Lemony Broccoli Soup (and garlicky too)

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Best. Broccoli. Soup. Ever. I dropped by Springdale Farm on my way to work the other day and saw some beautiful broccoli I needed to have. That’s odd for one reason: I don’t particularly care for broccoli. But it looked so tempting. I came home and immediately made soup for the week. And then I ate it in two sittings. I will make this all season.

To serve this soup you can top with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream (as pictured), a little olive oil and coarse salt, or grate parmesan or another salty and hard cheese right on top. Serve with a crusty bread or just straight piping hot in a mug on the go. Don’t worry about being precise with this recipe- it can take a little flexibility.

Lemony-Garlicky Broccoli Soup
1 small onion, chopped
2 celery stocks, chopped (leaves on)
1 carrot
3 cloves garlic, bruised and separated
1 pound broccoli florets and some stock, torn into bite-sized pieces
1 lemon and zest
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
3-4 cups chicken stock (or vegetable)
salt and pepper to taste
optional garnishes:
parmesan, yogurt, chives, parsley

In a large skillet, sauté the onion, celery, carrot, and 2 cloves of the garlic until just soft and onions are starting to become translucent. Add the broccoli, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes over low heat. Stir in lemon zest, parsley and 1 clove garlic (chopped). Pour in 3 cups of the stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to low and simmer the soup partially covered for about 15 minutes. If the broccoli is not completely tender continue to cook for 10 more minutes and add more broth so the liquid continues to reach about 1/2 or 3/4 up the vegetables.

When the broccoli is tender, puree the soup. Add 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice and stir. Taste for salt, pepper, and more lemon. Add more broth if you want it thinner.

Serve hot (or cold) with any number of the garnish options.

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Roasted Butternut Squash and Cauliflower with Walnuts, Pomegranate, and Tahina

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It’s been awhile. Quite awhile. I have a long list of recipes on post-its around the house but this one tops the list and is timely for this winter season. The proportion of vegetables can be varied according to your taste. Make extra Tahina sauce and store in a jar for the next time (or to eat with a spoon).

My parents brought me a bottle of tahina from Israel and it’s sort of unfair how delicious it is. Go with your favorite brand and adjust the amount of liquid according to its thickness. My favorite available at most grocery stores here in the US is Al Wadi. Speaking of my parents, here’s a handy way to get pomegranate seeds easily and stain free (thanks mom).


Roasted Butternut Squash and Cauliflower with Walnuts and Lemony Tahina

1 butternut squash (about 1.5 pounds), cut into 1-inch slices
1 medium head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 small red onion, cut into 1/2-inch slices
4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
3 Tablespoons Tahina
1.5 Tablespoons lemon juice
1-2 Tablespoons water
1 small clove garlic, crushed
3-5 Tablespoons walnuts, toasted and chopped
3 Tablespoons pomegranate seeds
flake salt
2-3 teaspoons Za’atar*, optional

Preheat the oven to 425. Layer a large baking sheet with tin foil. Toss the vegetables with 2-3 Tablespoons of the olive oil and about 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Spread on the baking sheet- vegetables should not be overlapping, but touching is okay. Use two sheet pans if you need. Roast for 30 minutes, toss and roast for another 10-20 minutes. The vegetables are done when a fork easily pierces the skin and some pieces are browned.

While the vegetables are roasting, make the sauce. Combine the tahina, lemon juice, garlic, a pinch of salt and 1 tablespoon of the water. Whisk until it resembles a creamy peanut butter. Add more water as necessary. Taste for lemon and salt. Set aside.

When the vegetables are done, place them on your serving dish, top with the walnuts, pomegranates, and the tahina. If you decide to use za’atar- try toasting it in 1 Tablespoon olive oil and the walnuts. Top with a good sprinkle of flake salt.

*Za’atar is a delicious Middle Eastern spice available at most spice shops and ethnic markets. You can also make it at home from oregano, sumac, cumin, sesame seeds and black pepper.

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Green Pea Pesto

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I sort of fell in love with this pesto. I found fresh English peas and needed to have them.
I had tomatoes, cucumber, basil, and mint in the garden and I had recently found Bufala Mozzarella (the easiest for those of us lactose intolerants). This pesto tied it all together. After I topped my salad with this pesto a half dozen times, I added oil to make it a dressing, added parmesan to top pasta, ate it plain with Greek Yogurt, and served it as a spread with crackers and goat cheese.

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Green Pea Pesto

1 cup fresh English Peas, shelled
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 teaspoons mint
1/2 teaspoon salt (more to taste)
pepper to taste
Maldon Sea Salt (or other flake salt) for finishing

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Throw the peas in for one minute. Immediately strain (reserve some of the liquid) and blanch in ice cold water to stop the cooking process. These should still be crisp.

Combine all, except the oil, in a food processor. Pour in the oil in a steady stream. Taste for salt and pepper. If you’d like it a little thinner, add 1 teaspoon at a time of the reserved water until you have reached your desired consistency.

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Chestnut Cake

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Hello chestnut cake. Who knew? Why don’t I see this everywhere, all the time? Talk about a lovely and naturally gluten free flour.

My mother frequents a tiny, hole-in-the-wall, amazing Italian import store in Los Angeles called Guidi Marcello. Sometime ago she discovered several naturally gluten free items like corn pasta, flours, and the usual meats and cheeses.

One such treat was chestnut flour. I have been experimenting now with a variety of recipes. This favorite is a cake adapted from Gourmet, 2004. Top with whipped cream or greek yogurt as I did or chestnut spread.

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Chestnut Cake
3/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped*
1/2 cup olive oil
3 large eggs, separated
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons sugar
3/4 cup chestnut flour + some for dusting
1/4 cup almond flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease and flour (using chestnut flour) a 9-inch springform pan.

Toast hazelnuts until slightly browned. Rub nuts in a kitchen towel to remove any loose skins (some skins may not come off). Chop hazelnuts.

Beat together egg yolks, oil, honey, and 2 tablespoons sugar until thick and pale- several minutes. Sift together the chestnut flour, almond flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Fold in nuts. Add flour mixture to wet mixture and beat until just combined.

Beat egg whites, cream of tartar and a pinch of salt at medium-high speed until they form soft peaks. Add remaining sugar a little at a time, while beating the whites. Mix on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form.

Fold egg whites into the batter one third at a time. Pour into prepared pan and drop from 6 inches to break up any air bubbles.

Bake 30 minutes, then loosely cover with foil and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 10 to 15 minutes more.

Cool 30 minutes, then remove side of pan and cool completely.

*The structure of the cake will not alter if you do not use the hazelnuts. One version I opted to keep the hazelnuts out and use them as a topping instead.

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Creamy Green Gazpacho with Queso Fresco and Toasted Pepitos

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When I was 13 my mother took my sister to visit colleges. That was also the week of Spanish class presentations at my high school. With my mother and sister away from home, I came home with a “recipe” from a friend for gazpacho. I had always loved cold soup, but this one was spectacular. She told me the recipe: 1 tomato, 1 onion, 1 cucumber. Blend. So I did. My father kindly slurped the onion water down while my brother refused and poured himself a bowl of cereal. The next day I approached my friend and asked her about the recipe. Oh yeah, my mom made it. I don’t really know what was in it. I’m sorry Pa. I will never make that gazpacho again.

It’s been some years since the “gazpacho incident” and I’ve made dozens of variations over the years. This is one of my favorites. It’s incredibly creamy because of the avocado while still refreshing and light.

Creamy Green Gazpacho
1 1/2 pounds tomatillo
2 small avocados
2 small cucumbers (persian or other low-seed cucumber)
2 small cloves garlic
1/2 small yellow onion
1 hatch chili, optional (seeded)
2 Tablespoons lime juice
1 cup vegetable broth
1/2-1 cup water
hefty handful of cilantro
garnish with queso fresco, olive oil, toasted pepitos, and salt

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Boil the tomatillos whole for 2-3 minutes. Remove and place under cold water to stop the cooking.

Place all ingredients in a blender (start with 1/2 cup of water). Blend until completely smooth, adding more water and salt if needed.

Chill for at least 1 hour. Place garnish atop each bowl of gazpacho.

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Salt and Pepper Cocoa Shortbread

IMG_9984I created these a long while back and brought them along to a picnic. I forgot all about them but my 3rd base-playing friend, LB, did not. She reminded me of how much she loved those cookies several times over the last year. So when it was time for her going-away party I figured I’d make them again. I went through all of my files, notes, pictures, but found no trace of how I made them. So I tried again…. at midnight before the party. I made some crumbly (but tasty) something that sort of resembled a cookie. Nope.

And then I remembered I’d created an espresso shortbread that had all the right texture and bite. So I woke up early and made a new batch based on these guys in a snap. They are vegan and gluten free but will satisfy anyone’s sweet (but not too sweet) tooth. They travel well and keep in the freezer for some time too.

Salt and Pepper Cocoa Cookies
2 cups blanched almonds
1/2 cup walnuts, lightly toasted
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup agave
1/2 cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted
6-8 green peppercorns
1-2 teaspoons flake salt (like Maldon Sea Salt)

Place the almonds and toasted walnuts in a food processor and blend until a fine powder. Add the cocoa and baking soda.

Add the oil and agave and blend until just combined. Add the pecans and pulse a few times. Place the dough in plastic wrap and roll into a log about 2 inches in diameter. Place in the freezer for about 30 minutes to an hour, until just firm.

Preheat the oven to 350 and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. While the oven is preheating, prepare the pepper and salt. Smash the peppercorns using a mortar and pestle or the dull side of a heavy knife. Place in a small bowl. Place a teaspoon of flake salt in another small bowl.

Remove the cookie dough from the freezer and slice into ovals about 1/2 inch thick. Place about 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheet. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper onto each cookie. Bake for 7-8 minutes. Let cool completely before handling. They will firm up a bit more out of the oven as well.

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Dark Chocolate Ice Cream with Olive Oil and Sea Salt

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I have friends eating their way through their last week in Austin before a big move overseas. Some of their favorite things include dessert: particularly Lick Ice Cream. While I do love Lick, I can’t sample some of the favorites. I decided to try my hand at a Dark Chocolate with Olive Oil and Sea Salt ice cream for these ice cream connoisseurs. This version I can eat and so can they. It might be my favorite of all chocolate ice creams. It’s the texture that does it for me. To finish, add a sprinkle of sea salt and a little more olive oil if you desire and you’re golden.

Dark Chocolate Ice Cream with Olive Oil and Sea Salt
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 pinches sea salt, plus extra for garnish
1 scant cup sugar
3/4 cup boiling water
1 1/4 cup coconut milk
3 Tablespoons full-bodied extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for garnish

Mix the cocoa, salt, and sugar in a saucepan. Add the boiling water and stir into a paste. Add the coconut milk and simmer until the mixture comes to a light boil. Remove from heat. Whisk in the olive oil.

I decided to use a still freeze for this one. Place hot mixture in a heat proof bowl/tupperware with a lid. Leave uncovered in the freezer until chilled- about an hour. After the initial hour, mix with a wooden spoon every 20-30 minutes to even out the frozen crystals. When mixture is starting to feel frozen (about 2-3) hours, place in a blender or use handheld immersion blender and break up frozen parts. Freeze until ready to eat.

Drizzle with olive oil and additional sea salt if desired.

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