Sourdough Za'atar & Cayenne Crackers

Remember Bubbly Olguita? That's the name of my sourdough starter for those who haven't been following my adventures in sourdough baking.

As I mentioned in in my earlier post, I used part of the starter to make crackers. I followed the recipe from King Arthur, but made a few changes following my twin's advice: mainly the use of olive oil instead of butter. 

Sourdough Za'atar & Cayenne Crackers
Adapted from King Arthur

1 cup flour, plus more for rolling out the dough
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sourdough starter
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons za'atar
cayenne powder to taste
more salt as a finishing touch

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Combine the first 6 ingredients. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

On a piece of parchment, roll out the dough to 1/16" thickness. Use flour if the dough is slightly sticky.

Use a ravioli cutter to stamp out your crackers. Alternatively, use a knife or a pizza cutter to cut the dough into desired shapes.

Prick each cracker with a fork to make sure they'll bake evenly without puffing up.

Sprinkle the crackers with kosher salt, slightly pressing the salt into the dough.

Carefully transfer the parchment with the cut up crackers, you do not need to separate them at this point, onto the back of the cookie sheet (this is much easier!) and bake for about 18-20 minutes, rotating the cookie sheet halfway through the baking process.

Once the crackers have cooled, break them into individual pieces. 

These freeze amazingly well!


Quarantine Roasted Tomato & Pepper Soup Adapted From Cool Beans

Over the weekend I adapted Joe Yonan's recipe from Cool Beans for Roasted Tomato and Pepper Soup.

I won Joe's cookbook from the food chat on Washington Post, and have already made his Garlicky Great Northern Beans and Broccoli Rabe Over Toast recipe a month or so ago.

The Roasted Tomato and Pepper Soup is an easy to follow recipe with pretty standard ingredients, but I did not want to use my fresh tomatoes and did not have fresh peppers. What I did have, however, were cans of tomatoes and a jar of roasted peppers. That's what I ended up using. The benefit of starting with canned tomatoes is that you can make this soup any time of the year: even when tomatoes are not in season.

The key to using canned tomatoes is to drain them incredibly well (I drank the liquid) and then roasting tomatoes in the oven.

Quarantine Roasted Tomato & Pepper Soup Adapted From Cool Beans

Serves 4


28 ounce canned diced tomatoes, drained well
14.5 ounce canned diced tomatoes, drained well
olive oil
1 onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, chopped
2 jarred roasted peppers, chopped
3 cups liquid**
salt & pepper to taste
1 handful basil leaves, more to garnish
2 cups cooked beans (I used Great Northern beans)
optional: sugar
chili oil

** use a combination of liquid from the beans (I cooked mine in the pressure cooker) and water or vegetable broth


1. Preheat the oven to 500F. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Spread drained diced tomatoes in a single layer, drizzle with olive oil, and roast for 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a large soup pot, add olive oil and heat. Add onion and garlic, and saute till tender. Do not burn.
3. Add roasted tomatoes and peppers to the onions and garlic. Season with salt & pepper. 
4. Add the liquid, bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.
5. Add basil. Using an immersion blender, carefully blend the soup to the consistency you desire.
6. Add the beans and heat through. Add a pinch of sugar if needed.
7. Serve the soup drizzled with chili oil and a few fresh basil leaves. Challah toast is a great accompaniment!

I loved the natural sweetness of tomatoes that came through after roasting them in the oven paired with the chili oil. This soup can be an excellent sauce (do not add beans) for meatballs or a base for shakshuka!


Kalamata Olive & Basil Challah With Sunflower Seeds

If it's Friday, it's time to bake challah! Kidding. 

You can bake challah any day you want. You just need to have enough flour and yeast. Luckily, I had both. Unfortunately, something went wrong with my trusty recipe: maybe the yeast did not bloom? Maybe it was too cold inside my condo?

I had to add almost an extra cup of flour to stop the dough from being sticky. Also, it took almost 20 extra minutes to bake the challah in the oven.

What's going on!?!?

I also tried to make a 6 braid challah (that's the one on the left): it was quite a disaster. That's why I made a regular 3 braid challah with the remaining dough. Both lost their definition while baking.

But let's talk about what did work: the flavor!

Kalamata Olive & Basil Challah With Sunflower Seeds

1. Make your trusty regular challah recipe, but use sunflower oil instead of canola or vegetable oil. Try to find Ukrainian or Russian sunflower oil if you can.
2. Before braiding the challah, add 10 chopped kalamata olives (use paper towels to remove any extra moisture from the olives) and 5 chopped basil leaves.
3. After brushing unbaked challah with an egg wash, sprinkle the tops with sunflower seeds.

Here you go!


Pumpkin & Salmon Red Thai Curry

This past weekend I all of a sudden thought about one of my favorite dishes from Thai X-ing, a restaurant in DC, that I've not had in a while: pumpkin and salmon curry!

Maybe it's because the weather in DC area has been on a cooler side, or because I happened to have a can of coconut cream in my pantry and a kabocha squash that's been sitting on my kitchen counter for too many weeks to count.

I also just happened to have a few pieces of salmon arriving in my order from Whole Foods. Perfect timing.

I found a recipe from sel et sucre and adapted it using what I had in my kitchen. It definitely hit the spot!

Pumpkin & Salmon Red Thai Curry
Serves 4-6

1 can coconut cream (do not shake it)
1/4 cup Thai red curry paste
1 kabocha squash, or any other small pumpkin or winter squash, peeled very carefully, and cut into bite size pieces after removing the seeds
3 kaffir leaves
1 orange pepper, sliced
1 green pepper, sliced
1 yellow squash, sliced
2 salmon filets, skins removed, cut into bite size pieces
1 cup defrosted peas


1. In a large skillet, add the coconut cream (the solid part) and red curry paste and simmer for 10 minutes.
2. Add kabocha, coconut milk (the liquid part from the can), and enough water to cover. Drop in kaffir leaves. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 5-10 minutes until kabocha is tender.
3. Add peppers and yellow squash, season with salt and cook for 3-5 more minutes.
4. Nestle in salmon pieces and defrosted green peas and simmer until salmon is cooked through: about 3-5 minutes.
5. Serve garnished with lime wedges (squeeze those into the curry) and cilantro.

Look at the color!!! Of course if you have fish sauce and Thai basil, use those. You can also add a bit of heat with sriracha.

I ate the curry without rice, but you can do as you please. 

If you are vegetarian or vegan, use tofu or mushrooms instead of salmon. This would also be great with eggplant.

Comfort in a bowl.


How To Make Injera Chips

Raise your hand if you LOVE Ethiopian food! I love it so much, I ordered it for my birthday last month. One vegetarian platter AND one medium rare beef lasted for several meals, and I even had a large piece of injera leftover.

Did you know you can freeze injera? Wrap it up tightly in plastic wrap and put in your freezer.

You can defrost injera directly on your kitchen counter for about an hour and then make Injera Chips!!!

Injera Chips
1) Preheat the oven to 425F.
2) Tear injera into chip-size pieces.
3) In a single layer, arrange injera pieces on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Roast for 7-10 minutes on each side. Allow to cool slightly. 

No need for oil or spices, but you can add both if you so desire.

These chips are incredibly light and crispy and are very addictive!


Dalgona Coffee: Delightful Cloud Like Beverage

I finally jumped on the dalgona coffee wagon! All it took was finding a packet of Starbucks VIA instant coffee behind several containers of coffee and tea in my cupboard.

If you want a fun cloud-like beverage with a caffeine kick, this is for you!

Dalgona Coffee
1 tablespoon instant coffee
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon sugar
almond milk
home made whipped cream, sweetened
dark chocolate, shaved

1. Whisk the first three ingredients. Don't be a hero: use an electrical mixer.
2. Pour almond milk into a glass. 
3. Top the milk with whipped coffee.
4. Spoon whipped cream over the whipped coffee and top with chocolate shavings.



Adventures In Sourdough Bread Baking: From Starter To Loaf

Sourdough!! Have you seen all the photos of gorgeous loaves and countless jars of starters on line? Well, after a break up, and right before my birthday, and right as the social isolation was starting, I decided to try my hand at making my own sourdough starter.

After all, I needed something else that was alive in my one bedroom condo other than me and my 42 plants. Yes, 42 plants.

I used directions from TheKitchn and named my starter Bubbly Olguita.

Here's what I did:
Day 1 (March 25): 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoon flour + 1/2 cup water (from now on referred as feeding)
Day 2: feeding
Day 3: feeding
Day 4: feeding
Day 5 (March 29 aka my birthday): feeding
Day 6: skipped feeding. Made my first sourdough loaf using a recipe and directions from Food52, but adding a few extra folding steps:  

Not bad for the first effort...it tasted like bread and looked like bread, but did not rise as much as I was hoping for and did not taste sour. I sliced and froze most of it.

Day 7: feeding
Day 8: skipped feeding. Made crackers using 1 cup of Bubbly Olguita (I'll post them later)
Day 9: feeding
Day 10: feeding
Day 11: used 1 cup to make pickle sourdough pancakes and gave 1 cup away + feeding
Day 12: baked 2nd loaf and put the rest of Bubbly Olguita into refrigerator to hibernate

The second loaf pictured below (and also the first photo in this post) was SO MUCH BETTER than the first. 

First, the starter actually floated in the water (that's the test some people tell you to perform to find out if the starter is ready: you just take a teaspoon of the starter and plunk it into a glass of water).

Second, I purchased a professional lame tool, and after accidentally cutting myself, was able to make a beautiful design.

Third, the loaf definitely rose quite a bit more than the first one and had better texture.

I sliced most of it and froze: it's great toasted!!

Finally, I decided to purchase a stainless steal knob for my Le Creuset so that I would not have to remove the plastic one every time I need to put the lid in the oven. How much do you love my Laser Lemon Door!?

I hope to bake more with Bubbly Olguita once it's no longer an ordeal to buy flour.


Weekend Inspiration: Plants

Grateful for having these beauties to keep me company.



Spring Pasta With Leeks, Zucchini, And Peas

This Spring Pasta With Leeks, Zucchini, And Peas is a super quick lunch recipe and was inspired by Melissa Clark's chat last week (virtual) with Politics & Prose

I submitted a question to Melissa asking what to do with 3 leeks and one huge zucchini. Melissa suggested sauteing both in butter and olive oil, then adding anchovies and serving with pasta.

I don't happen to like anchovies, other than the large fat marinated ones, but did not have those in my pantry (aka one kitchen cabinet).

I used what I had. It turned out lovely.

Spring Pasta With Leeks, Zucchini, And Peas

Ingredients (without  exact measurements)
olive oil
leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced in half lengthwise, and then into thin moon shapes
large zucchini, sliced the same as leeks
garlic cloves, minced
defrosted peas
zest and juice of Meyer lemon, or a regular lemon
pasta of your choice, cooked
shaved English extra mature cheddar
6 minute jammy egg (Put eggs into cold water. Bring to a boil. Cover. Turn the heat off. Let stand for 6 minutes. Dunk eggs into ice cold water. Peel. Cut in half.)

1. Heat a combination of olive oil and butter in a large skillet. Add leeks and saute until they've softened. Try not to burn them like I did.
2. Add zucchini. At this point you may want to cover the skillet with a lid to quickly soften the zucchini.
3. Take the lid off, add garlic, and continue sauteing until the vegetables are cooked through and are golden brown.
4. Season with salt. Add defrosted peas, Meyer lemon zest and juice, and pasta. Combine. Heat through.
5. Serve in a bowl that you made in a pottery class.
6. Top with shaved cheese.
7. Add half of an egg topped with sumac.

This dish is great hot or at room temperature. Also, feel free to forego pasta and instead use the leek/zucchini/pea mixture as a filling for an omelet or a topping for toast!


Sourdough Pickle & Scallion Pancakes With Creamy Spicy Mango Sauce

If you are following me on instagram or are friends with me in real life and on FB, you know that I have a new addition to my family: Bubbly Olguita. Who??? It's my sourdough starter!

I'll write more about Bubbly Olguita in upcoming posts. For now, let's just say it's been an interesting 12 day experiment, and she's now hibernating in my refrigerator until the days when it'll no longer be a big deal to procure flour.

One of the steps in the sourdough starter process is to discard part of the starter. There are many recipes for what to do with that starter, but I decided to make Sourdough Pickle & Scallion Pancakes With Creamy Spicy Mango Sauce after seeing
Dan's (aka The Food in my Beard) Pickle Pancakes. Dan uses flour and pickle juice in his pancakes with vinegar. I just used my starter straight up.

Dan's recipe has actual measurements. Mine are approximations.

Sourdough Pickle & Scallion Pancakes With Creamy Spicy Mango Sauce
1 cup sourdough starter
1 huge pickle, diced
2 scallions, sliced (more for garnish)
2 tablespoons cornstarch

olive oil

mango chili sauce
soy sauce

1. Combine sourdough starter, diced pickle, scallion, and cornstarch in a bowl.
2. Heat olive oil in a nonstick pan. Pour batter into the skillet and cook for about 3 minutes on each side. {You can make many little pancakes or a few large ones.}
3. Meanwhile, combine equal amounts of mayonnaise and mango chili sauce in a small bowl. Add enough soy sauce and sriracha to satisfy your salty and spicy taste buds.
4. Serve sourdough pickle and scallion pancakes garnished with scallions and a side of spicy mango sauce.

These were spongy in the best way possible. I loved the crispy edges the most!


Olive Oil & Chocolate Chip Brownie Cake

Last Sunday was my birthday. My original plans of celebrating in Arizona with my twin Anna and our friend Kate clearly did not happen.

Instead, I did a lot of facetime with family and friends, chatted on the phone, had a friend drop by and drop off banh mi sandwiches (thank you Sylvie!!), got flowers delivered from Anna, made a batch of Russian Potato salad, went on a walk, drank white wine, and got Ethiopian take out.

I also made myself a cake.

Olive Oil & Chocolate Chip Brownie Cake
1) Use a brownie mix, but instead of vegetable oil, use olive oil.
2) Add a splash of vanilla extract and a handful of chocolate chips.
3) Once baked and fully cooled, cut out 3 rounds using a biscuit or cookie cutter. Freeze the rest for later.
4) Whip heavy whipping cream.
5) Layer the brownie rounds with whipped cream and currants. If you can't find currants, use any other berries.
6) Add candles. Light them. Make a wish. Blow them out.