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Archive for June, 2009

strawberry custard tart

strawberry custard tart

I have a visitor arriving tonight; she’s one of my oldest friends. Our connection began at her kitchen table when I was four years old and she was a mother of three. I used to draw pictures while she cooked and baked for the many children and friends that passed through her home.
Now she’s a meditating world traveler, dividing her time between India, Holland and Bali.

She visits me wherever I live: we have baked cakes together at 6 am in Amsterdam, catered parties in London, and as I prepare this tart for her in New York I reflect on how my life has changed since we last cooked together in my kitchen. It has been a long time since I made her a birthday cake and deciding on what kind it would be took days of rumination.

In the midst of my usual flurry of activity before her arrival, cleaning and beautifying the house, shopping for her favorite tea, making up a bed and trying to get to the farmers market before the rain did, I reached a verdict. The fact that it’s peak strawberry season confirmed the tart below.

first piece

first piece

I have been making versions of this strawberry tart since my career in pastry began, but this one was going to be special. Organic macadamias left from my last trip to Australia and vanilla beans from you-know-where, create the base for this rich custard filling sans dairy.
I decided on a toasted coconut cookie crust, and this paired with fresh local strawberries and the macadamia vanilla bean custard created a tart that turned out delicate and refreshing, leaving us feeling light and elated; not heavy and regretful.
I use agar agar to set the custard and arrowroot to thicken it. The right amount and combination makes for a perfect consistency.
If you don’t get a chance to make this while the strawberries are around, use blueberries or raspberries.

Full name:
Strawberry Macadamia Vanilla bean Custard Tart with Toasted Coconut Cookie Crust

Crust
2 ½ cups dried coconut flakes (unsweetened) * see note
¼ cup rolled oats
1 ½ cups whole spelt flour
large pinch finely ground sea salt
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (mild tasting)
6 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

*If you can’t get coconut flakes, use dessicated coconut reducing amount to 1  1/2 cups

Custard filling
¾ cup raw macadamia nuts, soaked in a cup of water while making the crust
2 cups plus 2 teaspoons filtered water
1 vanilla bean, split
¼ cup brown rice syrup
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons agar flakes
pinch sea salt
2 teaspoons arrowroot powder
2 teaspoons filtered water

Strawberry topping
½ cup plus 1 teaspoon apple cider
½ teaspoon agar flakes
½ teaspoon arrowroot
1 quart fresh strawberries, cut in quarters
1 teaspoon maple sugar or other dry sweetener
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Crust
Pre-heat oven to 310 degrees, use a convection setting if you have one.
Spread coconut onto a baking sheet and toast for 4 minutes or until golden brown.
Place in a food processor with oats, spelt flour and salt. Blend until it’s a coarse flour-like texture, about a minute.
Place in a bowl add the olive oil and mix well, use your hands or a fork. Drizzle in the maple syrup and vanilla and mix until completely combined. You should have a nice moist dough that isn’t sticking to your hands too much. If it is just add a little more flour.
Oil a 9-inch spring form cake pan. Press crust to about ¼-inch thick alittle over half way up the sides of the pan, see photo below.

pressing crust

pressing crust

Bake for 15 minutes or until golden and smelling absolutely delicious. Set aside to cool.

Confession: I had a little dough left over and made 6 one inch jam dot cookies that I baked for 8 minutes. (sorry no photo proof)

Custard filling

Drain macadamias and place in a blender along with the 2 cups water. Blend on high speed for 2 minutes.
Place in a small-medium pot. Remove seeds from vanilla bean, using the tip of a small knife, add to the pot along with the pod. Also add rice syrup, maple syrup, agar and salt.
Place pot over high heat and whisk almost constantly until mixture comes to a boil.
Lower heat, cover pot and simmer for 15 minutes. Whisking every 5 minutes or so.
Using a small spoon look closely at the custard mixture to see if all the agar flakes have dissolved. If not cover and simmer a couple more minutes.

agar, macadamia milk and vanilla bean

agar, macadamia milk and vanilla bean

In a cup place the arrowroot and remaining water mix well to dissolve, add to the simmering custard mixture and whisk until mix returns to a boil. Remove from heat. Mixture should be a heavy cream like consistancy. Let cool for 10 minutes, whisk again, then pour into baked crust. Once it has stopped steaming place in the fridge and chill until set, about 2 hours.

strawberries+tart

strawberries+tart

Strawberry Topping

Place ½ cup cider and agar in a small pot, whisk and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover and simmer until agar flakes are completely dissolved about 8 minutes. Dissolve arrowroot in remaining cider and whisk into simmering mixture. Once it returns to a boil remove from heat.
Place strawberries in a bowl, add the maple sugar and vanilla and toss gently. Pour over the glaze and mix with a rubber spatular until all the straws are coated with the glaze. Spread onto cooled tart and return to the fridge to set the glaze.
Serve cold.

Makes 8-9 pieces.

the end

the end

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soaked oats with berries

soaked oats, chia and almond milk with berries

“What do you eat for breakfast?” It’s a question I have been asked for years, especially by people wanting to incorporate healthier foods into their diet. Since I love breakfast I always have a lot of suggestions.

Soaked oats and chia seeds with almond milk and berries was what I found myself eating through the really hot months of summer last year. It’s the perfect alternative to a wintery porridge and an easy way to include chia seeds in your diet.

Chia seeds are a potent energy tonic and the highest source of omega-3 fatty acids next to flax seeds. They are loaded with antioxidants, protein and fiber and were used as an endurance food by Aztec warriors.
Like flax, they can be ground and sprinkled onto food; however, I don’t find their flavor as interesting and seem to forget to add them even though I know how nutritious they are.

chia seeds

chia seeds

Prepared like this (recipe below) I enjoy the way the chia add texture and help thicken the oats and almond milk, they will thicken almost instantly when added to a liquid.

oats and chia seeds

oats and chia seeds

This recipe is perfect for weekday mornings when you just don’t have time to stand over a pot of oatmeal, stirring.
Oh, and homemade almond milk is so good that you’ll want to add it to hot oatmeal too. The vanilla and cinnamon give it a subtle sweetness that I think is perfect in the morning, but you could always add a touch of honey or maple syrup.
I don’t strain the almond milk when using it this way, but you can for a “silkier” texture.

Almond Milk

2/3 cup whole raw almonds
2 cups filtered water, plus more for soaking
pinch sea salt
pinch cinnamon powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Rinse almonds then place in a jar and cover with 2 inches of filtered water. Let soak for a few hours or over night.
Drain and rinse again. Place in a blender add the 2 cups water, salt, cinnamon and vanilla. Blend on high speed for at least 2 minutes.
Kept refrigerated in a jar or bottle (I like re-using glass milk bottles) it will last 3 or 4 days.

Soaked Oats and Chia seeds with Almond Milk.

1 cups thick rolled oats
1 cup almond milk, plus more for serving
1 1/2 tablespoon chia seeds
pinch cinnamon
Blueberries, raspberries and strawberries
ground flax seeds and wheat germ, to serve

Rinse oats and place in a wide mouth jar or bowl. Pour in almond milk, add chia seeds and cinnamon. Stir, cover and refrigerate overnight.
In the morning remove from fridge, I like to allow it come to room temperature, if I have time.
Sprinkle with berries, ground flax and wheatgerm, and drizzle with a little extra almond milk.
Serves 2 generous portions and will keep a couple of days in the fridge.

Sometimes I add the wheat germ and ground flax to the oats and chia, and soak everything together….makes things even speedier in the pre-dawn dash off to work.

today's breakfast

today's breakfast

One last thing, I want thank you all so much for your kind words and encouragement, it really means a lot.

Happy Summer!

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Tonight, I am going over to my friend Susan’s for dinner; it is always a pleasure to share meals, prosecco and conversation on her lovely terrace. Susan Simon is an author of many wonderful cookbooks and a catering extraordinaire. In the 10 years that I have known her she has taught me a lot about food and entertaining, especially the importance of a stunning tablescape!

She is preparing her famous curried chicken for the grill with mango mayonnaise and a raita. I am contributing some vegetarian dishes to our meal, chickpea cakes, the chutney and a rice dish, which I may post soon (if it works out well). When she said curry, my thoughts turned immediately to the spice draw which I’ve been meaning to clean out, but somehow didn’t get to during my recent spring cleaning frenzy. Anyway it’s full of old spices, like cayenne pepper that has lost it’s zest, Herbs de Provence from a drive around the south of France over 12 years ago (no exaggeration), Lemon Myrtle leaves from a friend in Australia and other unlabeled bags and jars. There are some real goodies though too, like a pound of vanilla beans from a trip to Bali last year and other special Balinese spices that are patiently awaiting to be used for that “Bali dinner” my sister and I have been talking about since I got back 13 months ago.
Now that the contents of my draw are on the counter, I am making my favorite curry powder so you have it, as I will use it again for a delicious eggplant curry later in summer.

spices

spices

Curry Powder

1/2 large cinnamon stick, broken up a bit
4 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon black pepper corns
1 teaspoon fenugreek
6  cloves
6 cardamom pods
2 tablespoons ground turmeric
2 tablespoons ginger powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Warm a heavy skillet over medium heat add cinnamon, coriander, cumin , black pepper, fenugreek, cloves and cardamom. Toast until fragrant, about 2 or 3 minutes. Grind in a spice or coffee grinder until fine. Transfer to a bowl and add turmeric,ginger and cayenne, mix well.

Makes about 1/2 cup.

toasting spices

toasting spices

I soaked 2 cups of chickpeas because I love having extra cooked ones around, I ate some for lunch with my usual condiments, flax, tamari etc. This time I added some black sesame gomasio, Kimchi from Hawthorn Valley farm and sunflower sprouts that I got at the market.Yum!

I couldn’t resist a quick trip just to see what I could add to these cakes that was local. To my delight I found Kira’s farm, Evolutionary Organics from New Paltz, NY and got some of these gorgeous garlic scapes and some lettuces for a simple green salad, because no meal is complete without greens!
If you don’t have scapes, garlic cloves are fine. This recipe made sixteen 2 inch patties and I was happily left with about a cup of chickpeas, you could easily add all of them and some extra seasoning.

chickpeas soaking

chickpeas soaking

garlic scapes

garlic scapes

Chickpea Cakes

2 cups dry chickpeas, 4 1/2 cups cooked (or three 15 oz cans, drained and rinsed)
2 inch piece kombu (for cooking chickpeas)
2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more sautéing cakes
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 garlic scapes, or 3 garlic cloves
large pinch sea salt, plus more to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder, see above
2 tablespoons chickpea cooking liquid or water

Cover dry chickpeas with plenty of filtered water and soak overnight. Drain and rinse then place in a pressure cooker or heavy pot. If using a pressure cooker cover with 1 inch of filtered water add kombu. Bring to a boil, scoop off any foam that rises to the surface and cover. Once pressure is at it’s highest, lower heat and cook for 30 minutes. 
Allow pressure to release, drain chickpeas, reserving a little cooking liquid and set aside to cool.

If you’re not using a pressure cooker go get one!…no, in the heavy pot mentioned above, cover chickpeas with 3 or 4 inches of water, add kombu and bring to a boil. Scoop off any foam that rises to the surface. Lower heat and cover. Make sure chickpeas stay simmering, cook until tender about 1 hour. Drain as above and set aside 4 1/2 cups to cool, you may have a little extra.

Heat a skillet over medium heat and toast mustard seeds, shaking pan until they begin to pop. Set aside to cool. In the same skillet add olive oil and sauté onions. Finely chop the garlic scapes /or mince garlic cloves, add to the onions along with the salt. Cook for 4 or 5 minutes or until scapes are tender and onions are golden brown. Stir in curry powder. Add chickpeas to the skillet and use a potato masher to combine with onions, mix until most of the chickpeas are mashed. Add some cooking liquid if mix is too stiff or dry. Stir in mustard seeds and taste for salt. Shape into 2-inch cakes, using a 1/4 cup measure and put in the fridge while you clean up, they firm up a lot when completely cold. In that same skillet heat a thin film of olive oil over medium-high heat and cook cakes until golden brown on each side.

chickpea cakes

chickpea cakes

cilantro coconut chutney

cilantro coconut chutney

Cilantro Coconut Chutney

3/4 cup dry coconut
1/2 large bunch cilantro, leaves and stems roughly chopped, about 4 cups
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 inch piece ginger, peeled and chopped
1 Serrano chili, seeds removed and chopped
juice of 2 limes, mine were not that juicy
1 tsp honey or agave
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
sea salt to taste

Cover dry coconut with boiling water and let sit for 10 or 15 minutes. Drain, reserving soaking liquid. Place in a food processor with the remaining ingredients and blend, while motor is running, add enough reserved soaking liquid to get desired consistency. Add salt to taste.

Stored in a jar this will keep for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.

Makes about 1 3/4 cups.

Cakes are cooling…..It’s been a busy afternoon and my spice draw is still a mess but there is no time to organize it now! Will be back with the recipe for the rice dish.

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Remember I mentioned soaking Quinoa last week? Well since it is in the title of this blog I feel the need to give you the recipe for the way I cook it. As you know I soak it, any where from 6 hours to over night. Soaking allows grains to begin the sprouting process, therefore releasing nutrients and making them more digestible. I eat this quinoa as is with just a drizzle of flax oil, some tamari, and whatever else I have on hand like toasted pumpkin seeds, parsley, chives or avocado. So simple and delicious. And in case you need another reason to cook some, quinoa has more calcium than milk, has the highest protein content of all grains and is ready in 20 minutes!

raw quinoa

raw quinoa

soaked quinoa

soaked quinoa

You can see that it’s started to sprout.

Quinoa

1 cup quinoa

1 3/4 cups filtered water

pinch sea salt

Place quinoa in a bowl and cover with plenty of water, swish around with your fingers for a minute and then pour into a strainer to drain. Return to bowl and cover with  water to soak. Drape a cloth over the bowl to keep bugs out. Soak up to 12 hours.
Drain and disguard soaking water.
Bring 1 3/4 cups water to a boil in a 1 to 2 quart pot over high heat, add quinoa and salt. Once water has returned to a boil, lower heat as low as possible and cover. Cook for 20 minutes. Turn off heat and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

So thats plain quinoa that you can dress up anyway you like. But today I wanted to eat it with all things spring…..radishes, peas, mint and sorrel. Plus I couldn’t get the feta I brought home off my mind and thought it might be a good finishing touch (it was, but if you want this dish vegan just leave it off and it’s just as delicious) Served warm or cool it turned out to be a great new way to eat quinoa.

Lynnehaven goat cheese

Lynnehaven goat cheese

Lynnhaven from Pine Bush New York makes my favorite goat milk feta, crumbled and in brine. This is their stand at Union Square farmers market.

spring quinoa

spring quinoa

Spring Quinoa with radishes, peas and mint

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

5 or 6 radishes, sliced

pinch sea salt

1 cup shelled peas

1 scallion, thinly sliced

1 ½ cups cooked quinoa (see above)

tamari or more sea salt

black pepper

4 or 5 leaves sorrel, cut into ribbons

Zest of half a lemon and it’s juice

1 sprig mint, leaves removed and chopped

3oz goat milk feta, crumbled (optional)

Over med-high heat warm olive oil in a medium size skillet or frying pan. Add radishes and sauté for a couple of minutes until they start to turn a light pink colure. Add salt and peas and continue cooking for 3 or 4 minutes. Stir in scallions and quinoa, sprinkle with a little tamari or more salt and a few grinds of pepper.
Remove from heat and gently stir in sorrel, lemon zest and mint.
Place in a serving bowl, crumble feta over (if using) and drizzle with some more olive oil.

Serves 3 to 4 as a side dish.

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Asparagus Soup

Today is an exciting day because I went up to Union Square farmers market to gather ingredients and inspiration for my first post!

My enthusiasm and hunger increased as soon as I hit the first stand heavy with an abundance of asparagus, peas and strawberries…already my mind was spinning trying to figure out what to make… asparagus soup, sautéed radishes and sugar snaps. Or should I get sorrel and some herbs to put with the quinoa I had soaked earlier this morning? That frantic thinking only gets worse as we come into summer and the choices are impossible to make and carry!

green market goodies

green market goodies

So far I have settled on Asparagus soup, it is such a luxurious thing to eat. I only seem to make it once a year; because plain steamed or grilled asparagus is just so good.

Also I had a few fingerling potatoes I wanted to use up and 2 or 3 are all you need to give the soup a velvety texture. (You could use a medium size regular potato too)

I’m putting a touch of dill in this batch but only because I bought some and worry that I won’t use it all in time.

If you want to make this look fancy, cut 2 or 3 inches of the top of a few asparagus, steam or sauté them and garnish each bowl with 2 or 3 or one large stalk split length ways. Sprinkle on a few chopped chives (or dill) if you have any and it’s stunning!

asparagus soup

asparagus soup

Asparagus Soup

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
good pinch or 2 of sea salt
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
3 medium size fingerling potatoes, peeled and cut into ¼ inch dice
1 ¼ pound asparagus (1 bunch) trim about an inch of the ends and cut in 1 inch pieces.
2 cups filtered water
4 sprigs dill
few turns of black pepper

Warm a 3 or 4 quart pot over medium-high heat (actually I find that my heat is usually high, which is fine if you remain close).

Add olive oil and onion and sauté for a few minutes until translucent.

Add salt and garlic, keep stirring for another minute or two.

Stir in potatoes, lower heat and cover for a few minutes because they need a head start, as the asparagus cooks really fast. This becomes a nice caramelized base for the soup.

Add asparagus, stir and pour in enough water to just reach the surface of the asparagus, less is better as you can always add more when blending.

Cover pot, bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for about 8 to 10 minutes. The time will vary depending on the size of your asparagus. Mine was a big mixture of thin and thick so I turned off the heat when the larger ones were just tender.

Stir in the dill and black pepper.

Walk the dogs while it cools off a bit.

Blend in an upright blender until completely smooth, more water to get desired consistency. Season with more salt to taste.

Serves 4 as a starter.

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