Vegan Italian Chocolate Cookies

Lumpy. Bumpy. Chewy. Deeply chocolaty with an undertone of spice. And easy – so easy.

As anyone who reads my blog knows, I am not a vegan. However, I always like to have some good vegan recipes – especially desserts – in my back pocket. Whether you keep kosher or eschew dairy products for ethical reasons or because of food allergies, vegan desserts can be a wonderful option.

However, I will not serve a vegan dessert unless it is just as good as a non-vegan one. I came across this recipe and after a few tweaks, the result is a delicious cookie that chocolate lovers will adore. The hint of exotic spices gives a Mediterranean flavor that marks it as unique.

This recipe comes together quickly and requires no special equipment or techniques – and I had everything on hand in my pantry. Do use a really good quality unsweetened Dutch Processed cocoa like Droste or Valrhona when making these. Chocolate and cocoa powders each have their own unique flavor profile so find one that you like and use it in all of your recipes.

I confess that I made my cookies with unsalted real butter, but they absolutely will not suffer if they are made with a buttery vegan solid such as Earth Balance.

My husband and I tried the cookies still slightly warm from the oven and after a day in an airtight tin. While both were good, we agreed that the flavors and texture were at their peak after sitting overnight. The cookies will easily keep for a week, if stored properly, and are luscious with a glass of milk (dairy or non), a cup of coffee or with a sweet dessert wine.

Because the cookies are such a deep, dark brown, it can be difficult to tell when they are fully baked. I made three batches and baked each one for a different amount of time – from 14 minutes to 20 minutes. All worked, but the one that baked for 14 minutes was the best. The dough does not spread during baking so however the cookies go onto the baking sheet is pretty much how they will come out at the end. Try one of these deeply satisfying and not overly sweet cookies soon.

Recipe

Yield: 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients

1/2 cup of unsalted, solid vegan buttery margarine or unsalted real butter (1 stick)

2/3 cup unsweetened Dutch Processed Cocoa

2 cups light or dark brown sugar

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup strong coffee (the liquid and NOT granules!)

2.5 cups whole wheat flour

1.5 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup coarsely chopped, lightly pan-toasted blanched almonds or walnuts

1 cup of raisins tossed with 1 teaspoon of flour

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets or pans with parchment paper or a non-stick silicone mat like Silpat.
  2. Combine first five ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium/low heat. Allow the mixture to melt until it resembles chocolate syrup. Do not allow it to boil. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.
  3. Combine the flour with the baking powder, spices and salt in a large bowl.
  4. Pour the melted chocolate mixture into the flour mixture and stir to combine until no flour is visible. Add the almonds and raisins and work through the batter so that everything is evenly distributed.
  5. Lightly spray a 1 Tablespoon cookie scoop or measuring spoon with a non-stick spray. Scoop out slightly rounded Tablespoonfuls and place on the prepared baking pan. The cookies do not spread during baking so they can be fairly close together.
  6. Bake for 14 minutes, turning once if your oven bakes unevenly like mine!
  7. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 3-5 minutes before transferring the cookies to a cooling rack. Allow the cookies to cool completely before storing.

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Watercress, Spinach & Chickpea Soup

Easy Does It

We recently hosted our nephew and his girlfriend for Shabbat dinner. Since I hadn’t been cooking for anyone but the two of us for awhile, I decided to go all out on a Mediterranean feast. I baked challah and made hummus, baba ghanoush, several salads, lamb with apricots and basmati rice and an apricot frangipane tart. With so many different pieces to the meal, I wanted something that was flavorful and bright for the soup but which wasn’t overly complicated. Surprisingly, I found it in my Jerusalem Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.

While I like the foods that appear in this cookbook, I generally find that the recipes are overly complicated with unnecessary steps. This one was pretty simple and since I already happened to have the Ras El Hanout spice mix and rose water in my pantry, I didn’t even have to buy any special ingredients. You can, of course, make your own spice mix, but it is also perfectly acceptable to buy it. Any good spice shop such as Kalustyan’s should have it or it can be ordered online.

Herbaceous, Bright and Vegan

This creamy, bright green soup is perfect as part of a meat, vegetarian or vegan meal. And while I mentioned in an earlier post that my husband thinks foods with rose water taste like fancy hotel soaps, the amount used here is small. He was unaware that it was even in there. The rose water does lend the soup some indefinable, slightly exotic flavor, but the soup would still be delicious if you left it out.

Recipe

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

2-3 medium carrots, cut into 3/4-inch dice

3 Tablespoons of EVOO, divided

2.5 teaspoons Ras El Hanout

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

15 ounce can cooked chickpeas, well-drained

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

2.5 Tablespoons, peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger (I used the stuff in a jar)

2.5 cups of vegetable stock

7 ounces of fresh watercress

3.5 – 4 ounces fresh spinach leaves

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon rose water (optional)

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F

Mix the carrots with 1 Tablespoon of the EVOO, the Ras El Hanout. cinnamon and a generous pinch of salt. Spread in a single layer on a pan lined with parchment paper. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes and then add 1/2 of the drained chickpeas. Mix well and continue roasting for 10 more minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside. This can be made ahead and refrigerated over-night.

Place the remaining 2 Tablespoons of EVOO in a large saucepan and add the ginger and onions. Saute for about 10 minutes over medium heat, until the onion is softened and becomes golden at the edges.

Add the remaining chickpeas, stock, watercress, spinach, sugar and 3/4 teaspoon of salt and a few cracks of black pepper. Stir well and bring to a boil. Cook for only about 2 minutes or just until the leaves wilt. You want the greens to remain bright.

When the soup has cooled somewhat, blend it until smooth in a food processor or blender. Add the rose water and check to see if you want more salt and pepper. This can also be made ahead and gently reheated.

To serve, divide the soup among four bowls and top with the carrot, chickpea mixture.

Quinoa with Peas and Herbs

Satisfying Side or Vegetarian Main course

I am not a huge fan of quinoa. There, I’ve said it. However, when I came across this recipe in 2011, it changed my mind. Don’t misunderstand, quinoa still is not my favorite grain. But when I prepare it this way, I happily gobble it down. I eat it with grilled meat or fish as a side or with a salad for a main course.

What is Quinoa?

Quinoa has become pretty ubiquitous and is often seen in Buddha Bowls and in veggie-centric meals. This “Ancient” grain originated in the Andes Mountains of Bolivia, Argentina and Peru. It is high in protein, dietary fiber, Vitamin B and dietary minerals. And because it is also gluten-free, it is well-tolerated by almost everyone. Quinoa comes in different color varieties, but white quinoa is best with this recipe.

Vegetarian or Vegan

While I use plain yogurt or sour cream, you can veganize by simply using a non-dairy sour cream. The peas, Dijon mustard, herbs and tartness of the lemon juice make this grain into a zippy and bright dish. In order to maximize on the bright colors of spring, the quinoa is best eaten fresh.

Recipe by Naomi Pomeroy

Yield: 4 servings as a side or 2 as a main course

Ingredients

1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed 
1/2 teaspoon and pinch salt 
2/3 cup water 
1/4 cup and 1 tablespoon olive oil 
1/3 cup yellow onion, diced**
3/4 cup snap or snow peas, ends trimmed and halved crosswise on the bias**
3/4 cup shelled peas, fresh or frozen 
2 tablespoons sour cream 
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard 
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar 
1 tablespoon lemon juice 
1/2 teaspoon sugar 
1/3 cup fresh mint, torn**
1/4 cup parsley, chopped**

Directions

1. Place quinoa in a small saucepan with a pinch of salt. Cover with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, until tender, about 18 minutes. Remove from heat and fluff grains. Leave lid ajar, and let cool.

2. While quinoa cooks, set a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Swirl in 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add onions and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.

3. Stir in snap peas and shelled peas. Sauté for 2 minutes, or until peas turn bright green. Remove from heat.

4. Mix sour cream, mustard, vinegar, lemon juice, sugar and ½ teaspoon salt together. Whisk in ¼ cup olive oil.

5. Stir quinoa into the pea mixture and set pan back over medium heat. Cook until just warmed through and add dressing. Remove from heat.

6. Stir in mint and parsley. Adjust seasoning with lemon juice and salt, if needed.

NOTES: ** I have given the suggested amounts of onions, herbs and peas, but I generally am much more generous when I make this. I love fresh seasonings and lots of additional veggies. Remember balance when you are putting together a dish. You can always add more of something but once it is in there, it is difficult to impossible to remove.





Beef Stufato with Buckwheat Pilaf

You Say Stufato

A stufato is simply the Italian way to say stew. The version that appears below comes from my handwritten notes dating back about 40 years. Since writing a blog was the furthest thing from my mind then, I did not write down the author. Soooooooo, my apologies to the person(s) who came up with this delicious and easy peasy beef stew. For an old-fashioned Irish beef stew check this out.

So What is Kasha?

You could serve this warm and welcoming dish with some good chewy country bread, over rice, pasta or mashed potatoes, but I am serving it with a kasha pilaf. Kasha is roasted, whole grain buckwheat. And buckwheat is a great source of healthy fiber anti-oxidants and is rich in minerals. Best of all, it tastes great! While I am not in any way gluten-free, buckwheat is. I always make a lot because it is great as left-overs and stuffed in pita with chopped tomatoes and lettuce for a vegetarian or vegan lunch.

The Sum of Its Parts

I often find recipes with multiple parts and after I have made them, it turns out that I really only like the topping or the base but not what was in between. That’s how I came to make my Sriracha Cashews. So while beef stew definitely would not be appealing to a vegan, the buckwheat pilaf would. I have found inspiration in some unlikely places. I have successfully turned non-vegan recipes into vegan ones and clearly non-Kosher recipes into Kosher acceptable meals. So before you go dismissing a recipe, see if you can’t find some take-away that you can use.

Recipe for Stufato

Yield: 4-5 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds of beef stew meat, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 4 Tablespoons EVOO
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
  • Up to 2 cups of a dry red wine like a Cabernet (use whatever you plan on drinking)
  • 14.5 ounce can of a quality diced tomato (preferably San Marzano)
  • About 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1.5 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
  • 2 bay leaves, dried or fresh
  • 1 teaspoon each dried basil and thyme
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
  • Additional chopped flat-leaf parsley for garnish (Optional)

Directions

  1. Heat EVOO in a heavy-duty saucepan with a cover. Add meat in a single layer, without crowding and brown on all sides. (I did this in batches. If you crowd the pan, the meat won’t brown.) Remove the meat to a dish while you prepare the rest of the stufato.
  2. Add the onion to the same pan that you browned the meat in and sprinkle with the brown sugar and about a teaspoon of salt. Saute the onion until it becomes soft, scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the pan as you go. (The juices from the onion should be sufficient to de-glaze the pan and all of those browned bits from the meat add flavor.)
  3. Once the onion has softened, add the wine to just cover the meat (you don’t want to drown the meat – just barely cover it), tomatoes, garlic, and herbs and stir through to mix. Now add back your meat and any juices and give another stir. Add some cracked black pepper and stir once more. Bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan and cook on low for 2 hours. Adjust your seasonings and discard the bay leaves before serving.

Recipe for Buckwheat Pilaf (Vegan)

Yield: About 4 cups (Can be doubled)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of roasted whole grain buckwheat (Kasha)
  • 2 Tablespoons of EVOO or butter
  • 2 cups of hot broth (Vegetarian, chicken or beef, preferably unsalted) (If using salted broth, eliminate the additional salt mentioned below.)
  • 1/2 cup each: chopped yellow onion, sliced mushrooms, celery and carrots
  • About 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Directions

  1. In a 2-quart saucepan, heat the butter or oil and add the vegetables. Saute the vegetables until slightly softened.
  2. Add the hot broth (and salt, if adding) and bring to a boil. Add the kasha and stir through. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 12 minutes or until most of the water has been absorbed. Uncover the pot and fluff the pilaf with a fork before serving.

Roasted Tomato Soup

While my family and I eat meat, we don’t eat it every night. And since it is generally just me and my husband now, we often like something a little bit lighter for dinner yet still full of flavor. This is a lovely, herbaceous, slightly smoky soup that really only requires some well-toasted, crusty bread topped with smushed avocado or hummus if you are keeping it vegan or adding some cheese if you just want it vegetarian. The original recipe claimed that it served four, but unless you are also serving a large salad or are very, very tiny people with very, very small appetites, we found that it was just right for two people with one of them having seconds. Of course, if this is just a first course, it will obviously serve more. Should you have any left-overs, they can be gently re-heated.

This recipe relies on having access to really flavorful tomatoes and I think that Roma/plum tomatoes are best here. And while I suppose you could use dried herbs, please, please use fresh. It’s just that kind of fresh, herbal flavor that makes this dish. There are no fancy techniques here and it is wonderful as is, but when I make it again, I very likely will also add a couple of roasted red peppers – just because I can.

Roasted Tomato Soup by  

Yield: 4 small or 2 generous servings

Ingredients

2 lb tomatoes

2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp Kosher salt or to taste

1/4 tsp cracked black pepper or to taste

2 cups vegetable broth, preferably low sodium

3 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion chopped – about 2 cups

3 cloves garlic minced

1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped plus extra for garnish

1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped plus extra for garnish

2 tbsp all-purpose, unbleached flour

1 tbsp brown sugar

2 tsp Balsamic vinegar

1 tsp Spanish smoked paprika  

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F degrees.
  2. Cut the tomatoes in half length-wise. Add the tomatoes to a 9 x 13 baking pan and drizzle with 2 tbsp of olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Bake for about 30 minutes or until tomatoes start to char slightly.Roasted Tomato Soup 3Roasted Tomato Soup7

  3. Add the tomatoes (with skin on) to a blender along with 1 cup of vegetable broth. Blend until tomatoes are smooth. [I found that the tomatoes blended just fine without adding the broth at this point. Your choice.]

  4. In a Dutch oven or heavy soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.

  5. Add the chopped onion and garlic cloves and cook for 5 minutes or until the onion is soft and translucent.

  6. Add chopped fresh basil and thyme and stir. Roasted Tomato Soup8Sprinkle the flour over the onions and stir. Add remaining 1 cup of vegetable broth and whisk, just to make sure there are no lumps from the flour.

  7. Pour the blended tomatoes into the pot and stir.

  8. Add brown sugar, Balsamic vinegar, smoked paprika and season with salt and pepper if needed.

  9. Simmer uncovered for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  10. Serve with some additional chopped fresh herbs, grated cheese and/or toasted bread or any combination. Roasted Tomato Soup1

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

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.

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.

Sriracha Cashews

Sriracha Cashews1The temperatures have peaked in the 90’s and even with air conditioning, I want EASY. I came across these nuts in an otherwise underwhelming recipe that used way too much soy sauce and was more effort than the result warranted. (I may make it again with some major changes, which I will post at a later date.) The nuts were to have been the garnish, but for me, they became the main attraction. And they are so ridiculously easy to make! Fair warning, though, they are addictive. Munch them with drinks – or anytime – and use them as a garnish over a simple stir-fry to take it to the next level. All you need are two ingredients, plus a sheet pan and an oven. The original recipe only made a half cup of nuts, but I have increased it to 2 cups because, let’s face it, a half cup will be gone before they are barely out of the oven. These nuts have just the right amount of spice – not so much that you will blow off the top of your head but just enough to wake up your taste buds.

Sriracha Cashews as part of a recipe for Grilled Soy-basted Chicken Thighs

Yield: 2 cups of nuts

Ingredients

2 cups of raw cashews

1/2 cup of Sriracha sauce

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil.
  2. Mix the cashews with the Sriracha sauce in a bowl until all of the nuts are well coated. Pour onto the sheet pan, separating the nuts into a single layer with a little space in between. Don’t go crazy doing this. It’s simple, right?
  3. Bake in the oven, stirring once until the nuts are roasted and dry. The time will vary according to your oven, humidity etc. The original recipe suggested 20 minutes, but mine took about 1 hour to be the way I like them. The color when finished was almost mahogany. Roast them until the nuts are no longer sticky. Allow them to cool and then start munching. Sriracha Cashews

NOTE: If you are making these ahead and they get a little sticky, just pop them onto a sheet pan and put them back in a 300 degree F. oven for about 3-5 minutes to refresh them.

Rhubarb Strawberry Tart with Walnut Crust

Rhubarb Tart with Walnut Crust8 (2)

It’s rhubarb season again! Growing up my mother always made a strawberry or raspberry rhubarb compote that always hovered on the edge of sweet-tart flavor that was so refreshing on a hot summer day. I wanted to capture that flavor again but in a slightly more complex dessert. It is especially wonderful topped with a little Greek yogurt sweetened with agave syrup or honey or some lightly sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. The resulting dessert is light, a little bit tart, a little bit sweet, with that distinctive rhubarb flavor and a crumbly, nutty crust.

Since everyone’s taste is a bit different and fruit also varies, you may need to adjust the amount of sugar. I also made dough for a 9-inch shallow tart with enough left-over to make about 4 individual tartlettes if you wish. I made my dough with a mix of butter and Crisco for the shortening, but you could use all Crisco (a solid vegetable shortening) if you wish to keep this vegan.

Rhubarb Strawberry Tart with Walnut Crust

Yield: One 9-inch tart

Ingredients

For the filling

4 cups (about 1 pound) of rhubarb, washed, trimmed and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces

Rhubarb Tart with Walnut Crust2

1 cup granulated sugar

Scant 1 cup water

2 teaspoons arrowroot

pinch of Kosher or sea salt

1 cup of sliced strawberries

About 1/4 cup of red currant jelly

For the crust

2 cups finely ground walnuts

1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon Kosher or fine sea salt

3 Tablespoons granulated sugar

12 Tablespoons very cold solid shortening OR 4 Tablespoons of unsalted butter plus 8 Tablespoons of solid shortening

About 4 Tablespoons ice water

Directions

For the filling

Rhubarb Tart with Walnut Crust1

  1. In a 2 quart saucepan, dissolve the sugar in the water over medium heat. Add the rhubarb, cover the pan and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Cook until the rhubarb is very tender. This only takes about 3-4 minutes so watch it! Drain the rhubarb, reserving the liquid. Add the sliced strawberries to the hot rhubarb and add the pinch of salt, mixing through gently.
  2. Return the liquid to the pan and add the arrowroot. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the liquid clarifies and begins to thicken – about 8 minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat and allow it to cool somewhat. When it has cooled a bit, add only enough (about 1/4 cup) to the rhubarb-strawberry mixture to give it a “sauce” but not so much as to drown the rhubarb or to make it soupy. You will eye-ball this since it is not an exact science. (The arrowroot will thicken the liquid but will not become gloppy, something I HATE in fruit pies and desserts.) Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. It can also be made ahead and refrigerated until you are ready to use it. Rhubarb Tart with Walnut Crust3

For the crust

Rhubarb Tart with Walnut Crust4 (2)

  1. Place all of the dry ingredients in a bowl and add the cold shortening in small cubes. Using your fingers, work the shortening into the dry mixture until you have pieces about the size of peas.
  2. Add the water and continue working the mixture until you can form the dough into a solid ball. I didn’t need to add any additional water, but if you must, add it in very small amounts at a time. Gather the dough together and flatten into a disk. Wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. This can also be made ahead and should keep for a couple of days in the fridge.
  3. When the dough has been chilled, remove it to a well-floured board, counter or pastry cloth and roll it out so that it fits into the bottom of the 9-inch flan pan. I only used about 2/3 of the dough. Place the round into the ungreased pan and using your fingertips or knuckles, carefully push the dough into and up the sides of the pan. While you are doing this, preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Prick the dough all over with a fork and bake it until well browned, about 30 minutes. Ovens vary, so just keep checking it. You want it to look like this: Rhubarb Tart with Walnut Crust6

Assemblage

  1. Once the crust has cooled, pour in the rhubarb-strawberry mixture and spread it evenly across the crust.
  2. Warm the red currant jelly and spoon it over the top of the filling. If the jelly had actual currants in it, pour it through a sieve before putting it over the rhubarb mixture. Spread it evenly with the back of a spoon or a pastry brush. Only use enough to give a nice sheen to the tart. Rhubarb Tart with Walnut Crust7
  3. Refrigerate the tart in the pan for at least 2 hours to allow everything to set up nicely. This can be made a day ahead. Once the tart has chilled, carefully remove the tart from the fluted flan pan and place on a serving plate. Serve as is, maybe with a sprig of fresh mint for color. I like it with a bit of sweetened Greek yogurt, crème fraîche or whipped cream, but if you wish to keep it vegan, it is also delicious plain. I’m personally not a fan of vegan whipped toppings, but go for it if that is what you like. Just enjoy!