walnuts

This recipe was adapted from Plenty by Yottam Otholenghi. I remain a huge fan his book. We’ve prepared many of his recipes, often more than once: a total success at home, as you can see here: Ottolenghi’s roasted eggplant, sambal okra, and chickpeas with chard. Mmmm!

endive with Point Reyes blue cheese and crème fraîche

endive with Point Reyes blue cheese and crème fraîche

This is another yummy recipe. It is decadent as it is loaded with dairy, but I think it’s a-okay to indulge every now and then. The watery crunchiness of the endive combined with the creamy texture of this sauce is divine!

Funny thing is that I made this salad right after we came back from France. Could we be suffering from dairy deprivation so soon?

endive with Point Reyes blue cheese and crème fraîche

3 heads white endive, leaves separated, rinsed and dried
1 head red endive, leaves separated, rinsed and dried
a small portion of micro greens, rinsed and dried
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/3 cup walnuts, slightly toasted, with sprinkle of salt, cooled to room temperature
Kosher salt to taste
whole leaves of Iceberg lettuce
1 cup crème fraîche
2 tbsp water
~4 tbsp crumbled Point Reyes Monterrey blue cheese

In a bowl whisk together crème fraîche, water, blue cheese, some salt and pepper. Taste it and adjust flavor adding more of any of the ingredients. It should have a somewhat runny texture; taste savory, with that punchy flavor that you expect from a good blue cheese. Toss the sauce with the endive. To serve, pile seasoned endive over iceberg lettuce leaf cups on individual dishes, top with micro greens and toasted walnuts.

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This is my first time ever cooking rhubarb. I have eaten it before of course. Steven made a beautiful rhubarb streusel cake last year. His recipe used rhubarb with very red stalks. At the time I didn’t think much of it. The stalks are always red, no?

rhubarb and buttermilk quick bread

rhubarb and buttermilk quick bread

We inherited a rhubarb plant in our new garden plot. The leaves are enormous and so are the stalks. We waited and waited for them to turn red but they never did. They only sort of reddened at the base of the stalk. I thought that they looked ready but what’s up with that color?

Last week I decided to harvest some of the stalks still ‘green’ just to give them a try. Since everyone knows that rhubarb can be poisonous, I read up on it. Turns out that there are several types and that the green ones with red at the base of the stalks is a traditional variety and are fully mature and ready for harvest. Hooray!

my picked over rhubarb plant

my picked over rhubarb plant

rhubarb from my community garden plot

rhubarb from my community garden plot

Sadly, that same informative site recommends refraining from harvesting after the end of Spring to give the plant time to recover. So this is it for this year. Those jams and chutneys will have to wait till 2013.

This recipe comes from rhubarb-info. It is a very informative site. Some more interesting facts about Rhubarb can be read here. I’ve changed the flour types, oil, nuts and the amount of rhubarb.

I love the combo sweet and sour rhubarb flavor. It goes perfectly with a good cup of coffee.

rhubarb and buttermilk quick bread

~ 2-3 cups ripe rhubarb stalks, cut into chunks
1½ cups brown sugar
2/3 cup almond oil (or other neutral oil such as canola)
1 large egg
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
1½ cups flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
½ cup of mixed broken almonds and walnuts
1½ tbsp butter at room temperature
¼ cup coarse sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour a 13”x9” Pyrex glass dish.

Whisk together brown sugar, egg and oil. Add salt, buttermilk, baking soda, vanilla and flours. Continue mixing to incorporate. Fold rhubarb and nuts into batter. Transfer batter to baking dish and spread evenly.

Mix sugar and semi-soft butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over batter.

Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until bread passes the toothpick test.

Cool and serve.

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I am a big fan of lentils of all kinds. They’re super versatile, tasty and perfect for a vegetarian diet, as this legume packs a good amount of protein. This recipe, adapted from the book Homestyle Vegetarian published by Bay Books (strangely there’s no author named) is nice because it has an Indian flair, which I like. Any time I cook with red lentil (dal) I get sentimental (it even rhymes!) and enjoy revisiting other dal recipes, like this soup, this pilaf, or this red lentil cabbage soup. I think I’m obsessed.

fried red lentil patty with leafy salad

fried red lentil patty with leafy salad

I made this dish for an early dinner on the day we happened to have a solar eclipse. We are blessed with having our kitchen, dining and living rooms with a Western exposure. So in the afternoon on most days, these rooms are flooded with beautiful sunlight. On that Sunday at a certain point the sunlight dimmed in an odd way. We’d just assumed that the fog was rolling in. But not so: the sky was clear. For five or perhaps ten minutes, it all looked strangely dark and ominous. Could Edward, Bella and the Cullen entourage be joining us for dinner? Would we be the dinner? I heard vampires don’t like garlic so I think we’d probably have been safe.

eerie view of the solar eclipse

eerie view of the solar eclipse: full sun yet it's dark out

The original recipe for this latest dal delight calls for breadcrumbs, which I lacked at the time. It also asks for green peas, another item I didn’t have. So I improvised. This was supposed to be made into patties and fried in oil. I tried that but thought they got too oily. So I prepared a few patties or rissoles and the rest ended up as balls, which I baked in the oven till golden brown.

large plate of baked red lentil croquettes

large plate of baked red lentil croquettes

red lentil (dal) rissoles, patties or croquettes

2 cups red lentil, rinsed
1 large white onion, cubed small
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp ground coriander
3 carrots, diced small
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup fresh frozen organic lima beans – steamed al dente
3 tbsp canola oil
Olive oil
1 cup oatmeal
~1 cup cream of wheat
Black pepper
Kosher salt
1 tbsp nutritional yeast

Put canola oil in a saucepan, crank temperature up, add cumin and cook until aromatic, about a minute or so. Throw in onions and cook until translucent. Add carrot, garlic and continue cooking for another minute. Then add lentils, salt, pepper, and 3 cups of water. Stir to combine then cover. Bring to a boil then lower temperature to medium and cook, stirring every now and then, to the point lentil dissolves and becomes pulpy, about 20 minutes. Remove the lid towards the end if lentils look ready but still watery this will allow the mix to firm up a bit. Likewise add a bit more of water if not ready. You don’t want it to be soupy.

frying up the red lentil patties

frying up the red lentil patties

Remove from heat and let it rest for about 10 to 15 minutes. Mix in lima beans, walnuts, nutritional yeast and oatmeal. Adjust flavors if needed. Add just enough cream of wheat to allow the lentil dough to be shaped. Mine needed approximately 2/3 of a cup.

If you are frying add a layer of oil to a frying pan, while oil heats up, shape patties to the size and thickness you like, coat with cream of wheat and fry them for about 3-4 minutes on each side. Transfer to a platter lined with paper towels to soak up oil excess. I fried 4 of them.

these red lentil croquettes just need a splash of olive oil to be ready for the oven

these red lentil croquettes just need a splash of olive oil to be ready for the oven

With the rest I shaped them into ping-pong size balls, drizzled them with olive oil and baked them in the oven at 450F for about 12 minutes.

Serve with leafy salad.

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carob balls

by Jasmine Turner on September 2, 2011

The idea to make carob balls was inspired from an exercise in a culture awareness class I recently took as part of the curriculum in my counseling/psychology program. Yes, I am studying to become a counselor. As you know food has a direct link to culture. The last assignment for the class was to make a recipe from your family of origin, which would be your mom dad and sister etc., and bring it to share with the other classmates.

carob balls

carob balls

So, I searched my memory and thought of tofu stir fries much like timely tasty tofu, and the traditional oatmeal with margarine we would always have for breakfast, because back in the ‘80’s everyone was using margarine on food instead of butter…even though now we find it has “trans-fats,” so all those years we thought we were doing ourselves a favor we probably should have been using real butter! Unfortunately I couldn’t really bring the tofu stir fry in for breakfast as it was a morning class and it would have needed to be heated.

I had an “aha” moment and recalled a dessert we would get when my dad wanted to give us a special treat, carob balls. Our parents made mostly health food items for us to eat and we weren’t really knowledgeable about chocolate goodies, so we always got the alternative, which happened to be carob. This was back in the day when people used to say, “Can you dig it?” so this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone.

My dad said his recipe actually originated from trying to make frosting for a batch of brownies also made from carob. Carob comes from the ground up seed pod from the carob tree. It is commonly used as a substitute for chocolate (without the side effects)! Carob is very healthy and actually has nutritional value like protein etc. My dad learned about it as a boy because there was a carob tree on his block in N. Hollywood where he grew up. He used to gnaw on the pods and taste sweetness. He relearned about carob later when becoming health food conscience.

carob chips

carob chips

Anyway, the frosting he was trying to make was mixing up too thick and was much too dense to spread evenly on the brownies, so he and my mom just started eating it out of the bowl. Cooling it and rolling into balls was an afterthought to make the mix cleaner and easier to eat. Though now, I think of them as chocolate truffle alternatives. Overall, carob balls bring up recollections of a loving Dad making a treat for his family which kindles good spirits and connections channeled through a yummy family recipe.

carob balls

2 cups carob powder (found in bulk at most health food stores)
¾ cup softened butter or smart butter veggie margarine (now Trans fat free!)
½ cup honey, or as my dad says, a “glob” of honey!
Optional: raisins, carob chips (also available at health food stores), chopped walnuts, sunflower or sesame seeds, maybe even shredded coconut

Blend softened “butter” and carob powder in a mixing bowl. Blend in “glob” of honey. Mix until it’s like a thick frosting. Add optional ingredients(s) if using. Mix it all together and form into balls or cut into squares or lumps: whatever. Then put in refrigerator to cool or freezer to cool faster. These are best served cold, otherwise they might get messy. You can coat the ball with the shredded coconut or sunflower seeds for decoration! Enjoy compliments of my Padre!

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Kabocha is one of my favorite types of pumpkin. It has a nutty, sweet flavor with an intense, beautiful yellow color. It is perfect served as a side dish. The classic Brazilian way to prepare it is one of the simplest: sautéed with garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper, and a bit of water, until tender. We enjoy kabocha that way at home very often. I’ve made it in risotto, too, which is another fabulous savory pumpkin dish.

kabocha pumpkin gnocchi with walnut pesto with a side of mache salad

kabocha pumpkin gnocchi with walnut pesto with a side of mache salad

Americans don’t seem to be very in-the-know about kabocha. I wonder if that’s because the exterior is so gnarled and dark green to brown? It is a bit ugly, really. Kabocha isn’t anything like those cheery but flavorless orange monsters that make wonderful jack-o-lanterns but nothing else. Acorn and butternut squash are the cooking favorites here as far as I can tell, and I’ve no complaints about them, but to me, kabocha remains the unsung queen of the pumpkin patch.

vibrant orange interior of kabocha pumpkin

vibrant orange interior of kabocha pumpkin

I saw a gorgeous recipe for pumpkin gnocchi in this book, The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen by Donna Klein. Normally, I like gnocchi with loads of cheese, but this recipe challenged all that with its no-animal-products stance. A complete vegan dish, how exciting… It turned out really good, despite being healthy. And since it was a bit messy to make, we had a lot of fun both in the kitchen and at table.

kabocha pumpkin gnocchi with walnut pesto

For the gnocchi:

4 small russet potatoes, ~ 1¼ lbs, peeled and halved
1 lb kabocha pumpkin, seeds and stringy parts removed; cut into wedges
1 tbsp olive oil
Pinch nutmeg
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2+ cups of flour

For the walnut pesto:

¾ cup walnuts
1½ cups Italian parsley
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp sundried tomato packed in oil, drained
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt to taste

steaming kabocha and potatoes

steaming kabocha and potatoes

Steam potato and kabocha until fully cooked and tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a colander and let them cool down slightly.

Meanwhile place pesto ingredients in the food processor and whiz until turned into a smooth thick paste. Transfer to a small bowl and drizzle with a little olive oil. Set aside.

Pre heat oven to 350F.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boil. Add a teaspoon of olive oil.

Remove kabocha rinds and discard. Place steamed pumpkin and potatoes in a large bowl. Add olive oil, nutmeg, salt then mash with a fork until relatively smooth and combined. Add flour and mix to incorporate. Place dough on a floured surface and knead it for about 4 minutes. Add more flour if too sticky.

Shape the dough into a rectangle. Using a knife, cut it into 6 segments. Cut each segment in half. With floured hands and surfaces, roll each piece into about a ¾ inch-thick tube. Cut each tube in ½ inch wide pillows. Using your thumb and the tines of a fork, gently press each little pillow to flatten them a bit while at the same time making indentations in one side.

shaping the gnocchi

shaping the gnocchi

Cook in batches to prevent sticking. To cook, add a batch of fresh gnocchi to the boiling water. Wait for them to rise to the surface. Turn temperature to medium and cook for 4-5 minutes. Don’t be tempted to remove the gnocchi earlier, it will taste bad! Using a slotted spoon, transfer gnocchi to a colander. Let drain for a minute or so. Meanwhile, bring water back to a full boil and repeat process with remaining batches. Reserve 2+ cups of cooking water.

Add one tablespoon olive oil to a large glass baking dish. Spread gnocchi in a single layer in the dish (use a second baking dish if needed). Add enough reserved water to walnut pesto to thin it into a somewhat runny sauce. Pour over gnocchi and bake for about 12 minutes to warm through.

We served this with a simple mache salad in vinaigrette. It was a feast! And it is so healthy that you won’t feel a bit of remorse having two slices of cheesecake.

Cheesecake challenge: The glamorous Heavenly from donuts to delirium and we at weirdcombos want to invite any interested food blogging folk to join us in a cheesecake cooking challenge. All you have to do is contact us for the basic recipe, come up with a creative version of your own, and publish it with links to all the other participants for the challenge on Monday August 8, 2011. This was incredibly fun when we did the chocolate truffle challenge in May and the tagliatelle challenge in March. So get your thinking caps on and your sweet… teeth(?) ready for some delicious fun in August!

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Steven has been making this buttermilk pancake recipe for as long as we’ve known each other. I like it so much that at the beginning I would insist that he make double batches! It was our weekend ritual. He cooked the pancakes and I would set up the table, brew the coffee and make fresh orange juice. Then we would sit, eat and be happy! Now, of course, with the problems inherent in getting older, elevated cholesterol and weight control, they’re reserved more for special treats, like when we have out-of-town guests.

buttermilk pancakes with caramelized banana and walnuts

buttermilk pancakes with caramelized banana and walnuts

Last week was one of these special occasions. Steven prepared a double batch for our niece, Juliana, and our friend, Chris. Juliana was here visiting from Northern Virginia and Chris slept over after we stayed up really late playing Hearts and chatting over glasses of red wine. (See what I mean? Two batches easily fed four people!)

I suggested a twist to the basic pancake recipe this time. Why not add the extra ripe bananas that are lying around with some walnuts? Banana nut pancakes remind me of our friend, Lúcia. She served us something similar once when we visited her and her family while they lived in an enormous house on Long Island.

The bananas are simply peeled and sliced without mashing. You put them in the pancake after your pour the batter into the skillet. When you flip, the exposed banana develops a lovely caramelized flavor and browns a bit. You should try them one day soon as they’re divine!

buttermilk pancakes with caramelized banana and walnuts

1 cup flour
2 tbs. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
1½ cups low fat buttermilk
1 tbs. vegetable oil with some extra to grease the pans
1 egg, lightly beaten
½ tsp. vanilla extract
2 ripe bananas, peeled and sliced
~½ walnut halves

In a large bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients together and set aside (not bananas and walnuts). In another bowl beat the egg then mix in the wet ingredients. Pour wet into dry ingredients and beat by hand until just mixed and smooth. The batter will have some lumps. That’s ok. If it’s too thick, add a bit more buttermilk. I like it somewhere in the middle between very thick and runny. That way it spreads easily but doesn’t get too thin, like a crepe.

I use two or three non-stick frying pans to make the cooking faster. Grease your pans at the start of cooking with some vegetable oil or butter. Heat pans on high. When heated, add a ladle of batter and lower temperature to medium. Place two banana slices and two walnut halves into cooking pancake. Cook on one side for one to two minutes until bubbles begin to rise to surface of batter and you can maneuver a spatula under cake. Gently flip and cook other side for about the same. Flipping is a little tricky with the heavy fillings, so don’t be distressed if you make a mess. You’ll have to experiment with the cooking times and temperatures as you go. The pancakes should be a golden brown color and cooked through without burning.

Eat right away! You can freeze leftovers, if you have any, but they’re not the same.

enjoying buttermilk pancakes with caramelized banana and walnuts with black coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice, maple syrup and lots of butter

enjoying buttermilk pancakes with caramelized banana and walnuts with black coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice, maple syrup and lots of butter

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I used to make this recipe from Mollie Katzen’s Enchanted Broccoli Forest all the time about twenty years ago. The book was new then, and I was new in the kitchen. It seemed terribly ambitious and impressive. I was always so pleased with myself!

whole wheat calzones with parsley mint pesto, provolone and mozzarella

whole wheat calzones with parsley mint pesto, provolone and mozzarella

It’s funny how I feel now, preparing this after such a long hiatus. The recipe seems kind of easy now. I really like the filling, which I’ve modified here. Mollie suggests basil pesto with ricotta or provolone and tomato. Hegui doesn’t care for ricotta, and we have a superabundance of parsley and mint from our community garden. I’m not that sure about the dough.

I followed the original recipe here to the letter. And in fact, it is exactly how I remember it from the late 1980’s. The thing is, it is a bit tough: tough to kneed and hard in the mouth. Somehow I long for a more fluffy, foccacia-like crust. Plus, more often than not, my calzones burst open while baking. It always makes a mess! Whether this is due to the recipe or my modest skills, I don’t know. This does not alter the delightful flavor in any way. Nevertheless, I believe they’re supposed to stay closed. Perhaps I should use less filling?

Well, I have to say that the dough absorbs the olive oil marvelously well. I had a leftover calzone for lunch a few days later, soaked through with oil and pesto, and it was truly sublime.

whole wheat calzones with parsley mint pesto, provolone and mozzarella

For the dough:

1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups all purpose flour
¼ cup corn meal
1½ tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
½ packet dry active yeast
1 cup warm water
Olive oil

For the filling:

1 clove garlic
1 large punch parsley
2 sprigs mint, leaves only
¼ to ½ cup olive oil
Juice of one lemon
Black pepper to taste
1 tsp salt
¼ cup walnuts
¼ cup parmesan
3 Roma tomatoes, in slices
1/3 cup provolone, shredded
1/3 cup mozzarella, shredded

To prepare dough:

Mix sugar, water and yeast in a bowl and stir. Let rest about five to ten minutes. In another bowl, blend flours, corn meal and salt together. Gradually work into liquid until forms a thick dough.

Pour onto counter and kneed about five minutes. Shape into a ball.

Pour some olive oil into a large bowl. Roll dough ball in oil, cover and let rise about 90 minutes in a warm place.

stuffing the clazone

stuffing the clazone


folding calzone closed, crimping the edges and piercing holes on top

folding calzone closed, crimping the edges and piercing holes on top

To prepare filling:

In a food processor, blend garlic, parsley, mint leaves, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and black pepper until it forms a paste. Add more olive oil if too thick. Process in walnuts then parmesan. Set aside.

To assemble calzones:

Pre-heat oven to 425F.

Press dough into a round disk and cut into six equal pieces. Roll each into a ball. Flatten each smaller ball by hand then with a rolling pin to about ¼ inch thickness.

Fill with some parsley mint pesto, some of the two cheeses and top with two tomato slices. Pull one end of dough over filling onto edge of other. Press edges closed with the blunt end of a fork or spoon. Mollie writes that the finished calzones look like UFOs, which is sort of true. Pierce with a fork to allow steam to escape and avoid unwanted oven explosions.

Place each on a baking tray. When all calzones are formed, bake about 20 minutes until crust is firm and golden brown. Let cool about 15 or 20 minutes then enjoy with leafy salad and red wine, of course.

welcome summer!

welcome, Summer!


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My sister, Kris, makes wonderful cakes and quick breads. She lives back East so I don’t see her that often. Years ago she would make this zucchini bread around the holidays in large volume and give it as gifts to friends and family. I’ve never made it before now though I’ve had the recipe for a while. I managed to misplace it in our last move and have finally gotten around to having her send it my way again. It reminds me of her warm kitchen filled with aromas of baking bread, cookies and cinnamon. Aaaaa.

my sister’s zucchini walnut raisin bread

my sister’s zucchini walnut raisin bread

Her recipe doesn’t call for sesame seeds but I had some extra (leftover from Hegui’s yummy wakame salad) so threw them into the mix.

This quick bread is easy to make and a real crowd pleaser. I devoured some right out of the oven with butter melting on top. Heavenly! Thanks for this, Kris, and happy holidays!

my sister’s zucchini walnut raisin bread

2 cups Italian zucchini, shredded (about three medium zucchini)
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp baking powder
1 cup walnuts
1 cup raisins
¼ cup sesame seeds
3 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 tbsp vanilla

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

I used disposable wax paper cake pans. If using a regular baking dish, grease and dust with flour before use.

In a large bowl, mix together flour, salt, cinnamon, baking powder and baking soda. In another bowl, beat eggs until frothy. Mix in sugar and vanilla. Fold nuts and raisins into egg mixture. Fold flour mix into wet ingredients in two stages until everything is moist.

Pour batter into baking dishes. I made a ring cake and a smaller loaf from this recipe. My sister says that it can make two regular sized loafs.

Bake about one hour or until a toothpick comes out clean. My smaller loaf only needed about 50 minutes. Kris says that muffins might be ready after a mere 20 minutes.

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Irene’s zucchini oatmeal raisin bread

December 17, 2010

Irene is my paternal grandmother, though she prefers “Granny” to “Grandma.” Apparently it makes her feel younger. For a year when I was a child, my family and I lived in Geneva, Switzerland where I attended a private English-speaking school in the Third Grade. I had a Scottish friend in my class who taught me […]

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warm radicchio salad with mozzarella, candied walnuts and avocado

September 7, 2010

Steven got me an issue of The Complete Tassajara Cookbook: Recipes, Techniques, and Reflections from the Famed Zen Kitchen by Chef Edward Espe Brown. It has more than 300 vegetarian recipes without a lot of color pictures. I’m still absorbing this book. The same weekend that I started perusing Tassajara, we got a few beautiful […]

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