Recipe: Dianne’s Cranberry Cake

For me, Thanksgiving is not complete without something cranberry-ey, and all the better if cranberries appear in multiple guises: in my family, they usually appear in cranberry sauce, a surprisingly delicious jello “salad,” and this incredible cranberry upside-down cake.

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Ever since I can remember, my mom has made this cranberry cake for Thanksgiving — and often for Christmas, too, on my request. For me, it is an inseparable part of Thanksgiving and of the wintry holiday season in general. There’s something about that combination of whole cranberries baked into an orangey cake batter and topped with homemade whipped cream that puts a smile on everyone’s face.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and it’s one of the things I miss most about not living closer to home. Since Thanksgiving’s not celebrated in the UK, it’s hard to take off that random week in November. Last year, we had a lovely Thanksgiving celebration with Sarah and Joe, but alas they’re back in the US of A now (miss you guys!). F and I were going to try and host our own Thanksgiving this year, but my all-consuming DELTA course and various other scheduling conflicts mean it probably won’t happen.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t make some of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes! With the holiday coming up on Thursday and the DELTA course starting to taper off (less than 2 weeks & 3 assignments to go…), I decided to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon in the warm kitchen making cranberry cake.

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The cake is pretty easy to put together: pour some cranberries into a well-buttered cake pan, whip up the thick batter, spread it over the cranberries and bake! With luck, you’ll be able to invert your cake without incident and spread it with some warm jam for a finishing touch. Mine turned out a bit on the rustic side, as I used a springform cake pan which is a little bigger than your standard round cake tin — the cake was thus a bit thinner and stickier. I probably could’ve baked it for a little less time, but it still turned out deliciously and tasted exactly like it should. Go make it and you’ll know what I mean.

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Dianne’s Cranberry (Upside-Down) Cake (my mom’s recipe, adapted years ago from a Gourmet magazine; makes 1 cake)

Ingredients

  • Cranberries:
    • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
    • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
    • 1lb/16oz/500g fresh (or frozen) whole cranberries, rinsed, picked over & dried
  • Cake batter:
    • 1.25 cups all purpose (plain) flour
    • 1.5 tsp baking powder
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
    • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
    • 1 egg
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • zest of 1 orange
    • 1/2 cup milk (I used semi-skimmed)
  • Topping (optional):
    • 1/3 cup currant or other closely-related jam/jelly (I used F’s mom’s black currant jam, as that’s what we had)

Procedure

  • Preheat the oven to 350F (175C).
  • Butter a round cake pan with the 3 tbsp butter. Sprinkle the 1/2 cup of sugar evenly over the butter, and pour in the rinsed and dried cranberries.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • In a separate bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, egg, vanilla, and orange until well-combined.
  • Alternate adding the 1/2 cup milk and flour mixture to the butter-egg mixture, beating until well-combined. The batter will be quite thick.
  • Spread the batter over the cranberries, sealing the edges and smoothing the top.
  • Bake for 1 hour, until the top is well-browned. Let cool for 20 minutes, then run a knife around the edge of the cake and invert onto a platter.
  • Heat the jam (if using) in a saucepan, then brush it over the top of the cake. Top with homemade whipped cream, if desired (plain yogurt is also nice, for the more health-conscious out there), and enjoy warm or at room temperature.

Enjoy!

Recipe: Homemade Muesli with no added sugar

First of all, apologies for my long absence. The last three and a half months have been crazy busy with a new full-time job and a part-time super-intensive DELTA course. Less than three weeks to go in the course, and then I can take a breath and start cooking again. In the meantime, I’ve taken some quiet on Sunday evening to present you with a recipe I’ve wanted to post for a while.

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I eat muesli 3-4 times a week for breakfast: cold, with almond milk, extra nuts, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and sliced banana or apple. My struggle with shopping for muesli in the supermarket is finding one that does have tons of added sugar. I have found Jordan’s Natural Muesli here in the UK, which doesn’t add sugar, but I also kept thinking about how easy — and cheap — it would be to make my own muesli, exactly how I want it. So that I did — and the results were just what I wanted. That’s the great thing about making your own muesli: you can put in it exactly what you want, no more and no less. This is my take — feel free to use it as a base for your own experimentation.

Homemade Muesli with no added sugar

Ingredients

  • 2 cups barley flakes
  • 2 cups oats (I used 1/2 porridge/quick oats & 1/2 whole oats)
  • 1 cup nuts (I used 1/2 walnuts & 1/2 almonds)
  • 1 cup seeds (I used a mix of pumpkin & sunflower seeds)
  • 1 cup dried fruit (cherries, cranberries, raisins)

Procedure

  • Put the barley flakes in a large (preferably non-stick) skillet and toast them, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until fragrant. Remove the barley flakes from the pan, put in the oats and toast them.
  • While the oats & barley are toasting, you can toast the nuts and seeds in a smaller skillet over medium heat.
  • When all the toasting is finished, toss all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl and mix with your hands or a wooden spoon. Store in an airtight container.

Enjoy!

Recipe: Eggplant Parmesan

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Foreseeing a free weekend at home and a busy week ahead, I wanted to make something for Sunday dinner that would carry F and me at least through Monday with leftovers. I didn’t feel like cooking meat so browsed through my bookmarked vegetarian recipes and came across this one from Simply Recipes. I’d never actually made eggplant parmesan but was eager to try my hand at it — plus, eggplants are abundant at the moment, so those two factors decided me.

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Eggplant parm does take some time — hence the Sunday evening project — but it’s worth it in the end. The procedure seems complicated, but bear with me, take it step by step, and you will be rewarded with cheesy deliciousness. F gave the it a rave review and it was just as good reheated the next day. I think traditionally the eggplant is fried, but this recipe “healthifys” a little bit by baking the eggplant rounds, saving quite a bit of oil.

Eggplant Parmesan (adapted from Simply Recipes; serves 4-6)

Ingredients

  • 3 large eggplants, sliced into 1/4-1/2 inch slices
  • to taste: salt
  • Simple tomato sauce:
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • 2 cans  (~800g ) whole peeled tomatoes
    • 1 large bunch fresh basil, chopped roughly
    • to taste: salt & pepper
  • Eggplant coating:
    • 1.5 cups breadcrumbs
    • 1.25 cups parmesan cheese, divided into 1/4 cup + 1 cup
    • 3/4 cup whole wheat (or plain) flour
    • 4 eggs, beaten
  • to taste: olive oil
  • 600-700g fresh mozzarella, sliced into 1/4 inch slices

Procedure

  • 1.5 hours before prep/assembly time, slice the eggplants and salt both sides of each slice, then lay them on top of paper towels to drain.
  • After 1.5 hours, preheat the oven to 215C (425F) and rub some olive oil over two baking sheets.
  • Bread & bake the eggplant: Pat the eggplant rounds dry. Grate the parmesan and place it in a shallow bowl; add the breadcrumbs and mix together. Put the flour in a second shallow bowl, and in a third bowl whisk the eggs together. One at a time, dredge the eggplant rounds in the flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs. Place the breaded rounds on the baking sheets, drizzle a little olive oil over them, then bake for 18-20 minutes, flipping the rounds at the halfway point.
  • While the eggplant is baking, make the tomato sauce (if you’re using your own sauce, feel free to ignore this step): combine olive oil, tomatoes, basil, salt, and pepper in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, then let simmer for 10-15 minutes until it begins to thicken and become fragrant. Set aside.
  • Slice the mozzarella.
  • Once the eggplant has finished baking, take it out and lower the oven temperature to 175C (350F).
  • Assemble eggplant parmesan: Spread 1/2 cup of tomato sauce in the bottom of a medium-sized glass baking dish. Place about 1/3 of the eggplant rounds over the sauce in a single layer. Place half the mozzarella on top of the eggplant and sprinkle 1/3 of the parmesan over the mozzarella. Place another 1/3 of the eggplant over the cheese, then spread 1 cup of tomato sauce over those. Add the rest of the mozzarella and 1/3 of the parmesan. Layer the rest of the eggplant rounds over the top, smother with the rest of the tomato sauce, and sprinkle the rest of the parmesan over everything.
  • Bake uncovered for 35 minutes, then let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Enjoy!

Recipe: Whole Grain Bread

This bread was the third new recipe I tried over the (now long-past) August Bank Holiday weekend. After making stuffed flatbreads on Saturday and peach crisp on Sunday, I dedicated Monday to my first attempt at making/baking bread from scratch!

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After perusing many a bread recipe and reading tips from various blogs, I settled on this recipe from smitten kitchen (without the cinnamon swirl). Overall, the bread making process was enjoyable — if you have a free few hours, it’s fun to set and re-set the timer to wait/watch the bread proof, knead it a bit, then start to smell it as it bakes. Satisfying, too, to turn out your very own loaf from the pan.

risen & ready for the oven

risen & ready for the oven

In terms of the bread itself, I was very pleased with the taste — nicely wheat-y with some added depth from the rye flour. The crust, however, was disappointingly soft. I think that’s due to my novice bread making skills (or lack thereof), as further reading enlightened me to the fact that for a crustier bread I must bake it free-form and with some added steam in the oven. Note to self for next time! F professed to enjoy this loaf regardless, even though he also prefers a crustier and less crumbly bread.

just add butter

just add butter

Whole-Grain Bread (adapted from smitten kitchen; makes 1 loaf)

Ingredients

  • .63 cups warm water
  • 150g lukewarm milk
  • 25g (2 tbsp) brown sugar
  • 7g (.75 tbsp) instant yeast
  • 28g (1/8 cup) sunflower oil
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 318g (2.5 cups) whole wheat flour
  • 60g rye flour
  • 10g cornmeal
  • 10g wheat germ
  • 7g (1 tsp) salt

Procedure:

  • Make bread dough: in a large mixing bowl, whisk together water, milk, sugar, & yeast until everything dissolves. Add the oil and half of the beaten egg, and whisk to combine. In another bowl, whisk together the flours, cornmeal, wheatgerm, & salt. Add to the wet mixture and stir with a wooden spoon (or with a paddle in an electric machine) for 1 minute.
  • Let dough rest for 5 minutes.
  • Now mix the dough for 2 minutes, either with a wooden spoon or with a dough hook on medium-low (machine). The dough will become firm and smoother yet stickier and more supple. If it is very wet, add flour a spoonful at a time. Conversely, if it’s quite stiff, add water a spoon at a time. Keep mixing for 4 more minutes.
  • Turn the dough out onto a floured counter. Knead it a few times then gather it into a ball. Cover the dough with the empty bowl (upended) and let rest for 10 minutes. Repeat the knead + 10-minut rest process 2 more times.
  • Proof/prove dough: lightly oil a large bowl and place the dough in it. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it proof/prove for 60-70 minutes at room temperature or until it has doubled in size. (You can also proof/prove it overnight in the fridge.) While this is happening, lightly grease a loaf pan.
  • Form loaves: turn the dough out onto a floured counter and form it loosely into the shape of your loaf pan. Place it in the loaf pan.
  • Proof/prove #2: cover the loaf pan with lightly greased plastic wrap and let the bread proof/prove for 45-60 minutes at room temperature, or until it has risen to about 1 inch over the pan’s rim. Partway through this process, preheat the oven to 175C (350F).
  • Bake bread (finally!): pop the loaf into the oven and back for about 40 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 88C (190F) and it sounds hollow when tapped. Let cool a bit before turning out of the pan and slicing.

Enjoy!

Race Recap: 2014 Middlesex 10k, Victoria Park

…in which I run one of my slowest 10k races ever but am totally okay with it.

After my first full-time workweek while also doing a DELTA course, I wasn’t particularly keen on racing a 10k this weekend. My speedwork has been almost nonexistent since early summer, and I’ve been pleased to fit in two runs a week over the past month. But as I’d entered the race — and can’t pass up an opportunity to run in Victoria Park — I went along with the goal of taking it pretty easy.

I ran my 10k PR/PB in this race last year — it’s a big club race, tagged the Middlesex championships. I knew today wouldn’t be close to last year’s time, given my tiredness levels and low training volume. So strategy-wise, I decided to run comfortably for the first 5k and then pick the pace up if I felt okay. Treat it more like a slightly faster longish training run, I advised myself. Just enjoy running in this lovely park.

That’s exactly what I did.

Once the pack pulled away and thinned out after the start, I found myself running alongside a guy in a blue shirt (whom I hereafter shall refer to as “blue shirt”). Roughly aiming for under a 25:00 first 5k, I was pleased to go through the first kilometer in 4:49. The next one was even quicker, perhaps thanks to blue shirt’s nice pacing, but then he pulled away around 2.5k and I let him go. I ended up settling into just about a 5:00/km pace for the next few kilometers, going through the 5k in 25:02 — while getting lapped by the first six finishers, already on their third lap! Now start picking up the pace a little bit, Tamm. You’re tired but you can definitely finish under 50:00.

I didn’t want to push too hard until the last kilometer or two, but I tried to pick up my cadence for the rest of the second lap. That worked, as I was under 30:00 at 6k and under 35:00 at 7k. Great, just 3k to go. One lap. I was gaining on a few people, including a club-mate, who I passed just after 8k. Less than 10 minutes to go! I could see blue shirt up ahead and was closing the gap between us. Caught him at 9k (44:15 or so), and we ran alongside each other for a minute or two until I finally dropped him.

Pushing a bit down the final straight, but not kicking super hard, I ran through the chute and finished in 48:33 (7:49/mi pace; 4:51/km pace) — well towards the tail end of this competitive club race. But it was just what I needed to do: I was pleased to run under 50:00 and was glad I didn’t push so hard as to knock myself out for the rest of the day. Heathsiders were out in force today, and there were some great performances and big PBs all around. Well done, everyone! Perfect conditions — overcast, no wind, not too warm — certainly didn’t hurt.

———

Recipe: Pesto & Zucchini Galette

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Galettes have been on my mind for a while — they keep popping up on the cooking blogs I read, filled at this time of year with stone fruit or late summer vegetables. I finally decided to try my hand at one when in the same week Melissa Clark posted a couple galette recipes with a great-looking rye-flecked crust, and The Kitchn came out with a summer vegetable galette. Both recipes looked great, so I adapted my crust from Clark, and my filling was inspired by The Kitchn.

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A galette comes together easily, in large part because you don’t have to shape the dough into a pie dish or anything — you can just go free-form and pile on your fillings of choice. F and I had made some pesto that we’d frozen, so I thawed it and spread it liberally over the crust; it worked as a lovely base for the tomatoes and zucchini. And this crust is very nice. Despite the excess oil/butter that appeared on the baking sheet at the end, the bottom of the crust didn’t get soggy and had a lovely bit of flaky crunch. I highly recommend this summery galette and am looking forward to trying my hand at a sweet version!

Pesto & Zucchini Galette (dough adapted from Melissa Clark at NYT Cooking; recipe inspired by The Kitchn; makes 2-4 servings, depending on how hungry you are!)

Ingredients

  • Crust:
    • 80g (~2/3 cup) plain/AP flour
    • 90g (~2/3 cup) rye or whole wheat flour
    • 5g (1 tsp) sugar
    • 3g (1/2 tsp) salt
    • 1 egg
    • Heave cream or milk, as needed
    • 113g unsalted butter, cut into big chunks
    • juice + zest of 1 lemon
  • Filling:
    • 1/2 – 3/4 cup Basil Pesto
    • 1-2 tomatoes, sliced thinly
    • 1-2 zucchini, sliced thinly
    • for garnish: grated parmesan cheese

Procedure

  • Make crust: In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar and salt. In a measuring cup, whisk the egg and then whisk in enough cream or milk to make 1/3 cup; set aside. Add the butter to the flour mixture and work in with a pastry cutter or your hands, until the butter chunks are chickpea-sized. Drizzle up to 1/4 cup of the egg mixture (reserve the rest for later) into the flour-butter and stir until the mixture just comes together (it will still be crumbly — that’s okay). Stir in the lemon juice and zest.
  • Lightly flour a flat surface and turn the dough out onto it. Knead the dough a few times, until it comes together into one piece. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic, and chill for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.
  • While the dough is chilling, slice your tomatoes and zucchini.
  • After the dough has chilledassemble the galette: Preheat the oven to 200C (400F — don’t use the fan/convection setting!) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll the dough out to a 12-inch (30cm) round and slip it onto the baking sheet. Spread 1/2 – 3/4 cup pesto on the dough, leaving a 1.5-2-inch (3-4cm) border around the edges. Arrange the tomatoes on top of the pesto, then top with the zucchini slices. Fold the pastry edges towards the center, overlapping as necessary (see photo above). Brush the exposed pastry edges with the rest of the egg-cream mixture.
  • Bake the galette for 35-40 minutes or until the crust is a nice golden-brown. When you take it out of the oven, soak up any excess liquid with a paper towel or two. Cool the galette for at least 10 minutes, then garnish with grated parmesan.

Enjoy!

Recipe: Oatmeal Raspberry Pancakes

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I know what you’re thinking. More pancakes?! Doesn’t she have enough recipes already?

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Yes, probably. But Joy the Baker’s oatmeal cookie pancakes looked too good to pass up! Other than using raspberries instead of raisins and subbing in some whole wheat flour, I followed Joy’s recipe and it did not disappoint. F and visiting J commented on their fluffiness, though I actually wondered why they weren’t as fluffy as in Joy’s pictures. But fluffy or not (shall I say “fluffy” again? How about this video?), these ‘cakes have great flavor and just enough sweetness to satisfy without overwhelming. I’ll definitely make them again.

Oatmeal Raspberry Pancakes (adapted from Joy the Baker; makes 12-14 medium pancakes, enough for 3-4 hungry people)

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 4 tbsp butter, melted & cooled
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plain/AP flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • Heaping 1/2 cup oats
  • 1-2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • to taste: freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 – 1 cup fresh (or thawed-from-frozen) raspberries

Procedure

  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, maple syrup, melted/cooled butter, & vanilla extract.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour through nutmeg).
  • Stir the dry into the wet ingredients, then fold in the raspberries.
  • Heat a skillet over medium, and cook dollops of batter in a little oil for about 2 minutes per side, watching for bubbles to pop.

Enjoy!

Recipe: Peach Breakfast Crisp

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A free long weekend (yay for the August Bank Holiday!) put me in the mood to try some new recipes. As you’ve already seen, on Saturday I made these stuffed flatbreads, which did indeed fuel F and me well for cycling the next morning. For post-cycling brunch on Sunday, I turned to the incredible smitten kitchen cookbook for inspiration. The result was this peach breakfast crisp, which I adapted from Deb’s apricot breakfast crisp — as she points out, any stone fruit (or berry, I imagine) would work well.

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This crisp is just right: tender, juicy peaches contrast beautifully with a crispy, nutty, not-too-sweet topping. Great with a dollop or two of plain yogurt. (F agrees!) As a bonus, the crisp comes together quickly — you can have it on the table in less than 45 minutes. Enjoy it for breakfast or brunch, like we did, or serve it as a light dessert. I’m definitely making this again, though I might have to double the recipe next time so it sticks around longer than one afternoon!

Peach Breakfast Crisp (adapted from smitten kitchen; serves 2-4)

Ingredients

  • Fruit filling:
    • 4 peaches, pitted & chopped into chunks (feel free to use other stone fruit or berry of choice)
    • 1.5 tbsp granulated sugar
    • 1 tbsp plain/all-purpose flour
    • to taste: grated nutmeg
  • Crisp topping:
    • 65g (4-5 tbsp) unsalted butter
    • 60-65g (~1/3 cup) granulated sugar
    • 45g (~1/2 cup) oats
    • 30g (~1/4 cup) plain/all-purpose flour
    • 35g (~1/4 cup) whole wheat flour
    • pinch of salt
    • 3 tbsp sliced almonds
    • optional: 1 tbsp wheat germ

Procedure

  • Preheat the oven to 400F (200C).
  • In a small baking dish, stir together the chopped peaches with the sugar, flour, and nutmeg.
  • In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Stir in the sugar, oats, flours, salt, almonds, and wheat germ.
  • Scoop/sprinkle the topping over the fruit, the bake for 30 minutes or until the topping is golden-brown and the fruit is bubbling. Serve warm or cold with yogurt.

Enjoy!

Recipe: Stuffed Grilled Flatbreads with Basil Oil

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You know those recipes you see and immediately go, “I have to make this”? This, from Melissa Clark over at NYT Cooking, was one of them. I don’t know exactly what got me so excited, but who doesn’t love cheesy-doughy goodness? A free long weekend coming up meant I had time to make the dough on Saturday morning, let it rise, and prepare the flatbreads for dinner. Great cycling fuel, too, as F anticipated a long ride — and I a slightly shorter one — for Sunday morning.

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I was unsure how to do the folding and re-rolling (probably should’ve watched Melissa Clark’s video first — oops), so my flatbreads ended up very doughy on one side and very cheesy on the other. That also could’ve come from using cubed rather than grated mozzarella. That said, I didn’t care because the dough is delicious. Dollop on some extra basil oil, sprinkle it with some salt, and you’ll be good to go. Feel free to stuff the flatbreads with whatever you want — I’d like to try olives next time — or don’t stuff them at all and just enjoy them with that delicious basil oil. The dough would also be amazing as pizza dough — after all, these are basically calzones.

Stuffed Grilled Flatbreads with Basil Oil (adapted from Melissa Clark at NYT Cooking; makes 8 flatbreads, serving 6-8 people)

Ingredients

  • Flatbreads + Filling:
    • 1 tsp honey
    • 7g active dry yeast
    • 375g whole wheat flour
    • 13g sea salt
    • 3/4 cup plain yogurt
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • 250-375g plain/all-purpose flour (+ more for counter dusting)
    • 200-300g mozzarella cheese, grated or cubed
  • Basil Oil:
    • 1/2 cup olive oil
    • 50g fresh basil leaves
    • 1 garlic clove OR 1/2 tsp garlic powder

Procedure

  • In a medium bowl, whisk together honey and 2 cups of warm water. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and stir until it dissolves.
  • Gradually stir in the whole wheat flour, taking about 1 minute to stir everything together. Let the mixture rest uncovered for 15 minutes.
  • Stir in the salt, yogurt, and olive oil, along with 250g (~2 cups) of the plain flour. Add more flour as needed, until the dough is too stiff to easily stir.
  • Flour a flat surface and turn the dough out onto it. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, or until it’s smooth, elastic, and only a little bit sticky.
  • Place the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover the bowl loosely with a dish towel and let the dough rise at room temperature until it doubles (~2-3 hours). If you want to make the flatbreads the next day, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate it overnight.
  • Make the basil oil by pureeing the fresh basil, olive oil, and garlic in a blender or food processor.
  • After the dough has risen, turn it onto a floured surface and divide it into eight equal pieces. If the dough has warmed up too much, chill it for 30 minutes.
  • On your floured surface, roll a piece of dough into a circle about 6in (15cm) across, or about 1/4in (1/2cm) thick. Brush it with some basil oil, then evenly distribute some mozzarella over the dough round. Fold edges of dough to the middle of the circle, pinching them together  to seal in the filling. Re-roll the dough into a circle. Repeat with the rest of the dough pieces.
  • Before cooking, brush each side of the dough rounds with some olive oil. Place the dough rounds either on a grill or in a skillet over medium heat, and cook for about 3 minutes per side (flip when the dough/bread starts to puff and bubble). Alternately, place the rounds on a baking sheet and bake them in the oven at 450F (230C) for 10-15 minutes.
  • Before serving, brush each flatbread with some basil oil and sprinkle some salt over the top.

Enjoy!

Recipe: Basil Pesto

green=good

green=good

Every summer since I can remember, my dad has made an amazing basil pesto with basil from the garden. He used to make it with pine nuts — the classic combination — but those are so expensive now that he has started using a mixture of pecans, walnuts, and almonds. We always eat it on whole wheat spaghetti — the secret to extra creaminess is a dollop of buttermilk or yogurt — with frozen peas on the side.

peas are a must

peas are a must

F and I had been wanting to make pesto for a while, and when Simply Recipes published a pesto recipe — which coincided with Cookie and Kate posting this dish — I knew it was time. My dad has always used the classic Silver Palate recipe, but as I forgot to write it down during my most recent visit, I went for the Simply Recipes version. Making pesto is so simple and satisfying: combine basil, nuts, cheese, garlic, and olive oil in a food processor, and blend until smooth. Toss with pasta or spread on pizza or a sandwich.

Do you have a favorite pesto recipe? How do you like to eat it?

Basil Pesto (adapted from Simply Recipes; makes 3 cups of pesto)

Ingredients

  • 4 packed cups basil leaves
  • 5-6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 – 1.5 cups grated parmesan and/or romano cheese
  • 1 cup nuts (I used 1/2 cup walnuts + 1/2 cup almonds)
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • to taste: salt & pepper

Procedure

  • Place the basil and garlic in a food processor and pulse until blended (you can use an immersion blender if you don’t have a food processor). Add the cheese and nuts and continue pulsing until the mixture is uniform.
  • Slowly add the olive oil while running the food processor continuously. Keep blending until the pesto reaches your desired consistency. Stir in salt and pepper.
  • Note: If you’re adding pesto to pasta, reserve/mix in 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid per 1 cup of pesto.

Enjoy!

Recipe: Kholodnyk (Cold Beet & Buttermilk Soup)

vibrant

vibrant

While I was visiting my parents in Rochester, T invited us over for Sunday brunch on the cozy back patio (S was away hiking). As usual, T provided a delicious spread: blueberry cake, salmon quiche (have to get that recipe!), and this incredible kholodnyk. It’s a traditional Russian/Ukrainian/Polish cold buttermilk and beet soup — it made a delicious first brunch course on a warm morning. I immediately asked T for the recipe, which she said came from epicurious and was really easy. She was right — this takes 10-15 minutes to whisk together and makes a vibrant, healthy summer soup. It works well as a brunch accompaniment, as we enjoyed it, or as an appetizer before dinner. It received full marks from F when I made it back in London. I went heavy on the beets and forgot radishes — it still tasted great. Feel free to take this recipe as a base and modify ingredients and amounts for a chunkier or thinner soup.

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Do you have a favorite cold summer soup? Share it in a comment below!

Kholodnyk (Cold Beet & Buttermilk Soup) (adapted from epicurious; serves 3-4)

Ingredients

  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2-3 cups (~250g) grated pickled beets
  • 1/4 cup beet liquid (if not using pickled beets, use 1/8 cup water + 1/8 cup white wine vinegar)
  • 1.5 – 2 cups English cucumber, grated
  • 1/2 cup chopped radishes
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill

Procedure

  • In a large bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, & salt.
  • Stir in the grated beets, beet liquid, cucumber, radishes, & dill.
  • Cover and chill for at least 15 minutes, then serve cold as an appetizer or light main course.

Enjoy!

Recipe: Miso Ramen with Bok Choy, Chard & Oyster Mushrooms

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While waiting in the airport to fly back to London from Rochester a few weeks ago, I treated myself to a Women’s Health magazine for some light and fun reading. It had a few tasty-looking recipes, including one for “quick miso ramen with poached eggs.” I tore out the recipe and presented it to F upon my arrival in London. He was game, so we whipped it up — adding chard and oyster mushrooms for more veggie punch — for dinner that evening. It took a mere 30 minutes start-to-finish, tasted delicious, and definitely helped with jet lag! Feel free to adjust the vegetable and liquid amounts to make it as soup-like or not as you want (we prefer lots of broth and vegetables).

Miso Ramen with Bok Choy, Chard, & Oyster Mushrooms (adapted from Women’s Health Sep 2014 issue; serves 4-5)

Ingredients

  • 5-6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 3 tbsp white miso paste
  • 3 tsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp freshly-grated ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 250-300g ramen noodles
  • 200-300g bok choy, roughly chopped
  • 200-300g chard, roughly chopped
  • 100-200g oyster mushrooms, sliced
  • optional: chili sauce (such as Sriracha), for garnish

Procedure

  • In a large pot, whisk together the stock, miso paste, soy sauce, ginger, & garlic. Bring to a boil.
  • When the stock mixture boils, add the noodles, bok choy, chard, & mushrooms. Cover the pot and let simmer for 4-6 minutes or until the noodles are cooked and the veggies are tender to your liking. Serve into bowls and garnish with as much or as little chili sauce as you’d like.

Enjoy!

Recipe: Corn Cakes with Fresh Corn & Green Onions

Browsing through some recent issues of Cooking Light for the pretty pictures recipe inspiration, I came across these “Silver Dollar Corn Cakes.” As I do love my pancakes, I was intrigued by this more savory variant. Turns out that we had bought corn and green onions in our last shopping and so had almost all the ingredients on hand.

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The corn cakes turned out really well, acting not as a side but as the main event for our dinner, complementing chard and green beans. F thought they were great — even with ketchup! I could also imagine them being good with a dollop or two of sour cream. These are basically cornbread in pancake form, so they’d be great alongside any meaty main. We actually enjoyed the leftovers with fried eggs for Saturday brunch. I made most of my corn cakes bigger than silver dollar-sized, in part because that shortened the cooking time, but the little ones are so cute that I might do them all small next time.

Corn Cakes with Fresh Corn & Green Onions (adapted from Cooking Light Aug 2014; serves 3-5)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup plain flour
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 – 1.25 cups buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups fresh corn kernels (from 3 cobs)
  • 4 green onions, minced

Procedure

  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and eggs.
  • Stir the dry mixture into the wet mixture, then stir in the corn kernels and green onions.
  • Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat. Add dollops or ladlefuls of batter to the pan and cook about 2 minutes per side.

Enjoy!