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Friday, August 27, 2021

Egg Drop Curry, Filipino Style


This will not be your traditionally authentic "Broken Egg" curry that you may find in Mumbai. Actually, I'd never even heard of "Broken Egg" or "Egg Drop" curry until my friend Sneha told me about it. If you're looking for something of a more South Asian flavor, may I offer you this wonderful recipe from My Ginger Garlic Kitchen? It's delicious, has gorgeous photos, and will guide you - step-by-step - on how to do it. This is a Filipino style curry...or should I say "kare"?

Please allow me to explain: If you're of Filipino descent or if you are familiar with Filipino cuisine, you've likely heard of the dish "kare-kare" which is an extremely delicious peanut and oxtail stew that has green beans and eggplant in it. My mom reports that her maids took four days of preparation to make it in the big house in Pampanga. I don't have four days of mental planning available to me at this time, so I'm going to do a quick version. My own Kare-kare is not nearly as extravagant as how they would prepare it in the Philippines, but I daresay it is quite tasty in its own right. Why is this important?

"Kare" is derived from "curry" as the Philippines has been a huge trade hub in the Southeast Asian seas since before the beginning of colonization. It is said that it's nearly impossible to say what is purely Filipino food because it's just so naturally diverse and has evolved to be the world's first-ever fusion cuisine. I thought it would be fun to try a "kare" version of this curry, and it turned out to be quite tasty. Here we go!

Egg Drop "Kare"

  • 3 large tomatoes
  • 1 leek, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 c raw peanuts
  • 1 Tbsp dried coriander
  • 1 /2 tsp dried cloves
  • 1/2 tsp dried cumin
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 10 leaves basil
  • 2 Tbsp garam masala powder
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 2 c water
  • 1 c fresh beans, chopped
  • 1/2 large onion, sliced lengthwise
  • 2 small or 1 large bell pepper, sliced
  • 6 eggs
  • Lots of Parsley or fresh coriander, chopped
  • Garlic rice, as needed, to serve
The day before*
Chop the tomatoes and add to a casserole dish with the chopped leek, garlic, and a generous glug of oil with some salt and pepper. Cover and roast for at least an hour and a half at 300 degrees F. You can also stick this in a crock pot at your lowest setting and leave it all day to stew. Allow it to cool in the fridge before using, ideally overnight, but will be fine if you do it early in the morning and let it cool all day in the fridge. 

The day of*
To a large Dutch oven or any thick-bottomed stewing pot with a lid, add a healthy glug of either coconut or canola oil and heat on a medium flame. Add all of your dried spices, along with your peanuts, and toast on medium-low until quite fragrant. This shouldn't take more than two or three minutes. After that, lower the heat and add the garam masala and basil, along with the stewed tomato mixture from earlier. Allow this to stew on low for about 5 minutes, stirring every so often. Add the coconut milk and bring to a boil before turning off the heat. 

Add your mixture to the pitcher of a blender and blend on low for 1 minute. Turn the blender up to medium and blend for a full 2 minutes, or until absolutely everything has been pulverized. Add the lovely orange-red mixture back into the pot and rinse out the blender with two cups of warm water to get the extra goodies off the sides before adding that all together. 

Add your chopped beans - I had green beans and long beans from the farmers market and CSA, so I used those. I also had some gorgeous bell peppers and fresh onions, and these are classic flavors in kare kare, which is the meaty Filipino stew that usually has beans and eggplant in it. Since we're only going for a nod to kare kare as well as traditional masala curry, we'll be sticking to the beans alone. Either way, now is the time to add your fresh vegetables and stir in to coat.

You can now turn off the heat at this point and let this mixture hang out until you're ready to serve it. This is an excellent make-ahead meal that you can even make in large quantities and freeze in bags for later! If you'd like to continue making it, please read on. 

Prepare any rice you plan on serving with. If you'd like to add an extra protein to this dish, you may add chopped chicken thighs, seitan, tofu, etc., but I don't believe it's necessary. This is a wonderful vegetarian dish that's high in folate and protein from the peanuts and eggs!

When you're ready to serve, simply bring your curry mixture to a gentle simmer over a low flame until it is hot. Taste for salt at this point and ready your eggs. You can crack an egg and pop it directly in to the simmering broth, but I like to be a little gentle with mine by cracking each egg into a small bowl or cup individually to ensure that I don't get any bits of shell inside. 

As the name suggests, drop the egg in and let the curry broth accept it into its embrace. The trick is to drop the egg from about four inches above the surface of the curry so that it creates a hole for itself, lest it just sit on top. Repeat this in a clockwise motion until you've used all the eggs you want to use. Cover and set a timer for 5 minutes. When the timer is up, simply turn off the heat and let sit for another 2 minutes before serving over rice and garnishing with lots and lots of parsley.

I love this dish because it is creamy, nutty, and somehow bright, but it is an excellent 'end of summer' dish to use up all of those seemingly random vegetables that you may not know what to do with. Even better, the peanuts are high in folic acid, which I - as a human that is currently growing a human - very much need. Peppers, tomatoes, and green beans? Not a usual combo for the average American - at least not as far as I've seen - but I think they go great together with this dish. Surprisingly, my husband loved it too, even though it was a vegetarian meal.

Thank you so much for spending a piece of your day with me. I hope you have a wonderful morning, evening, or night. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Monday, August 23, 2021

Upside-Down Caramel Pear cake

When August turns to September, it is the time for pears. Small, dense, mild Asian pears grow very well in the Midwestern USA. I'm so fortunate to be a part of a small farming community in the middle of a bustling city because I always have access to the best produce when it's fresh. I don't have enough land to justify a pear tree, and I'm currently in constant battle with the woodland critters that vie for my peaches, but that doesn't mean I don't love pears when they are in season. 

Asian Pears, also known as Japanese Pears, Nashi Pears, or Apple Pears are deciduous fruit trees that grow well in well-drained soil and benefit from slightly acidic conditions. They are not self-pollinating, so they need a pal to be next to in order to produce fruit. Although they can grow large, they will usually be quite small if you buy them from a local grower, which is absolutely okay. The flavor is extremely mild and therefore can lend themselves to both sweet and savory dishes. I love these pears because the dense texture and low moisture content make them ideal for baking. Fruit that keeps its shape during the cooking process is a rare treat; don't waste that opportunity!

Upside-Down Caramel Pear Cake
adapted from Better Homes & Gardens, Fall Recipes edition
  • 8 oz/1 cup/2 sticks of vegan butter, divided 
    • Of course, use dairy butter if that's what you have on hand. I like Miyoko's for this recipe!
  • 2/3 c + 3 Tbsp packed light brown sugar
  • 5 small Asian Pears, peeled, halved, and cored
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 c maple syrup
  • 3/4 c warm water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 c/10 oz all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
Take half of your butter and chop it into cubes. Add the other half to the bowl of a standing mixer and set it on your stovetop to warm while you work. Add your chopped cold butter into either one 13" bread loaf pan or two 9" loaf pans. (You can also use a cast-iron skillet or a 9" round cake tin, but I did mine in a loaf.) Place in a cold oven and turn it on to 350 degrees F. Meanwhile, whisk all of the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and set aside.

It's not the prettiest now, but bear with me!

Check your butter in 10 minutes. When it's melted, add 1/3 + 3 Tbsp brown sugar to the pan and mix with a spatula to make sure that it's fully incorporated and in all of the corners. Arrange your pears, cut-side down, in the bottom of the pan, and do your best to ensure even spacing. Add it back into the oven and let roast for 20 minutes. Let's work on the batter next!

The butter in your mixing bowl should be sufficiently warm by now, so let's use a paddle attachment to whip that butter into shape. You're going to want to whip it until it's light and fluffy, and then add the remainder of your brown sugar. Let mix on low for 30 seconds, turn the speed to medium, and beat until the color has lightened and the sugar has dissolved. Add the eggs one at a time, letting mix for a full minute between each one. Add the maple syrup and mix until homogenous. It should smell divine!

With the mixer on low, add in half the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Add in the water and vanilla extract and mix. Add the remainder of the flour and stir until combined, making sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula to ensure that absolutely everything has mixed well. Set the bowl aside in a cool spot in the kitchen until your 20 minutes are up. This will allow the mixture to hydrate and rest!

When the timer for the oven goes off, remove the pan from the oven and let it sit on the counter for 2 minutes. Give your batter a quick stir and gently pour over the hot pears and caramel as evenly as possible, making sure to scrape every last bit of batter from the bowl. Gently push the batter over the corners and do your best to cover the pears. The caramel will rise up so try not to harm yourself! Slow and steady wins this race. 

When you've got yourself sorted in the batter, return the pan to the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cake is fully set and cooked. You can test this with a skewer! Take this time to clean up, as it's probably smart to clean as you go. At the sound of the timer, remove the cake from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes on the counter before flipping onto a serving vessel. You can use a long platter, a fancy plate, or even a rustic wooden cutting board, like yours truly. You can let the cake cool completely before cutting a slice for yourself, but truthfully, I couldn't wait that long and just gave it a five-minute rest before cutting into it. 

This cake is so incredibly tender, light, and is full of fall-adjacent flavors of caramel and spice. Pears are a wonderful fruit to eat and turmeric is an excellent spice to add to your cakes. I don't want to get too preachy about the benefits of turmeric, so I'll just say that it adds pretty color and a beautiful aroma that balances out the pears and caramel. This is excellent as a dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or as a sweet treat for breakfast with your morning coffee. Make sure you keep it covered and wrapped on the counter, and it will stay good for a week. I doubt that it will last that long, though...

Thanks so much for spending some of your day or night with me. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Friday, August 20, 2021

Carrot Cinnamon Doughnuts


Why leave your house when you can make your own doughnuts at home?

Don't laugh; this is not just a cheap and shallow attempt to get your kids - or possibly your self - to eat more vegetables. This is a wonderful idea and I'm about to tell you why. 

Carrots are root vegetables that are naturally full of sugar. What other root vegetables can be made into a cake, for goodness sake? Sure, you can use a beet, which is so full of sugar that you can make boxed sugar out of it...but why do that to a cake when it's so earthy? Carrots are sweet, just a touch bitter, and have a flavor so mild and delicious that even the pickiest of children and adults still generally love them. So why not add them to doughnuts? A carrot cake doughnut is likely not so special, but a yeast-risen carrot doughnut? Keep reading.

Carrot Doughnuts
yields 1 dozen doughnuts + doughnut holes

  • 1 c warm water
  • 1 Tbsp active yeast
  • 1/3 c sourdough starter**
    • Optional but quite nice for the balance of flavor
  • 3 c all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c tapioca flour
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • A fat pinch of kosher salt
  • 3/4 c finely grated carrot, about 3 small carrots or 1 very large one
  • 1 large egg
  • Cinnamon spice sugar to finish
Combine the yeast, sugar, and warm water in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. Sprinkle in the yeast and add the sourdough starter, if you have it. Give the liquid a quick swish in the bowl and let sit for about 5 minutes, or until frothy. Add in both of the flours and stir until just combined. Let the mixture sit for 15 minutes, undisturbed, to hydrate. Add in all of the other remaining ingredients and mix on low for 10 minutes, or until incredibly stretchy. Transfer your dough into a clean bowl that's well greased with oil and allow it to rise for at least an hour, or until doubled in size. 

It's so fluffy...

When your dough is ready, turn it out onto a floured surface and punch down to get rid of the bubbles. Press your dough into a rectangular shape, making sure to get it as dense as possible, and cut into 12 equal squares. Of course, you can cut your doughnuts into round shapes, but I don't like to do that because I don't like to waste dough. You may call me lazy for not wanting to gather the scraps and make them into more dough to use later; I say I'm frugal and unwilling to waste potentially good food!

If you want to stuff them with Nutella or some other sort of tastiness, please feel free to leave them in square shapes. If you aren't so interested in that, cut holes in the middle with a small round cutter. Spray vigorously with pan spray and pop onto a sheet tray. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge overnight. While we're waiting, please indulge me while I talk a bit about how my thought process works in coming up with these recipes.

Recently, I had gotten into a conversation of how I think and how I put things together. I'm on an app for pregnant humans and one of the groups I'm in is called "Foodie Fans." I constantly post my 'reject' photos there, which are the photos that I think are unworthy of instagram or facebook. These are usually just photos with poor lighting or not-so-great composition. I take a ton of photos of my food in case I need content for this and that, and I feel happy that I have a photodump for other things. I always get "OMG Recipe please!" in the comments, but I always tell them that I'm sorry, I don't have a recipe. 

I can't be the only ex-chef on that app, can I?

I write my own recipes in the sense that I'm pulling from years of practice. It isn't instinctual, it's more of: 'this is a problem and I want to solve it.' When put in the restraint of cooking only what you have when you have it instead of buying what I feel like buying, I have the mental freedom to create something completely new along with the constraints of a self-contained episode of "Chopped." I simply take what I know about carrots and apply it to a new application.

Carrots are sweet. Carrots can be made into cake. Carrots are dense but are not starchy. Carrots are bright orange, which means they contain carotene, which your body uses to make vitamin A...which helps prevent you from getting sick. Carrots can come in all colors! Carrots maintain their own shape when cooked. Carrots do not leak liquid unless grated and squeezed. When you look at all of these factors, they make great candidates for adding to baked goods such as cakes and pastries which require precise measurements for moisture, lest they fail in the oven. I initially wanted to do carrot cinnamon rolls where I made a carrot jam filling for the inside instead of a cinnamon sugar filling, but I'd just recently done cucumber cinnamon rolls, so I didn't want to be redundant.

You - too - can make fun things with your food as long as you are confident and follow the rules set for you by the ingredients. My favorite thing about food is the impermanence of it, of how it captures a moment. I love cooking seasonally for this reason as well. It's late August when I'm writing this, which is when I get the best, most-tender carrots. Grow a garden for yourself and learn all about what you and your land can grow!

In the morning, when you want doughnuts, bring out the tray and let rise on the counter for at least half an hour. Your dough will have risen in the fridge overnight, so no need to worry too much. All you want now is for the dough to get to about room temperature. It's late summer so my house is warm, which is why it only took me about 20 minutes to get my doughnuts soft enough. If the doughnuts are too cold, big bubbles will form here and there in random places instead of the uniform loft which you would normally want in a yeast doughnut.

Heat a neutral-flavored oil such as grapeseed or canola oil to 375 degrees F or 190 degrees C. I like to use a glass candy thermometer for this application, and - as far as I can tell - most grocery stores have these. Fry the doughnuts until golden-brown and floating, which is around 2 minutes per side. I always drop my doughnuts in gently, count to ten, and then flip them over to cook on the other side for my initial two minutes. I do this because - again - I want my bubbles to be even. When finished, fish them out with a spider and toss them in cinnamon sugar. Of course, you are more than welcome to come up with some fashion of cream cheese glaze to allude to the classic carrot cake flavor profile, but I personally prefer cinnamon sugar for this application. Besides, cinnamon sugar looks just so appealing!

The carrots aren't super pronounced as a flavor, so it's quite subtle. If you'd like to get a more pronounced carrot flavor, feel free to substitute half of the water with carrot juice. This will also turn your dough a delightful orange color. What's nice about these is that you get a lovely, chewy doughnut with flecks of pretty orange inside. Even better, you keep the healthy bits of carrot which make it at least mildly better for you than the average doughnut. 

Oh, and don't worry too much about making this recipe super healthy. Healthy just means "nutrient dense", and the carrots help add to that. Carbs are here, yes, but this is relatively low in sugar so it'll give you a slow-burn bit of energy instead of a quick burst. Furthermore, you - an individual - is going to cook in a much different way than a restaurant or commercial bakery will cook. Don't feel bad about what you're liking and what you're eating. Eat whatever you want, so long as you make it yourself. 

I hope you've enjoyed this recipe. As always, I would love to thank my partners at KC Farm School at Gibbs Road for the produce. I hope you have reached out to your own CSA and challenged yourself to cook a little more seasonally than you would otherwise do. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Chile Verde con Pollo

Many years ago, when I was just a young sprig of a girl I was fortunate enough to get a job at a restaurant that no longer exists called Pancho's Villa. The owners were Columbian, but I felt confident in taking the executive chef position there since I'd been born and raised in the southwest of America. I thought: "I know my Mexican food!" And I did...but I didn't know Columbian. It was an incredible year of learning, and one of the biggest things I learned was how to make chile REALLY well! 

We had two chiles that I still recall how to make: Chile Verde and Chili Colorado. Chile Colorado is a red chile with dried ancho and guajillo chilies. Chile verde is made with a late summer fruit that I adore: tomatillos. I adore them so much that I even wrote a piece about them way back in 2012! Tomatillos are tomato-like in appearance, but they have a thin paper veil that surrounds each of the fruits, quite similar to gooseberries. They can be purple or green, are naturally sour, and are usually your main ingredient in salsa verde. Chile Verde was usually made with pork in the restaurant, but I prefer it with chicken. Here's how to make it!

Chile Verde con Pollo

  • 2 pints tomatillos
  • 1 small red onion, peeled
  • 1 serrano chili, de-seeded
  • 1 whole head of garlic, peeled
  • 1 tsp dried coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp white peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 sprigs fresh parsley, stems and all
  • 3 Tbsp hot sauce
  • Kosher salt, as needed
  • 1 lb chicken breast
  • Tortillas to serve

Peel the tomatillos of their paper and place them in a large dutch oven with a lid. Fill the pot at least halfway up with water and get scrubbing! You won't scrub with soap, of course - just rub the fruits between your hands to get rid of that film that's covering it. The water will foam up a bit, which is quite normal. Drain the water and give them all a good rinse before covering with 3 cups of water. Add the garlic, serrano, onion, coriander seeds, peppercorns, and bay leaves. Bring the water to a boil and reduce it to a simmer. Cover the pot and let it boil for 15 minutes while you get an oven heating to 325 degrees F. 

Pour your stewed tomatillos into the pitcher of a blender and blend on low for 1 minute. Add the parsley. Turn the blender to high and let spin for at least another minute, or until absolutely everything is 100% pureed. Add the puree back into the pot and bring it up to a boil. Reduce it to a simmer and let it cook until the oils from the parsley separate. This takes about 10 minutes. Give it a good stir, add the hot sauce, and season to your liking. Add the chicken straight in and cover. Turn off the flame and add the whole pot to the oven. Bake at 350 for 1 hour and 30 minutes. 

When the time is up, evacuate from the oven and retrieve the chicken from the broth. You can shred it on a cutting board or in a bowl. Meanwhile, simmer the salsa until it's thick enough to your liking. When it's thick enough, add the chicken back in and stir to coat. Serve with guacamole, sour cream, or any other sort of goodies you may like. You can serve with the tortillas or over white rice with black beans. Delicious!

I love this dish because it reminds me of the fun time I had while I was a chef. I always have it with flour tortillas because I am from the Sonoran desert, which means: FLOUR instead of corn tortillas. You can buy them, of course, but I always make my own. It's incredibly easy and exponentially tastier. I use a cast iron griddle to cook mine right before eating. Fresh tortillas are always the best!

Thanks so much for spending a piece of your day with me. I hope you have a wonderful day or night. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Red Miso Deviled Eggs with Pickled Onions

Does anybody actually use a recipe for Deviled eggs? In all of my years, I never once saw my grandmother pull out a worn recipe card from her index while making deviled eggs for any family event. I only know that this was one of those recipes that she did by eye. That is to say: she guessed at how much she needed and adjusted from there. A little mayo here, a little dried mustard there, and even some pickle relish going inside. Oh, and make sure you use the big spoon, not the little spoon from the drawer to portion the yolk mixture in. Garnish with some paprika and you're good to go! I never could figure out why they were called 'deviled eggs', and she never could tell me because she didn't know. 

I admit that it's not really my habit to eat a whole tray of hard-boiled eggs...but if you cut them in half, mix the yolks with mayo and spices, and spoon it back in then - well - sign me up. I can't fathom what it is about deviled eggs but I just can't seem to resist them when served at parties. Even at restaurants, I am powerless against the siren song of the deviled egg. I know I've come in for not deviled eggs when dining with friends or my husband, but if they're available, I'll ask: 

"Hey. You wanna split some deviled eggs?" The answer is almost always yes. 

Don't worry - this is a mocktail!

When I was asked to make some finger foods for my High Summer Happy Hour for my CSA group for KC Farm School at Gibbs Road, I was volunteered to make deviled eggs. They asked me for the recipe so they could print the menu. I blanked because I realized that I have no recipe for deviled eggs, and simply make the kind of deviled eggs I feel like. When I threw these together and presented them at the party, they were a massive hit. I was immediately bombarded with requests on how to make them. Here's how!

 Red Miso Deviled Eggs

  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 1/2 c mayonnaise
  • 1/4 c red miso
  • 1 tsp dried turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground horseradish
  • 1/2 tsp spicy brown mustard
  • Paprika, fresh herbs of your choice, as needed

Quick-Pickled Onions

  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 c cold water
  • 1/2 c white vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp white peppercorns
  • **1 tsp garlic chives
Slice the onions as thinly as you can. You can do this by hand or use a mandolin. Just please be careful! Add half of your water to a plastic container along with the garlic chives and the other half to a small saucepot. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Give your liquid a quick stir to make sure that absolutely everything is dissolved. Pour your liquid over your onions and give all of it a stir with a pair of chopsticks. Everything should be completely covered. Stick this in the fridge for at least 3 hours. 

To get perfect hard-boiled eggs every time

Add your eggs to a medium saucepot and cover with an inch of cold water. Add a Tbsp of baking soda to the water along with a fat pinch of salt. Turn on the burner to high and set a timer for 17 minutes exactly. When the water comes up to a boil, immediately cover and turn off the heat. Wait for the timer to go off before draining the water and covering with ice. Simply allow the ice to melt before cracking and peeling. Your eggs should peel easier than you've ever seen them peel!

Halve the eggs and pop the yolks into a bowl. You can use any bowl and mash them by hand with a fork, but I personally prefer the easy route by adding them to a standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Combine the yolks with all of the remaining ingredients, except for the paprika and the fresh herbs, whisking until completely smooth and creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl before whipping again for at least another 10 seconds before you taste it. 

Please note that while these are going to be quite close to what you'll need, they may still be estimates. Deviled eggs are the kind of thing that you're going to want to taste along the way to make sure is going to be to your liking. Add everything I've set for you, then taste to adjust. You'll love the red miso in this because it's salty while also being deep, so you may want more! The long and short is that this kind of cooking is going to be a little instinctual. Don't be afraid to experiment with your flavors.

To present, I like to add my yolk mixture into a piping bag and pipe the filling into the halves of the whites. You can use a spoon or a disher to ensure even distribution, but I don't think it looks as pretty, and half the point of making a party platter is to make it visually appealing.  A piping bag will make a pretty mound that will look much more attractive. Heck, use a star tip in your piping bag if you want! 

When all of your halves are filled, garnish with the pickled onions, a sprinkle of paprika, and any fresh chopped herbs you may have chosen. I chose a mixture of garlic chives and parsley to garnish with because that's what I had in my garden. I also chose red onions for this recipe because that's what's currently growing this summer. As I specified before, most of how I cook depends on what ingredients I can get my hands on from either the farmer's market or my own backyard. This is my version of cooking seasonally and challenging myself to eat a little more conscientiously. 

When you go to a grocery store, you can see - on the stickers of your fruit - exactly where it's come from. Apples from Chile, onions from Mexico, et cetera... But all of these can grow in my own backyard with only a little effort on my part. I don't think anyone talks about the environmental aspects of how we eat nowadays. Is it up to the individual to stop all pollution and reduce the world's carbon footprint? Certainly not. It's simply very important to me that I am able to cultivate a relationship between where my food comes from and how I consume it, and shorten my journey from earth to plate. Call it my own little way of saving the world, if you like - but I think if we all were a little less detached from our consumption and more aware of our food, the world would be that much of a better place. 

I hope you've enjoyed this recipe and I hope that you'll save it for later, make them for a party, or just make it to eat while you binge the latest installment of "Love is Blind: After the Altar." I don't judge. 

Happy cooking and happy eating!

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Cucumber Cinnamon Rolls


When you live in the midwest and you have a cucumber plant or two, you know how prolific they can be. Oh sure, you can eat pickles all day long, but what if you could do something else with them? What if you could trick your kids (or yourself) into eating all of these calcium-rich fruits without the work of eating them? 

Okay, okay - I'm not saying that eating vegetables is work, but I am saying that a cinnamon roll goes down way faster than a salad. It's just the economics of the masseter movement! You don't loose any nutrients with cooking with cucumbers, and the coolness balances out the warmth of the spices within, making it perfect for summer. I served this to my Gardening group at a party and they were a massive hit. I had people begging me for the recipe, along with the recipe for my cucumber lemonade! Here's how to make it...

Cucumber Cinnamon Rolls

yields 18 rolls


  • 250 g chopped cucumbers 
  • 100 g warm water, divided
  • 100 g sugar
  • 8 g dry active yeast
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 650 g bread flour
  • 6 g kosher salt
  • 4 oz vegan butter, chopped, room temperature 
    • I like Miyoko's brand, but Earth Balance works well too!
  • 4 oz coconut oil
  • 300 g granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp cinnamon powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric 
  • 1/2 tsp anise powder or about 10 dried anise leaves
  • 1/4 tsp ground clove
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 kosher salt
  • 4 oz vegan butter, melted
  • 4 oz vegan cream cheese
  • 2 oz vegan butter, melted
  • Powdered sugar, as needed
  • Kosher salt, to taste
Mix the yeast with half of the warm water and allow to bloom. Add the other half of the water to the pitcher of a blender, along with the sugar and chopped cucumbers. Mix on low for 30 seconds, and then on high for 1 minute until absolutely everything is entirely pureed and very much liquified. Be sure that there are absolutely no chunky bits in this puree! It should be a light green color.

When the yeast is fully bloomed, combine the eggs, yeasty liquid, and the cucumber puree to the bowl of a standing mixer, fitted with a dough hook. Give it a quick stir and add in the flour. Stir until just combined and let sit for 20 minutes. Add the salt, butter, and coconut oil. Knead on low for another 20 minutes. Pour the dough into a greased container of your choosing and let the dough rise for 45 minutes in a room-temperature environment. Pop your dough in the fridge and let proof overnight. 

Let's talk for a moment about cucumbers while we wait!

As I mentioned earlier, cucumbers are high in calcium. Your calcium is needed for healthy bones and teeth, and it absolutely matters to get enough of it in your diet, considering that your bones are - in fact - alive and producing all the time. Even though you stop 'growing' in adulthood, your body never stops regenerating tissue throughout your life. 

Cucumber is a 'cooling' food which means it - according to practices of Traditional Chinese Medicine - will cool the body's warm temperaments. Cucumber has a 'cool' flavor, much like mint does, which makes it welcome for the summer. I personally love making cucumber lemonade on an unforgivable hot and humid day, as nothing quite cools me down more. You can make cucumber lemonade with just about any summer fruit; peach, watermelon...the list goes on! Your goal in summer is to stay cool, though, for both comfort and health reasons. 

Factoring in the high water content of the cucumbers is the number one reason that this recipe works. You can blend it and veritably replace it with water in bread. My soft cucumber bread recipe was a big hit last summer, and ended up making excellent croutons for a salad later that week. Experimenting with bread was hugely trendy in spring and summer of 2020, and I invite you to keep the party going with the natural bounty that earth provides us at this time of year.

In the morning, grind together the sugar and the spices with a coffee grinder - or a mortar and pestle, if you have one! Melt the butter for the filling and set aside. Generously flour a working surface and take your chilled dough out of the fridge. Flour a rolling pin and roll out your dough to be a long rectangle, about 13" by 18"...it should be about 1/4" thick. 

Spread the butter over the dough, leaving a 1/2" allowance at the top. Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the butter evenly. Roll tightly and be sure to pinch the edges so your rolls won't come undone. Roll out the log to seal the edges and allow it to lengthen. Using a serrated knife, cut the log in half, and then each half in thirds, and each of those thirds in thirds - and this will leave you with 18 slices, which will become your 18 rolls!

Arrange your rolls on a lined sheet pan, give the tops of the rolls a spritz with a bit of pan spray and cover with plastic wrap. If you're not ready to bake, put them back in the fridge for up to another 24 hours. If you are ready to bake, heat your oven to 325 degrees F and set the tray in a warm place. I created this funny little recipe during the height of summer, so I set my tray outside on my patio table in the 95% humidity with the 100 degree F heat. It took about an hour and a half for my rolls to double in size, so I'd say check yours in an hour and see where they are. They should be doubled in size, nice and bouncy, and look filled out!

Bake your rolls for 25-30 minutes, rotating the tray halfway through. Let them cool on the counter while you pull together the frosting. All it takes is whisking together the butter and cream cheese until smooth, and then adding enough powdered sugar for it to be sweet enough to your liking. If you want, you can even dye your frosting green! Add a dash of salt to taste and spoon it over the warm rolls. It will melt, glaze over, and turn deliciously sticky. Of course you can wait until these are room temperature, but who in their right mind can resist a warm cinnamon roll?

Maybe....don't dye it green.

This recipe takes a little patience on your part, but if you prepare it the night before you can wake your friends and family up to fresh-baked cinnamon rolls. These keep, wrapped, on the counter for 3-5 days. You can also bag them and pop them in the freezer for a treat later. Cinnamon rolls freeze perfectly and can also be used at a later date to be transformed into the best darn bread pudding you've ever had in the fall and winter months. 

If you'd like other ideas about your cucumber usage, aside from bread and pickling, here's what I like to do in the summer with all of my cucumbers, in an attempt to eat seasonally:
  • Fresh Tzatziki sauce with greek yogurt and fresh herbs
  • Grated into a sour cream dip for chips
  • Chopped in a chicken salad, bound with mayo and spiced with tumeric 
  • Cucumber mint water as an extra cooling summer refresher
  • Fermented pickles with ginger
  • Braised cucumbers served with grilled fish or lobster
  • Cucumber sandwiches with sliced havarti cheese
  • Blended in a morning smoothie with frozen mango or strawberries
Cucumber is a wonderful summer fruit that deserves a place at your table. It's very easy to talk about seasonal eating on paper but when it comes right down to it the task of doing such is much more difficult than it may seem. I don't always want to eat exactly what comes out of my garden every day, so of course I'm guilty of eating out or ordering in every so often. I do try, though, to make a conscious effort to respect the earth that's growing my crops and feeding my family by getting creative with my food. Whenever I try something new that I'm not sure will work, I always say: I never have to make this again if I don't like it. This is my way out of feeling like I've wasted good food when all I did was try something I've never done before. I don't always feel bad about it, though, considering that crops can be incredibly prolific and are meant to be eaten and played with. 

Food and having a good, conscious relationship with it has been a center of my life for a long time and I hope you allow food and your relationship with it to blossom and flourish as flowers do. Learning to grow and change with the seasons is just one of the many lessons you can learn from growing a garden. I hope you have an awesome day or night, and thanks so much for spending a piece of your day with me. 

Happy cooking and happy eating!