Well, friends, it’s been a rough week. I’ve lost my appetite and shed my weight in tears. Fortunately, a couple of dear friends are coming into town this weekend and their presence will surely lift my spirits. In the meantime, I thought I’d share this chai ice cream recipe that I’ve been tinkering with over the past month. I brought the latest batch over to girls night this week and the girls say it’s just right. As a frozen treat with warming spices, it seems like an appropriate dessert for this in-between weather.
My search for clarity has left me empty-handed this week, which isn’t to say that I haven’t tried. There have been long walks and talks with friends, vinyasas at yoga class and lots of sleep, maybe too much. Though my preoccupied mind and tiny kitchen haven’t produced any original recipes worth sharing this week, I am glad to share this one. I was flipping through a cookbook during a phone call when this recipe spoke to me. It’s seasonally appropriate, bursting with flavor and gorgeous green hues, and from one of my most trusted resources, Aida Mollenkamp’s Keys to the Kitchen.
Beware that this recipe requires some serious chopping work, but the end result is worth the effort. The recipe yields quite a bit of food, enough for six to eight servings, so it may be best created with helpers and shared with a small crowd. I’ve realized lately that good food is better when shared.
For many years, I have been trying to come up with a classic blueberry muffin that focuses on natural sweetness. Too often, they are loaded up with refined sugar and are more like mini cakes. The twist here is adding some chopped apple that adds extra moistness and more natural sweetness combined with the berries. I like to bake, usually simple quick breads, as they are ideal for breakfast, brunch or lunch and indeed a snack when the craving hits. Yes, there is still sugar in these delights, but much less than most blueberry muffins I have tried.
Classic Blueberry Muffins
2/3 cup cake flour
1 cup spelt flour
scant 1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
This is a summary only. Visit foodandspice.blogspot.com for full recipes and photos!
Gorditas: thick, delicious homemade corn tortillas that are shallow fried then split and topped with whatever moves you. Close cousins to the arepa and the pupusa.
I’m not going to kid you, gorditas are a bit of a project. You have to make and shape the dough, then toast them on a dry skillet first, then fry them in a good bit of oil. This isn’t a weeknight meal unless you are some sort of superhero. But they make a fun weekend dinner, and if you have kids around you can get them involved in shaping the dough.
I based my dough recipe on one from Rick Bayless’ classic Authentic Mexican, but I omitted the wheat flour he calls for. I don’t know why, I just felt moved to leave it out so I did. Possibly the gluten from it would give you puffier gorditas, so I’ll try that next time.
You could of course use the roasted mushrooms here in something simpler, say tacos. We quarter them, keeping fairly large, toothsome bites, and oven roast to develop some flavor and get rid of excess water. Then the mushrooms are finished with a spiced tomato-paste mixture to create a bit of sauce.
- 2 1/2 pounds white button mushrooms, quartered lengthwise
- Vegetable oil
- Kosher salt
- 1/2 white onion, small dice
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- Pinch of cumin
- Pinch of chili powder (chili de arbol if available)
- 3 1/2 cups masa harina
- 2 cups hot tap water
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil + more for pan frying
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- Salsa of your choice
- Crumbly Mexican cheese or feta
- Stewed black beans
- Pickled cabbage
- Preheat oven to 450. Toss the mushrooms with a few tablespoons of oil and a generous sprinkle of salt. Divide among two baking sheets and roast, tossing occasionally, until the liquid comes out and evaporates and the mushrooms brown a little, about 40 minutes.
- Put 2 tablespoons of oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms, tomato paste, cumin, and chili powder. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are nicely coated, about 3 more minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.
- Stir and lightly knead together the masa harina and water. Let stand to hydrate for fifteen minutes. Knead in the oil, salt, and baking powder. You should have a supple, somewhat moist dough. If not, add a few more tablespoons of water.
- Divide the dough into 14 equal portions and roll them into balls. If you like to use a scale for portioning, they will be about 64 grams each. Flatten each ball into a circle, about 3 1/2″ in diameter, and about 1/3″ thick – you can use a tortilla press if you have one, or simply press between two thick plastic bags. Stack the uncooked gorditas between sheets of waxed paper.
- For the first cooking, heat a dry skillet or griddle to a medium temperature and, working in batches, cook each gordita for a total of 4 minutes, 2 on each side. They should be leathery and somewhat dried out on the outside.
- For the second cooking, heat enough oil in a large skillet to be more than 1/2 the thickness of a gordita. Aim for about 360 degrees – you don’t want the oil smoking. Working in batches, fry the gorditas until golden brown, about 45 seconds on each side. Be very careful when flipping to avoid splashing hot oil on your hands! I find it safer to do with tongs than a spatula. Remove to paper towel-lined racks.
- Allow the gorditas to cool enough to handle. If you so desire, use a paring knife to split in half or open up a pocket and stuff. Otherwise, just top with the mushrooms and your selections of the salsa, cheese, black beans, cabbage, and cilantro.
First of all, this ginger beer doesn’t have beer in it. My homemade ginger juice and soda version is non-alcoholic… unless you add liquor, of course.
Second, have I mentioned lately how much I appreciate you all? Thank you for visiting and for taking the time to read what I have to say. Thank you for investing your time and energy (and money) into making my recipes. Thank you for your support and for your kindness. Your comments and emails brighten my days and make this crazy food blogging thing worthwhile. I try to stay positive, but I don’t know when this dark cloud over my head will clear. All I know is that I have to make the most of this one wild and precious life, even when it makes turns that I don’t want to accept. I have to not be scared, even when explosions rock our world. I have to push my heart forward, even if it hurts.
Can we lighten the mood? Let’s talk about ginger. I’ve been totally obsessed with ginger lately. On its own, ginger is fiercely spicy and fragrant. Used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine since forever, it’s a powerful anti-inflammatory that boosts circulation and cleanses the body. It can calm nausea and soothe upset stomachs (source: The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia). There’s really not much it can’t do.
Just a hint of fresh ginger lends peppery spice and complexity to savory dishes, and powdered or fresh ginger brightens up baked goods. Ginger has been a predominant flavor in my recipes lately, making its way into ice cream, banana bread, two soups, granola, couscous and pancakes. Ginger beer features the flavor most prominently, which I love. One sip warms me up from the inside.
I’ve been traveling this week, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to share one of my favorite recipes from the Herbivoracious cookbook. I saw some beautiful maitake mushrooms at Pike Place Market recently, so this should be a good time of year to seek them out and try this soup.
Maitakes, also known as hen-of-the-woods (not to be confused with chicken-of-the-woods, which is completely different!), are a wild mushroom well worth seeking out at farmers’ markets or gourmet grocers. Maitakes are rather expensive, and their dramatic ruffled appearance and rich flavor are unusual, so when I use them, I like to make them the focus of a dish.
If you have never had lapsang souchong tea, you are in for a treat. It is intensely smoky, unlike any other tea I’ve had. That smokiness makes it a perfect broth base to show off the earthiness of roasted maitakes.
You could cut the maitake up into bite-sized pieces, but this dish is more dramatic when the mushroom is served in larger pieces—which also keeps it from getting soggy. Give guests a knife so they can cut the maitake at the last moment.
- 1/2 cup finely diced bok choy stems
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 pound fresh maitake mushroom(s)
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons lapsang souchong tea
- 2 cups boiling water
- 1 tablespoon tamari
- Toasted sesame oil
- Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)
- 2 teaspoons finely sliced scallion, white and light green parts only
- Preheat the oven to 450°F using convection, or 475°F without convection. Warm four shallow soup bowls.
- Place the bok choy in a small bowl with 1 tablespoon water and microwave on High for 1 minute. (Alternatively, you can steam the bok choy or blanch it in boiling water.) Reserve.
- Divide the mushroom into 4 portions (leaving the pieces as large as possible) and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Toss with the vegetable oil, coating the mushroom as evenly as possible, and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Roast until fragrant, starting to brown, and becoming tender, about 20 minutes.
- While the mushroom is roasting, place the lapsang souchong tea in a small, heatproof bowl and cover with the boiling water; allow to steep 5 minutes. Strain. Add the tamari. Taste and season with a bit of salt if needed. The broth should be smoky and mildly salty, with a distinct note of soy.
- When the mushrooms are ready, place one portion in each bowl. Place the bok choy dice around the maitake. Reheat the tea in the microwave and divide among the 4 bowls. Garnish each bowl with a drizzle of toasted sesame oil, a pinch of flaky sea salt, and the scallions. Serve piping hot.
Now that spring is just around the corner, I’m experiencing an insatiable craving for all things green. I want fresh, green salads and light meals, and I can’t wait for sunny walks with Cookie under big, leafy trees.
Just this morning I squinted at the field across the street, which had been covered under a thick layer of snow like the Arctic tundra last week, and thought it might be turning a shade of pale green. And were those little green shoots emerging from the ground the beginning of daffodils? Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but at least I can fill up on fresh green produce while I wait.
For all the cookbooks and magazines and blogs I read, sometimes the inspiration for my recipes comes from happenstance. A couple weeks ago, during the marathon lentil meatball recipe testing, I served the latest batch alongside a simple arugula and parmesan salad. We roasted up some broccoli, and since we didn’t have room on our plates with the meatballs, we shrugged and tossed it on the salad. I knew we had stumbled onto something good at first bite—the roasted broccoli’s crispy, caramelized edges perfectly complemented the fresh green salad.
It’s no wonder my dear mom always complained about my messes. “But I just cleaned that!” she’d say with a long sigh. I was a hands-on kid, always coming up with grand schemes for new projects and taking over the kitchen table just before dinner. I was a little tornado who paid no heed to the clean-up required in my aftermath.
These days, I am just a grown-up version of that little tornado, stretched to 5 feet and 7 inches tall but no less destructive. Just yesterday, in the process of making this granola, I managed to absent-mindedly spill half a bottle of vanilla extract in the kitchen, and thirty minutes later, a half cup of coconut flakes all over the sunroom. At least my assistant helped clean up the latter. I then piled up granola bowl dishes in my sink and promptly sprayed fresh pomegranate juice all over my just-cleaned countertops.
I now understand why my mother always complained that cleaning up after myself could be a full-time job. It’s the truth. Speaking of which, I’m now accepting applications for interns.
Once I moved to Kansas City, it didn’t take long for my friend to convince me to give online dating a shot. All my friends here are married—so married that they didn’t know any single guy friends to set me up with. I work from home, too, so I wasn’t meeting eligible bachelors at my nonexistent office. The only guys knocking on my door were from UPS, USPS or FedEx.
One evening, I conceded that none of the delivery guys were my soulmate and that maybe my insistent friend had a point. I poured myself a glass of wine and found myself setting up a profile on an online dating site. I poured another glass and worked up the courage to upload a photo. To my pleasant surprise, messages started flooding into my inbox. Some were sweet, some made me laugh, several were offensively forward (looking at you, BeefCake79), and others were so laden with grammatical errors that I couldn’t take them seriously. Although I dismissed the vast majority of them, I was quite flattered by them all.
I agreed to go out for a beer with a guy who seemed nice and cute, but came home feeling jittery and awkward. I called my best guy friend and we declared, “Next!” After another date, I realized that online dating is a lot like shopping for shoes online. You never quite know what you’re dealing with until you see them in real life and try them on for fit.
I started going on coffee shop dates just for an excuse to get out of the house. I called up my guy friend after each one to share observations. Such as, 5 feet 10 inches online is a lot more like 5 feet 8 inches in real life. Not smiling in pictures? Crooked teeth. Looong paragraphs under the “about me” section? Narcissism confirmed, steer clear.
Yesterday involved too much mac and cheese and a thunderous BOOM. The mac and cheese necessitated an afternoon nap on the couch and the explosion that rattled my apartment announced a raging gas fire right across the street.
Now, the morning after, Cookie and I are back on the couch, under a blanket, while news helicopters circle overhead. There are chocolate chip cookies calling my name from the coffee table, claiming that they can cure me of this insufferable writer’s block. Maybe I’ll have another.
These cookies have a lot going for them. For starters, they are absolutely delicious and everything that a chocolate chip cookie should be: chewy around the edges, soft in the middle, and full of rich chocolate and caramel-like flavors. They also happen to be gluten free, thanks to a simple combination of two flours (almond and coconut flours). They’re naturally sweetened with maple syrup, which lends a brown sugar-like sweetness. They’re eggless, too, which means that the recipe is easily veganized and that the cookie dough carries no risk of salmonella poisoning. These cookies are about as healthy as cookies can be.