canola oil

Steven’s co-worker owns a rental property in the Central Valley. The small apartment building sits on a big chunk of land which her husband planted with fruit trees. A few months ago she gave us bags and bags of citrus. Now that we’re nearly in summer, we’ve entered the stone fruit season. Thus far, she’s given us some cherries, plums, apricots. I don’t even know if cherries qualify as stone fruit. Are they berries? Anyway over the past week we got two bags of sour plums from her garden. The first batch I devoured in no time after dinner. Yum! The second one Steven wanted me to bake into something. So, ta-da: sour plum upside-down cake.

sour plum upside-down cake

sour plum upside-down cake

Sour plums tend to be a little sweet in the middle but sour near the skin and close to the pit. I love taking a bite of a plum and tasting all these flavors. Well with this cake, despite the sugar caramel coating the bottom of the pan, the sour flavor came out in FULL! We loved it: perfect with some tea or a cuppa coffee. We ate this entire cake in a couple of days for breakfast.

sour plum upside-down cake

~2 lbs sour plums, skin on, pitted
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp sea salt
2 eggs
1 cup soy or almond milk
½ cup canola oil
2 tbsp butter
Cast iron pan (12 inches diameter, 2 inches deep)

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

Add one cup of sugar along with one tablespoon of water to cast iron pan over medium heat on your stovetop. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sugar melts and acquires a nice caramel color. If some sugar sticks to the wooden spoon scrape it off and let it melt until all lumps are gone. Spread the caramel all over the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat to cool down if caramel starts to burn. You just want a caramel color, not a smoking ruin. Cooking to long will make the flavor bitter. Remove pan from heat and set aside.

In a bowl, put remainder of the sugar, then eggs, salt and vanilla. Whisk it to combine. Add oil, soy milk, flour and whisk it again to combine. Lastly incorporate baking powder into the batter.

At this point, although still warm your caramel may be hardened and stuck to the bottom of the cast iron pan. Worry not! Spread the butter until all melted over caramel and sides of the pan. Add sour plum, along with juices if any and spread the fruit evenly over the bottom of the pan. Gently top with the batter. Bake about 35 minutes. Check for doneness via inserting a tooth pick in the center. If it comes out clean then baking is done, if not then you know what you have to do.

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I know I should have bought a smaller container of Greek yogurt in the first place…

We don’t normally eat yogurt by itself. In fact, we usually only have it at home when a recipe calls for it. Like Ottolenghi’s Greek yogurt baba ghanoush. But that scrumptious dish only required two tablespoons. What to do with the rest??

Blueberry Greek yogurt pancakes, of course!

blueberry Greek yogurt pancakes

blueberry Greek yogurt pancakes

The day before I made these pancakes NPR’s Morning Edition aired a special report on Smitten Kitchen during our morning breakfast ritual. Not about pancakes, the story spoke about how that now famous blogger turns out beautiful dishes in her tiny Manhattan kitchen (That sounds so familiar! Do you think that she got the idea from Julie Powell? Just a thought…)

Obviously, Deb Perelman was also promoting her new cookbook over the radio. Congratulations, Deb! She prepared latkes for Lynn Neary during the story—so not pancakes exactly but bear with me here. The following day I googled blueberry yogurt pancakes and one of Deb’s entries came up first.

So influenced by the morning news and Google’s high ranking, I decided to give the recipe a try. I didn’t have all the ingredients that she calls for. Here’s my adapted version of Smitten Kitchen’s dish.

blueberry Greek yogurt pancakes

1 large egg plus one egg white
1 cup plain, full-fat yogurt
2 to 4 tablespoons soy milk
3 tablespoons canola oil
½ teaspoon lemon zest
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ cup (62 grams) whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup frozen blueberries, thawed
Some butter to grease the skillet

Sift together sugar, salt, flour, baking powder and set aside. In a separate bowl add egg, egg white, soy milk, lemon zest, vanilla extract. Whisk to combine then whisk in yogurt. Combine wet and dry ingredients. Add a bit more soy milk if batter seems too thick.

Place two non-stick skillets on stovetop over medium. Melt a bit of butter in each pan. Add one small ladle full of batter to each pan and cook for about 3-4 minutes on one side, sprinkle some blueberries on top, flip and cook for about 3 minutes more on other side. Continue in that way until batter used up.

Serve with butter, maple syrup and a good cup of freshly brewed black coffee.


spicy pressed tofu salad

by Stevie on August 21, 2012

spicy pressed tofu salad

spicy pressed tofu salad

I’m so excited about this new-to-me book, Andrea Nguyen’s Asian Tofu. I saw it by chance at the local Whole Foods and was cautiously interested. I ordered a copy from the library and couldn’t put it down once I started reading. I shall have to splurge and actually buy a copy soon.

Nguyen writes in a lucid style with a modern sensibility. Despite the extremely broad sounding title, the focus here is on traditional uses of the various kinds of tofu. She’s lots of helpful illustrations and really breaks down the subject matter into digestible portions—pun intended. I made this dish last week just before we left for a trip to LA to hear fun. at the Wiltern. Mmmmm!

spicy pressed tofu salad

1 package pressed tofu cut into bite-sided cubes
2/3 cup unsalted roasted peanuts
4 spring onions, cut into rounds
3 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp fermented black beans, mashed
2½ tbsp chili bean sauce
2 tsp soy sauce
½ tsp sugar
1 to 2 tbsp spicy chili oil to garnish

Andrea recommends “refreshing” the peanuts by lightly roasting them in a dry pan. Let cool. Add to tofu with spring onion.

In a small pan, add canola oil, sesame oil, fermented black beans and chili bean sauce. Heat about two minutes on medium. Remove from heat and add sugar and soy sauce.

Toss sauce with tofu. Sprinkle with some chili oil. Serve.


The humongous bag of Meyer lemons our friend Kristen gave us in early April lasted for more than a month. I just love how aromatic Meyer lemon juice and zest are. Sometimes I just enjoy eating them whole, skin and all. When I saw this recipe for pickled Meyer lemons on Just Homemade, I knew what to do with the remaining 8 lemons in the fridge.

Indian inspired Meyer lemon pickle

Indian inspired Meyer lemon pickle

Preserved lemons are super simple to make and work beautifully as an added flavor to stews, couscous, pilafs, grilled fish and the list goes on. Rely on them to add another dimension of flavor. If you haven’t yet tasted preserved lemon, then what are you waiting for?

I’ve never had pickled Meyer lemons before so this was exciting!! The original recipe calls for chili pepper powder. However because I’m wild about chili powder and spices, I got creative. I used three kinds plus added some nigella seeds to the pickle. I sort of respected the overall proportion of chili dictated by the original recipe.

Indian inspired Meyer lemon pickle

8 Meyer lemons, lightly scrubbed with a sponge, rinsed, dried, quartered and seeded
4 tbsp sea salt (or less)
3 tbsp gochugaru pepper flakes
¾ tbsp pasilla pepper powder
¾ tbsp cayenne pepper powder
1 tsp nigella seeds (kalonji)
2 tbsp fenugreek powder
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
Couple of pinches asafetida

Glass jar cleaned and thoroughly dried
Parchment paper, cut to fit the top of the jar

step one, preserving the lemons:

lemon quarters and salt ready to cure

lemon quarters and salt ready to cure

Begin by adding ¾ tbsp salt to the bottom of glass jar. Partially squeeze the juice of a few lemon quarters. Arrange these partially squeezed quarters at the bottom of the jar. Sprinkle with salt. Repeat process until done. Place parchment paper on top of the jar and cover with lid. Give it a good shake so salt dissolves and juices permeate lemons. Let stand at room temperature for about 5 days. Shake the jar every day to ensure juices percolate through the lemon pieces.

….on the 4th or 5th day, step 2:

Heat a skillet on high. Add fenugreek seeds and barely warm them through. This process will bring the aromas out. Don’t toast or burn it. It will be too bitter. I burned mine the first time around so had to re-do this part. Transfer to a grinder and whiz it to pulverize. Set aside.

Return pan to the heat; add oil followed by the mustard seeds and cook until seeds begin to pop. Remove from heat. Add asafetida and let cool completely to room temperature.

Add chili peppers, nigella seeds, and ground fenugreek to a stainless steel bowl. Mix to combine. Empty the jar of lemons with the liquid over the spices. Mix to combine. Add cooled combo of popped mustard, asafetida and oil to the lemons and toss to combine.

Return lemons to the jar with the entire thick sauce. Cover and refrigerate. Use as a condiment or serve it as a side dish. This is salty so use it parsimoniously. Once we finish this batch I am going to experiment with it to make a less salty version.

We enjoyed this delicious pickled Meyer lemon last Monday with a basmati pilaf Steven made like this one.

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Indian inspired black-eyed pea curry

Indian inspired black-eyed pea curry

We’re constantly trying to add new legume-inspired recipes to our repertoire. After all, how can one be almost vegetarian without eating beans? I think, perhaps, that we don’t feature black-eyed peas as we should. Recently Steven made a delicious black-eyed peas and polenta dish. Every now and then I make a brown rice and black-eyed pea risotto that’s quite enjoyable. Black-eyed peas are delightful in croquettes, certainly. But all told, that’s only a few measly (albeit wonderful) ways of preparing something that’s so versatile, flavorful and nutritious.

So today’s inspiration comes from Indian cuisine. I’ve been following Manjula’s Kitchen for a while now and am blown away by the many creative ways she employs beans and pulses. This recipe is based on one from her blog. I made a few adaptations. We loved it.

the sunset on the night we enjoyed Indian inspired black-eyed pea curry

the sunset on the night we enjoyed Indian inspired black-eyed pea curry

Indian inspired black-eyed pea curry

2 cups dry black-eyed peas, rinsed and soaked in water for ½ hour then drained
1/8 tsp asafedida
2 tbsp canola oil
1 pint cherry tomatoes
¾ tsp mango powder
¼ tsp garam masala
½ cup fresh chopped cilantro
Sea salt to taste

for the curry paste:

2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
½ tsp chili powder
2 jalapeño peppers, seeds partially removed
2 tbsp coriander powder
¼ tsp turmeric powder

Add all ingredients for the curry paste to a food processor with a couple of tablespoons of water and whiz into a paste.

Add canola oil to pressure cooker. Bring temperature to high. Add cumin seeds and cook until aromatic, about a minute or so. Add asafetida followed by the curry paste. Cook on medium temperature until raw flavors are gone and oil floats on the surface of the curry paste. Toss in black eyed-peas with 3 cups of water. Cover pressure cooker, and when it starts whistling, turn temperature down and continue cooking for another 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat and let pan cool down. Check for doneness. The beans should be soft. If not return pan to burner and cook a little longer.

Add tomatoes, salt, garam masala, mango powder and continue cooking, uncovered, just long enough to warm tomatoes through. Add cilantro, adjust salt and serve. We had this stew with a side of Japanese rice cooked Brazilian style.


The white corn cake that Fer from the Brazilian blog chucrute com salsicha made the other day caught my eye because she uses an ingredient of which I have plenty in my pantry: harina de maiz nixtamalizada, or Mexican corn flour. It’s been sitting around since Steven prepared delicious vegetarian tamales awaiting the next tamale cook-off because we didn’t know what else to make with it.

Brazilian style corn cake with Mexican nixtamalized corn flour

Brazilian style corn cake with Mexican nixtamalized corn flour

Fer is based here in Northern California. She shares the same trouble I do when it comes to buying corn flour for Brazilian dishes. In the US it is ground too coarsely. So she resorted to the Mexican corn flour which has a similar texture to the Brazilian. I think that’s wonderfully creative in-and-of-itself and has given me loads of new ideas already.

I’ve wanted to test this flour for some time but never got around to doing it. I guess was afraid that the way the corn was processed, nixtamalization, would impart a different flavor to the cake. Well, that was completely wrong. Thanks for debunking that myth, Fernanda!

I basically followed her recipe except that I used pastry flour in the combo corn-wheat flour. This made the cake extra fluffy. It came out deliciously corny, not too sweet and super moist.

Brazilian style corn cake with Mexican nixtamalized corn flour

key ingredients for Brazilian style corn cake with Mexican nixtamalized corn flour

key ingredients for Brazilian style corn cake with Mexican nixtamalized corn flour

1½ cups harina de maiz nixtamalizada (Mexican corn flour)
2½ cups whole milk
2 cups pastry flour
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp kosher salt
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
½ cup canola oil
¾ tsp fennel seeds

Pre heat oven to 400F.

Grease a large baking pan with canola oil and set aside.

Put corn flour in a large bowl, add milk and whisk together to combine. Let this mix sit for about 5-10 minutes. Add eggs and mix it again to combine. Blend in pastry flour, salt, sugar, fennel seeds and baking powder.

Transfer mixture to prepared baking pan and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Serve with a nice cup of black coffee.


roasted baby potatoes with fresh sorrel leaves

roasted baby potatoes with fresh sorrel leaves

This is another simple tapas-inspired dish. Sort of a take on patatas bravas, which are potatoes baked in the oven with spices and then dredged with a spicy tomato/mayo based sauce. It is yummy and I could have just made the traditional recipe, but the thing is that sometimes a vegetable wants to speak for itself, and my new yellow baby potatoes were crying out “No sauce! Keep it simple.” They looked as if they had been harvested that afternoon, they were so fresh. So I kept it simple.

my talking baby potatoes

my "talking" baby potatoes

some usufruct fresh sorrel

some usufruct fresh sorrel

roasted baby potatoes with fresh sorrel leaves

15 new baby potatoes, cut in halves
2 cloves garlic, minced
Black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
½ tbsp canola oil
Hand-full fresh sorrel leaves

Place potatoes in saucepan and barely cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for 4 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, pre-heat oven to 500F.

Place potato halves on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with canola oil, enough to slightly coat potatoes. Roast until golden, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven, pat dry to remove oil. Put hot potatoes in a bowl. Add garlic, olive oil, sorrel leaves and toss to combine. The leaves will wilt. Adjust salt and serve warm.


Anna’s almost secret family recipe:  chocolate cake with cooked frosting

Anna’s almost secret family recipe: chocolate cake with cooked frosting

I’ve been a fan of Anna’s blog, Keep It Luce, since shortly after she started publishing. Her Great Aunt Sue’s recipe for chocolate cake with cooked frosting really resonated with me. I’d neither had the cake before nor heard of “cooked frosting,” both of which made this intriguing. But it was the story of her grandfather on his 92nd birthday, weakened by chronic illness, and the intimate portrait of her family life that was so beautiful and memorable. It stuck with me, perhaps because in certain ways it reminded me of my own grandfather. And one day, finally, it was time to make the cake myself.

I served this at the end of a veggie dinner party for eight. I wasn’t sure what to expect as this is my first-ever chocolate cake from scratch. I knew that the cooked frosting was the bomb, as I’d tasted it while icing this ultra moist cake. It was a giant success. One guest asked for some to take home. I gave him a big slice in a doggie bag. I brought the rest to an afternoon barbecue party the following day, much to the delight of the hostess. (I couldn’t let it stay at my house as I’d have gobbled the whole thing up myself in a day or two, then felt guilty about it.)

Basically I followed Anna’s recipe exactly though I did add some rum to the frosting. Also my cake required a bit longer to set than is suggested in the Keep It Luce recipe: about an hour to 70 minutes.

Anna’s almost secret family recipe: chocolate cake with cooked frosting

for the cake:

2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
¾ cups unsweetened cocoa
2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
1 cup hot coffee (I made the cake right after breakfast)
1 cup whole milk
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

for the frosting:

1 cup whole milk
5 tbsp flour
½ cup butter (1 stick) at room temp
½ cup veggie shortening
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp rum

to make the cake:

Pre-heat oven to 325F. Grease and flour a 9”x13” baking dish.

Sift the dry ingredients together.

Mix coffee, oil and milk. Gradually mix dry ingredients into the liquid. Once incorporated, beat for about 2 minutes. Add eggs and 1 tsp vanilla. Beat another 2 minutes.

Pour into prepared dish and bake until a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes. Carefully invert from dish onto a cooling rack. Cool completely.

to make frosting:

In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup milk. Beat in flour and whisk vigorously. Mine reminded me of a roux.
Cover and let cool completely.

Combine flour/milk mix with remaining ingredients and beat until combined. Mmm!

Once the cake has cooled, place on serving dish and frost. Dust with more cocoa powder (optional).

This cake is unbelievably good. Thank you for the delish family recipe, Anna!


Portuguese businessman’s salt cod aka bacalhau à Gomes de Sá

February 27, 2012

This is another Portuguese salt cod recipe which I adore. Legend says that it was created by a businessman from the northern city of Porto, hence the name Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá. It is a complete success all over Brazil and a comfort food for me. It reminds me of the holidays from my […]

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sweet and sour tofu

February 17, 2012

This recipe comes from an enjoyable blog that we’ve recently begun following, almost veg. Sweet and sour sauce is a classic that’s often popular with kids, as it is so yummy and not particularly spicy. I found it especially appealing because there’s no pineapple. Almost-veg writes “I like pineapples but not in savory foods.” Well, […]

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