Sunday, December 28, 2008

Raspberry Scones

I've been having fun experimenting with flours recently. Having always enjoyed spelt bread, I thought it might be worth a try to try baking with it. This recipe comes from Erin McKenna of BabyCakes NYC featured in Food and Wine Magazine. It's nice also to move away from supremely refined sugars - after the overindulgences of the season. They are nutty, sweet but not-too-sweet, and a delicious paired with a homemade latte to start the day.

Raspberry Spelt Scones

1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup agave nectar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup hot water
1 cup fresh raspberries
2 cups spelt flour


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a bowl, whisk the spelt with the baking powder and salt. Stir in the oil, agave nectar and vanilla. Stir in the hot water, then the raspberries.
  2. Scoop 12 mounds of batter 1/3 cup each onto the prepared baking sheet and lightly brush the tops with oil. Bake the scones for 20 minutes, or until golden. Let the baking sheet cool completely on top of a rack.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Buckwheat Banana Pankcakes

After those intensely sweet sugar cookies, I was more than happy to take the healthy quotient back up today. Another GOOP recipe, this one called out to me because buckwheat is one of my favorite grains. In kasha form, it's a fabulous nutty addition to stews, under curries, or meat or fish. You see this as the grain of choice in Russia as if not more often than rice. Although in Russia kasha can be translated as both grain and oatmeal - it all depends on the preparation. Yes, you can prepare a grain meal much like oatmeal of buckwheat (along with wheat, rice, corn, and just about any other grain you can think of) and Russian's often do. In this instance however, I'm just relying on the flour. It was deliciously nutty and satisfying, without the cloying sweetness your basic buttermilk pancake can give you with syrup. Don't get me wrong, I love a good buttermilk pancake, but it's nice to have something heartier sometimes. While this preparation was delicious, in the future, I'd probably mash the banana and fold it into the batter. The slices got a bit messy, although they did carmelize nicely. I used regular milk with delicious results - but as written, it is entirely vegan (and can also be gluten free).

SERVES: 3 or 4 (makes about a dozen pancakes) TIME: 15 minutes

  • 1 1/4 cups soy or rice milk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour or white spelt flour (substitute rice flour to make pancakes completely gluten-free)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 bananas, thinly sliced
Mix all the wet ingredients together in a small bowl. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a slightly bigger bowl. Add the wet to the dry and stir just enough to combine – be careful not to over-mix (that’s how you get tough pancakes).

Heat a large nonstick skillet or griddle over medium-high heat (I love Jamie Oliver’s nonstick cookware – it’s so slippery that I don’t need to use any oil or butter). Ladle as many pancakes as possible onto your griddle. Place a few slices of banana on top of each pancake. Cook for about a minute and a half on the first side or until the surface is covered with small bubbles and the underside is nicely browned. Flip and cook for about a minute on the second side. Repeat the process until you run out of batter. Serve stacked high with plenty of maple syrup.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Cookies!

I've mentioned it already, but now I've finally done it! Sugar Christmas Cookies! Frosted! Of course, not terribly good for you, but a delicious indulgence of the season. Not a bad way to spend a chilly, winter-weather-advisory evening after completing your Christmas shopping, finally putting up your Christmas tree, and kicking back by the fire. These definitely fall into the soft, buttery crumble category of Christmas cookie - my personal favorite. It comes from my new mother-in-law. 2 c sugar
1 1/2 c butter
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla

5 c flour

1 tsp baking soda in hot water (about a Tbs of hot water)

Mix dry and wet ingredients separately, gently mixing in the wet to the dry.

To frost:
1 c powdered sugar

2-3 Tbs milk
1 tsp melted butter

1/4 tsp vanilla

pinch of salt

food coloring as desired

beat ingredients together, adding milk last - one Tbs at
a time until you reach your desired consistencey. Add food coloring and play!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Menu for Hope

It's a time of year when many of us choose to open our hearts, homes and wallets in the spirit of giving and sharing our joy in the season. As you peruse this and perhaps other food blogs, you may come across a food-blogger UN World Food Program (WFP) fundraiser, called Menu for Hope. I have had the great honor of working with WFP in some of the work I do, and they truly are a remarkable organization staffed with incredible people. While any UN agency has it's share of bureaucracy, they are still able to do work that no one else can do in their scale and proficiency. Buy a $10 raffle ticket for a chance to win a number of goodies donated by food bloggers, proceeds to benefit WFP's school-based program in Lesotho:

This year Menu for Hope 5 again raises funds for the WFP's school lunch program in Lesotho, Africa. This is the second year we are supporting this program, which assist the WFP's efforts to supply the program by buying directly from local farmers who practice conservation farming methods. With this program, we help feed the kids (which keep them in school) and support their parents and community farming. This sustainable approach to aid is something we believe in and strongly support.

For more details, visit the Menu for Hope website.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Caramelized Black Pepper Chicken

I came across what many have likely already discovered in GOOP - Gwyneth Paltrow's new lifestyle blog. While I loved Emma, Shakespeare in Love, and others as much as the next angsty adolescent of the 90s, I have no strong feelings either way about the actress. Some are rather affronted by her penchant for privacy and using big words, but really, if she's become as successful and happy as Ms. Paltrow appears to be, is it such a bad thing to take some of her advice? When fashion magazines clamber for crumbs of detail about stars' diets, hair, make-up, and exercise habits, what makes us so reluctant to take their lifestyle advice as well? There seem to be some threshold where we draw the line when it comes to someone telling us how to live. It seems to be different for everyone, but it's interesting to see how it plays out.

All that aside, I've been happily exploring her newsletters on food. One dish she highlighted from Food and Wine magazine particularly appealed to me. It goes sweet, if that is your preference (it was not Mr. Pleasant's) but you can reduce the amount of brown sugar if you like it a little more savory. Serve it over, or throw in steamed veggies - along with jasmine or brown rice.

Caramelized Black Pepper Chicken
from Food and Wine Magazine, via GOOP

SERVES: 4 generously
TIME: 10 minutes

  • 2/3 cup dark brown sugar (unrefined)
  • 1/3 cup fish sauce
  • 1/3 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated garlic
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated ginger
  • 2 teaspoons coarsely ground pepper
  • 1 or 2 fresh Thai chilis (to your taste!), halved
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 pounds organic boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into small pieces (1/2”)
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro
In a small bowl, combine the sugar, fish sauce, vinegar, water, garlic, ginger, pepper and chili and reserve.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat and cook the shallots until softened and a bit brown, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken and stir-fry, browning it all over, about a minute. Add the sugar mixture and simmer over high heat until the chicken is totally cooked through, about 6 minutes. Stir in the cilantro and serve.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The First Food

While purusing the Washington Post's top cookbook picks this year , I came across Anne Mendelson's Milk: The Surprising Story of Milk through the ages.Having explored one facet of dairy yesterday, I couldn't help but share what sounds to be a facinating read. Not only does it explore the relationship between humans and dairy through the ages, it includes delicious sounding recipes. We American's really are limited in our understanding and use of, as Mendelson puts it, the first food.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Butter, Butter everywhere...

'Tis the season for cookies galore. I've had great cookies, cookies that made my teeth hurt, cookies I couldn't get past my gums and cookies I don't feel I could live without. I have many memories attached to cookies in the holiday season - warm memories of midnight cookie-snacks in grandma's kitchen, and 'painting' on cookie frosting at my aunt and uncles house.

When I roll up my sleeves and get into the baking holiday spirit, I have my short list of favorites. My absolute favorite cookie of the season however, will always be the simple, scrumptious frosted sugar cookie. I've always had the inkling that butter was the key to a successful cookie - especially when you're talking about a cookie that get's all of its flavor from butter and sugar. Today's NYT food section article puts science behind that belief.

It really is remarkable just how many butters are out there - and how little I, and many I believe, know about them. Like any dairy product, there are so many variables that affect the over all taste, quality and usability. European butters, with an emphasis on terroir and higher percentage of butterfat, an increasing production of non-factory farmed butters from American producers and with slightly lower percent milkfat of it's European counterparts.

I can't wait to try out some of the recipes they offer here, especially to try out some butter's I've never tried. this one is at the top of my list.


Adapted from “Field Guide to Cookies” by Anita Chu (Quirk Books, 2008)

Time: 45 minutes

3/4 cup blanched almonds or hazelnuts, lightly toasted and cooled to room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher or flaky sea salt (if using fine or table salt, use 3/8
1 cup all-purpose flour
7 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces.
1. Position 2 oven racks in top third and bottom third of oven. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a food processor, grind nuts, sugar and salt to a fine meal. In a mixer, beat flour and butter together on low speed until texture is sandy. Add nut mixture and mix on low until dough starts to form small lumps; keep mixing until dough just holds together when pinched between fingers. Do not use wet fingers: the
cookies will collapse.
3. Pinch off about a teaspoon of dough and place in palm of your hand. With tips of fingers, pinch and press dough together until cookie has a flat bottom and pointed top, like a rough pyramid. Cookies need not be perfectly smooth or equal size. Place on parchment about 1 inch apart.
4. Bake about 15 minutes, rotating cookie sheets halfway through. Cookies should be turning golden brown on edges. Cool on sheets 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks and cool completely before storing in airtight containers up to 1 week.
Yield: About 2 dozen cookies.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Portland Eats

I just returned from a fabulous trip to the left coast to visit Ms. T of eatingisart. What a blast! Though I'd been to Portland before, it was when I was 12 and I remember little else than lots of bridges and kiwis growing on a churchyard fence. This was a much more memorable visit - not JUST because of the fabulous food, or the remarkably sunny weather, or the amazing sauna experience. There's nothing like getting two childhood friends together - who both love to cook, bake, eat, and laugh. It's like no time has passed at all.

Here's a tour of some of our culinary adventures. Though there was much more than this, these are some of the highlights (and when I was patient enough to haul out my camera. Some food just didn't make it to print, only because it was too delicious to not eat as soon as it reached my plate).

Crema cafe and bakery. DELICIOUS. And great coffee and cocoa plus one sexy red velvet cupcake

Perhaps one of the most surprising and delicious meals was the Bosnian street cart not far from Pioneer Square. Bosnian food? From a street cart? In downtown Portland? I suppose stranger things have happened, but it was delicious. A surprising combination of Mediterranean and Slavic cuisine, with a flaky "pita" that reminded me of Georgian Khatchipouri. Deeeelicious. We pretty much ate our way through Portland, and it was awesome.