7/2/20

Weekend Inspirations: Farmgirl Flowers


When it's another weekend at home, you may as well spend it with gorgeous flowers. Super grateful to my friend Jenny for sending these beauties to me after I told her about one of my emotional meltdowns. 

What are your plans for this 4th of July weekend? I'm going to continue sewing masks, writing VOTE post cards, and exercising.

Special projects will include dusting, laundry, perhaps baking bread, and maybe food takeout or delivery!

6/29/20

Pistachio Gelato with Chocolate Halva and Cherries


Hi, there Monday. How I've not missed you. Luckily, I have a scoop of delicious Pistachio Gelato with Chocolate Halva and Cherries in the freezer to brighten my mood.

This dessert was inspired by a chocolate halva my friends at Hebel & Co sent me a few weeks ago.

Originally, I thought about mixing chunks of halva into vanilla ice cream, but Whole Foods was out of their 365 brand, and I just did not feel like paying $6 for ice cream. And so I picked up a small container of pistachio gelato instead!

This impressive looking, and more importantly, delicious dessert could not be easier to put together. It bursts with color, texture, and flavor and is easily made days in advance.

Pistachio Gelato with Chocolate Halva and Cherries

1 pint pistachio gelato, softened for 20 minutes in the refrigerator
4 ounces chocolate halva, cut into large pieces, or crumbled
12 cherries, pitted, and chopped
1/4 cup chopped dark chocolate

In a large bowl, mix together gelato, halva, and cherries. Be careful not to smash the ingredients together: you still want to see the chunks of halva and pieces of cherries.

Freeze the mixture overnight.

Serve topped with dark chocolate.

That's all!

Because you've added several ingredients to the gelato, the final mixture will not fit into its original container: snack on the remainder :)

Disclosure: I received a sample of halva free of charge and was not paid for this post. All opinions are my own.

6/22/20

Turmeric Challah With Pistachios And Nigella Seeds


Hi, friends! It's been silent here for a bit, but I've been still cooking and baking and eating: check out my instagram if you have any doubts. 

Over the weekend, I baked Turmeric Challah With Pistachios And Nigella Seeds. I came up with this idea for multiple reasons:

1. I finally have a scale!! (a kitchen scale that is)
2. I've not baked in a while.
3. Turmeric makes any baked good so beautiful.
4. I received a sample of Hebel & Co pistachio and nigella halva that also came with a little jar of pistachios and nigella seeds
5. Anna, my twin, made King Arthur challah recipe before and highly approved of it

What I did:

1. I made the challah recipe from King Arthur Flour, but added a few dashes of turmeric, about 3 tablespoons of pistachios, and 2 teaspoons of nigella seeds. Also, I used olive oil instead of vegetable oil. 
2. Using a kitchen scale for measuring the ingredients and to divide the dough into equal amounts was such a game changer! Why did not I do this earlier?
3. I made 3 challah rolls and one braid from the full recipe. 
4. My condo smelled DIVINE. 



Just look at the gorgeous yellow color!!! The turmeric gives an almost earthy savory flavor to the bread. I think it would have been better to add pistachios at the very end because they got a bit soggy after the 4 hours of proofing process. The nigella seeds were a surprise to me as this was the first time I've tried them: they have a hard to describe flavor of an almost earthier/deeper cumin!

And what did I do the the pistachio nigella halva you may be wondering? I crumbled it on top of Greek yogurt and fresh apricots. 


5/18/20

Smoked Salmon, Potato & Vegetable Soup


The weather has turned cool and gloomy, and I really wish I had Smoked Salmon, Potato & Vegetable Soup from a few weeks ago.

This soup happened because I had some smoked salmon I did not really like. I thought it would taste milder when heated. First, I added it to an omelet, then I decided to make soup.

Because I did not have heavy cream, I used cream cheese. I originally wanted to use corn, but did not have any: luckily, I had a bag of frozen peas. Basically what I'm saying is use whatever you have!

Smoked Salmon, Potato & Vegetable Soup
Ingredients
4 portions

4 red skinned potatoes, cut into 3/4" cubes
water
salt
olive oil
2 carrots, diced
1 celery, diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cups spinach
2 cups defrosted peas
2 tablespoons cream cheese
1 cup chopped smoked salmon
fresh herbs
focaccia

Directions
1. Cover potatoes in a large soup pot with water by a few inches. Add salt. Cook until potatoes are tender.
2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a skillet. Add carrots, celery, and garlic, and saute until tender, about 10-15 minutes. 
3. Add the vegetables to the cooked potatoes.
4. Stir in spinach and peas and allow the soup to come to a boil. The spinach will wilt.
5. Pour about 1 cup of the soup liquid into a small bowl and whisk in cream cheese. Add back into the soup pot.
6. Stir in smoked salmon and heat through.
7. Serve topped with fresh herbs of your choice (parsley, dill, cilantro, scallions) with a side of focaccia. 

The soup reheats great, and actually becomes creamier as potatoes fall apart slightly!

5/11/20

Garden Vegetable Focaccia


After seeing photos of gorgeously decorated focaccia all over social media, I finally decided to give it a try yesterday. After all, what else do I have to do Sunday during quarantine? I mean other than yoga, reading, sewing face masks, trying to keep anxiety in check, going for walks, chatting with friends and family, cooking, and admiring my plants....

Garden Vegetable Focaccia

I used a recipe I made 8 years ago, but instead of adding sauteed onions, grated cheese and herbs, I added these fun garden ingredients:

fresh asparagus, sliced lengthwise
pickled carrots I ordered from Phickles
parsley
dill
grape tomatoes, sliced in half
red onion, sliced into circles
mini peppers, sliced into circles

Use your favorite focaccia recipe and press your garden ingredients lightly into the dough after spreading focaccia onto your baking sheet.

Allow the dough to rise again for about 30 minutes lightly covered with a clean kitchen towel, then lightly brush the top of focaccia with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt before baking it in the oven.

I think my Garden Vegetable Focaccia turned out pretty!! It smelled amazing. I gave part of it to my friend who ate it to break her fast!!! 

5/5/20

Taco Tuesday: Potato, Feta & Black Bean Tacos


Today is a wonderful combination of Taco Tuesday and Cinco de Mayo. To celebrate the occasion, I made Potato, Feta & Black Bean Tacos for lunch.

Just like life, these tacos aren't perfect. Just like in life, I made the best of what I had. {Is this too much for a food blog!?}

Potato, Feta & Black Bean Tacos
1) Guess who did not have any taco-shaped tortillas!? Not to worry, I charred a giant jalapeno wrap directly on my gas stove and then used a giant cookie cutter to make little rounds.

2) For the filling, I used a combination of cooked and sliced Russian Banana fingerling potatoes (first time I've heard of this variety), mini red peppers, black beans, crumbled feta, home made pickled red onion, cilantro leaves, and store bought salsa verde

3) My plan to add diced avocado, failed because the avocado was utterly unripe when I cut into it.

4) I forgot to add a few wedges of lime.

Still, the combination I did end up having was rather delicious and filling.

Now, if someone could just send me a mango margarita, hold the booze. 

4/29/20

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!

4/27/20

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

Ingredients

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
challah

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

Directions

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!

4/24/20

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!

4/22/20

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
water
3 kaffir leaves
1 orange pepper, sliced
1 green pepper, sliced
1 yellow squash, sliced
salt
2 salmon filets, skins removed, cut into bite size pieces
1 cup defrosted peas

lime 
cilantro

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.