Vegan Banana Ginger Muffins

I have a fairly extensive collection of cookbooks that I have amassed over the years. I enjoy reading them the way other people enjoy novels, although I like those too. I recently picked up my cookbook from Macrina, a popular artisanal bakery in Seattle. I recall buying the cookbook for a particular recipe that I had seen somewhere, only to find that it wasn’t actually included in this collection. Oh well. I hadn’t really made anything from the cookbook yet, but in glancing through it, I came across this vegan recipe for a breakfast muffin. Not actually being vegan, I will only bake things that would be delicious to a non-vegan and which doesn’t require that I purchase a lot of flours and ingredients that I wouldn’t otherwise normally use. This recipe fits that bill. The only purchase I needed to make was for an egg replacement since up until now I have used aquafaba or applesauce. This recipe does not require any special skills or techniques and results in 8 fluffy, fragrant and filling muffins. The texture is light and this recipe produces one of THE best muffins I have ever had. The ginger is a back-note so if you are not a ginger person, don’t let this put you off. Give them a try – you won’t be disappointed! Vegan Banana Ginger Muffins8

Vegan Banana Ginger Muffins from More from Macrina by Leslie Mackie with Lisa Gordanier

Yield: 8 standard-size muffins

Ingredients

Vegan Banana Ginger Muffins5

1.25 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

3/4 cup stone-ground whole wheat flour

1.5 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons egg replacement (I used Bob’s Mill)

1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

1 cup walnut halves and pieces, toasted and coarsely chopped

2 ripe medium bananas (I like mine almost black for baking when the flavor is the most developed)

2 teaspoons peeled, grated fresh ginger (I always have a jar of this in the fridge for and find that it works beautifully and cuts down on my effort!)

2 teaspoons lemon zest (from 1 large lemon)

1/3 cup amber agave syrup

3/4 cup fresh orange juice

1/3 cup canola oil

1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Garnish

4 small pieces of candied (crystallized) ginger, cut in half on an angle

1/4 cup turbinado or demerara sugar (which actually I forgot to use!)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the rack in the center position. Oil the top of a standard-size muffin tin with canola oil and line 8 cups with paper liners. Set aside.
  2. Sift together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, egg substitute and salt in a large bowl. Add the toasted, chopped walnuts and mix well.
  3. In a blender or food processor, puree the bananas until very smooth. Add the canola oil, orange juice, vanilla and agave syrup and pulse through. Using a spatula, mix in the lemon zest and ginger until thoroughly combined.
  4. Working quickly and gently with a rubber spatula, fold the banana mixture into the dry ingredients in 2 to 3 additions. Do not over-mix which can result in tough muffins – and who wants those?) Only fold until all of the flour is moistened. Don’t worry about a few lumps.
  5. Divide the batter among the muffin cups, filling them to the top and mounding them somewhat. (As they bake you will see why you oiled the top of the muffin tin.) Top each muffin with a piece of ginger and a sprinkle of the sugar – which I forgot. (If you use the sugar it will glisten a bit more than mine but should not be enough to really affect the flavor. I added a bit post-baking for the photos.) Vegan Banana Ginger Muffins4Bake for 30 minutes or until the muffins are golden brown on top and a skewer or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Vegan Banana Ginger Muffins3
  6. Cool in the pan for 20 minutes and then carefully lift the muffins out of the pan and directly onto the wire rack to cool completely. The muffins are still a bit soft at this point. Once cooled – yummmmmmmmmm! Vegan Banana Ginger Muffins7
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Mediterranean Style Lentil Soup

Mediterranean Style Lentil Soup

My husband has a summer cold – the worst! And while normally I would make a big pot of chicken soup, I didn’t have the ingredients on hand and was feeling a bit lazy. Cold summer soups have their place and I enjoy everything from a cold cherry soup to a spicy tomato-based gazpacho, but sometimes a cold soup just won’t cut it. In the Middle East, lentil soup is ubiquitous – summer, winter, spring or fall. This version of lentil soup is ready in an hour and a half, can be made from ingredients you already should have in your pantry and is both nutritious and satisfying. What it isn’t, however, is beautiful. Of course, you can pretty it up with croutons and sprinkle it with parsley or cilantro and you can add rice or other grains to make it heartier, but at its simplest it is perfect as is. It can be “veganized”, substituting EVOO for the butter and using a good quality vegetable broth.

Mediterranean Style Lentil Soup

Yield: About 8 servings, although it will serve more if you add grains and/or serve it as a first course

Ingredients

4 Tablespoons of unsalted butter or EVOO

1 large onion, peeled and chopped (about 2 cups)

2 stalks of celery, including with leaves, chopped

1 large carrot, peeled and cut into small dice

2 cups of brown lentils

8 cups of beef or vegetable broth

Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Zest of one large lemon

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 rounded teaspoon ground cumin

Juice of one large lemon, or more to taste

Garnishes

Garlic croutons

Italian flat-leaf parsley

Black sesame sticks (I buy mine from Nuts.com)

Cooked rice or other grain such as cooked bulghur

Directions

  1. Rinse and drain the lentils. Melt the butter (or heat the EVOO) in a pot with a tightly fitting lid (5 quarts or larger).
  2. Add the chopped onion, celery and carrot to the pot, along with a teaspoon of salt and saute until the vegetables have softened. Add the lentils and the broth and bring to a boil. Skim the liquid if necessary. Add the turmeric and lemon zest, cover the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 1 hour or until the lentils will smush with the back of a spoon.
  3. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup. Add the cumin and salt and pepper to taste. Add the lemon juice, taste and adjust your seasoning. I happen to like things pretty lemony so may add as much as the juice of two lemons, but that is personal preference.
  4. Serve as is or garnish. Leftovers keep well refrigerated. Just give the soup a good stir if the liquid separates a bit.

To Make Garlic Croutons

  1. Heat your oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Cut slices of day-old bread into large dice. I like to leave on the crust. Toss them with drizzled EVOO (Garlic EVOO if you have it). Sprinkle the cubes with garlic powder and some Kosher salt.
  3. Place all of the cubes in a single layer on a baking pan. (I cover mine with foil or parchment to make clean-up easier.) 
  4. Bake, turning once for about 12 to 15 minutes or until the bread is nicely browned.

Heirloom Tomato and Ricotta Tart

We’ve reached that time in the summer when heirloom tomatoes are beautiful and affordable and my herbs are growing like crazy on my terrace. I like to make do-ahead meals and when the temperatures are in the 80’s and 90’s vegetarian meals are especially welcome. The produce will never be better than it is right now.

I came across this recipe for a tart that with a few tweaks of my own is a perfect dish for a light summer supper or brunch. All it needs is a green salad and a crisp Chardonnay and you couldn’t ask for a more satisfying summer meal.

My recipe for the crust makes extra so you can throw together a quick galette for two later in the week.

Heirloom Tomato and Ricotta Tart from Tasting Table and tweaked by me

Heirloom Tomato and Ricotta

Yield: One 11-inch tart plus enough extra dough for a 7 to 8-inch galette

Ingredients

For the crust

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus up to 1/4 cup more for dusting

1 cup grated cheese (Gruyere, Parmesan, Asiago or Pecorino Romano)

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

2 sticks of cold unsalted butter, cubed

1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons ice water

For the filling

8 ounces whole milk ricotta

8 ounces goat cheese (chevre)

1 cup grated Parmesan, Asiago or Romano

1 cup fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup fresh mint leaves

2 teaspoons lemon zest (I used 1 large lemon)

3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

1 large egg

Healthy pinch of red pepper flakes

1.5 teaspoons Kosher salt

For assembly

About 1 pound of heirloom tomatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick (I also used some multi-colored grape tomatoes to fill in spaces and because I liked the look)

1 Tablespoon olive oil (I used a lemon-flavored EVOO but any will do)

1 Tablespoon honey or Agave

Flake sea salt and freshly ground black pepper for sprinkling

Fresh basil and mint leaves for garnish

Directions 

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the flour, cheese and salt together. Cut the butter into small pieces, then add to the food processor. Pulse at 1-second intervals until butter is the size of peas—should be about 10 quick pulses. Add the ice water and pulse again about 10 times until the mixture is crumbly but holds together when pinched. Lay a clean tea towel on a work surface. Dump the crumbly dough mixture into the center of the towel. Grab the four corners of the towel together and twist to create a beggar’s purse, pressing the dough into a round. Use your hands to pack and flatten the round. Transfer to plastic wrap or waxed paper and refrigerate for at least one hour. Any unused dough can be frozen for a future use.
  2. When you are ready to bake, roll out the dough on a floured piece of parchment or a pastry cloth to about a 14-inch round. Brush off any excess flour and drape the dough over the rolling pin to transfer to the tart pan. Press the sides against the pan. In making this again, I would create a bit of a rolled over edge to my crust as I do for all my pies. [The original instructions said to use your rolling pin, run it across the top of the tart pan to trim any excess dough. I did this, which is what you see in the photo, but personally, I prefer a somewhat higher edge and will create one in future.] The excess dough can be frozen and used for a small galette. Chill the dough for at least 1 hour to reduce shrinkage.
  3. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.  [The original recipe said to bake at 425 degrees F. but I found that to be too high for my oven and my crust is a little darker than my ideal.]
  4. Make the filling by combining all of the filling ingredients in a food processor. Pulse until smooth. Set this aside until you are ready to use it. Heirloom Tomato and Ricotta7
  5. Using the tines of a fork, pierce the dough all over. Line the dough with foil and fill with baking weights or dried beans which can be stored when cool to use over and over. Bake until the dough is puffed and golden along the edges, about 15 minutes.  Remove the weights and foil and continue baking for about 10 minutes more. Remove the tart shell from the oven and allow it to cool for 15 minutes. Do NOT turn off the oven. Heirloom Tomato and Ricotta5
  6. Pour the filling into the tart shell and smooth it with a spatula. Layer the tomatoes in a concentric circle (or any pattern you like) over the filling. Drizzle with the olive oil and the honey and sprinkle the tomatoes with the flake salt and cracked black pepper. Heirloom Tomato and Ricotta4Bake until the tomatoes are wilted and the filling is set, about 30 minutes. Heirloom Tomato and Ricotta3Allow the tart to cool completely. Garnish with fresh mint and basil leaves, then slice and serve. Heirloom Tomato and Ricotta8

 

Smoky Yellow Split Peas

Dal is a cornerstone of Indian meals. They are wonderful with lamb and chicken or as part of a healthy vegetarian meal. And while I truly love Indian food, I have to be honest – it doesn’t make the most compelling photographs. Don’t be put off by that. The flavors in this dal are rich and smoky and yet mellow all at the same time. It’s very easy to make and if you get into South Asian or Middle eastern cooking, all of the ingredients will become staples in your kitchen as they are now in mine. Make the full amount since left-overs will not go uneaten.

I highly recommend the cookbook linked below. It is full of step by step instructions and photos so that even a novice cook can make successful meals.

Smoky Yellow Split Peas from Indian Cooking Unfolded by Raghavan Iyer

Smoky Yellow Split Peas

Yield: About 6 cups

Ingredients

1 pound Yukon Gold or russet potatoes

1 cup split yellow peas

4 cups of water

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

2-4 dried red cayenne chilies (like chili de Arbol), stems discarded

1 Tablespoon whole coriander seeds

1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds

1 medium tomato, cored and diced

1.5 teaspoons Kosher or sea salt

2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro

Directions

  1. Peel the potatoes and cut them into 1/2-inch dice. Place the potatoes in a bowl of cold water to prevent them from darkening.
  2. Place the split peas in a 4 quart saucepan. Smoky Yellow Split Peas1Add water to cover and rinse the peas, rubbing them gently between your fingers. Remove any debris that may be lurking (pebbles or the odd skin of the pea). Drain the peas and repeat until the water runs clear. Then add the peas to 4 cups of water in the saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. White foam should rise to the surface. Using a spoon, remove the foam and discard it.
  3. Drain the potatoes and add them to the peas along with the turmeric. Simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally for 20-25 minutes or until the peas are tender and the potatoes are cooked. Smoky Yellow Split Peas2
  4. In a small skillet, add the chilies, coriander and cumin Smoky Yellow Split Peas4Smoky Yellow Split Peas3and toast the spices over medium high heat, tossing them occasionally until the chilies are blackened and the coriander seeds are reddish in color. Everything will smell smoky and aromatic. Transfer the spice blend and the tomatoes into a blender and puree.
  5. Once the peas and potatoes are cooked (there will be liquid remaining in the pot), add every bit of the tomato and spice paste to the pot. Stir through. This can be made ahead to this point. Stir in the salt.
  6. Increase the heat to medium high and allow the dal to boil vigorously, uncovered, stirring occasionally. Cook for about 15 minutes to allow the flavors to mingle and the dal to thicken. You can use the back of a wooden spoon to smush some of the potatoes and yellow split peas for an even thicker sauce. Garnish with cilantro when serving.

Blackberry Thyme Crisp with Pistachio Ice Cream

Berries! They are everywhere. Not too long ago, Frances and Matthew gave me a lovely cookbook from a winery that we had visited together a couple of years ago on a trip through Napa and Sonoma. It has recipes and wine pairings which is wonderful for anyone asking the question of what goes well with [fill in the blank].

I’m always looking for new desserts that are easy and delicious. This one caught my eye because it uses fresh thyme along with the now ubiquitous berries. I happen to be growing a bumper crop of lemon thyme on my terrace and it pairs beautifully with the blackberries. The cookbook gives a recipe for making your own pistachio ice cream but I a) don’t own an ice cream maker; (b) have zero freezer space to make ice cream; and c) don’t want to spend so much time making dessert, so I simply purchased a very good quality “Mediterranean” Pistachio ice cream. If you want to make your own ice cream, buy the book. DO NOT OMIT the ice cream and do not buy that phony strange green stuff. This dessert really needs the pistachio ice cream to play off of the berries. “Crisp” is a bit of a misnomer, in my opinion. I might consider doubling the topping next time I make this since it sort of disappeared as a topping, simply melding with the berries and giving the berries some heft.

The dessert is not impressive looking (which could be why there was no photo of it in the cookbook…) and you won’t think this is the greatest thing you have EVER eaten. I’m just being honest. However, after taking that first bite, you will say “Wow, this is REALLY good.” It’s also surprisingly filling, so you could get 6 portions out of it. And once I added the pistachio ice cream and took that first bite – well, it was just a bit of perfection.

I don’t happen to live where wild blackberries grow, but if you do, they would be wonderful here. My blackberries came from the produce section of my local market.

Blackberry Thyme Crisp with Pistachio Ice Cream from the Winemaker Cooks by Christine Hanna

Blackberry Thyme Crisp6

Yield: 4 to 6 servings with ice cream

Ingredients

4 cups/455 grams fresh blackberries, washed and drained

1 Tablespoon cornstarch

1/3 cup/65 grams granulated sugar

1 generous teaspoon chopped fresh thyme (preferably lemon thyme)

1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Blackberry Thyme Crisp1

For the topping 

6 Tablespoons/45 grams unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup/100 grams packed brown sugar/Demerara sugar

1/2 cup/100 grams granulated sugar

Generous 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon Kosher or fine salt

6 Tablespoons/85 grams cold, unsalted butter cut into cubes

For serving

Good quality pistachio ice cream

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F/190 degrees C. Lightly butter a 9-inch square baking pan.
  2. In a large bowl, gently toss the berries with the sugar, cornstarch, thyme, lemon juice and vanilla. Allow it to stand for 15 minutes, while you make the topping and the oven heats up. Blackberry Thyme Crisp3 (2)
  3. In a food processor, pulse the flour, sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt until combined. Add the butter and continue processing until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Blackberry Thyme Crisp2
  4. Turn the fruit into the prepared baking pan and spread the fruit to an even layer. evenly spread the topping over the fruit.Blackberry Thyme Crisp4Blackberry Thyme Crisp5
  5. Bake for 35 – 45 minutes or until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature with the ice cream.