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Showing posts with label recipe. Show all posts
Showing posts with label recipe. Show all posts

Friday, July 24, 2020

Peppery Skirt Steak with Asparagus

What's better than a photobombing cat? 


This is an incredibly easy way to prepare skirt steak. It takes a hair of planning, but so long as you get this meat in the marinade in the morning, you can grill by the evening.

Skirt Steak with Asparagus and Green Beans

  • 2 lb skirt steak
  • 3 Tbsp good olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp ground chili flakes
  • 1 tsp dried mint, crushed - or about 8 fresh mint leaves, chiffonade
  • Kosher salt
  • Peppercorn mix: white, green, and black peppercorns, ground in the pepper mill
  • 1 lemon
  • Plenty of green beans
  • Asparagus
  • A few cippolini onions or some elephant garlic
  • Coconut Rice, for serving (my recommendation)
Start in the morning or the night before with your skirt steak. If you get your meat from a local provider, it will likely be in a long strip. Cut this in large pieces that can easily fit in a bowl, about five or six inches long, but don't slice into strips. You'll do this after it's cooked!

This recipe is about balancing flavors. This is not a new principle, as learning to balance flavors is part of becoming a great cook. Zest the lemon(fruity and fragrant) and add this to the olive oil(also fruity and mildly astringent), chili flakes(hot), and mint(cool-hot). You may notice that we're missing sweet. You can add a pinch of sugar or honey if you like, but I don't think it's necessary, as I served this with coconut rice which is a little sweet from the fattiness of the coconut milk. You'll also notice that we've left out bitter - this is because the vegetables we add are just a touch bitter.

Add your steaks to this olive oil mixture and season heavily with kosher salt and PLENTY of grinds of your peppercorn mix. A quick lesson on peppercorns:

You can head here for some more information
Peppercorns are berries from a flowering vine that are harvested and dried. They come in pink, green, black, and red, naturally. You get white peppercorns by soaking ripe pepper berries in water for about 10 days so they ferment, and then you dry them out. This is a similar process to processing cocoa beans to make them into proper nibs - this is quite exciting if you ask me! 

Your steak should marinate for at least 4 hours, to let the salt and fat do their work. Skirt steak comes from the 'plate' primal of the cow, which means that it's lean and full of rough muscle! It's nice to do low-and-slow, so if you have a sous vide machine at home, I highly recommend giving this a try! The trouble with it is that it's quite lean so therefore the low-and-slow cook method doesn't exactly do well since there's not a lot of fat there. This is why you must add some fat. 

You can grill this outside on an open flame, but the day I made this was incredibly stormy, so I opted to use my cast-iron griddle, that's happily parked on the two left burners of my gas stove. I love cast iron because it's virtually indestructible once you get it seasoned properly and care for it. I believe in buying things mindfully and investing in them, and I hope you'll give this train of thought a bit of consideration, too. 

Green beans are so prolific when grown en masse. It's an easy thing to grow - so please think about donating some if you grow too much!
Now it's time to think about our Victory Garden spoils! I've got quite a bit of them at this point, and I hope you do as well. This recipe includes green beans and asparagus because:

A.) I have a lot of both.
B.) They work with beef quite nicely.
C.) They are best when cooked quickly.

When you are ready to eat, remove your marinated steak from the fridge and let it come up to room temperature for about 20 minutes. Take your green beans and asparagus and prepare them. For the asparagus, cut off the hard woody root and chop into 2.5" pieces. Do the same for the green beans. If you have either cippolini onions or elephant garlic to add, slice them just as thin as you can manage to do so. Juice the lemon you had from earlier, and toss your vegetable mix with it, along with some more olive oil, salt, and pepper. Set this aside. 

Heat your griddle to high and brush with oil. Get this quite hot and turn on your vent, or open a window. It's going to get smoky! Sear your steaks on medium-high for 3 minutes on each side, and set them on a plate to rest. Don't you dare scrape off that delicious goodness that the steak left on the griddle! Instead, dump your chopped vegetables onto it and scrape it around as it cooks. Your veggies should be cooked fully within five minutes, and you'll have a delicious sear on them, along with all the flavor of the steak. When it's done cooking, you can remove from the griddle and set aside in a bowl. 

Turn off your griddle and pour some salt on it. Push the salt around with a little oil and a paper towel to clean it. Doing this immediately after cooking shows good habits and respect for your tools, so you may as well just go ahead and do it now. 

To serve, slice your now-rested steaks against the grain and toss with your sauteed vegetables. Serve on a nice big communal plate with coconut rice on the side and enjoy taking great photos before consuming! 

I love this recipe because it's easy to do, and utilizes what you (or, at least, I) have. It's a quick and simple recipe that takes minimal prep and doesn't skimp on the flavor profile. When it comes to good beef, you should show it respect and keep it relatively simple. There are many farmers that are willing to ship directly to you nowadays, and I highly recommend that you do some research and see who will ship to you and your area. The farmer is hurting just as much as the restaurant worker in this troubled time, so let's put our heads together and make sure we're putting our dollars in the right place. 

About half of the corn grown in the US is for animal feed; this is combined with a LOT of other goodies to make proper food for these cows that are both nutritious and delicious.
I've visited my fair share of beef farms in my day, and I can tell you this: they're actually quite a bit like you would hope to imagine them to be. What's better, out in Western Kansas, I've seen a good portion of beef farms double as wind farms; it's quite a sight to behold! Remember, the farmers in America don't often clear land through deforestation practices. Most of the farmers will buy and use land that's already rolling and hilly and difficult to cultivate, so they can just stick some animals on it and call it good. Quite ingenious, don't you think?

Through most of a beef steer's life, it's roaming around on a family farm, until it goes to a finishing yard where it basically gets to hang out in a smaller yard while it eats as much corn and grass and whatnot as it wants, until finally coming to a beef processing plant. Most of these animals, as far as I've seen, are treated well. Peace of mind is one of the many reasons that it's important to know where your beef comes from. An overwhelming 97% of all farms in America are family-owned, so you can at least feel decently good about consuming beef every so often. 

Remember, it's progress, not perfection! Switch to a locally-sourced protein versus the kind you get in the grocery store, which may come from out-of-state. Get a sampler box from a local farmer. Plant a garden. We don't need you to be pulling out your hair from the stressful attempt at doing everything perfectly. We just need everyone doing a few small good things collectively that'll push us in the right direction. Lead by example, and Godspeed! I assure you, it's going to be a load of fun. 

Enjoy that steak!

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Siopao Asado

Kumain ka po na?
Hello, all! These gorgeous siopaos lit up my Instagram the other day, and a few of my friends have asked me for my method on how to make them. I want to jump right into the recipe, but first I'd like to give a quick note on Filipino Siopao versus Cantonese Char Siu Bao:

Char siu bao and siopao are quite similar because siopao is the indigenized version of this Cantonese classic. The Philippines were a mecca of trans-oceanic cultures coming together, so it's certainly no surprise that dishes are shared between them. Most Filipinos love siopao, and why shouldn't they? They're a hot pocket full of delicious meat with a dough that doesn't flake. It's soft, squishy, keeps hot for a long time, and oh-so-pretty. I learned how to make Charsiu Bao in culinary school, and have since made my own version of siopao. I like the Chinese-style bun dough better than the one you might find in a siopao recipe online, just because the end texture feels a little nicer, in my humble opinion.

Chinese-style Asado
yields a good portion of meat for dinner, and plenty for your siopao
  • 2 lb pork butt
    • You can make this with chicken as well!
  • 2 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 3 oz honey
  • 2 tsp five-spice powder
  • 1 tsp cracked black peppercorns
  • 1/4 c dark soy sauce
  • 1/4 c tuba vinegar
  • 1/2 c banana ketchup
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 stick celery, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 2 c stock
    • Veggie, pork, chicken, or whatever you have!
  • 1 c water

Bun Dough
yields enough for 6 large buns/bao
  • 224 g all-purpose flour
  • 4 g yeast
  • 135 g warm water, 
  • 100 g sugar
  • 15 g lard or shortening
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder mixed with 1 tsp water

Siopao Filling
  • 3/4 c Asado, shredded
  • Sesame or peanut oil to coat the pan
  • 2 oz carrot, brunoise
    • The tiniest dice you can manage
  • 1 scallion, sliced thin
  • 1/4 c all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c stock
    • Chicken, beef, or vegetable!
  • 2 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tsp banana ketchup

Take the protein of your choice and cut it into large cubes, about 2" pieces. In a large bowl, whisk together the banana ketchup, cracked peppercorns, spice powder, soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, and honey. Toss the meat pieces in the mixture and cover; marinate for 2 hours or overnight. 

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Use a large, cast-iron pot and add just enough canola oil to coat, and heat on a medium-high flame. When the oil is nice and hot, add in your marinated meat pieces and sear for 2 minutes. Add your water and stock to the bowl with the marinade, give it a stir, and dump in that gorgeous liquid to your pot. Add in the carrot, celery, and bell pepper along with the garlic. Bring to a boil and pop in the oven for 3 hours. 

When it comes out of the oven, a fair portion of the liquid will have cooked off. You can now remove the meat from the juices and turn the pot on to a low flame. Fish out the aromatic veggies from the broth and discard. On your cutting board, shred the meat with a pair of chopsticks or some forks. Add the meat back into the pot and simmer down until saucy and delicious. As I'm sure you can tell, this will be more than enough to make buns aplenty, but I assure you that this Asado is good enough to eat on its own as a wonderful entree! I suggest having it with some coconut rice or in some tortillas with lime juice. This is a savory delight, so please have something deliciously tangy with it, such as pickled vegetables. 

To make the siopao filling, take the Asado that's now cooled from last night and sautee it with a little oil, the carrot, and scallion. Add the flour, and cook for one minute to get rid of that raw flour taste. Add the remaining ingredients and cook down until it has a thick consistency that is still saucy. Remove from the pan and let cool to at least room temperature.

To make the bun dough, simply combine the yeast, half the sugar, flour, and water in the bowl of a standing mixer and stir until combined. Let sit for 10 minutes before adding the remaining sugar and lard and turning the machine on to mix for another 10 minutes. Turn out into a lightly oiled container and allow to proof for 1 1/2 hours or until the mixture has doubled in size. When it has, turn it out onto a floured surface and punch it out and roll it out until it's about an inch in thickness. Spread the mixture of the baking powder and water over, and fold the dough over to encapsulate it. Roll out, then fold again, and knead by hand until it's quite satiny in feeling. This shouldn't take more than ten or eleven turns. Pop it back into your oiled container and let it sit for another 30-40 minutes.

Take your dough and roll it into a log. Cut it in half, and then cut each half into thirds, leaving you with six lumps of dough to make your bao. Cover the lumps with a clean tea towel and work each lump of dough with a rolling pin, one at a time. I could tell you how to roll yours, but I am frankly so bad at it that I think it's best if I leave you with a video on how this awesome person does theirs.





I always try to pleat mine, but sometimes my pleats don't work out, or I accidentally roll out my dough too thin on the bottom. That's okay! Just flip the bao over and steam them upside-down. No matter how you fill and seal your siopao, it's okay - it's going to taste good, so don't put too much pressure on yourself if you mess up one or two. Either way, fill and fold all six of your buns with that delicious filling you've made, and let them rest on the counter while you get your steamer ready, about 20 minutes.

My steamer is a little worse for wear since I've had it for 10+ years!

A note on steamers: If you have a metal steamer, they will do just fine in the dishwasher. If you have a bamboo steamer, like me, you should never ever put them in the dishwasher. Wash them by hand with soap and hot water, and then treat with a little oil each time you use them. Respect and care for your tools and they will repay you tenfold. Please keep in mind that a wok is usually what's used to make a steamer work, so make sure you have one of those as well. I think a good steamer is an essential thing in a person's kitchen, so you might want to make an investment in your future healthier self and get one. You can buy them online, of course, but it's probably safer and cheaper to just head on over to the local Asian store in your town and pick one up. I assure you they've been wearing masks and gloves since far before this Covid19 nonsense all happened, and I personally feel better shopping there versus the American grocery stores near me, but that's another blog post.

I steam mine with a bamboo steamer that I purchased at the local Asian grocery store. Always make sure that you oil your steamers with canola or sesame oil before you begin, and line your baskets with either paper or cabbage leaves. My cabbage isn't big enough, yet, but I have a lot of spinach in my victory garden, so I used that. (What's a victory garden? Find out here!)

Steam your siopao in the wok steamer for 8-10 minutes, and for the love of all that is holy: do not open the lid for anything. You're going to want a nice, steady simmer to keep that steam going. As long as the water level is good, you're in the clear!

These siopaos are delicious afternoon snacks, a great lunch, or just a delicious dinner. My husband and I ate all six of these together, and that filled us up for the rest of the night! You can make siopao with things other than Asado filling, using the bun dough to help stretch any saucy leftovers you might have. I hope you enjoy them, and please feel free to bug me with any questions you might have along the way!

Happy cooking and happy eating!



Friday, April 3, 2020

Russian Honey Cake



Pareve Russian Honey Cake

  • 100 g good local honey 
    • I used an elderflower honey bought from a local farmer's market
  • 100 g granulated sugar
  • 140 g vegan butter substitute
    • Or dairy butter, whatever you have
  • 3 whole eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp almond extract**
    • Optional, but recommended!
  • 6 g baking soda 
  • A fat pinch of kosher salt
  • 540 g all purpose flour
  • 340 g tofu sour cream
    • Dairy sour cream works, of course!
  • 100 g sugar
  • 65 g honey
  • 120 g (4) egg whites

This is one of those wonderful recipes you can (mostly) do by hand. You can even whip the egg whites for the filling by hand, especially if you're skipping the gym like the responsible citizen that you are. I do realize the irony of making a "Russian" honey cake, even though this is probably made by the Cossacks that drove the Russian Jews out to America, being a person descended from Russian/Lithuanian/Belarusian/Polish Jews. But I'm making it and making it kosher. Die mad about it.

 Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, whisk together the butter, honey, and sugar until dissolved and slightly thick. Then, one at a time, add in your eggs, gently whisking until each one is incorporated. You aren't looking for volume in this, but merely a deliciously syrup-y and smooth batter. Add in the baking soda and a pinch of kosher salt. Whisk in about a third of the flour mixture using the whisk, until very smooth, and then switch to a spatula for adding the rest of the flour. You're going to be stirring slowly, to make a wonderful dough that resembles a very soft hamentaschen (or cookie) dough.

Next, pick a size! Divide the dough into balls and roll out discs of the appropriate size. I used a 9 inch/22 cm round cake tin to measure out the size I wanted. A little flour on your favorite marble slab will do the trick to roll it out. Yes, I said flour. I know I don't usually have you flour your surfaces for your cookies...but this isn't a cookie, it's a cake. Sort of.

Once you have your discs, transfer them to a silpat-lined sheet pan and prick them with lots of holes! This will prevent the cake from rising and becoming terribly dense, which is not what you want. Bake each disc for 6 minutes, and allow to cool fully before stacking them on top of each other. This recipe yielded eight layers for me, and I still had enough dough left over to make myself some small tea biscuits.


This next part is optional, but if you were to pick a design for the top layer of the cookie/cake in the vein of a cut-out, I'd say do it while the discs are still somewhat warm. I chose a little bat cutout. More on that later...

To make the filling, stir in the 65 g honey with one package (340 g) of tofu sour cream. (Of course, you can use dairy sour cream if you like.) If you have a standing mixer, I suggest using that to whip up your egg whites and sugar to stiff peaks. If not, enjoy the arm workout. Finally, fold in that glorious meringue to the sour cream to make the filling. Ready to assemble? Me, too.

Yep. Looks fluffy enough. 
Get a plate or cake board. Simply dollop a thin layer of the filling between each of the cake discs and spread evenly. Err on the side of less rather than more, as it looks quite spectacular if the layers of filling are the same height as the layers of cake. When you get to the top layer, spread the rest of the filling all over the entirety of the cake, sides included. Add your top layer with the decorative cut-outs, and call it good! Don't forget to snap a few pictures for Instagram before you let this chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

Now, on to the bats - and this is where I put on my preachy food blogger/chef activist/annoying foodie hat and step on my soap box.

Hate mosquitos? Get yourself a bat house! It's like a bird-house...only for bats. And, yes, bats eat mosquitos!

Bats want you to eat honey. No, really! They do. And they also want you to stop using agave to the scale we are all using it instead of honey. Bats rely on agave, and agave plants rely on bats to pollinate them. In fact, they are the primary pollinators of agave plants, and you can't have agave - or tequila - without bats.

So what does this have to do with honey? Honey is a byproduct of bees, and a lot of vegans out there will tell you that harvesting honey hurts bees. This couldn't be further from the truth. If we hide behind this ideology that honey is a product of animal cruelty, and go for agave instead, we're starving bats and putting beekeepers out of the job.

A beekeeper's job is to watch over hives and make sure that bees are healthy and happy. They harvest honey in a way that do not harm bees. Bees, when given a lot of room, will make a lot of honey, so it's not like a beekeeper will ever benefit from taking the honey that the bees need to survive the winter. Beekeepers and apiaries only take excess honey, and in return the bees don't have to leave their hives in swarms to find more room. Beekeepers and hives are so important to the agricultural health of the planet that most farmers will lend a beekeeper a free spot on a corner of their land just to have a hive there. No, really, that's how important bees are to farmers.  

So, should you eat honey? Yes. Should you eat local honey? Yes, especially if you suffer from seasonal allergies like yours truly. If you have a local apiary in your area, I also suggest that you buy some bee pollen. Sprinkled over your cereal or mixed into your tea or coffee will do wonders for your seasonal allergies without knocking you out like any over-the-counter antihistamines. Oh, and should you stop consuming agave? Probably, yes, unless you want the world to run out of tequila.

I hope you've enjoyed this blog, and this format of me putting the recipe first before my big annoying rant. I also hope you won't judge me for making a wheat-based product this close to Passover. I know I'm meant to be clearing out the house of all flour, because - you know - we're supposed to be running from the Egyptians or whatever - but we're already in the middle of the plague and money is tight, so I figure that I may as well use up my flour as much as I can before the holiday comes. Once that's all done, we'll go into matzoh territory! Please keep me in your thoughts as I go the week without bread in the middle of the dang plague.



Thanks again! Happy cooking and happy eating!

Monday, April 15, 2019

Vegan Graham Crackers

Wow. A portrait orientation. Crazy. 

I know it's barely April, but I can't stop thinking of summer! My favorite thing about summer is campfires, snapping and crackling, dancing up to the sky as if to praise. And what's the best thing about a campfire? A s'more, of course! Now I've spoken before about homemade marshmallows in a few posts previously, but this post is about my favorite childhood snack. No, really! I would have a stack of graham crackers with a glass of ice cold milk and it would be the best thing ever.

If you want to make your own marshmallows, I've got a few recipes. If you want to make your own chocolate, please sponsor a cacao tree and save it from loggers! Now, let's get cooking with this incredibly easy graham cracker recipe, that you won't even need a mixer for!

My Favorite Graham Crackers

  • 312 g AP Flour
  • 85 g coconut sugar
  • 85 g vegan butter
  • 2.5 fl oz (a little less than a third of a cup) honey 
    • Seriously. It's an animal product but I swear it doesn't harm a single animal. Please. Buy honey and support apiaries who are trying to keep bees alive. But if it seriously still bothers you then just use molasses or maple syrup. But please buy honey.)
  • 1 1/2 tsp Baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp almond or oat milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped(you can also use 2 tsp good vanilla extract or 1 tsp of vanilla paste)
Preheat your oven to 350 F and prepare a sheet pan with a silpat mat or with parchment paper. Seriously, don't skimp on this part. I don't care if you have a nonstick cookie sheet. Please just do this because it makes it so much easier in the long run.

Combine the flour, sugar, vanilla, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Cut the butter into cubes and, with your fingers, rub the fat into the flour. This is very much like you're making a pie! You're looking for crumbs that are just a little bit smaller than the size of a pea. Make a well in the middle and pour in the honey. Using your fingertips, flick the flour mixture over the honey and stir by hand. Pour the milk over and knead gently for a few turns, just to get it to come together. Turn out onto an oiled surface, ideally a marble slab. You're going to end up with a spectacular dough that's going to smell incredible.

And since there are no eggs in this dough, you can eat this raw. You probably will, too.


Oil your hands quite well and pop your dough onto your prepared sheet tray. The trick with this one is to roll out your dough on/inside the tray, so you're manipulating it as little as possible. You can oil your rolling pin as well, but you won't need to if you have a marble one. Just make sure that it's even in thickness! You can tear and fill where you need, and then not worry about it!


Use a wheel cutter (better known as a pizza cutter) to score the sides of the sizes of crackers you want. I wasn't exactly sure if it was going to be perfect, so I kind of just went with a size I thought was comfortable with. These will puff up in an unattractive way if you don't prick these with a fork, so I make sure to prick it mercilessly. 

This is a 'half sheet pan.' It's available at most restaurant supply stores! They're larger than residential cookie sheets.

Bake in a hot oven for 11 to 13 minutes. Once done, evacuate, turn off your oven, and set the pan on a cooling rack. Don't try and move the crackers themselves, as they'll still be quite soft. I know it'll be hard to tell when they're done because they're already gorgeous and golden-brown. You'll know for sure that they're done because they've completely set, gone slightly darker around the edges, and your house smells awesome.

You'll need to cool for at least 15 minutes before snapping. Because you're using an invert sugar (or a liquid sugar) it's going to soften up with heat. As it cools, it will become nice and brittle! This is also why gingerbread is so malleable when warm but strong and snappy when cooled. 

Store in an airtight container, lest they go stale, but honestly they probably won't last 24 hours. So do yourself a favor and make a double recipe.

Thanks so much for sticking with me with this new schedule! Blogs will now be posted every Monday, by 7 pm CST. Then, please join me for #Foodiechats on Twitter! You can ask me anything food-related, ask me for gardening advice, or just ask me how my day is going. I'll ask you how your day is going and we'll have a nice connection where we relate to each other. Doesn't that sound great? Sure it does. Now get out there and make some s'mores with my graham crackers!

Happy cooking and happy eating!


Sunday, March 31, 2019

Honeybee Bundt Cake

Hey, honey. 
Spring has sprung! In the spirit of starting things anew, I'm going to be trying something different this week.

A lot of food bloggers give you a really long anecdote or big history before the recipe when a lot of people just want to read the recipe. While I understand the reasoning behind all of this (nobody is going to want to read your writing unless you force them) I'm going to flip the narrative and give you the backstory of the ingredients and the reasoning for things after the recipe. Hopefully, this means you'll appreciate it so much that you'll continue to read all the way to the bottom. So, let's get on with it!

Honeybee Bundt Cake
yields 1 large bundt pan or 2 loaves
Adapted from Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson

Cake
  • 11.25 oz AP flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 fat pinch kosher salt
  • 7 oz vegan butter substitute, room temperature
  • 5.25 oz cane sugar
  • 4 oz pure honey ( Try Gerard'z Honeybees Star Thistle Honey)
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 2 eggs + 1 egg yolk
  • 3/4 c almond milk + 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp local bee pollen (available at most health food stores)
Glaze
  • 6 oz pure honey
  • 2 oz coconut sugar
  • 2 oz vegan butter
  • A fat pinch kosher salt
  • A big fat handful of walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds...whatever you have lying around, crushed
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F and prep a large bundt pan with pan spray. I like the kind that already has flour in it, but if you don't have that then feel free to dust your pan with a little bit of flour, just so the cake has somewhere to climb and stick to without collapsing. That being said, this is a cake you can make the batter for in advance, let rest in the fridge, and then bake from cold when you're ready. Please plan accordingly, as this cake is best served just a little warm, with some homemade (n)ice cream (Try this one.).

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Combine the almond milk and vinegar and allow to sit while you make the rest of the cake. Meanwhile, whip up the cane sugar, honey, and vegan butter with the whisk attachment of your standing mixer until really tall, light, fluffy, and homogeneous, which shouldn't take more than 2 minutes. It's quite important that everything is creamed and that the sugar is not visibly present. Whip in the vanilla paste for another 30 seconds, scrape, and add the eggs and yolk, one at a time, making sure to stop and scrape between this addition. This recipe is pretty high in fat, so it's important to make sure the eggs get in slowly. It also is imperative that everything is at room temperature for this one, otherwise the risk of the batter curdling is higher. I know it's annoying, but I assure you that it's worth it.

Are the eggs all in? Great! Scrape down and get ready. Spoon in about a third of the flour, and stir on low speed for 3 or 4 turns around the bowl. Add in half the milk and stir a little more, another 4 turns or so. Add in the second third of the flour, stir, and add the rest of the milk. Stir, add the final bit of the flour, and stir the rest of it by hand with a rubber spatula, scraping well, especially the bottom. Swirl in the bee pollen.



Scrape the batter into your prepared pan and spread it evenly all around. If your oven is not already hot, you may store it in the fridge until it has sufficiently reached its desired temperature. This particular cake actually does get a gorgeous crackly ridge if you do this, even moreso than if you bake it from room temperature, which is what you want. Either way, only stick this cake in the center rack of the oven to bake when it's sufficiently hot, and not a moment before.

Turn the heat down to 350 and bake for 40 minutes, or until the top of the cake is solid and springs back when gently touched. Meanwhile, make your glaze/syrup by combining the honey, vegan butter, coconut sugar, and a little salt, in a small saucepot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a light simmer and stir. It's going to take about 2 minutes for the sugar to fully dissolve once simmering, but please don't pull it off the heat until it's all done! Trust me on this. Take the time now to crush your nuts in a mortar and pestle, but only enough so that they're broken up into irregular pieces. Walnuts work great for this because they're so soft and fatty, but you can use any kind of nut you like. Pistachios look visually stunning, with their bright green!

Remove your cake from the oven, but keep the oven turned on. Poke your cake with either a wooden skewer or a chopstick, all the way down to the bottom. Please be generous, but don't put your holes too close together. Be sure to get a lot of them, as they'll be essential for this cake's flavor later! I use the metal chopsticks because there's a 100% guarantee of no bamboo skewer shavings getting into the cake.

Take your time with this step, and please make sure your glaze is warm and quite runny!
If your syrup/glaze has gone a little cool, heat it up again to where it's quite runny, and then pour about half of the glaze, slowly, into surface of the cake. Try to get it in the crags and holes as much as possible, so it's quite important that your cake and glaze are still warm. Take your crushed nuts and sprinkle them all over. Pop your cake in the oven for another 5 minutes, and then remove from the oven and cool on a rack, while still in the pan. This is the reason I didn't have you turn the oven off just now, and also the reason I didn't have you toast the nuts, so they won't burn.



Now, glaze the cake with the remainder or your syrup and let cool in the pan for an hour or so. This means that this cake is the absolute perfect cake to finish just before dinner so you can eat and then have dessert. It's only folksy in name but is quite impressive for a dinner party, especially with the right accompaniment.

To turn out, flip your cake upside down on a plate (not your presentation plate) and then flip your cake back over on your serving plate. You can garnish with fresh mint, if you like, or dust with powdered sugar...but I really like this cake exactly as it is.You can even reserve a couple of spoonfuls of glaze for your plating and drizzle it all over, letting it drip over the sides, creating a deliciously inviting presentation.

Did you like that recipe? Are you ready for the fun facts? Are you still with me? Great.

Put honey in your tea all spring instead of sugar. Trust me. 
Honey is a superfood and a dang miracle of nature. First, it never goes bad, not ever. There's honey in pots that are from ancient Egypt in sarcophagi that are still perfictly good and edible and haven't rotted or gone rancid. It captures, like a photograph or a painting, the taste of the earth, or terroir, of that region or season. It's an antiseptic (in survival-mode, you can use either pine sap or honey on small cuts in a pinch while you're running from zombies) and a great medicine for a sore throat or allergies. I could go on and on about honey and how important it is to get some in your diet. Yes, it's expensive, but you're going to use less of it than you're going to use sugar in many applications. Per one cup of sugar, you can use 2/3 c of honey when it comes to baking cakes and breads. Honey has complexities that sugar does not, and the fact that it's sustainable to boot doesn't hurt its argument by any means.

You'll notice that I put real honey in the recipe. A fair bit of honey on the cheaper side is made by thinning it out with karo or corn syrup. Unless you get it from a local farm/apiary, there's a good chance you might have a thinned out honey product, so make sure you look at your labels.

Do they look the same? Looks can be deceiving!
Gerard'z Honeybees is a really cool company with whom I partnered with for this post. I want to raise awareness on honey and the proper husbandry of bees. This is an ancient trade and we've been doing it since pretty much the dawn of civilization, unlike the manufacture of and the illegal trade and cartels of cane sugar. A lot of folks of the vegan persuasion - while well-intended - believe that taking honey from bees is harmful. There's a lot of evidence as to why this is untrue, but here are the bulletpoints you need to know:
  • Apiaries house hives and keep them healthy
  • Apiaries only take extra honey
    • If apiaries don't take the excess honey, there's a chance the colony will overcrowd or begin to swarm, and that's not what you want
  • When you have healthy bees, you have lots of food around as bees are pollinators
  • Farmers often have apiary plots rent-free for migrating beekeepers since they know they need the bees to pollinate their crops, which is good for everybody involved
  • Beeswax, a byproduct of most apiaries, can be used as a better alternative in candles, cosmetics, natural lip balms, and lotions than say animal fat would be 
Taking honey from bees isn't harming these animals. The amount of agave we're all-consuming, however, is harmful to a very specific kind of long-nosed bat that lives in the Southwest. We're taking their food supply, which sucks because they're the pollinators out there, so please think twice before you buy agave. If you still have reservations with honey, please buy maple syrup, sorghum, or molasses instead. 

Let's touch on allergy relief one final time. A good reason to try local honey is that it not only supports your community but also will help with your allergies. Since I live in Kansas City, I need to get honey that's from Kansas City, or at least within 100 miles of it. That means the bees are collecting pollen and nectar from flowers that are growing all around me, be they from trees or bushes or grasses or flowers. The point is that it's from the air that exists in the area that's making me sneeze, which is also why it's important to grab some local bee pollen while you're getting that.

You'll note that I called for an ingredient known as bee pollen, which some of you might not be aware of as a product you can buy. In short, bee pollen is the little yellow balls that you see on bees legs sometimes when you find one flying around. You can put it in cakes, sprinkle it on your oatmeal, stir it in your coffee, and more - but the reason that I personally want it around in spring is that it's the only allergy relief I can get without being put into a freaking coma. (Looking at you, Benedryl.) Bee pollen is crunchy, tastes really floral, and dissolves into a powder if you crush it. They come in small bags and from most local herbal or health food shops. I am fortunate enough to get mine at the local organic grocery store! The reason I added bee pollen into this recipe was that the honey I got was not from around Kansas City, but from California.




Star Thistle Honey from Gerard'Z Honeybees 🐝 So I'm obsessed with honey. One of my favorite things about it is that no two batches will ever taste exactly the same, nor should they! This particular honey has a wonderfully bitter quality, almost medicinal, but it's fragrant, pungent and so unbelievably deep with a sour finish... it takes you on a wild ride! And before my #vegan friends get mad, let me assure you that taking honey from bees is hundo P okay πŸ‘Œ . Beekeepers do everything they can to make sure that their babies are healthy and happy and always have enough food. The honey that they take is excess, and they never take so much honey that it would harm the hive. 🍯 besides, if we didn't have beekeepers, our bees would have a lot more trouble than they're already having. . . Honey it is a perfect food, that never goes bad, and is a really good antiseptic. πŸ™πŸ» Seriously! My mom puts honey over our minor cuts after washing them πŸ˜… and nothing is better than hot tea with honey when you have a sore throat. 🍡 The best part? It helps with your allergies. Gerardz's is a feature for tomorrow's blog post! Stay tuned πŸ˜‰ . . . . . #lfthx #gerardzhoneybees #honeytasting #gerardz #foodiechats #dairyfree #pareve #kosher #naturalfoods #KansasCity #california #honey #video #wannabgourmande #organicaid #savethebees #bees #nature @gerardzhoneybees
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For this particular honeybee cake, I used the Star Thistle Honey. I'm partnering with Gerard'z this week and they gave me the exclusive on this soon-to-be-available product. Of course, I had to get a jar of their wildflower, too. The Wildflower honey was mild and floral, but had a bright and pleasantly sour finish. The Star Thistle, however, might be my favorite honey, because of how incredibly complex it is. It starts off with a bitter taste, almost medicinal, before you get into the sweetness. It's got quite a lot of depth, like a good dark roast coffee, and then finishes bright and sweet. I thought it was perfect for this cake, so of course I had to use it. Message the site to get some for yourself!

You saw me use the term terroir earlier in this post. This term is usually found when describing wine. Terroir is "the taste of the land." This means that the grapes are affected by the land they're grown in, say if the earth the vines grow in are heavy with either clay or lime or something else. In truth, it's quite the same for bees, depending on what they can feed upon that year. This is why you can get such flavors as 'Wildflower honey', which have been harvested from bees that get their stuff from wildflowers. You can get 'Orange blossom honey' from bees that have their hive situated in a citrus grove. Gerard'z Honeybees, based in California, have a variety of flavors, such as raspberry, alfalfa, and more. I invite you to try them all!

I also invite you to plant local wildflowers and fall bulbs, to feed your local bees. Just think, you're helping shape 'wildflower honey' in your area! But please check with your local extension office to make sure you're not introducing an invasive species of flower to your region. Otherwise, you might do more harm than good!
Some seasons the honey will be a deep amber color. Sometimes the honey will turn purple, if the bees get into a blackberry farm. Honey can be a very light gold color, or in some cases can be almost clear and be tangy and sour. The beautiful thing about honey is how incredibly seasonal it is. You can quite literally taste the years go by or monitor how the years went if you were to look at it over time. My good friend David, whose mother is a beekeeper, remembers a single summer in which it was the best honey harvest of their lives in which the honey was especially perfect.

Please plant as many flowers as you can this year! And every year! All of these bees need food and so does your soul!

One more reason that I'm in love with honey is because it's a very old world way of eating. Ancient Egyptians were keeping bees and consuming honey, and the Aztecs have been keeping bees for a very long time as well. The wandering Jews of the tribes of Moses are promised "a land of milk and honey." You can find evidence of ancient apiaries in China, and even the indigenous peoples of Northern Americas got in on the party. You won't find cane sugar in traditional Russian or Lithuanian sweets, as honey reigns supreme. If you think about it, cane sugar as a concept is no older than a heartbeat in terms of how civilization came to be. So, really, let's look at going back to our roots in the culinary world and regain a taste for honey. It's fully sustainable, will be excellent for your health and for the environment in the long run, and is incredibly tasty!

Thanks so much for enduring this new format of posting. I'm trying to be conscious of my readers' experience and I hope you enjoyed learning, especially if you got this far. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Share this cake with a loved one. 

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Lime Meringue Pie



If you are a follower of my Instagram, you know how much I love pie. I've been having a lot of fun lately with decorative elements and putting twists on classics. Personally, when I want a pie, I want a classical taste that is familiar in taste but somewhat conceptual in design. Remember my Lucky Charms Pie? The point is that I love lemon meringue pie...but lemons weren't on sale at the grocery store for 6/$1, so guess who won that fight.

This isn't key lime pie because key limes are tiny and actually are a citrus hybrid with a spherical fruit that can be quite small. Really they're best for juicing and making pie out of, since they're quite tiny to eat or enjoy. They also have a specific flavor that translates into something a little more fragrant and sweet than the lime you might find from the grocery store. Most of our limes come from Mexico and South America, where they grow easily.

In Pinoy cuisine, one thing can be said about the flavor profiles we seem to enjoy: put vinegar with everything. Pinoy people love vinegar and sour things, and I'm no exception to that rule. Sour things make your mouth pucker and water and they round out flavors that might otherwise be flat. One thing I learned in school that has sort of stuck with me in my career has been: if you taste something and it's tasty, but something is missing, 9 out of 10 the answer will be "acid." It could be a squeeze of lemon, a dash of vinegar, a little reduced wine or a smear of sour cream, but it is acid that elevates everything else and is a key component to delicious food. Learn to harness the power of sour!


Lime Meringue Pie
yields 1 9" pie

  • 6 oz flour
  • 1 oz walnut flour (or just fine-ground walnuts)
  • 1 oz powdered sugar
  • 4 oz vegan butter 
  • Ice water A/N
  • 8 egg yolks + 2 whole eggs
  • 1 c fresh-squeezed lime juice, strained (from about 5 or 6 fresh limes)
  • 1 3/4 c powdered sugar (sorry I don't know the oz, I always did by volume on this one!)
  • 2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 8 oz vegan butter 
  • Zest of 2 limes
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 4 egg whites
  • 7 oz granulated sugar
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
Sift the walnut flour into the 6 oz AP flour and pinch in the fat using your finger tips. Don't stop until it all comes together and the butter is about pea-sized. Sprinkle a little bit of water over it at a time and press gently until it all comes together. Chill in a disc in the freezer while you prepare the rest of your stuff. 

In a sauce pot, melt your 8 oz vegan butter in with your lime juice and powdered sugar over a medium-low flame. Meanwhile, whisk together your eggs and egg yolks with the granulated sugar until completely homogeneous. Set up a bowl lined with a fine mesh strainer for later. When your butter is melted completely, give that butter-lime mix a quick stir and splash in about 1/2 cup of the liquid into the eggs, and then whisk gently to warm it. This is called tempering, and is essential to do with any liquid/custard product that will contain egg. 

Scrape your egg mixture all into the pot and whisk gently, constantly, over a medium flame until thick. Do not let this mix boil under any circumstances! Remember, with curds, low and slow is the way to go. When the mixture is a gloriously thick and shiny consistency, quickly dump your curd into the bowl lined with the strainer, and strain out lumps that may have occurred. Once passed through, stir in your lime zest and vanilla paste. If you want to make this a little more green, it's 100% okay to add a drop of green food coloring. It's okay, but optional. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic film into the surface of the curd to prevent from getting a skin. Store in the fridge.

Turn your oven to 350 degrees. With this dough, you will be flouring your surface. Sorry, you need it this time - the walnuts are worth it for flavor but with this crust they really do need a little more flour and structure, as they do release quite a bit of oil. Flour your marble surface and rolling pin and roll out your dough to a thin flat disc, and line your pie pan with it. I like to let my dough rest in the pan for about 5 minutes to let the glutens relax a little before I decide how I trim it and decorate it.

You can do polka dots, braids, whatever you like for yours!
With this particular crust, I knew that I was going to have a meringue mounding up the top so I needed to have any design I was going to decide on be around the edge, but I still wanted a little bit of a three-dimensional element happening. With decorations, I really love leaves as elements, and I have this pretty cutter that looks like lime leaves. Unfortunately, it's too big to go around the edge of the pie, so I took my smallest circle cutter and cut a lot of small circles to go around the edge. I stuck them on with a little bit of egg wash, but you can use a little almond milk if you like. You may as well use egg wash, though, since you're going to want to brush the sides of your pie dough with the egg wash to make it brown.

Never throw away the pie crust trims! Turn them into little decorative elements that will go on your pie!

Prick your pie crust with a fork and line with a parchment sheet, and fill with baking beads (or dry beans) and bake for 20 minutes, or until fully cooked and browned. To make the leaves, cut them with a mold and bake them until crisp, about 10 minutes. I got the 3D shapes by propping the leaves against the lip of my baking sheet. Set aside to cool. Now, we're going to make a meringue!

Place your egg whites in the bowl of  your standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Meanwhile, place your sugar in a small saucepot with just enough water to cover. Fit it with a candy thermometer and bring it up to a slow boil on a medium high flame. Please note that it's very important to not jostle the pan in any way while it's coming to the temperature that you're going to want it at. Otherwise, it might crystalize and you're going to have to start again. Your goal temperature is 260 degrees F. When it gets up to 250, you can turn on the standing mixer and start whipping it to foam up.

Whip your egg whites until they've become quite white and fluffy, to about a medium peak, which should be the right amount it takes to get from 250 to 260. If you need a little more time, turn your whisk down to the lowest possible setting and let it stir. If it sets, you're in trouble. 

When all is ready, turn your whisk up to high and carefully pour the hot sugar syrup in a thin stream, being very careful to avoid the whip. Pour it in slowly, as you continue to whip to stiff peaks, until all the sugar is gone. Turn the speed down to medium-high and let it whip until the meringue is cool, about 3 minutes. What you've just made is an Italian meringue, and it's the most structurally sound of all meringues and will last you the longest. 

I totally used a smear of green gel dye in this. Why? Because look at that gorgeous color.
Now, we're finally ready to assemble! Obviously this takes quite a bit of time to do, a couple of hours, but it is worth it. Assemble by removing the baking paper and beads from your pie crust and dumping your curd in, smoothing the top to be even. Dump in your meringue and use an offset spatula to swirl and make attractive flips and whirls. You can use a torch to make it toasty, or a super-hot oven, around 450 degrees, for 3 minutes tops. Finish with your leaves, set in the side, against the meringue. 

To cut: heat up your knife with the flame of a torch or some near-boiling water, and your meringue will be cut smoothly!

And there you have it! A gorgeous, super-tart, super tasty lime meringue pie. I hope you've enjoyed reading, and please don't hesitate to tell me if you try it out.  Happy cooking and happy eating!

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Lingonberry Hamentaschen

Pretty in pink!
I love lingonberries. I'm obsessed with them, especially for spring. I love lingonberry poptarts (homemade, of course, using my favorite pie crust), lingonberry lemonade, and just plain lingonberry jam on toast. I go through phases of obsession. Currently, I'm obsessed with a little show called Allt fΓΆr Sverige. It's where they take the children and grandchildren of Swedish immigrants and bring them back to Sweden, and put them on a journey of discovery. It's a wonderful competition reality show that shows Swedish culture, the story of how we came to be, the history of a country, and the winner at the end gets to be reunited with their Swedish family in a big party! You can find most all of the episodes on Youtube. Check it out here!

Since we're talking about Youtube, I'm going to go ahead and link you up to Mayim Bialik, to give you a quick rundown on an amazing spring holiday, Purim! I'm obviously not 100% full-blooded Jewish, but I still love enjoying the culture and part of that is celebrating the holidays and eating the foods...and even better, I love sharing the culture with friends! In fact, I'm throwing a Purim party this evening! We're going to have masks, eat hamentaschen, and more.



Purim is upon us on the 21st, which is this Wednesday, so I've decided to show you how to make my absolute favorite Jewish ritual treat (yes, I love it even more than freaking latkes) the Hamentaschen. These are triangle-shaped cookies that are filled with just about anything your heart desires, although jam seems to be the favorite for most. You can fill them with pistachio paste, chocolate chips, citrus curds, ganaches...whatever floats your boat! For this, though I've chosen lingonberry.

Lingonberries are a magical kind of berry that miraculously thrive in cold areas. They do incredibly well in moist, acidic soils from ranges that are from Massachussetts to Alaska. I live in the Midwest, so it get's way too hot for lingonberries. If you live in a more northern state, please consider growing them! They have an incredibly pleasant taste, and although resemble a cranberry are only the size of a garden pea. When cooked into a jam, they give off a beautiful red-pink color, and are even prettier when swirled into a sour cream sauce.

Hamentaschen
yields about 2 dozen cookies
  • 3 medium eggs, room temperature
  • 200 g sugar
  • 2 oz olive oil
  • 2 oz vegan butter, room temperature (Earth balance is my fave, but any non-dairy butter/margarine will do)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 fat pinch kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla paste
  • 375 g AP flour plus more for dusting
  • A smear of pink gel food coloring
  • Lingonberry jam, as needed
Whisk together, by hand, the butter and oil along with the vanilla paste and sugar until the sugar appears to have dissolved, or at least lightened in color. Add in the eggs, one at a time, whisking wholly until completely incorporated. Add in your salt, baking powder, and smear of pink gel paste. I like Wilton's "rose", but you can use whichever you like. If you want to go an all-natural coloring way, you may use beetroot powder, which will give a beautiful red. For this crazy holiday, though, I like to go for more electric colors.

Switch to a wooden spoon and stir in your flour. Turn out onto a cold, floured, marble surface and knead gently, until everything comes together smoothly. Divide in two discs, wrap each in plastic, and chill in the freezer for at least 1 hour. 

Flour your surface again and roll out thin. I like to go to 1/8 inch, because these cookies can get tough if too thick. Be generous with flour on the rolling pin, too, as this dough is rather loose so it likes to stick. The oil is nice and makes it a kosher fat, and it also makes it more pliable so you can mold it. This is ultimately the reason I don't tend to use all oil or all butter; butter makes the dough too short and not-so-easily pliable, and oil makes the dough too runny so I have trouble shaping it and end up using way too much flour. 



Cut out circles with a ring cutter. I like 3" rings! To fill, hold the cut disc in your left hand draped gently over your fingers (or right, if you're a leftie) and fill with a generous teaspoon of your lingonberry jam. If it's not too cold, it should fall off the spoon with ease. Gently separate your index and middle fingers just enough to allow the dough to fall in and help you create a crease. Pinch this closed and use the thumb of your opposite hand to push the bottom up. Gently place these on a silpat-lined sheet pan and pinch the three corners together to create the shape. If you're having trouble, find this awesome tutorial on Tori Avey.com!

 Pop these in the freezer while you're waiting for your oven to heat up to 400 degrees. The reason you don't want to have your oven preheating while you're rolling these out is because - in my experience - they do better when they start from cold, and it's hard to keep a cookie dough cold when  you're heating up your kitchen with a hot oven. Besides, this recipe makes at least 2 dozen cookies so you're going to want to make them all at once, freeze them all at once, and bake only as needed. I've found that you can store the raw cookies, frozen, for up to two weeks if kept in an airtight container. To accomplish this, simply freeze on a tray until hard, put them in an airtight container, lined with parchment, and store until needed. 

Pop your cookies in the oven and reduce the heat to 350. Bake for 12 minutes, or until the edges just barely begin to brown. You want a super hot oven to start with , but want your more standard baking heat so the corners don't burn. The reason  you want it to be hot is because you don't want your fat to melt and therefore your cookies will lose the shape. These are tricky because they can get really tough if overcooked. 

Once baked, remove from the oven and let cool on the pan for at least 10 minutes before moving to a cooling rack. Please keep in mind that this dough is incredibly versatile. You can add in shaved chocolate and fill with nutella to make chocolate hazelnut hamentaschen. Heck, make a tiramisu hamentaschen where you use coffee extract instead of vanilla, fill it with a cheesecake filling and dust them with cocoa powder. The sky is the limit! You can even do what I did for the second offering at my part, and divide the dough in half, add lime zest, dye them green, and fill it with lime curd to make a zesty zingy lime hamentaschen.



Of course you can enjoy hamentaschen year-round, but because they take multiple steps, I recommend doing a lot all at once, with the help of family. Little ones, especially, love the idea of folding cookies. I hope you've enjoyed learning a bit about Purim! As always, if you've tried my recipes, please tell me all about it in the comments below. Happy cooking and happy eating!