This morning, a breakfast cake

blueberriescousinsan every day cake

Everyone needs a go-to cake. This is mine.

Blueberry lemon cake

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Pretty much any berry can be subbed in for the blueberries. When I have a lot (8-10 oz) of berries on the ripe side, I cook them down into a skillet jam and then fold them in at the end, after combining the liquid and dry ingredients. Even better, though, is replacing the berries with 2/3 cup mini bittersweet chocolate chips, and replacing the lemon juice and zest with that of a blood orange. A tart pan is essential in my house (it fits best under our cake dome), but an 8 x 8 square pan will also do.

§ § §

2 cups white spelt flour
3/4 cup natural cane sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch fine grain salt
Zest of 1 lemon
1 cup blueberries

1/2 cup almond milk
2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut yogurt
2 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of one lemon

Preheat the oven to 375 F / 190 C. Line the bottom of a 10-inch round tart pan with parchment, and lightly oil the sides.

In a large bowl, sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest together. Add the berries and toss gently to coat. In a small bowl, whisk the liquid ingredients together. Add liquid ingredients to dry, and fold gently to combine. The batter will be thick, like biscuit dough. If it seems to dry, add a splash of almond milk.

Once the cake is in the oven, lower the heat to 350. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely before serving.

Prep time: 5 minutes | Cook time: 35 minutes

lately

 

RQpseudacris cruciferjust one of many manyquinoa meets mamou

 

a simple summer salad

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My go-to summer salad, always made with quinoa, always dressed with Celine’s vinaigrette. This salad is endlessly adaptable to what’s in season. I prefer my quinoa al dente; if fluffy is more to your liking, increase water to 3 cups.

§ § §

2 cups dried quinoa, rinsed and drained
1 sweet bell pepper, diced
1 peach, diced
2 shallots, minced
2 carrots, shredded
4 to 5 handfuls mixed greens
mamou’s magical vinaigrette, full recipe (approximately 1/4 cup)

season to taste with salt, pepper, fresh herbs

Bring 2 1/2 cups of water to boil in a heavy pot. Add quinoa, reduce heat to a simmer, and cover tightly. Cook until the all of the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. While the quinoa cooks, prep the rest of the salad components and the vinaigrette. When the quinoa is finished cooking, turn out into a big bowl. Fold in the rest of the ingredients and vinaigrette, and season to taste.

Cook/prep time: 20 minutes

Over sharing

I’ve been away from this space for far too long, and it’s making me twitchy. Almost every day I think about posting something, but then I realize I don’t have a photo, or wonder if it’s too easy/difficult/ordinary/bizarre to bother sending out into the ether, or I can’t read my notes; and then I get irritable and go into my kitchen and make something that I know someone else out there might appreciate, but I forget to take a picture (or it turns out really shitty because my house of windows is also a house of shade trees and gets almost no natural light), and it starts all over again. Bah!

I don’t aspire to be a fancy pants food blogger. I only think to check stats when I realize I made a big typo in an ingredient list and worry about how many people might have made the recipe. I’m too busy to finish my cookbook proposal. But when someone sends me an e-mail gushing about how much my recipe for something or other made their day, well, it makes my day, too. I use this site as my personal recipe repository – there are dozens of recipes that live in draft status, for the reasons I listed at the top of this post. Once I tweak a recipe to exactly how my family and I like it and I go to the trouble of transcribing it to this site, I guess I could just share it, right? And then maybe I won’t be so twitchy.

CMR-noted

In times of desperation I may simply post this. ^^

Because absolutely no one cares but I can’t stop thinking about it so I’m going to over share: a few things that make me twitchy. The word y’all. Andrea in The Walking Dead. The smell of anything fishy, including seaweed. Intentionally misspelled words. Noisy children. Not being able to tell Nina why I get choked up over certain characters in the Harry Potter series because we’re only midway through book four and oh, so many of them are going to die! Anyone who doesn’t recognize Stephen King as a genius storyteller based on his writing and not the genre.

CMR-before

Moving on!

So here’s the thing: I’m going to start putting more of my recipes out there. The boring ones, the really complicated why-would-anyone-bother ones, the accidentally genius-to-me ones. Even the one pot meals that I fear my family will have to subsist on once law school starts in a few weeks. If it’s good enough to make my personal recipe archive, it guess it might be good enough to share.

CMR-after

 

Cherry macaroon tart with muscovado and rye

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Muscovado, rye flour, and dark, heady fruit are one of my favorite combinations. I’ve made this tart with blackberries and plums in the past, depending on the season. The crust can easily be made gluten free by substituting buckwheat flour for the rye. I use a tapioca slurry in place of egg white for the macaroon topping, which gives it a nice sheen. Flax-thickened water made with whole seeds (which are strained out) also works well, if you have the extra time; you can add the strained seeds to the crust. I find that arrowroot gets too gummy, and cornstarch makes the topping dull.

§ § §

3/4 cup almond meal
3/4 cup rye flour (or buckwheat flour for gluten free)
3/4 cup unsweetened finely shredded coconut
1/4 cup muscovado sugar, lightly packed
6 – 8 tablespoons natural cane sugar, depending on the sweetness of your berries
1/2 cup melted coconut oil

1 1/2 cups cherries, pitted and halved

1 1/2 cups unsweetened finely shredded coconut
1/2 cup natural cane sugar

2 tablespoons tapioca flour
1/2 cup water

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325 F / 160 C. Line the bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish or tart pan with parchment.

Combine the almond meal, rye flour, shredded coconut, and sugars in a large bowl and whisk to incorporate, taking care to break up any lumps. Add the melted coconut oil and combine; the mixture should be damp and sandy, and stick together when pressed between your fingers. Transfer the mixture to your lined dish and distribute evenly. Set aside the bowl to use for the macaroon topping. Using a silicone spatula or dampened fingers, press the crust into the bottom of the dish. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. Increase the oven temperature to 350F / 180C.

While the crust is baking, combine the additional shredded coconut and sugar for the macaroon topping in your bowl; set aside. In a small saucepan, whisk together the tapioca flour and water. Place over low heat and whisk until it just starts to thicken and turn glossy, one to two minutes. Remove from heat, whisk once more to make sure it’s smooth, and add to the macaroon ingredients, taking care to scrape out any last bit clinging to the sides of the pan. Mix the macaroon ingredients together until well combined; there should not be any dry coconut in the bowl.

Spread the cherries evenly over the crust. Add dollops of macaroon topping in between the spaces, around the edges, and over the top until used up. There should be bits of cherries poking up here and there. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes, or the macaroon peaks are golden brown. Cool before slicing.

Prep time: 15 minutes | Cook time: 40-45 minutes, divided

on holiday

I started cooking a few weeks ago, and I guess I never stopped. I know, I know – I’m always cooking; but this was different. It was Monika Day, and the menu was extensive.

 lemon cakeolive oil lemon cake // recipe testing for Allyson Kramer

 

In case you’re wondering, Monika Day is my birthday. Not as in “oh, it’s my birthday, la di da, we’re going to eat cake for a week and make special meals and have all kinds of fun!!!” We’re much more selfish than that in my house. Your birthday is a bona fide holiday – no school! No work!  Nina was born on New Year’s Day, which sort of set the precedent. Why on earth would I let her have all the fun?

chili mac+picklechili mac with a giant lacto-fermented garlicky, gingery pickle spear
summer's last gaspthe last of our summer garden, harvested the night before our first big frost
end-of-summer hashend-of-summer hash lettuce wraps // the rest of the baby ‘looms were roasted
candied herb pepitascandied herb pepitas // fresh oregano and rosemary from the garden
umami bowlumami bowls // sticky rice (warm, not hot) with white miso, toasted sesame oil, tamari, Thai chili flakes and scallions
shallots+sweet peppersvinegar-pickled shallots and sweet peppers to go with homemade pretzel dogs
olive oil lemon cakemore lemon cake . . . I made it three times in one week
pickles pickles picklesLacto-fermented probiotic pickle spears to accompany all manner of sandwiches, soups & chilis; sweet zucchini relish for Chicago-style dogs; spicy anise & Szechuan pepper pickle slices; the aforementioned shallots & sweet peppers. I stopped only because I ran out of things to pickle.

Probiotic pickles

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Every batch of probiotic pickles I make starts out loosely following this Sandor Katz recipe, and then I vary the add-ins based on what I’m craving and have on hand. I usually make two half-gallon jars at a time – I just eyeball how many cucumbers will fill each jar, I never bother weighing them. I make the brine really salty to start (about 5%), then once the pickles have soured to my liking I pour off some of the brine and replace it with fresh filtered water before refrigerating them. I like to use small, knobbly pickling cucumbers. The variety I use depends on which of my saved seeds successfully sprouted, followed by whatever seeds looks good at my co-op or local hippie/hipster nursery in the spring. And then if squash bugs destroy my vines, I hit up the farmers’ market.

§ § §

To make the brine:
Dissolve 1/4 cup pickling or kosher salt in 5 cups filtered water.
Repeat as necessary depending on how many jars of pickles you’re making.

In each half-gallon jar I layer at the bottom:
4-5 large rinsed strawberry leaves
6 large cloves garlic, peeled
1/2-inch knob of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
2 teaspoons dill seeds (fresh or dried)
Large pinch Thai chili flakes
Pickling cucumbers, enough to tightly pack into the jar

Pickling steps:
Rinse the cucumbers and slice off the blossom ends.
Layer items in bottom of each glass jar.
Pack cucumbers tightly into jar; large cucumbers may be halved.
Pour in enough brine to cover; you want to keep the cucumbers completely submerged. I use a heavy rock (pre-boiled to disinfect) to keep the cucumbers down.
Cover top of jar with a double layer of coffee filters or cotton cloth; secure with rubber bands.
Place jar in a dark, cool spot for fermentation to occur. Check the jar daily – if too much brine evaporates, add more brine or filtered water. If any sort of growth appears on the water’s surface, skim it off.
Taste the pickles after 4-5 days, and daily after that until they are soured to your liking. Move them to the refrigerator to slow down fermentation.

Yield: 2 half gallon jars

Prep time: 30 minutes | Fermentation time: 4-5 days, longer for a more sour pickle

I’m lucky I didn’t burn the house down

This past weekend, I baked and cooked around the clock for two entire days. None of it was planned! And yet all of it went smoothly.

Action JacksonThis particular bowl saw a lot of action // muffins, granola, macaroons, grain-based sausage, brownies . . . I’m full just thinking about it

While the muffins were cooling and the granola was baking, there was an impromptu birthday party. I had no idea there were triplets in the house!

birthday girlsthere ain’t no party like my nana’s tea party // . . . happy birthday, dear Rainbow Sparkles, Kookaburra, and Click . . .
zesty macaroonsorange zest-spiked macaroons // totally on a whim, because I needed something to do while the granola was baking

At one point, I had four slow cookers going at the same time. Beans, more beans, lentils – and the richest, smoothest marinara I’ve ever made. Accidentally slow cooking my marinara sauce for 18 hours was the key.

grain-based Italian meatballsspaghetti and grain-based meatballs simmered in glad-I-didn’t-burn-the-house-down marinara // meatball recipe will be posted on Wednesday
researchresearch! because somehow, I was still actually hungry // I rarely eat when I’m cooking or baking, the smell all on its own makes me feel stuffed

There was also potato focaccia bread, triple chocolate buttermilk brownies, multiple tester recipes for two of my favorite cookbook authors, and another accidental discovery – my wok is the perfect popcorn popper.

When I wasn’t actively cooking, I managed to leave my kitchen. There was a library visit, grocery shopping, Lego building, movie watching, more Lego building, winter clothes sorting, book reading, and even laundry. Whew! Just thinking about it all makes me tired. The only thing we didn’t do was go for a hike, because my still-healing knee was throbbing. Apparently, standing on an injured knee for several hours straight will do that.

Oh, and there was also this soup.

cup o' soup creamy tomato soupI used both my slow cooker and my oven for this, and it was totally worth it
soup dregsthe best part of cleanup duty

Slow cooker tomato soup

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This recipe may read as long and complicated, but most of the time is spent waiting for the soup’s base ingredients to melt together in your slow cooker. It can be made on a stove top, but the results just aren’t the same. You’ll need to purée the base by itself, and then again with the rest of the ingredients once they have roasted. I usually combine everything in a tall, stainless steel pasta pot and use my stick blender, but a stand blender or food processor will also work.

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Soup base, to slow cook:
1/2 cup red lentils
1/4 cup steel cut oats
2 medium tomatoes, chopped (or 10-12 cherry tomatoes, halved)
1 tablespoon chicken-style broth powder
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
10 basil leaves, torn
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
salt and white pepper

Soup body, to roast:
4 medium tomatoes, quartered (or 20-25 cherry tomatoes, halved)
1 large shallot or red torpedo onion, quartered
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
large pinch kosher salt
large pinch turbinado sugar

Finishing garnish:
nutmeg
agave
crostini or croutons, optional

In a 2- or 3-quart slow cooker, combine the first seven ingredients (red lentils through smoked paprika) with 2 1/2 cups of water and set to low. Allow everything to cook for six hours, stirring occasionally and adding more water if needed. You want enough liquid to purée everything easily at the end, but not so much that it will be watery. When the six hours have passed, purée everything until smooth and season with salt and white pepper to taste. Keep the base warm in your slow cooker until the roasted vegetables are ready.

When your slow cooker has about an hour to go, preheat your oven to 375 F / 190 C. In a baking dish, arrange the quartered tomatoes and shallot, cut sides up, in a single layer. Drizzle with oil and vinegar, then sprinkle on the salt and sugar. Roast until the tomatoes have caramelized and their juices are concentrated.

Combine the puréed base and the caramelized tomatoes, shallots and their juices in a blender or food processor (in multiple batches, if necessary) and purée until completely smooth, adding water if needed.

Garnish with a drizzle of agave and fresh grated nutmeg, and serve with small crostini or croutons.

Yield: 2-4 servings, depending on course and appetite

Prep time: 10 minutes | Slow cooking time: 6 hours (mostly unattended) | Roasting time: 30-45 minutes

Asparagus & caramelized red onion pesto

In my kitchen, there is no such thing as too much pesto, and I’ve been making this one the past couple of springs when asparagus is in season.

I grow purple asparagus at home, but the spears are so tender and sweet that I eat them right on the spot. For this pesto, I make a special trip to the farmers’ market to pick up a bunch of bright green spears.

Asparagus isn’t in season right now where I live, but it’s in season somewhere, right? When I found this recipe in one of my torn and tattered notebooks over the weekend, rather than rewrite it I decided to post it here.

asparagus.redonion.pestoYep, definitely worth a trip to the farmers’ market.
capellini.w.asparagus.pestoWorth the effort.

Asparagus & caramelized red onion pesto

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Thin asparagus spears are preferable, as they are less fibrous. If you use thick stalks, you’ll need to peel them before steaming. If you have a steamer basket (or stainless steel colander) that fits over your pasta pot, use it instead of an asparagus steamer. This dish tastes equally well hot, at room temperature, and cold, especially as a midnight snack. We like ours tossed with capellini. (My favorite gluten free brand, hands down, is Jovial.)

§ § §

1 large handful (25-30) thin asparagus spears
2-3 red torpedo onions or 1/4 red globe onion
2 teaspoons olive oil
2-3 tablespoons nutritional yeast, to taste
1-2 teaspoons lemon zest, to taste
large pinch of coarse salt
pasta water to thin, if needed

Snap off the woody ends from your asparagus stalks. Thinly slice your onions; there should be enough to loosely pile into a 1/3 measuring cup. If using a red globe onion, cut a few thin-as-possible half moon slices, then cut into small strips about 1/4 inch long. Set up your steamer, your pasta pot (if not using to steam the asparagus), and a small cast iron or nonstick skillet for the onions.

Steam asparagus until fork tender. While the asparagus is steaming, put a teaspoon or two of olive oil into a small skillet over med heat. Sauté the onion until it begins to caramelize, then remove from heat and transfer to your food processor. When the onion and asparagus have both finished cooking, begin heating your liberally salted pasta water.

Cut the asparagus into 1-inch pieces and add to the food processor. Pulse a few times until the mixture is almost puréed. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the remaining ingredients. If you need additional liquid, add some of the pasta water, a tablespoon at a time. Season to taste with salt and additional lemon zest, if needed.

Drain your pasta, reserving a couple of tablespoons of the cooking water. Add the pesto and gently toss to coat, using some of the reserved water if it’s too thick. Season with cracked pepper and coarse salt at the table.

Yield: 1 Cup

Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 10 minutes

My love affair with red torpedos // vodka sauce // raw not-vodka sauce

Today I’m feeling like a Talky McTalkerson and am dying to wax nostalgic about all of the things that make a vodka sauce so good, but I don’t have time (and you may not have the patience). So, I’m going to distill it down to just this:

alcohol + tomatoes + heat = a release of alcohol-soluble tomato goodness

It’s that simple! Any alcohol will do, preferably one that is as flavorless as possible (enter: vodka) so that as the tomatoes cook down, no trace of alcohol flavor remains. More often than not, I use a dry white wine.

red.torpedos.justpulledRed torpedos: they look like football-shaped shallots.

Have you ever grown the red Italian bunching onion called red torpedo? If not, grab a couple of seed packets, fill a pot with vegan compost-rich soil, and get on it! In my climate, I’m able to grow red torpedos year-round, and they proliferate equally well in pots and in the ground. They tolerate summer heat as long as they’re in partial shade, and they love a slight chill in the air. I have no idea where to buy them, but they grow so easily I’ve never bothered to look. Red torpedos can be used any time a recipe calls for red onion, and they can be paired with a bit of mild garlic to replace shallots. They are mild and sweet and taste great raw. They roast and caramelize well. Also, they’re pretty. In short, the perfect onion.

red.torpedosReady for the skillet (vodka sauce) or the blender (raw sauce).

If you have really amazing just-picked tomatoes with a flavor that knocks your socks off, then this recipe can easily be adapted into a (not vodka) raw tomato cream sauce. I make it both ways, mostly depending on how much time I have. If you’re good about mise en place, you can start either version of this sauce while you wait for your water to boil, and be done in time to dress your pasta.

crostini_pesto+vodka.saucePairs well with pesto.

Vodka sauce // raw tomato cream sauce

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If you don’t have any red torpedo onions, 1/4 a small red globe onion will do nicely.

§ § §

3 red torpedo onions, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 handfuls small/medium tomatoes or 3 large tomatoes, cored and chopped
1/4 Cup dry white wine
1/2 Cup raw cashew pieces
1/2 sweet bell pepper, optional
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a skillet or heavy pot over medium heat. Add the sliced onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to caramelize – about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and wine and bring the pot to a simmer, stirring and smashing the tomatoes around in the pot as they cook down. Simmer for 10 minutes, then remove from heat. Add everything to a blender or food processor – if you’re including the sweet pepper, add it now. Puree until smooth, adding water if necessary. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To make this recipe raw: omit the olive oil, and blend everything straightaway.

Yield: 1 1/2 – 2 Cups

Prep time: 5 minutes raw, 15 minutes cooked