Lemon Lime Pistachio White Chocolate Cookies

Lemon Lime White Chocolate Pistachio Cookies

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Lemon Lime White Chocolate Pistachio Cookies is a mouthful of a name. I get it. But these utterly delightful, bright cookies just scream Spring! They have the fresh, bright burst of citrus with the rich, sweetness of the white chocolate chips and added depth from the lightly toasted pistachios. Everything you could want in a cookie. Lumpy and bumpy with pistachios and chips. Crispy at the edges with a soft center! And oh, how they smell!

I saw Valerie Bertinelli make her version of these and instantly knew that I wanted to try them. Anything with citrus has my attention even though I have never been a white chocolate fan. Now I grew up in a candy family. My father was in the business and I know my chocolate. And it has always bugged me when I hear the term “white chocolate.” There is no such thing. It is made from cocoa butter without any cocoa solids. However, with age, I have come to accept that it is universally referred to as “chocolate” and has its place in the baking pantheon. But, to be clear, I am a very dark chocolate person. So while the ease of making these cookies, combined with the citrus were an invitation to me, I wanted something to be a counterpoint to the white chocolate. Toasted pistachios!

Therefore, I have tweaked the original recipe to suit my tastes and the result is a real winner. These delicious Lemon Lime Pistachio White Chocolate Cookies are now a new favorite and very easy to whip up.

While we may argue over whether white chocolate is truly chocolate, there is no arguing over using a quality brand. Same goes for the butter, vanilla and nuts that you use. You can taste the difference.

Let’s talk sugar for a moment. There are soooooooooooooooo many varieties available these days and they each have their place. The original recipe calls for granulated and light brown sugar. As it happens, I don’t buy light brown sugar – only dark, which has more molasses in it. However, I thought that might be a bit overpowering here. What I do happen to have is powdered jaggery, which I started using during the pandemic. It is a cane sugar with lovely caramelly notes – perfect for these and other cookies. My husband and I also really love jaggery when baking with apples and other fruit. If you are interested in trying it, jaggery is available online and through South Asian grocery stores.

Even before the pandemic, my actual travelling had become more limited. Rather than going overseas, we like to go hiking out west. So while I may stay in my armchair so to speak, instead, I travel through food. Every time I try a new recipe, spice or other ingredient, I delve into the culture and customs of another land and another people.

There is a lot of talk these days about cultural appropriation. But I happen to think that when it comes to food (and jewelry!) this should not be viewed as a negative. While I might not always succeed, I hope that I am honoring those cultures and peoples through the food that I cook and eat.

I always used to cook and bake by the seat of my pants, adding things in as I read off the recipe. But since I began my blog, I have found that taking a few extra minutes of preparation (and possibly bowls) at the front end saves me from mistakes and makes the whole process easier. The French call it “mise en place.” Everything is prepped and organized. So that is how I have written the recipe. However, if you aren’t into that, just add things in the order given directly into the mixer.

I guarantee that these cookies will become a new favorite of yours too.

After a day or so the cookies lose their crispiness. Still delicious, but if you are like me, I love when the edges are crispy and the center is soft. In order to achieve this, just place them in a 350 degree oven for a couple of minutes to refresh the cookies.

Lemon Lime White Chocolate Pistachio Cookies

Recipe

Yield: About 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients

Lemon Lime White Chocolate Pistachio Cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room
temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar or jaggery
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 tablespoons lemon zest (About 1 large lemon)
2 tablespoons lime zest (About 1.5 limes)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1.5 cups white chocolate chips, preferably Ghirardelli Classic
1/2 cup lightly pan-toasted and chopped raw, unsalted pistachios

Lemon Lime White Chocolate Pistachio Cookies

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. and line 2 or 3 rimmed baking pans with parchment or Silpat

Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt and set aside.

Combine the sugars in a bowl and set aside.

Zest the lemon and lime(s) and set aside.

Add the softened butter and the sugars to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream them for 2 to 3 minutes or until a bit lighter in color and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Lemon Lime White Chocolate Pistachio Cookies

Crack in your egg and beat until incorporated. Then add in the lemon and lime zest and the vanilla extract. Beat until evenly combined.

Add the dry ingredients in all at once and mix until just combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer and using a heavy rubber spatula or wooden spoon, give a good mix from the bottom of the bowl. Toss in the pistachios and white chocolate chips and mix through.

Lemon Lime White Chocolate Pistachio Cookies

Using a 1.5 Tablespoon cookie scoop (Yes, of course, you can do this with a spoon.) drop the dough onto the lined cookie pans about 2-inches apart. I was able to get 12 cookies per pan. If you use a smaller scoop, you will get more. There is no need to flatten the balls; it will happen naturally in the oven.

Lemon Lime White Chocolate Pistachio Cookies

Bake each tray for about 10 to 12 minutes (less if using a smaller scoop). My oven temperature is very uneven so I turn my pans once while baking. You want to bake the cookies until the edges are golden and the center has puffed up. The cookies will deflate as they cool.

Allow the cookies to cool for 5 minutes on the pan before removing them to a cooling rack. Cool completely and enjoy!

NOTE: If you don’t wish to bake all of the cookies now, the dough can be rolled into a log, wrapped well and frozen for up to a month. Defrost the dough slightly before baking.

Chickpea Sandwich Smush

Chickpea Sandwich Smush

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Every week I bake a wonderful sandwich bread. In fact, my husband and I eat bread of one kind or another daily and we both enjoy making different kinds. Bread isn’t the enemy, guys! The flour I use is grown and milled locally with all of the whole grain goodness intact. I use a blend of different flours, some of which are heirloom varieties. You can taste the difference. So doesn’t this deserve a great filling? Just try my Chickpea Sandwich Smush. You don’t have to be vegan to enjoy it.

Not all of the breads we make are on my blog, but many wonderful options are here and can be found using the search function. But you don’t have to bake your own bread to enjoy this wonderful sandwich filling. Pack it on your next picnic or just for a great weekday lunch. With plenty of plant protein to keep you going all afternoon and with nothing to weigh you down. No mid-afternoon slump here.

Normally, my husband uses cold cuts in his sandwiches, but he has been trying to wean himself from this. So after doing some Googling, I came across “No-Tuna” salads. Most of the recipes were pretty similar, utilizing the delicious and nutritious chickpea in place of the tuna. Personally, I am not calling my version “No-Tuna.” Tuna is tuna and this isn’t it. I think that people are often turned off by vegan recipes that purport to taste “just like meat/fish/chicken.”

Let’s just enjoy these dishes for themselves. And while it is true that there are increasingly great meat substitutes available, sometimes a veggie burger is just a great veggie burger. This recipe is a great Chickpea Sandwich Smush. It is, of course, adaptable to your personal tastes and ingredients on hand, but below is one perfect version. Works great on whole grain sandwich bread, in a wrap or just as a salad and will hold up for 4 to 5 days in the fridge.

This sandwich filling has everything going for it. Great texture, brininess, umami, satisfying and riffable. Each element that I include adds brightness, texture and flavor. Generally I like to cook up my own chickpeas, but for this to work, they need to be very smushable so may cook a bit longer than usual. Canned work well here, but find a brand that you like, preferably one without lots of the skins left on the chickpeas.

Chickpea Sandwich Smush

Recipe

Servings: Enough for 4 sandwiches

Ingredients

1 15 oz. can of chickpeas (preferably organic), rinsed, drained and with the excess skin shells removed

3 Tablespoons tahini (Use a really good quality brand like Soom or Seed and Mill, both of which are readily available in the US and online)

1 rounded Tablespoon of plain yogurt – plant-based or dairy

2 teaspoons of Dijon or spicy brown mustard

1 Tablespoon of Agave nectar or maple syrup

Juice of half of a lemon (About 2 Tablespoons)

1/4 cup finely diced red onion or shallot

1/4 cup diced celery

1/4 cup garlic dilled pickle, although sweet gherkins could also be good.

1.5 teaspoons capers, drained and coarsely chopped

2 Tablespoons chopped, fresh cilantro or flat-leafed parsley

1 Tablespoon finely chopped preserved lemon rind that has been lightly rinsed of excess salt

1/4 teaspoon ground sumac

1 Tablespoon pan-roasted unsalted sunflower seeds

kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Chickpea Sandwich Smush

Directions

Place the drained, rinsed chickpeas, with skins removed in a mixing bowl. Using a potato masher or fork, smush most but not all chickpeas. (You want some texture, but you also want to be able to spread this on bread.)

Add all of the remaining ingredients and mix through. Then spread it on bread and add your favorite toppings. We like it with baby spinach or other greens and some beet chips, lightly crunched on top. Let me know how you like to eat this in the comments below!

Chickpea Spinach Fesenjan

Chickpea Spinach Fesenjan

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Like many people these days, my husband and I are eating more plant-based meals. Maybe you are choosing to eat less meat for your health or because it is better for the planet. Perhaps you are making this choice for ethical or moral reasons. With so many wonderful options for meat substitutes now readily available, it has never been easier to try making this transition.

Not too long ago, my niece gifted me a beautiful cookbook called I Cook in Color by Asha Gomez. Based now in Atlanta, GA, Ms. Gomez originates from Kerala in Southern India. The dishes are visually striking with fresh flavors, lots of herbs and spices and fruit/vegetable forward.

Chickpea Spinach Fesenjan is her take on a famous Persian stew or khoresh. It is generally made with some kind of ground meat or poultry. Redolent with walnuts, cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, cardamom, orange zest and pomegranate molasses, it is rich without being heavy. Following Ms. Gomez’s suggestion, I served the vegan Chickpea Spinach Fesenjan with a Dilled Red Onion Basmati Rice. For a bit of extra richness and umami, the rice cooks in coconut milk.

Dilled Red Onion Basmati Rice

Since it is not really pomegranate season here, I was unable to garnish my dish with that beautiful pop of red jeweled fruit. But the resulting dinner was nevertheless amazing and I would be proud to serve it to guests. I accompanied my tangy, sweet fesenjan with some ripe cantaloupe as a starter and the Saffron Pistachio Blondies for dessert. Meat? Never missed it!

However, if you really aren’t ready to go meatless, you can try this more traditional version of fesenjan.

Recipe

Chickpea Spinach Fesenjan

Servings: about 6

Ingredients

2 cups lightly toasted walnuts

3 Tablespoons neutral vegetable oil

1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced

4 large garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

2 teaspoons ground turmeric powder

1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

1 teaspoon cumin seeds’1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

2 cinnamon sticks

2 Tablespoons light brown sugar or jaggery

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1.5 teaspoons kosher salt

3 wide strips of orange zest from a navel orange

2 cups vegetable or chicken stock

1/4 cup pomegranate molasses (readily available these days, but a recipe is linked)

4 cups of cooked chickpeas (I like to cook my own, but canned are fine too)

4 cups torn fresh spinach leaves (About 2 big handfuls)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. (This can also be done in a dry pan on the stove if you are not using your oven for anything else.) Spread the walnuts on a sheet pan in a single layer and place them in the oven for about 5 minutes. As soon as you begin to smell the walnuts, immediately remove them from the heat and allow them to cool.

Chickpea Spinach Fesenjan

Once cooled, pulse the walnuts in a food processor until almost a fine powder. Be careful not to turn them into a paste.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy pan with a lid over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally until they are golden (about 8 minutes). Next add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute more.

Now add in the spices and roast for about 30 seconds to help them bloom. Once they are fragrant, add the brown sugar and salt and give everything a quick stir.

Once combined, you are ready to add the orange zest, stock, pomegranate molasses and walnuts. Simmer for 2 minutes, mixing everything through. Then lower the heat to medium-low and add in the chickpeas. Cover the pan and cook for 20 minutes. The fesenjan can be prepared ahead up to this point. When you are ready to serve, add the torn spinach leaves. Give everything a good mix and remove from the heat.

While the fesenjan is cooking, you should prepare your rice, if using. Of course, this would also be delicious with naan or some other flat bread.

Saffron Pistachio Blondies

Saffron Pistachio Blondies

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These wonderfully, fragrant Saffron Pistachio Blondies will conjure up 1,001 Arabian Nights or a treat worthy of Rama and Sita. Rich with pistachios, cardamom, saffron and a hint of white chocolate, these chewy delights are even better the next day. I love desserts that I can make ahead, especially when entertaining. It’s true that depending on where you reside in the world, the ingredients that make these blondies special can be pricey. If these are beyond your budget or you are not a huge fan of saffron, please choose to make something else. Do not make substitutions. On the other hand, the amounts used are relatively small and compared to the price of something from a bakery….

The original recipe called for a cream cheese frosting, which undoubtedly would be pretty, especially if garnished with some additional chopped pistachios or rose petals. However, my husband and I aren’t really into frosting which often can simply mask a less than wonderful cake.

These Saffron Pistachio Blondies can stand on their own with no need of embellishment. Saffron lends a beautiful golden color to the batter in addition to the exceptional flavor. (I am including the recipe for the frosting below just in case you want to use it. If you are using the frosting, the blondies will require refrigeration. And the original recipe used the saffron only in the frosting. It was NOT in the cake batter as I have done here.)

And while I may not be a huge fan of cream cheese frostings, I do love to eat the Saffron Pistachio Blondies with a dollop of homemade, lightly sweetened crème fraîche. The slight tang of the cultured crème fraîche adds exactly the right counterpoint to the dense, richness of the blondie. You can sweeten the crème fraîche with a tablespoon or two of confectioner’s or icing sugar or honey.

My recipe for the blondies deviates a bit from the original in the instructions as well as a few tweaks to the ingredients. This lovely cake would be a wonderful finish for any Middle Eastern or South Asian dinner. Enjoy them soon!

Saffron Pistachio Blondies

Recipe

Servings: About 9

Saffron Pistachio Blondies

Ingredients

Saffron Pistachio Blondies

For the Blondies

¾ cup/112 grams raw, unsalted pistachios, lightly pan-toasted plus more for garnish

1 cup/130 grams all-purpose flour

¾ teaspoon coarse kosher salt 

¾ teaspoon baking powder 

¾ teaspoon ground cardamom

¾ cup/173 grams unsalted butter, melted and cooled 

1 ¼ packed cups/250 grams dark brown sugar

2 large eggs, at room temperature 

½ cup/87 grams white chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper so the paper spills out over the sides of the pan to create an overhang. This will make removing the blondies a snap. (For thicker blondies, you can use an 8-inch pan. You may have to adjust the baking time slightly.)
  2. In a food processor, pulse the pistachios with the cardamom, salt, baking powder and 2 to 3 tablespoons of the total flour. Pulse until the nuts are mostly finely ground. By adding the dry ingredients to the nuts, you prevent them from becoming pasty. Add the remaining flour and pulse to combine.
  3. Add the saffron threads to the melted butter and allow to steep as the butter cools down some. Then add the brown sugar and whisk until smooth and shiny. Whisk in the eggs one at a time until incorporated. The pistachio mixture gets added next. Mix with a silicone spatula to combine being careful to go to the bottom of the bowl so no flour is left unmixed. Gently stir in the white chocolate chips until evenly distributed. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread in an even layer.
     
  4. Bake until the sides are brown and pull away from the pan, and the middle is slightly paler in color, 25 to 27 minutes. Ovens really vary so don’t be surprised if the blondies take longer. Mine baked for 35 minutes and then I left them in the oven for 8 more minutes with it turned off and the door left partially open. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out with a few crumbs attached. Because of the richness of the pistachios and the butter, the blondies are not likely to get dried out. So don’t be afraid to completely bake them through. Cool completely in the pan on a rack.
  5. When the blondies are cooled completely, you can lift them out of the pan. At this point, you can cut them as is or frost them. While the blondies can be eaten as soon as they are cooled, I think they are even better the next day when the flavors have had a chance to really meld.

Note: These blondies are perfect as is in my opinion. However, if you wish to up the Middle Eastern vibe a bit, you could add a few drops of rose water to the batter or frosting, if using. But be careful. Too much rose water tends to make baked goods taste like soap. My husband really dislikes rose water, so I didn’t try it. Let me know if you do in the comments and how it turns out.

For the Frosting, if using

Ingredients

½ teaspoon/.33 gram packed saffron threads

1 ½ tablespoons whole milk 

6 ounces/170 grams cream cheese, softened 

 cup/77 grams unsalted butter, softened 

 cup/93 grams confectioners’ sugar

 Pinch of coarse kosher salt 

Directions

  1. Finely grind the saffron threads in a mortar using a pestle or in a microwave-safe bowl using the back of a spoon. If needed, transfer the ground saffron to a microwave-safe bowl or to a small saucepan if you don’t have a microwave. Stir in the milk, and microwave on high or heat over medium until the mixture is frothing around the edges but not boiling, about 30 seconds. Place the bowl in the refrigerator or freezer to quickly cool the mixture.
     
  2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, use an electric hand or stand mixer or a heavy whisk or wooden spoon to beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth. If working by hand, this takes some muscle. Add the confectioners’ sugar and salt and beat again until homogeneous and no clumps of sugar remain. Beat in the cooled saffron milk until well-combined. The frosting will turn a bright golden hue.
  3. Once the bars have cooled completely, scrape the frosting over the top, and use a spatula to spread it evenly. Crush or chop some pistachios for garnish and sprinkle all over the top. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before eating. The bars keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for 1 month.

Lemon Ricotta Almond Cake for Passover

Lemon Ricotta Almond Cake for Passover

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Every year for decades I hosted Passover, the Jewish holiday commemorating the redemption of the Jewish People from slavery. And while it was a lot of work, I loved having family and friends around to join in the seders. There have been many wonderful desserts, including a few that are vegan. (They are linked below.) But I always tried to make at least one new dessert each year. This Lemon Ricotta Almond Cake for Passover would have been this year’s entry in that category. Unfortunately, between my niece’s family having moved away and the pandemic, it has been a few years since I hosted any family holiday gathering.

Pesach this year will be spent with Matthew, Frances and Juliana in San Francisco. Perhaps I can convince Frances to make this Lemon Ricotta Almond Cake for Passover.

Light, moist and lemony, this flourless cake uses almond flour to replace all-purpose or cake flour. Between the almond flour and the ricotta, this is a cake that it is impossible to dry out. It may get slightly custardy over time, with the flavors only intensifying. Delicious on its own, adding either fresh berries and a dusting of icing sugar or a berry compote would kick it up to the next level. Michelle Polzine’s Slow-Roasted Strawberries would be a great option. However, for my money, true perfection was achieved when I served this luscious cake with a good dollop of lightly sweetened home-made creme fraiche and a few raspberries. No matter how you choose to eat this cake, you cannot go wrong.

Lemon Ricotta Almond Cake for Passover

But you don’t have to make this just for Passover. It’s a lovely, light dessert any time of the year. The recipe originated from the Donna Hay Magazine via the Nosher website and has been slightly tweaked by me. And while there are volume measurements included, I strongly recommend weighing your ingredients when baking.

Lemon Ricotta Almond Cake for Passover

For Other Great Passover Desserts:

Passover Florentine Cookies

Death by Chocolate Vegan Passover Cake

Passover Sephardic Wine Cookies

Chocolate Chip Vegan Meringue Buttons for Passover

Passover Almond Coconut Macaroons

Passover Orange Ginger Spice Cookies

French Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Glaze

Chocolate Amaretti Tortemake with kosher for Passover amaretti cookies

Tarte Citron Mamajust substitute 1 Tablespoon of Matzah Cake Meal for the 1 T of flour

Recipe

Yield: One 8-inch cake

Ingredients

120 grams (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
275 grams (1 1/3 cups) granulated or caster sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped or 1 generous teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract (Optional to use only if you wish to have a more pronounced almond flavor)
1/4 cup loosely packed lemon zest (2 to 3 lemons, depending on size)
4 large eggs, separated and at room temperature
240 grams (2 1/2 cups) almond meal or almond flour
300 grams (1 1/3 cups) ricotta, at room temperature
About 2 Tablespoons flaked (sliced) natural almonds
Icing sugar, for dusting

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter or PAM an 8-inch (20 cm) springform pan. Line the bottom with a parchment round and lightly sugar the sides and bottom.

Lemon Ricotta Almond Cake for Passover

Place the butter, granulated sugar, vanilla seeds or extract, almond extract and lemon zest in a stand mixer. Beat for 8 to 10 minutes (REALLY) until, pale, creamy and very fluffy. Scrape down the sides as needed.

Gradually add the egg yolks one at a time, while continuing to beat the mixture.

Add the almond meal and beat to combine. Fold the ricotta through the mixture.

In a separate, clean bowl, beat the egg whites until you have stiff peaks.

Gently mix through about 1/3 of the egg whites in to the main batter to loosen it up. Then carefully fold in the remaining egg whites in 2 parts until most of the white bits are no longer visible. Be careful to not deflate the mixture since there is no other leavening in the cake.

Pour the mixture into the cake tin and smooth out the top with a spatula. Decorate the top with the sliced almonds.

Lemon Ricotta Almond Cake for Passover

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or longer, depending on your oven. The top should be golden and there shouldn’t be any wobble. If it appears that your cake isn’t done, but you don’t want it to brown anymore, cover it lightly with aluminum foil. Allow the cake to cool completely on a wire rack. Carefully run a thin knife or spatula around the cake in the pan to be sure that it isn’t sticking anywhere. Then you can loosen the ring of the springform pan and remove the cake. Do not apply icing sugar until the cake is completely cooled.

Lemon Ricotta Almond Cake for Passover

Upside Down Blueberry Pancake

Upside Down Blueberry Pancake

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If I had to choose a last meal on earth, it would be this Upside Down Blueberry Pancake. My husband created this incredible skillet pancake over many months of trial and error. It would be too cruel of me not to share it.

Breakfast foods are a favorite of mine – but only when I eat them for dinner. I just can’t consume that much first thing in the morning. About once a week, I ask my husband to make this Upside Down Blueberry Pancake for dinner. And as soon as I have devoured it, I begin counting the days until he makes it again.

Without any shame, I eat half of the pan with vegan sausage patties in one sitting. There are 18 ounces of blueberries in this pancake! My tongue and teeth are purple when I finish – but that is what baking soda is for!

The gorgeous, fat purply blueberries burst in your mouth and the delicious tang of fresh lemon – zest and juice – enhances the fruitiness. This is AMAZING! The pancake part of this dish is spongey and lofty, perfect for absorbing all of the fruity, blueberry, lemony juices. And if there is anything – and I mean anything – left on my plate, I use my finger and tongue to lap up every delicious bit.

For a lot of people, this dish would serve 4. But I have never felt uncomfortably stuffed or heavy after eating half of the pan. Upside Down Blueberry Skillet Pancake is neither overly sweet nor heavy. This will knock any other skillet or griddle pancake right out of the running. And because it bakes up in the oven, there is no standing over a griddle or fussily flipping pancakes. Everything is done in one pan.

Other than a well-seasoned cast iron skillet, there are no special tools or skills needed for this recipe. This is dinner AND dessert in one go. If you don’t make this right away – well, I can’t be held responsible.

Upside Down Blueberry Pancake

Recipe

Yield: 2 to 4 servings

Ingredients

For the blueberry filling:

    1/3 cup granulated sugar

    Zest and juice of 1 medium lemon

    18 ozs. of blueberries, rinsed and well drained

    3 tbsp unsalted butter

  For the batter:

    1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

    1 tsp double acting baking powder

    1/8 tsp baking soda

    1 tbsp granulated sugar

    ½ tsp kosher salt

    ½ tsp ground cardamom

    4 large eggs at room temperature

    1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup plain, whole milk kefir)

    1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Upside Down Blueberry Pancake

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F

Place a 9” cast iron skillet on the stove. Put 3 tbsp unsalted butter, cut up, into the skillet.

Dry ingredients:

Place 1 cup flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/8 tsp baking soda, 1 tbsp granulated sugar, ½ tsp kosher salt, and ½ tsp ground cardamom in a bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.

Filling:

Place 1/3 cup granulated sugar in a small bowl.

Finely grate the zest of 1 medium lemon onto the sugar.

Upside Down Blueberry Pancake

Mash the zest and sugar together with a rubber spatula, or rub the zest into the sugar with your fingertips until the zest and sugar is fully combined and gritty. If no one is watching, then by all means, lick your fingers.

Start heating the skillet on medium heat to melt the butter. Reduce the heat to low.

Juice one half of the lemon onto the blueberries. Add one half of the sugar/zest mixture. Gently toss to combine.

Juice the other half of the lemon into butter in the skillet. Add the remainder of the sugar/zest mixture. Stir to combine.

Pour the blueberries into the skillet. Use a spatula or spoon to even them out in the skillet. The butter should be gently bubbling under the blueberries.

Batter:

Place 4 large eggs into a large bowl and whisk until frothy. Add 1 cup buttermilk (or kefir) and 1 tsp vanilla extract and whisk to combine.

Gradually add the dry ingredients to the eggs/milk, stirring the batter just enough to combine them.

Remove the skillet from the heat.

Pour the batter evenly all over the berries, by swirling from the middle of the pan outwards into a circle.

Put the skillet in the oven, baking at 400°F until puffed and golden-brown, about 20 minutes. You want this to be well browned or the batter will be under-done.

Remove and let cool for a few five minutes.

Serve and enjoy! And don’t forget to spoon all those delicious juices onto the plate. They are perfect for dipping the poufy pancake in.

Falafel

Falafel and Pita

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Falafel is a ubiquitous Middle Eastern food adopted by the world. Delicious, budget-friendly, vegan and nutritious. Made from chickpeas with lots of fresh herbs and fragrant spices, these crunchy, moist nuggets are a go-to street food that I was first introduced to on a trip to Israel. Stuffed into fresh pita with pickled vegetables and tahina sauce and/or Amba, it is enjoyed standing up chatting with friends. If the juices don’t drip down your arm as you eat then you aren’t doing it right! Veteran falafel eaters learn to adopt a stance when eating where you arch your body a bit back and lean over the falafel.

Of course, Falafel also is great as an appetizer or over a salad. Chickpeas are loaded with protein, cook up beautifully and have great flavor. They are a versatile staple that should be part of everyone’s pantry. Even the cooking liquid known as aquafaba, is a wonderful substitute for egg whites and whips up to make a beautiful meringue-like substance that can be used in all kinds of baked goods.

Having tried several falafel recipes, this one has best suited my tastes. It comes from Molly Yeh with a few tweaks from me. My husband made the pita, but feel free to use store-bought. Generally I am not a huge fan of Ms. Yeh. I find a lot of her recipes very fatty, unhealthy and a bit twee. But she has made a few things that have turned out well and exactly as written, even if over time I have made some changes. This is one such recipe.

Falafel

My husband mistimed the pita, so as a consequence, I made the falafel mixture and ended up refrigerating it in an airtight container overnight. It worked out perfectly. I probably would not keep it uncooked for more than a day, however, given all of the fresh herbs and soaked , but uncooked chickpeas.

We don’t consume a lot of fried foods, but during the pandemic I treated myself to a mini-fryer. This was definitely one of those lightbulb moments. The particular fryer I bought is inexpensive and doesn’t take up a lot of space, which I don’t have. It is easy to use, clean-up is a snap and best of all – no fried food smell. The temperature is constantly controlled with almost no absorption of oil by anything you are frying. (No, I am not compensated by the company.) That said, the original recipe called for shallow frying in a pan. Either method would work well. As you can tell from my photos, I love a really well-browned outside with just a wonderful crunch. The inside is still moist and green from the herbs.

Many street vendors sell their falafel stuffed into pita with french fries on top. I have to admit that I never quite got that, especially as someone who REALLY likes crispy fries. They also have a knack, built up over time, of stuffing a simply enormous amount of stuff into a pita. I do not yet have that knack. However you decide to eat your falafel patties, you won’t be disappointed. Make them soon. They are a perfect addition to Meatless Mondays.

Falafel and Pita

Recipe

Yield: About 4 servings

Ingredients

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

2 teaspoons cumin seeds 

1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked for 10 hours or overnight and drained 

1 small onion, coarsely chopped 

4 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1/4 cup lightly packed cilantro leaves with stems, roughly chopped 

1/4 cup lightly packed flat-leaf parsley leaves with stems, roughly chopped 

1/4 cup lightly packed fresh dill, leaves and stems, roughly chopped

3 to 4 Tablespoons, fresh mint leaves, torn

1/4 teaspoon baking soda 

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 

1 teaspoon kosher salt 

1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (Optional)

2 tablespoons all-purpose unbleached flour 

Fresh Juice of one large lemon

Olive oil or flavorless oil, for frying 

Falafel and Pita

Directions

Toast the coriander seeds and cumin seeds in a skillet over medium heat until lightly browned and fragrant, then grind in a spice grinder. (I grind my spices a medium amount. I think the spices are better distributed throughout if done on a medium rather than a course grind.)

In a food processor, combine the cumin, coriander, soaked chickpeas, onion, garlic, fresh herbs, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, a few turns of black pepper, Aleppo pepper, if used, flour, and lemon juice and pulse quickly, 80 to 100 times, until the mixture is combined, but still slightly grainy. If you squeeze a spoonful in your hand and it holds together, you have the right texture.

Falafel

In a large skillet, heat ¼-inch oil over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking. Form balls of falafel mixture, 2 to 3 tablespoons each, packing them firmly and then flattening them slightly. Fry on all sides until golden brown. Transfer to a paper towel.

If using a deep fryer, then use as directed with the oil set to 350 degrees F. Carefully drop the falafel balls into the fryer a few at a time. I like my balls well-browned and with a crispy outside and a just moist inside. There is no need to turn the patties since both sides get cooked at the same time. I didn’t time things but the patties cook in about 3 minutes. You want to be sure that the falafel is fully cooked since you are using raw, soaked chickpeas.

Poor Man’s Pasta

Poor Man’s Pasta

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Poor Man’s Pasta has just a few simple ingredients. But never has poor seemed so rich! The humble cauliflower, garlic and some good olive oil makes a creamy, flavorful and very satisfying sauce for the pasta of your choice. Do choose a pasta with some shape that will trap and hold the sauce. I used a small shell, but orecchiette would also be a great choice.

And after watching Lidia Bastianich during the early shortages of the pandemic, I learned a trick that poor Italians used to replace cheese on their pasta. Breadcrumbs sautéed in olive oil with garlic and parsley until they have achieved a crunchy deliciousness makes parmesan cheese unnecessary. Have you ever wondered what to do with those left-over, dried out pieces of bread? Wonder no more! Of course, you can also use Panko or other store-bought breadcrumbs for this topping.

You will need a food processor to blitz the cauliflower into an almost powdery state. Store-bought riced cauliflower is still too big to achieve the right level of creaminess that you want here. Nothing gets wasted. You can include any fresh, young cauliflower leaves and the more tender parts of the stem. They all add flavor.

Olive oils can be pricey, it’s true. So buy the best EVOO that you can afford. I love the Mediterranean Olive Oil that I buy from Sciabica online. My daughter-in-law Frances introduced me to it and I have never looked back. There are, of course, other good brands out there, so choose one you like.

Fresh garlic is the other essential ingredient in this simple dish. Don’t use old garlic that has become bitter! Full disclosure, I did use shmushed up anchovies in my sauce. However, if you want to keep this vegan or just hate anchovies, the sauce will still be delicious if you leave it out.

I used fresh parsley in the breadcrumb mixture but you could use dried if that is all you have.

The richness in this dish comes from the cauliflower, pasta water and olive oil. When cooked together some wonderful alchemy occurs that provides depth and comfort in a healthy and affordable dish. One pound of pasta will easily make 6 servings, especially if served with a salad and some bread. I made a delicious kale salad and Andrew baked focaccia. A glass of red wine and this humble dinner became something extraordinary.

After the recipe directions is an idea of what you can do with left-overs – assuming you have any.

Recipe

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

1 pound of a curved pasta like orecchiette or shells

6 Tablespoons EVOO, divided

3 anchovy fillets (Optional)

4 large garlic cloves, peeled and grated or crushed, divided

1 medium head of cauliflower (about 2 pounds)

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes or to taste

kosher salt to taste

About 1 cup of dried breadcrumbs (Panko is great because it isn’t too fine. Those bumps soak up the flavor best.) You can make more of this mixture if you really like the topping. Just adjust the oil and parsley for the larger amount.

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh, flat-leaf parsley or 1 Tablespoon dried

Directions

Trim the cauliflower and cut into florets. Place these along with any fresh leaves and the more tender stems in a food processor. Blitz until the cauliflower is almost powdery.

Poor Man’s Pasta

Set a pot of well-salted water to boil. While this is coming to a boil, place 5 Tablespoons of oil in a large skillet. If you are using anchovies, put them in the oil on medium high heat, shmushing them around until they break up and melt into the oil. Add the garlic and chili pepper flakes and stir for 30 seconds. Do not burn the garlic.

Now add the cauliflower and mix it through to coat with the oil and garlic mixture. You can sprinkle on some kosher salt. If you are not using anchovies, add 1 teaspoon of salt to start. If you are using anchovies, only start with 1/2 teaspoon. You will be adding the well salted pasta water to the sauce so don’t over salt here. You can always add more, but you can’t remove it!

Sauté the mixture until the cauliflower breaks down and softens. Meanwhile cook your pasta according to the instructions on the package. Use the shorter cooking time given.

Just before the pasta is ready, take a bit more than a cup of the pasta water and add it about 1/4 cup at a time to the cauliflower mixture. Turn up the heat a bit and stir the water through until everything is creamy. I used a cup of water but depending on how much cauliflower you actually have, you might add a bit more or less than that.

Drain your pasta and mix it with the sauce.

Poor Man’s Pasta

While your pasta is cooking you can also brown your breadcrumb mixture. Place a Tablespoon of EVOO into a smallish skillet. When the oil is hot, add the breadcrumbs, 1 crushed clove of garlic and the chopped parsley. Depending on your breadcrumbs, you can add a bit of salt to taste. Brown them, stirring often until they are dark and crunchy but not burned.

Poor Man’s Pasta

Plate the pasta with the sauce and top with the breadcrumbs. Leftovers can be gently reheated or even placed in a baking dish and covered with a fresh mix of the breadcrumb topping drizzled with EVOO but which has not been sautéed. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until everything is heated through and the breadcrumbs are crunchy. Yummmmmmm!

Baked Poor Man’s Pasta

Because the Poor Man’s Pasta easily made enough for 6 servings and my husband and I are only 2 people, I decided to do something different for the leftovers.

I lightly oiled a rectangular baking dish and poured in my leftover pasta. I then added some dried oregano over the top along with a light sprinkling of shredded Mozzarella and Provolone. Yes, this is now vegetarian rather than vegan, although you could do this suing vegan “cheese.” I thickly sliced some Roma tomatoes across the top. Added more breadcrumbs and seasoning, including some salt. A bit more shredded cheese. (I probably used about 2 oz. of cheese total) I drizzled on a good glug of EVOO and baked uncovered in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes to warm everything through. I then cranked the heat up to broil and watched the tomatoes bake and everything on top brown. Yummmmmmy!

Poor Man’s Pasta Night #2
Poor Man’s Pasta Night #2

Salads for Every Meal

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Whether you are vegan, vegetarian or an omnivore, there is a salad here for you. Every Shabbat I make at least four salads and dips, several of which we will enjoy throughout the week. It’s a delicious habit that I adopted after spending time in Israel where salads are eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Aside from being delicious, they add so much color to any meal. And don’t we eat with all of our senses?

There are fresh salads, roasted vegetable salads and salads with a profusion of herbs and grains. Some of the salads are made with beans which add protein and heartiness. Almost any veg and many fruits, legumes and grains can be made into cold or warm salads. And when I want to make a light meal of salads I simply add some feta cheese or a piquant provolone and delicious bread, like the flaky flatbread or focaccia. The more I make these flatbreads the better I get at it. My last batch were nice and poufy and round! I simply refrigerate leftover breads and warm them in the toaster. They also freeze well. Yummmmmmmmmm!

Over the years, I have posted a number of salads and will link to some of them below. But here are three new ones (for me) that hopefully you will enjoy as well. They are guaranteed to brighten up just about any meal. The inspiration for this post comes from Sonya’s Prep. She is lovely young Orthodox Jewish vlogger that I have recently begun following. Her energy, charm and creativity make watching her a delight. And if anyone is looking to be more organized, she is someone to watch.

The three new salads are: Roasted Eggplant Peppers and Red Onion Salad; Shredded Carrot and Red Cabbage Salad; and Wheatberry and Barberry Salad

When you are feeding a crowd these salads can be doubled or tripled. And most people will enjoy these salads so much that you can go easy on the meat, if serving. Better for us and better for the planet.

I will give suggested measurements, but please don’t get too bogged down with being exact. When preparing these, I almost never truly measure, especially when it comes to adding fresh herbs. Taste as you go along, especially with the salt and dried spices. You can always add more but it is difficult to impossible to remove them once added.

For those interested in other delicious salad ideas here are just some of the ones available through my blog:

Twice-Cooked Eggplant Salad

Moroccan Carrot Salad

Green Fattoush Salad with Mint Vinaigrette

Farro Salad

Lentils du Puy and Potato Salad with Tarragon

Spiced Butternut Squash and Farro Salad

Red Cabbage, Walnut and Goat Cheese Salad

Armenian Lentil Salad

Moroccan Beet Salad (Barba)

Sunshine Kale Salad

Roasted Tomato and Olive Pearl Couscous Salad

Lentil Salad with Raisins, Tomatoes and Tarragon

Get your Freekeh on – with this lemony, herbed salad

Apple, Goat Cheese and Pecan Salad

Watermelon and Feta Salad

Moroccan Beet and Orange Salad with Pistachios

Horta Salata: Fancy Salad

Beet and Chickpea Quinoa Salad

Easy Feta and Roasted Tomato Salad

Herbed Farro Salad

Orange and Radish Salad

Recipes

Roasted Eggplant Peppers and Red Onion Salad

1 medium eggplant – about 1.25 pounds

2 smallish bell peppers in different colors

1 medium red onion

kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

About 1/4 cup EVOO

About 1/4 cup of white wine or apple cider vinegar

2 to 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed or grated

1/4 cup chopped cilantro or flat-leaf parsley

3 to 4 scallions, thinly sliced including dark green stems

1/4 cup chopped fresh dill

Directions

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F.

Chop the eggplant, onions and peppers into a large dice of approximately equal size. Place on a baking sheet and toss together with the EVOO and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread the veggies across the baking sheet in a single layer. (If you want to use foil for easier clean-up, go ahead. But it does end up in a landfill….)

Roast the vegetables for about 30 minutes, turning the pan once. They should be golden and tender but not mushy. Ovens vary so check after 25 minutes or it could go as along as 35.

When cool enough to handle, transfer everything to a bowl and toss with the remaining ingredients. Taste to see if you need to add any additional salt or pepper.

Shredded Carrot and Red Cabbage Salad

Shredded Carrot and Red Cabbage Salad

Ingredients

About 6 ounces pre-packaged shredded carrots OR about 4 cups carrots that are trimmed and julienned

About 1 cup of shredded red cabbage

1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced into pieces about the size of the carrot shreds

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed or grated

1.5 teaspoons granulated or Demerara sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper or Aleppo pepper

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 Tablespoons EVOO

1 to 2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar

Juice from 1 lemon

3 Tablespoons chopped fresh dill or 1.5 Tablespoons dried dill

3 Tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or cilantro

Directions

Place everything in bowl large enough to comfortably hold the ingredients. Mix everything well, preferably with your hands. You want to massage the carrots to soften them a bit. Taste to adjust seasonings. Yup, that’s it!

Wheatberry and Barberry Salad

Wheatberry and Barberry Salad

Ingredients

1 cup uncooked hard winter wheatberries (You could use farro or barley if wheatberry isn’t available; however, they will not have that unique chewy nuttiness that a properly cooked wheatberry has.)

1/2 of a small red onion, peeled and chopped

4 to 5 thinly sliced red radishes

2 Persian cucumbers cut in to quarters and diced

1/2 cup dried barberries (You could use currants instead but they won’t be as flavorful.)

2 generous cups, finely chopped fresh herbs (I used dill, cilantro and parsley, but mint would also be good)

1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed or grated

Juice of 1/2 fresh lemon or more to taste

1 teaspoon of kosher salt or more to taste

1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

2 to 3 Tablespoons flavorful EVOO

Directions

Soak the wheatberries for at least 8 hours or overnight. Bring 3 cups of water or broth with a glug of olive oil to a boil in a medium pot with a tight-fitting lid. If using water or unsalted broth, add 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Drained the wheatberries and add to the boiling liquid. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 1 hour. This can be done a few days ahead. Just refrigerate the cooked wheatberries in their liquid.

You want the wheatberries to be cold or no warmer than room temperature. Place them, drained of any accumulated liquid, in a bowl and add all of the other ingredients. Gently but thoroughly toss well. Now enjoy!

Potato and Green Pea Curry

Potato and Green Pea Curry

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Potato and Green Pea Curry is nutritious, vegan deliciousness in one pot. This easily adaptable curry is enhanced by the fluffy and flavorful Garlic Herbed Naan shown here. All of this can be made ahead and warmed when you are ready to eat. It’s another wonderful Meatless Monday – or any day – option.

Garlic Herbed Naan

As those who follow me know, my husband and I have moved to eating vegetarian and vegan meals about 5 days a week. So I am always on the lookout for something that suits our tastes, is nutritious and deeply satisfying. These days, it is easier and easier to follow a vegan diet. While I admit that I am not sold on plant-based yogurt or certain meat look-alike substitutes, they are readily available. And for those who want them, their taste and costs are improving every day.

As with any meal plan you follow, it is important to put together a meal that is appealing and nutritious. After all, just being “good for you or the planet” isn’t much solace if the food doesn’t taste great. Mediterranean and South Asian cuisines lend themselves to vegan or vegetarian preparations. A place for encouragement and great recipes is Pick Up Limes, which is where these recipes originated. This vlogger is a registered nutritionist and a walking advertisement for veganism in a totally non-judgmental package.

While I made Potato and Green Curry as written, it is easily adaptable to using other veg. But because I want as much nutritious bang for my efforts, I know that this recipe covers all of the bases. I also liked that it all came together in under an hour and that I could prep it ahead. Being retired doesn’t mean that I necessarily want to spend hours in the kitchen. My husband and I love to take long walks. When we arrive home happily tired, I want a delicious dinner that comes together quickly and easily. This fits the bill.

Naan is pretty available where we live, but my husband and I enjoy baking most of our own bread. The naan shown here also comes together quickly and the seasonings can be changed to suit your tastes. While the original recipe called for plant-based yogurt and non-dairy milk, mine was made with Bulgarian natural yogurt and 2% milk. We do use soy milk as well in our house, but this is what I went with. I also deviated by using ajwain or carom seed and fresh vs. dried parsley. If you don’t have or don’t like ajwain, commonly used in Indian cuisine, you can leave it out or substitute cumin seed.

When my husband gives me an enthusiastic response to a vegan dish, I know that it is worth sharing. He was brought up in a very meat-eating family. These dishes are not look-alike substitutes for meat. Nor are they trying to fool you into thinking that you are eating meat when you aren’t. They are, however, delicious meals in their own right and can be enjoyed whether you have adopted a vegan/vegetarian lifestyle or are simply looking for new dinner ideas.

As with many South Asian and Middle Eastern/Mediterranean meals, this recipe appears to have a LOT of ingredients. Most are spices that any home who eats these foods would readily have on hand. So don’t be scared off. And the fresher your spices, the more flavorful your food!

Recipe

Potato and Green Pea Curry

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

1 Tablespoon neutral vegetable oil

2 teaspoons each: whole cumin, coriander and brown mustard seeds

1 medium onion, peeled and diced

3 large cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

1 Tablespoon, grated or minced fresh ginger

1 vegetable bouillon cube

1 Tablespoon garam masala

2 teaspoons ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I did NOT use this and didn’t miss it)

3 to 4 medium potatoes (I used Yukon Gold, but a red potato or even Russet would work) peeled and cut into small cubes

1.5 cups of water

1 cup frozen, thawed green peas

1 can (about 15 oz.) or 1.5 cups cooked, drained chickpeas

1 can (about 399 ml. or 13 oz.) full-fat coconut milk

About 2 generous cups fresh baby spinach, torn

For serving:

Potato and Green Pea Curry

Basmati or other rice

fresh cilantro

lime wedges

naan

Directions

I find if I prep everything first then the actual cooking is a snap. It may mean a couple of extra bowls, but it really is so much faster and easier in the end. And nothing ever gets missed that way. Neither am I sent scrambling to suddenly mince or grate something.

In a 3.5 quart or bigger pot, add the oil and heat on medium high. When the oil is hot, add the whole seeds and toast for 30 to 60 seconds. This will “bloom” the spices.

Add the chopped onion next and cook until translucent – about 3 to 5 minutes. If it appears that the spices are getting too dry, you can splash in a Tablespoon of water.

Next add the garlic and ginger and cook for two more minutes or until fragrant.

The bouillon cube, garam masala and turmeric go in next. If you are using cayenne pepper, add it here as well. Stir for 30 to 60 seconds.

Potatoes and water are added now. Partially cover the pot and bring to a simmer. Cook until the potatoes are tender – about 15 minutes.

Now add the peas, chickpeas and coconut milk. Stir through well and cook until warmed. This can be done ahead up to this point. When you are ready to serve, add the spinach and cook through until wilted. This should only take a few minutes. Serve hot.