Sunday, September 22, 2013

Moroccan Spiced Hummus

When I was a chef at the Ravens', one favorite starter on the menu was the grilled mushroom salad, or more formally, Grilled Moroccan Spiced Trumpet Mushrooms over fresh cut romaine, red bell pepper, celery, red onions, and olives with lime-cilantro vinaigrette. The mushrooms were marinated in fresh squeezed orange juice, tons of garlic and paprika and grilled to perfection. I was so taken by these flavors and then this hummus was born.

More recently, I occasionally can be found preparing it in 5 gallon quantities at the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies in Rhinebeck, NY. To day at lunch we served over 600 people - this is how I've spent my summer, making hummus, dressings, and all salad bar essentials for the dining hall. This adds up to about 500 gallons of hummus that I've made personally.

Five hundred gallons of hummus. That's enough to fill this fish tank:

And I'm still not entirely sick of it. The secret is the many variations that hummus can be a canvas for. This one here is definitely my favorite.

Moroccan Spiced Hummus

1/4 cup garlic cloves
4 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cans organic garbanzo beans (chickpeas) (15 ounces each)
6 tablespoons tahini
6 tablespoons orange juice
2 1/2 teaspoons paprika
dash of salt
dash of black pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper

In small pan over low heat, gently cook garlic cloves and olive oil until garlic is golden brown. Drain out the oil and let both the oil and the garlic cool separately and completely.
(*Alternatively you can roast the garlic in the oven, or just use raw.)

In a high-speed food processor, puree garlic, garbanzo beans, tahini, orange juice, paprika, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper until perfectly smooth. If it is too thick, add more orange juice. When at desired consistency, slowly stream in olive oil while food processor is running. Serve with crudite, crackers, in a sandwich, however you do your hummus!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Blueberry Peach Oat Muffins (vegan)

Two weeks from today I will be in Ireland.

In other words, my family has only two weeks left to enjoy being spoiled by a private chef.
I get to cook all day, they experience the good life, you get all the recipes.
It's a Win-Win-Win.

But they are seriously burned out from oatmeal, with still over a month of winter left.
And waking up while it's still dark to make them breakfast isn't likely to happen.
Luckily these Blueberry Peach Oat Muffins can be whipped together the night before
and ready when the sun comes up.
Or, in this case, before.

Peach and ginger add a burst of warmth to these hearty blueberry oat muffins.
Enjoy while counting down the days until spring!

Yields 1 dozen muffins
Add some sunshine to these gray winter mornings.

3/4 cup soymilk plus 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons flaxmeal mixed with 6 tablespoons warm water

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of ground ginger

1/2 cup baking oil (I use sunflower)
1 cup frozen blueberries
1 cup diced peaches

Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare muffin baking tin with paper liners.

In one cup, whisk together the soymilk and the apple cider vinegar, and in another cup, the flaxmeal and warm water. Let both set for ten minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, stir the oats, whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, allspice, salt, nutmeg, and ginger. Set aside.

In a medium bowl combine the soymilk/vinegear mix with the flaxmeal slurry and stir in the baking oil, blueberries, and peaches. Add to dry ingredient mix, stir until no large flour lumps remain. Distribute batter equally among the lined muffin pan and bake until lightly browned and an inserted toothpick comes out clean, about 15-17 minutes. Remove from oven and enjoy warm or cooled.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Pecan Brownies & other vegan teases

Hello All! 2012 went fast and now I'm back home with hundreds of sweet recipes to share with you! First and foremost you must try these Pecan Brownies. If you haven't found a decadent vegan brownie yet, well the search is over.
Pecan Brownie

Before you preheat your oven, let me take a moment to apologize/defend for my absence. I got the opportunity to spend the year in an incredible kitchen, elbow-deep in whole wheat pastry flour and chocolate chips as the pastry/salad chef at the award-winning Ravens' Restaurant.

The Ravens' is attached to the eco-friendly Stanford Inn by the Sea. Along with included breakfasts, guests can enjoy a complimentary dessert every afternoon during what we referred to as "Tea Time". Skeptics, believe me when I say that dreams come true: I got to live on the scenic Mendocino coast in Northern California and bake something new each day with the fresh, organic, vegan ingredients

When I had a free moment (which wasn't very often), I got to photograph some of the lovely desserts:

Carob Cake with Chocolate Ganache Frosting
Strawberry Basil Mini Layer Cake

S'mores Bar with Cocoa-Dusted Banana Slices
Trio of Macaroons: Almond, Toasted Coconut, Strawberry

Mexican Hot Cocoa Cake with Coconut Whipped Cream

Strawberry Shortcake with Peanut Butter Mousse and Chocolate Ganache

Some Tea Times were just too good to be served once and made an appearance every month or so. The favorites included Double Fudge Brownies (a la mode) (keep scrolling for recipe!), Huckleberry Orange Bundt Cake, Chocolate Marble Banana Bread, Tiramisu (which made it to the dessert menu for a month), Lavender Lemon Bars, Italian-Style Cheesecake with Pomegranate Sauce (for the holidays)...

Old-Fashioned Ginger Molasses Cookies

Speaking of holidays, what better way to spend December than having a Christmas Cookie of the Day? Pfeffernusse, my dear-to-heart Italian Anisette Cookies, Gingerbread, Walnut Apricot Jam Dots, Mint Chocolate Chocolate-Chip, there was room for all to be enjoyed alongside a cozy fireplace and Christmas tree at the Inn. I taught a Christmas cookie baking class (along with a couple healthier classes too). I can only hope Cookie Season 2013 will be half as whimsical.

As I promised, here is the recipe for the Brownies. There are many variations with this recipe. Pecan Brownies are always a favorite, a bit more indulgent than walnuts, (but many times I went nut-free and threw in some orange zest and cinnamon for a Mexican kick). I made these for my family and they went so fast, I was lucky to get one to take a picture.

Note: For extra fudgy brownies, underbake slightly - remove from oven when top crust has formed but insides are still soft, about 30 minutes of baking.

Yields 1 8"x8" pan, about 16 servings

1/4 cup coconut milk (or other nondairy milk)
2 tablespoons flaxmeal
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup vegan buttery spread, melted
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup nondairy chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup hot coffee
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup dutch-processed cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 8"x8" square baking pan.

In a small bowl whisk coconut milk and flaxmeal until thick. Transfer to a medium-sized bowl and add sugar, melted buttery spread, and vanilla.

In a small bowl mix chocolate chips with salt. Pour hot coffee over, stirring until chocolate has melted.
Add to wet ingredients and mix well.

In a large bowl sift together flour, baking soda, and cocoa powder. Add wet ingredients into dry mix and stir until no flour lumps remain. Use a rubber spatula to even spread brownie mix into prepared pan. Bake for 30-3 minutes, until top crust has formed and edges have browned. Let cool in pan before cutting.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars (vegan)

an homage to the favorited ice cream flavor

There's something incredible about the combination fresh mint leaves, creamy coconut milk, and crunchy chocolate chips that make mint chocolate chip ice cream so dreamy.

And unlike chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, this flavor is pretty much only found in the freezer. Yes, there may be mint chocolate lattes and girl scout cookies, but without the contrast of bright green  freckled with chips, the integrity is missing. Mint chocolate mint chocolate chip.

If I didn't box away my ice cream maker for the winter, I would have frozen over by now. Never fear, these chewy, gooey bars will hold you over until summer. These Mint Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars are very fudgy. So don't be fooled by the beans and oats - you will feel indulged!

Mint chocolate chip for all seasons

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
Yields a full 13x9x2 pan

1 bunch mint leaves, blanched and shocked
1/4 cup coconut milk

1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup agave nectar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons ground demerara sugar (or any vegan sugar)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup light olive oil (or any baking oil)
1 tablespoon mint extract
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 3/4 cup white wheat flour
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

3/4 cup nondairy chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a brownie sheet tray and dust with flour.

To blanch and shock the mint, plunge the leaves into a small pot of rapidly boiling, salted water. Remove five seconds later and shock them in an ice water bath until cold. In a high speed blender, combine mint leaves with the coconut milk until smooth.

In a food processor, puree the beans with the agave nectar. Transfer to a large bowl and add in your coconut milk/mint leave mixture, sugar, applesauce, oil, mint extract, and vanilla extract. Stir well.

In a medium bowl whisk flour, oats, baking powder, and salt. (If you want the chocolate chips to be on the inside of the bars, like I did, add chips to dry ingredients.) Add the dry mix to the wet ingredients and combine well. (If you want the chocolate chips to stud the outside of the bars, add chips at this stage.)

Spread dough evenly on prepared baking sheet and bake until golden and an inserted toothpick removes clean, about 30 minutes. Let cool in tray before cutting up into bars.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Millet and Sweet Potato Pilaf - Vegan + Gluten Free

It's a new year, and I think it's time to be completely honest with you.We all deserve the truth:

I do not actually live out of the cookie jar. Believe it or not, I cook legitimate meals.

But there is a sweetness to be found outside of the bakery.  Of course, fruit can do the trick. Almonds and cinnamon are helpful too. But I'm also talking about squash, onions, beets, carrots, parsnips: vegetables with a relatively-high sugar amount.

Before calling me a "wack-a-doo hippie" and snapping open a leftover candy cane, try caramelizing onions or roasting carrots - the brown color they turn, that's the sugar visibly releasing.

A balanced meal contains all five flavors: sweet, spicy/sharp, bitter, salty, and sour. When there's no sweet on that dinner plate, guess who going to be caught munching on chocolate or cereal an hour later?

When the amount of naturally-sweet and nourishing foods in the diet increases, the white-sugar addiction will diminish and eventually vanish as added sugars are eliminated. And, being post-holiday season, this is a great time to start.

I would pick the naturally-sweet yams and apricots over sugary pastries any day of the week. The ginger, cayenne, and soy sauce in this Millet and Sweet Potato Pilaf give it a nice boost to help you power through those resolutions. And did I mention there's no fat?

Millet and Sweet Potato Pilaf
Serves 2-4

3/4 cup water mixed with 1/2 cup vegetable stock (or 1 1/4 cup water with 1 tablespoon tomato paste)
1/2 cup dry millet
1 large sweet potato, medium-dice
5 dried apricot slices, slivered
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Fresh parsley, chopped for garnish

Bring stock/water to a boil in a 4-quart pot. Add millet, sweet potato, apricot, garlic, ginger, vinegar, soy sauce, salt, and cayenne pepper. Cover and simmer over low flame for 20 minutes, until sweet potato is soft and all liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork, let stand covered for 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with parsley.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Italian Anisette Christmas Cookies - Vegan, Gluten-Free

Cookie season continues.

Among the blizzard of vegan Christmas cookie recipes that are blanketing the internet, I couldn't find one Anisette Cookie recipe. I can only assume (sadly) that there are not enough vegan Italians out there. Because I know I'm not the only vegan anise fanatic.

The Anisette is a soft, cakelike cookie with a touch of anise and sometimes lemon. Sprinkles are necessary to provide the contrasting tiny crunch.
Traditionally, the cookies are iced too. I have yet to find a white cookie glaze that does not use powdered sugar, so I opted to forgo the icing and just top with sprinkles before baking.

I used two brands of sprinkles, one a generic holiday nonpareil mix and the other a vegan, naturally colored jimmy mix. 

Yes, the scents of candy cane and fresh evergreen will always carry that holiday spirit, but it can be easily overdone. Change it up by making your home smell warm like an Italian bakery on Christmas Eve.

Gluten-Free Vegan Italian Anisette Christmas Cookies
Yields about 20 cookies

Gluten-Free flour blend:
  • 1 cup sorghum flour
  • 1/2 cup sweet rice flour
  • 1/2 cup quinoa flour
  • 1/2 cup tapioca starch
  • 1/2 cup arrowroot
  • 2 teaspoons xanthan gum
OR 3 cups white wheat flour (for non-gluten-free)

1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

3/4 cup baking oil (I used light olive oil)
2/3 cup light agave nectar
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon anise extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract

Heat oven to 350F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or a Silpat.

In a medium bowl, mix the flour blend (or white wheat flour), baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, thoroughly combine the oil, agave, applesauce, anise extract, and lemon extract. Add dry ingredients into wet and mix well until an even dough/batter is formed. Using a round tablespoon, drop cookies onto baking sheet. (Cookies will not spread, so they can fit in close together.) Pour sprinkles on top. (If they do not stick, dip a finger in water and wet the top of cookies before pouring on sprinkles.) Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until cookie bottoms are slightly golden. Remove from sheet and let cool.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Vegan Gingersnap Cookies

'Tis  the season
Without a doubt the best foods are the seasonal ones. They add variety to your diet and are a great way to live in the moment. And when it comes to Christmas cookies (which are indisputably the best cookies), all raise your nog to the Gingersnap.

A satisfying crunch, a warm burst of spice, and a sparkly, crinkled top perfect for the holidays. I am always drawn to the words "chai" and "spiced", and this is their time to shine. Because thinking about molasses, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves at the beach just makes me uncomfortable.

Normally when I have a recipe that I've made repeatedly, I have a bunch of hand-written notes along side to what I've changed each time and how it turns out. Well, with Isa's recipes, there are no notes. I have made this recipe several times since October (when cookie season starts) and have never felt even a slight desire to change a thing about it.* So unfortunately, I cannot pass them out claiming to be my own original recipe. Fortunately,  I have no problem giving her all of the credit.

* I have used whole wheat flour in place of white, and have used brown, turbinado, and demerrara sugars in place of white. Evidently, I do not like any white in my cookies.

In Vegan With a Vengeance, Isa Chandra Moskowitz calls them Sparkled Ginger Cookies, I call them Gingersnaps. Tomayto, tomahto, right?
Yields 2 dozen cookies

2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup baking oil (I used extra-light olive oil)
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup nondairy milk (I used vanilla unsweetened almondmilk)
1 cup brown sugar (Use demerrara sugar, finely ground in the food processor, if you want a crispy cookie)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Demerrara (or any coarse-crystal sugar) in a bowl for dipping dough

Heat oven to 350F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper, or use a Silpat liner.

In a small bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. Set aside.

In a large bowl beat oil, molasses, nondairy milk, sugar, and vanilla extract. When well mixed, add dry ingredients in and mix with a large spoon. Scoop out a tablespoon of dough, roll into a ball with your palms, and flatten a bit as you dip it into the bowl of demerrara sugar for a nice crystal-y top coating. Separate an inch apart on baking sheet, as they will spread. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until bottoms are slightly browned. Let cool on tray for a few minutes before transferring off onto wire rack to cool completely.