Pistachio Torte with Limoncello-Soaked Strawberries



I ran into a friend of mine at the grocery store and the conversation steered towards pistachios and how difficult they can be to find raw, shelled, and organic. I bake with a lot of different nut flours but for some reason pistachios are not often in my rotation- perhaps that’s why. The next time I saw them at the store, I bought a pound or two and made this torte, ice cream, and added them to a variety of breads and chocolates as well.

This recipe is based on a Sicilian dessert I saw in Southern Italian Desserts on my mother’s desk a long while back. I’d been wanting to make it for some time and the pistachio conversation brought it all back.

While this torte can stand on its own, it also reminded me of the bottle of Limoncello my parents had brought back for me from Italy. I’d been saving it for a rainy day and what better occasion than the creation of a perfect pistachio torte?

Pistachio Torte
adapted from Southern Italian Desserts
225 grams raw, shelled pistachios
1/4 teaspoon salt
zest of 1 lemon
6 large eggs, separated
125 grams sugar

Preheat the oven to 325 and position a rack in the lower third of the oven. Grease a 9-inch springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Blend the pistachios and salt in a food processor until almost fine. A few larger pieces are okay. Pulse in the zest.

In a large bowl using a handheld mixer (or standup if you have one) beat the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Add 75 grams of the sugar and beat until stiff.

In a second smaller bowl, beat the egg yolks and 50 grams of sugar until yolks turn slightly pale. Fold the yolk mixture into the whites. When blended, fold the pistachios in as well, a third at a time.

Pour mixture into the springform pan and bake for 30-35 minutes. A toothpick should come out with some crumb but not wet. Let cool completely before cutting. Sprinkle powdered sugar over if desired.

Limoncello-Soaked Strawberries
1 pint (or more) fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered
3 Tablespoons (or more) limoncello
2 Tablespoons sugar

Combine the ingredients in a bowl, stir, cover, and let sit for at least an hour. Spoon the juices over the strawberries at least once and again before serving.

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Pasta with Swiss Chard, Beet Greens, and Pecorino

While in Los Angeles with family this spring my sister brought over leftovers from a catering gig. She had deliciously chopped and stewed greens to put with aioli on baguette slices. I couldn’t stop dipping my crackers into the aioli and topping it with the greens. While I normally steer clear of chard there was a tiny kick to her dish and with the smooth garlicky aioli it just worked so well.

After my return to Austin, I was given a bunch of Swiss Chard and Beet Greens. Instead of immediately giving them to someone else or to my compost, I decided I’d see if I could create something I would like too. I brought back several bags of my favorite pasta, La Fabbrica della Pasta Senza Glutine from the Italian Import Store, Guidi Marcello. This pasta is far and away one of my top three pasta options (even if I have to leave room in my suitcase just for a trip to Guidi Marcello). Because this doesn’t have a “sauce” it’s extra important to use a gf pasta that you like the taste of since it will not be masked by heavy flavors.

Pennone Rigato with Greens and Pecorino

2 garlic cloves
2-3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 bunch of greens, chopped finely
chili flakes to taste
salt and pepper
*1/2 cup Pecorino Romano or more

Approximately 12 ounces pasta

In a small saucepan, bring a cup of water to boil. Add the garlic and boil for just 1 minute to take out some of the sharpness. Remove, let cool and chop.

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the onion and a pinch of salt. Sautee over low-medium heat until translucent. Add another tablespoon of olive oil then the garlic and greens. Stir occasionally until the greens are coated. While the greens are cooking, put the pasta on to cook.

When the greens are wilted, add a pinch of chili flakes and salt and pepper to taste.

Strain the pasta and reserve some of the starchy pasta water. Toss the pasta with the greens and add more olive and 1 tablespoon at a time of the reserved water to create a creamy consistency. Add some of the pecorino and the rest should be added to each individual bowl.

If you have access to goat or sheep ricotta, add a scoop to the pasta for an extra rich flavor.

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Lamb and Beef Meatballs with Lemon

This past spring I was on a meatball mission. Since they so frequently have breadcrumbs I rarely get to them out at restaurants. I made a dozen variations and finally settled on this as the all-around favorite inspired by Jerusalemjerusalem. These have a Middle Eastern flair with the herbs and lemon and can be served with rice, vegetables, or just in the juices in which they are cooked. These are amazingly simple and naturally gluten and dairy free.

Lamb and Beef Meatballs with Lemon
makes about 24 meatballs
3-5 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 pound ground lamb
1/2 pound ground beef (not too lean)
5 green onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 egg, beaten
1 Tablespoon mint, chopped
1 Tablespoon cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 cup dry white wine
2 bay leaves
2 lemons and zest
extra mint and cilantro for garnish

In a large bowl, combine the meats, 3 of the green onions, garlic, egg, mint and cilantro, cumin, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and a hefty couple of turns of the pepper mill. Mix well with your hands. Form the mixture into 2-inch in diameter meatballs (roughly the size of a golf ball).

In a large skillet (with a lid), heat 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add as many of the meatballs as will fit comfortably without touching. Sear for about 2 minutes on 2 sides. Remove the meatballs and set aside. Do this in as many batches as it takes to sear all the meatballs, remembering to add a tablespoon of oil before each batch.

In the same skillet, heat 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil and scrape up all of the brown bits from the meatballs, leaving them in the pan. Add the remaining 2 green onions, broth, wine, bay leaves, 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice and bring to a boil. Keep the liquid at a low boil for 4-5 minutes.

To the skillet, add the meatballs, another tablespoon of lemon juice, and a pinch of salt and pepper. The liquid should cover about 1/4-1/2 of the meatballs. Cover and simmer gently for about 8-10 minutes. Turn the meatballs and spoon the juices over them and partially cover for another 5-8 minutes. The liquid should get a little thicker but not dry- make sure there is always enough liquid to spoon over the meatballs. If it starts to dry, add another 1-2 Tablespoons of broth or water.

Let the meatballs sit in the broth until ready to serve. Sprinkle additional herbs and lemon zest for garnish. Taste for salt and pepper if needed.

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Spring Bounty Hash

Since not working at the Farmers’ Markets every week anymore, I’ve been feeling a lack of inspiration in the vegetable department. I joined a CSA (Community Supported Agricluture) for the first time and it has quickly cured my uninventive vegetable blues.

Every other Friday I drive out to Green Gate Farmss and pick up a hefty bag of their seasonal bounty. The last month has lent itself to a spring hash that I find myself eating for dinner every night. And I really do mean every night, usually topped with a poached egg (also from the farm). It’s nothing fancy but as my mom always says, if you have the best ingredients, you don’t need much else.

The following recipe is flexible: one vegetable can be replaced by another, double one vegetable and omit another, it’s up to you. I have been adding a handful of dried shiitake mushrooms and I’m really digging that. You can replace (or add) with pancetta instead if you so desire.

Here’s this week’s version I served at a BBQ and it was gone in three minutes. See below for a shortcut.

Spring Bounty Hash

4-6 (1 pound) small baby potatoes, of any color
1 small onion
2-4 cloves garlic (optional)
1/4-1/2 pound green beans
2 small patty pan squash
1/4-1/2 cup dried shitake mushrooms
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Additional options: Beets, Asparagus, Spring Onions, Ramps, Corn…

I prepare each vegetable as I cut so I have a total of one bowl, one skillet, a knife, and a cutting board. Pour a small bit of oil in the skillet before adding each vegetable and add a pinch of salt as each one is cooking. You can add more at the end.

Heat olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Cut the potatoes into cubes about 1/2 inch in diameter and toss them in. Stir occasionally, but let sit untouched so they can get brown. When done, move to serving dish.

Cut onion into small cubes, add to skillet and sauté. When almost soft, add sliced or chopped garlic. Onions and garlic are done when translucent and soft. Place on top of potatoes.

Cut green beans into 1-inch chunks and throw them in the skillet. I like these blistered but still crisp. Turn up heat to medium-high and stir sporadically (total cook time will be under 5 minutes). Place on top of onions.

Follow green bean instructions for the squash.

Place dried mushrooms in a bowl and pour boiling water over. Let sit for 2-4 minutes. Strain, cut mushrooms, and toss them onto the skillet. Sauté for 1-2 minutes over medium heat then add ALL of the vegetables. Turn the heat to high and gently mix the spring bounty together, letting a few pieces get crispy. Tear a handful of basil and mix into the vegetables. Place back in the serving dish.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve right away or at room temperature. I served this batch with chimichuri sauce too.

For a shortcut, use just enough vegetables to fit into your skillet. It can be crowded but not more than a layer or two thick. Sauté the potatoes first, add onion and garlic after about 5 minutes. When potatoes are cooked and onions are translucent, add the other vegetables you are using. Stir sporadically over medium heat. Then you’re done. Eat right out of the skillet.

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Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce

Warning! The following entry has a gluten and dairy-full recipe. There is a GF and DF version at the bottom.

My friends Jake and Joy got married a few weeks back and asked me to make the desserts for the party. The groom is gluten free so I knew the cake would be too and I knew it would come from Flavor Flours (I made a four-layer chocolate cake with milk chocolate and whipped cream frosting, but that’s a story for another day). The desserts for the masses, though, that took some thinking. Jake and Joy wanted to be surprised so I perused my cookbooks and bounced ideas off of friends.

And then it hit me. Back when ATE Cafe existed in Austin, my sister used to make a bread pudding usually with their leftover chocolate croissants. After Joy tasted it years ago,  I recall conversations like, “Oh you’re going to the cafe, maybe I can get some bread pudding”, “I think I need your sister to cater so I can get some of that bread pudding” and so on. Of course this is what I would make for Joy’s party! I called my sister and asked for the recipe.

I had never made bread pudding so I was FULL of questions (hence the very detailed instructions below). My sister texted me her custard recipe and slowly but surely answered all of my questions as they came up: Do I need to let it sit? Can I freeze it? Do I toast the bread? And so much more. I experimented with a batch a month in advance, froze it, and brought it to gluten-eating friends’ brunch to taste. Because I couldn’t try it, I brought along a list of questions for them to answer so I could adjust as needed for the occasion.

When it was time to actually make the real version, I had a hive breakout and stayed in isolation for days. Instead of making the pudding ahead of time (half the reason I chose bread pudding!), I was stuck at home starting to panic. Finally, Sunday night I covered myself up and prayed I wouldn’t run into anyone I knew at the grocery store. I piled my cart full of bread and cream (the two ingredients I would NEVER touch) and stumbled into line. And then I felt some customer get way too close to me. It was Joy. So much for a surprise! I mumbled something about making food for work and she sort of bought it. For a while.

I made two full-sized restaurant pans of bread pudding, one with chocolate and one without. In the middle of the week I freaked out that that wouldn’t be enough for 100 people so I made a gluten free version too. Breakfast leftovers were really tasty. The following recipes have minimal ingredients, can be made ahead, and are very forgiving- perfect for baking for the masses!

Bread Pudding
serves 10-12
2 loaves bread*
4 eggs
4 yolks
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups whipping cream
1 cup dark chocolate chips, optional

To prepare the bread, remove the bottom crust only (a very thin slice will do) and throw away. Cut or tear the bread into non-uniform bite-sized chunks. Place in a large bowl and set aside.

Combine all other ingredients (except chocolate) in a separate bowl and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Pour 3/4 of the liquid over the bread and mix with your hands, massaging the liquid into the bread for a minute or two. Place mixture into a 9×12 baking dish and then pour the remaining 1/4 of liquid over the top. It will be mounded in the dish and most of the liquid will be absorbed.

If using the chocolate, melt in a small saucepan, stirring constantly. Instead of pouring all of the pudding in the baking dish, pour half in, drizzle the chocolate over the top, and then pour the remaining bread pudding on top of the chocolate (if you put the chocolate on last, it will likely burn while baking).

From here I covered it in plastic wrap and stuck it in the freezer until I was ready to bake it off. You can freeze unbaked for up to three weeks.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 and place uncovered frozen bread pudding directly in the oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes, cover with foil and bake for another 18-22 minutes. The pudding should be hot all the way through and some of the top pieces will be crisp and browned. Baking time will vary depending on how large the loaves of bread are. Using a skewer, take a small piece from the center to ensure doneness.

If you are not freezing it, place directly in the oven at 350 and bake for 20-25 minutes then cover and bake for another 15 minutes.

*Choose a French or Italian rustic white bread loaf. I chose La Brea Organic French Loaf. You want to find a bread that is firm, unflavored, and not too crusty. The bread does not need to be stale. Use the day you buy it or within five days.

Whiskey Sauce
adapted from Emeril Lagasse
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 1/2 Tablespoons cornstarch
3-4 Tablespoons whiskey
1 Tablespoon butter

In a small saucepan, combine the cream, milk, sugar and salt. Stir over low-medium heat. In a small bowl, whisk 2 Tablespoons whiskey with the cornstarch, breaking up any lumps. Add the whiskey mixture into the saucepan. Bring mixture to a low boil and reduce the heat to a simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in the butter and an additional tablespoon of whiskey. If you like your whiskey a little stronger, add another tablespoon.

Serve right away or let cool, cover, and chill for up to 3 days. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Gluten Free and Dairy Free Bread Pudding
Follow all instructions for bread pudding above, except replace heavy cream with half coconut milk and half coconut cream. Use a crusty white bread like Udi’s.

If using Udi’s, lightly toast all slices of bread in the oven (both sides) to dry it out. Be sure to massage the liquid into the bread pieces.

Because I couldn’t eat the sauce, I also made one version where I poured 2 Tablespoons of whiskey directly on top before baking. That was delicious too.

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Boozy Orange Cake


I’ve made this cake and variations of it now dozens of times since the first go round. It has come to be one of my favorite standby desserts. My most popular version and the one I’ve now made over and over… and over again is this boozy variation. It’s very dense and moist and I love that my new officemates still get baffled when I tell them it’s gluten free. And dairy free.

Boozy Orange Cake
3 medium oranges
2 cups (280 grams) almonds (blanched or slivered)
1/4 cup sweet white rice flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 1/2 Tablespoons orange liqueur*
2 cups (500 grams) sugar

*Any orange liqueur will work. I use Paula’s Texas Orange or Patron Citronge.

Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the oranges. Cover and boil gently for 1 1/2 hours- turning over once at the half-way point. Strain the oranges and bring to room temperature. You can do this step ahead and place the oranges in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Preheat the oven to 375. Grease a springform pan and line with parchment paper.

Place almonds in the food processor and blend until somewhat fine, leaving some texture. Add other dry ingredients (rice flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt) and mix.

Remove dry ingredients and place in a large bowl. Cut oranges in half and place in the processor. Blend until almost smooth- just about 30 seconds. Add the eggs, sugar, extract, and liqueur and mix. Scrape the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix (a whisk or spatula works).

Bake for 40 minutes, then cover with foil and bake for another 15-20 minutes.The top will be browned but not crisp. The cake is done when a toothpick comes out with wet crumbs attached.

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Three Layer Peanut Butter Brownies (Raw)



These were amazingly rich and decadent and though I made them myself, I couldn’t believe they were raw (and vegan and sugar free and gluten free). Everyone’s favorite Sal-Pal left town and for her going away bash I had to think quick for a vegan and gluten free treat. Enter- brownies.

These are an adaptation of a raw peppermint brownie I made at Kaylee’s Thai Fresh Vegan Baking Class. They are incredibly easy and tasty and after making them a half dozen times, I’ve adapted them and made a dozen variations (extra layers, different flavors). This one was created especially for Sally, the peanut butter loving fiend that she is.

1 cup (5 oz) almonds
1 cup (4 oz) pecans
1 1/2 cups (9 oz) dates, chopped
1/2 cup (4 oz) dried plums (prunes), chopped
1/3 cup (30 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 Tablespoon maple syrup
pinch of salt

Line an 8×8 baking pan with saran wrap. Blend the almonds in a food processor until fine. Add the pecans and blend until fine. Add the dates and prunes and blend. You will need to use a spatula to scrape down the sides. Add the cocoa powder, syrup and salt. Blend until the dough comes together. Press evenly into the prepared pan and chill while you make the next layers.

Peanut Butter Layer
1/2 cup almonds
1/4 cup peanuts
pinch salt
1/2 cup peanut butter
1-2 T maple syrup (more to taste)

Blend the almonds in a food processor until fine. Add the peanuts but set aside 2 Tablespoons for later. Add the peanut butter and syrup and blend. Press the peanut butter layer evenly over the brownie layer, sprinkle the extra 2 Tablespoons of peanuts for a crunch on top and return to the refrigerator. Now make the ganache.

Chocolate Ganache
1/4 cup boiling water
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt

In a blender or with a handheld mixer, combine all of the ingredients and blend until smooth. While warm, pour all ganache over the brownies and smooth with a spoon. Chill for at least 2 hours, preferably over night. Cut into squares or triangles and serve.

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