Umami Bomb

Of course there is something amazing happening in my kitchen right now. 

Of course there is.
Rhubarb Fizz

Rhubarb Fizz

Cherry Tahini Bars

Cherry Tahini Bars

Last week found me perpetually craving this dish, which needless to say, I’ve made twice now. It’s that good. I know that I’m on to something when I’m left scraping every last morsel out of the bowl, producing audible moans of delight, and exclaiming to practically anyone who will listen that this is one of my most favorite meals, yet.
 
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I have a girlfriend who inspires me frequently with her culinary ingenuity, so when she was raving about a dinner she’d prepared, I had to co-opt it somewhat and make it my own. At my last visit, she’d acquainted me with fermented black garlic, which has a similar texture to that of roasted garlic, and a subdued flavor that is sweet and mild. I tend to use a light hand with garlic, as it can so quickly overwhelm. The fermented garlic, however, provides beautiful accent, contributing to a dish that draws on the trifecta of taste: sweet, salt and fat.
 
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It’s one of those meals that’s fairly easy to pull together, if you have a few basics on hand. I always have a jar of puréed ginger and tamari in my fridge; the rest can be modified to suit taste. You can use fish sauce, however I prefer anchovies; add one or two at the start of the sauté and they disintegrate, lending their flavor to the umami base. This is deepened with the addition of shitake mushrooms, tamari and a touch of seaweed. Sautéing endive tames the bitterness completely, and the red onion is pleasantly sweet. Chile and ginger add a bit of kick. 
 
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It all comes together with a bit of cooked rice, more or less to preference, and some shredded smoked trout. Smoked tofu could easily stand in for the trout, however this combination is simply magic.
 
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Enjoy, and much love,
J
 
Fried Rice with Shitake and Smoked Trout
 
Ingredients:
 
1-2 cups cooked rice, preferably cold
2 tbsp coconut oil
2 anchovy fillets
1 small red onion, halved and sliced ~1/4 in 
2 heads endive, sliced ~1/4-in thick along the diagonal
1 pint shitake mushrooms, sliced ~1/4 in
6 oz smoked trout, or tofu; roughly shredded
2 sheets toasted nori, torn into ~2-in pieces 
2 tbsp toasted coconut
 
For the sauce:
1 tbsp ginger paste, or 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
3 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
1 tsp chili flakes 
 
Method:
In a large sauté pan, heat coconut oil over medium heat. 
Add anchovy fillets; Using spatula, press anchovy into pan; they should disintegrate in 1-2 minutes. 
Add red onion and sauté for ~4-5 minutes until translucent. 
Add endive and continue to sauté for 3-5 minutes, then add shitake and cook for a further 5 minutes.
Turn heat up to medium high and let char slightly while whisking together sauce ingredients. 
Lastly, add cold rice and sauce to pan; stir quickly to combine. Add another 1-2 tbsp of coconut oil if the mixture seems dry.
Remove from heat, then add shredded trout and nori. Adjust for seasoning and serve, garnished with chopped scallion, if desired.

All Good Things.

I’ve had intention to post for a while now. Sometimes words are difficult when I’m experiencing a full spectrum of emotion. I’d rather project a sunnier disposition.

Lavender Honey Custard Pie

Lavender Honey Custard Pie

I’d recently been gifted some pearls of wisdom that have become woven into my consciousness and given me sustenance. While the intended topic was somewhat unrelated, the sentiment resonated with me in such a way that I feel it in my quiet moments, reminding me to quickly get myself back to doing what I love.And so while my heart just hasn’t been there, I go through the motions, and find some nourishment, physically, emotionally and spiritually. In feeding others. In feeding myself. In running and not being concerned about time or distance. In foraging, photographing, hugs, conversation.

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I picked mulberries and thimbleberries with a dear friend, I made lavender honey custard pie that would knock your (argyle) socks off. I crafted a salad with Sunday afternoon’s farmer’s market bounty.

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And I said goodbye to a loved one.

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Sitting here as I’m typing this, the scent of rhubarb and lemon verbena are filling my cosy little apartment, and brightening my spirits.

At six a.m.

I’ll share more on that later, but for now, here’s a recipe for a salad that’s been sustaining me for the past several days. I roasted some walnuts with a bit of honey, olive oil and salt, then pulled together the remaining ingredients, rather quickly. The lemon-thyme vinaigrette is the perfect complement to the sweet astringency of the walnuts and the bitter kale. It’s a great one-dish meal.

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Enjoy, and much love,
J

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Kale and Farro Salad
2 c farro, cooked
2 c finely shredded flat-leaf kale
1/4 c finely diced red onion
1/4 c toasted walnuts
2 medium to hard-boiled eggs, peeled and quartered

Lemon-Thyme vinaigrette:
1/4 c olive oil
juice of 1/2 large lemon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

Method:
Whisk vinaigrette ingredients together; set aside.
Combine cooked farro, kale, onion and toasted walnuts in a large bowl. Combine with vinaigrette, and garnish with egg when serving.

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Aside

Time for Savory.

Most the time my week involves simple food: thick slices of crusty bread, smeared with avocado and sprinkled with coarse salt. A toasted sandwich. Roasted root vegetables. A quick soup puréed with whatever I can find on hand, adding meat or legumes if I’m feeling the need for something a little heartier. An easy salad with poached egg. Green smoothies and the like.
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Lately I’ve been more interested in creating sweets that I almost need an excuse to make something outside of my usual repertoire.
Rhubarb-Pear Tart with Almond Crumble

Rhubarb-Pear Tart with Almond Crumble

This’ll go on for some time. When I start to worry that I’ve forgotten how to cook, I’ll open my books and my refrigerator and glean inspiration, usually starting with the latter and ending with the former. This weekend, I was celebrating a friend’s birthday and wanted to bring something interesting and delicious to share. I had this beautiful bulb of fennel, and I knew that would be the genesis of my creation.
Run-spiration.

Run-spiration.

As per usual, I set out on my run and let things percolate. I found myself thinking about the kale, and dried apricots at home, just waiting for something purposeful. I imagined a weaving them into a salad of hearty grains and a silky-sweet-tart vinaigrette.
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And so on the way home, I picked up a package of farro and went from there. For those unaware, farro is hearty variant of wheat berry, with origins in Northern Italy. It is similar to barley in appearance; chewy, nutty and yet surprisingly light. It adds great depth and body to soups and is fantastic in grain-based salads.
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I loosely based this recipe off another inspired recipe from Ottolenghi that calls for roasting fennel and red onion prior to folding into a warm, rice or quinoa-based salad. It seems this recipe has gone through several adaptations, and so I feel comfortable calling this one my own, however for the original post in Cardamom can be found, here.
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This salad is fantastic when served at room temperature, and even better the next day, when the flavors have had married together a bit. I was witty enough to steal a bowl away for myself before sharing, and was glad to do so, as there was none left when I was making my way home. Now that, friends, is the sign of a good dish! I can only imagine this dish would be even better by roasting fresh apricots along with the fennel and onion.
Enjoy, and much love,
J
 
Roasted Fennel and Apricot Salad with Farro

Roasted Fennel and Apricot Salad with Farro

 
Roasted Fennel and Apricot Salad with Farro
*Note: Soaking the farro for an hour or so will reduce the cooking time a bit. Otherwise, be prepared to wait an hour or more to put it all together. Likewise, if the apricots are too firm, give them a quick soak in boiling water for 2-3 minutes, then drain.
Ingredients:
1 c farro
1 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large fennel bulb, sliced about 1/4-in thick
1 large red onion, sliced about 1/4-in thick
4-5 lacinato (flat) kale leaves; sliced into ribbons
1 large handful cilantro, chopped roughly
1/2 c dried apricots (I prefer Turkish, because they are generally softer), cut into quarters
1/3 c chopped walnut
For the vinaigrette:
2 tbsp olive oil
juice and zest of one lemon
1 tsp ginger paste, or 1 tsp grated ginger and a pinch of sugar
1/2 tsp chili flakes
1/2 tsp sea salt
Method:
  1. Boil Farro for ~60 minutes in a large pot with 1 tsp salt and ~5 cups water until al dente (for quick-cooking farro, prepare according to package directions). Drain and let cool slightly
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit.
  3. Toss fennel and onion in 2 tbsp of the olive oil and a smatter of salt. Spread onto baking sheet and roast for ~40 minutes, giving a turn about 20-30 minutes through, the latter if you want a more charred effect. Let cool slightly, then scrape into a large bowl.
  4. Place kale ribbons on baking sheet and set in warm oven for about 5 minutes. It doesn’t need to be on; you just want to wilt and toast it a bit. Remove from oven and add to onion/fennel mixture.
  5. Make vinaigrette: Combine all ingredients; whisk. Taste, and adjust seasoning as needed. Set aside.
  6. Add farro, walnuts and apricots to roasted vegetables; toss with vinaigrette. Fold in cilantro and adjust seasonings as needed.

 

Magic Beans.

Last week, I discovered that I have been treating my body terribly. It was rebelling in ways I’d rather not mention. Needless to say, I needed a redirect. The inextricable link between mind and body is a beautiful thing, and I’m fortunate that I’m able call that in from time to time, giving attention and respect to the remarkable gift of intuition.
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I found myself craving simple clean food comfort food; beans rice, warming spices. I also felt the need to reel in my sweet tooth a bit. There’s an insatiable hunger that, like a switch at the ready, activates as soon a I put a bit of pastry, a piece of candy or chocolate or some other sweet in my mouth.
It works for a while.
Until it doesn’t.
It’s manageable when other areas of my life are in balance. For example, when I’m running regularly, when I’m in a good place emotionally, mentally, spiritually. However, put a nick in any one of those precious spindles and I without fail dive wholeheartedly into a vat of sugar.
Not to mention, my skin was looking terrible, undoubtedly influenced by a dry winter and lack of good healthy fats in my diet. And so this past week I’ve been eating more oily fish, avocados and eggs, steering clear of bread and sweets.
For now.
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I’d been dreaming of making mujadarrah, a simple dish with lentils, rice and onion when I’d discovered Melissa Clark’s post on The How and Why of Dal (you can find the link, here)
It couldn’t have been more appropriately timed. Mujadarra is a typical dish that I go for, as is dal, however the marriage of rice and beans in kichri was perfect, so soothing, nourishing, a blanket for my tummy. I made a few adaptations based on what I had available in the pantry.
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I’d also felt the need to rebalance my gut with some healthy bacteria, so I whipped up some radish and beet pickles.
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And then there was the hummus: I know that hummus is rather ubiquitous, however I’d been pondering making some spicy fried chickpeas and became curious as to how they might work in a puree. The blistered skin of the chickpeas, the aromatic scent of cumin as it popped away in hot cast iron met well with the astringency of the tahini and bright flavor of lemon. I added a pinch of cayenne and toasted garlic to give it a little kick.
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As I nibble on dried persimmon and tap away at the keyboard, I’m more than certain I’ll be knocking on Pastry’s door again soon. However, for now I’ll adhere to a bit of Ayurvedic wisdom and give my body what it needs.
For now.
Enjoy, and much love,
J
Spiced Lentils with Rice (adapted from Melissa Clark’s Kichri with Massour Dal )
Note: I prefer the smaller French lentils for their distinctive texture, however brown will work. Red lentils are great in dal, and would produce a slightly creamier consistency when cooked with the rice in this dish). Kichri is highly adaptable and can incorporate other vegetables, such as tomatoes, potatoes, okra and the like. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a generous dollop of yogurt and toasted cumin seeds.
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Ingredients:
1 c. dried lentils (I prefer the smaller French lentils, however brown will work)
2 c. basmati rice
1/2 tsp cumin seed
4-5 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp peppercorns
1/2 tsp chili flakes
2 tbsp ghee, or olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
sea salt
Rinse rice and lentils well; soak the rice and lentils for at least an hour. Drain and rinse again.
Set a skillet over medium heat and add ghee or olive oil.
Add remaining spices and cook until fragrant; ~2-3 minutes. Fold in chopped onion and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
Combine spices with lentils and rice in a large pot with 4 cups of water, along with 1 tsp salt.
Bring to a boil and then lower heat to a simmer for ~20 minutes (less, if using red lentils).
Remove from heat and let stand for ~10 minutes, then aerate with a spatula to evenly distribute the flavors and serve.
Toasted Hummus
Note: I’m a fair-weather fan when it comes to garlic, however heating the garlic with the chickpeas tames it a bit and works well with the other smoky flavors in the spread.
 

Ingredients

1.5 c garbanzo beans, cooked, rinsed and patted dry
1 tsp cumin seed
1-22 garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 cup tahini
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 c water
Pinch of cayenne
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
Method:
Place a large skillet on moderate heat. Add olive oil. When olive oil starts to shimmer, add the chickpeas and cumin. Shake pan occasionally and cook until chickpeas are blistered and lightly browned; about 7-9 minutes. Remove pan from heat and allow beans to cool slightly.
In a food processor, combine all ingredients except olive oil and pulse to combine, scraping sides down as necessary. While the machine is running, slowly add olive oil. Taste; season with additional salt and lemon juice as indicated.