filled zeppole.
In fact, if I had to make one general statement about Italian chefs, it would be that they sure do know how to combine comfort and elegance. And you can too. So put on some Puccini and pour yourself a nice glass of Chianti, because I have a delicious Italian-style pasta recipe for you.
Before going gluten-free, I used to bake all the time. I had my knock-’em-dead brownie recipe for those casual but chocolate-warranting events, my decadent layer cake recipe for birthdays and anniversaries, and the ultimate coffee cake recipe for those weirdos who don’t like chocolate. These were all recipes I had collected due to my habit of reading (or should I say drooling over) any dessert cookbook I could get my hands on. Since I was such an avid dessert cookbook reader, I quickly learned how to tell whether a recipe was worth making just by skimming the ingredients and procedure. (Hint: Look for copious amounts of chocolate and butter :p) But this was as far as I got with regards to bringing in my own creative process – I never created my own dessert recipes or experimented too much with the recipes I collected. It was only after going gluten-free that I started creating my own desserts, and it’s been a total blast.
My absolute favorite flour to bake with is almond flour. That’s because it makes gluten-free desserts taste like regular desserts – it’s moist, holds together well, has a great texture and flavor, and, as if that wasn’t enough, it’s also packed with protein! I’ve been seeking out almond-flour based dessert recipes for a couple years now, and in the last year or so, I’ve finally felt comfortable enough working with this miraculous substance to be able to play around with it on my own. It’s a great feeling to be able to easily whip up a dessert when the craving hits, with whatever you happen to have around the house!
And that’s exactly what I did a few weeks ago, when these poppy seed bars were born.