PAUL HOLLYWOOD: THE WEEKEND BAKER

In the past year, I was hit hard by two addictions. The Game of Thrones, and The Great British Baking Show. Odd to see them mentioned together in the same phrase. I caved to GoT despite my adamant stance against violent movies. That show is awesome, brilliant, irresistible. I can hardly wait for the next season, already feeling deprived. But The Great British Baking Show is a lot easier to watch, and so much better than ANY cooking show made in the US, it’s not even funny. They really hit a magical formula to entertain and teach at the same time. The right amount of humor, the right amount of anxiety, great atmosphere among the contestants, and so much talent! I also love the fact that they do blind judging of the technical challenge, to me that immediately sets the show on a higher level.  Then, there is the chemistry between Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry. I realize she won’t be part of the new season, and from what I heard the new person does a stellar job too, the show should follow its natural path of glory. Paul is something else. Those penetrating blue eyes probably turn the blood of some contestants cold when he deeply stares at them and asks “have you really tried this before?“, or “is this slashing going to be alright?”    Analogy for my hard-core biochemist readers: if Paul asks “are you telling me that a low Kd means higher affinity for this enzyme? you sure about that?”  you would probably doubt all the biochemistry that until then was solid in your brain…

When you are so in love with GBBS. you do two things.

  1. You move to binge watching Master Class, in which Paul and Mary actually bake all that stuff they inflicted on the contestants, spilling some of the secrets for success.
  2. You buy their cookbooks. I now own several written by Paul and Mary, as well as a few from the show itself. Yes, I have a problem. No, I do not intend to go for therapy.

One of the cookbooks I own is The Weekend Baker by Mr. Hollywood. And I got his and Penguin Books permission to share with you one recipe from it (insert happy dance here). After a lot of mental struggles to pick just one, here it is. Chocolate to the limit, an Italian classic from Capri. Gluten-free, which might be a bonus to some, and decadently rich. A small slice will be enough, making it perfect to share with many friends, or in my case, co-workers. A certain Monday morning was made quite a bit sweeter in our department.

TORTA CAPRESE
(Reproduced from THE WEEKEND BAKER by Paul Hollywood, published by Penguin Books Ltd (2016). With permission from Penguin Books Ltd. Recipes © Paul Hollywood, 2016. Photography © Issy Croker)

 to buy the book, follow this link:  The Weekend Baker

for the cake:
100 grams (3.5 ounces) blanched whole almonds
50 grams (1.75 ounces) plus 160 grams (5.6 ounces) superfine sugar
1 whole egg, plus 5 eggs, separated
265 grams (9.3 ounces) dark chocolate, melted and cooled
50 grams (1.75 ounces) chopped almonds

for the topping:
70 grams (2.5 ounces) water, plus for softening the gelatin
90 grams (3.2 ounces) superfine sugar (superfine)
30 grams (1 ounce) cocoa powder
25 grams (.9 ounces) liquid glucose (I used light corn syrup)
2 gelatin sheets (about 2.4 grams/.1 ounces)

Candied lemon peel or chopped almonds, for decorating

Heat the oven to 180 degrees C/Gas 4 (355 degrees F). Grease a deep 20-centimeter (8-inch) round cake tin. To make the cake, grind the whole almonds with 50 grams of fine sugar in a food processor. Reserve.

With an electric mixer, beat the whole egg and 5 yolks with the 160 grams fine sugar until the mix is pale and creamy and leaves a trail on the surface. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites to soft peaks. Do not over mix.

Add the cooled melted chocolate with the egg yolk mixture. Stir in the ground almond mixture and the chopped almonds. Beat in a spoonful of the egg whites to loosen the mixture. Now, a spoonful at a time, gently fold in the remaining egg whites.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Once the cake is cooked, leave it in the pan to cool before turning it out onto a serving plate.

To prepare the topping, place the water, fine sugar, cocoa powder and glucose (or corn syrup) into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes and stir.

Soften the gelatin sheets in a little water. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Squeeze any liquid from the gelatin sheets and then add the sheets to the pan. Stir until the gelatin has dissolved. Leave to cool. Once cool, but still liquid, pour the chocolate topping just onto the surface of the cake and decorate with candied lemon peel or extra chopped almonds.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Please notice that instead of almond flour, Paul prefers to grind whole almonds with sugar. He states to get better taste and texture this way. So resist grabbing that bag of Bob Mill’s you’ve got on your pantry. The glaze. Oh, the glaze. Very intense chocolate flavor topping a cake that also has a punch of chocolate, but mellowed down by the almonds, both in taste and texture. In fact, when you look at the Torta Caprese you’ll expect your classic flourless creature, very fudge-like. It is not, the ground & diced almonds turn it into a different type of cake, one that in fact will feel a tad bit less rich. When I bite into a flourless chocolate cake, I always have the filling that it is so rich, a small slice seems tricky to finish.  This cake? Not the case. It is rich, but you’ll feel that keep working on that slice is the most natural move… Consider yourself warned. Plus, the glaze… Oh, the glaze…

 

And now, a quick virtual tour of Paul Hollywood’s book.

 

The book is organized in ten chapters, and contrary to most cookbooks, these are not your regular ‘Breads”, “Pies”, “Cakes” categories. Instead, Paul dedicates one chapter to each place he’s been to, showcasing the recipes that impressed him most during his visit.  Consider it a gastronomic tour. His introduction to the book will have you excited to jump on a plane (or as he puts it, start a very long swim from UK all the way to New York), and, book in hand, try every one of the delicacies he talks about.  So, without further ado, a few of my favorites from each chapter.

SUN BAKED, MADRID: I’ve never been to Spain, so baking from this chapter would be a nice way to tempt myself to finally go visit. My favorites include Churros and Spanish Hot Chocolate (for dipping them into), as churros were actually quite popular in Brazil when I was growing up.  But how about Iberico Ham and Manchego Empanadas? I am crazy for Manchego… Buñuelos de Viento sound great too, these are very light puff pastry entities, filled with chocolate or cream. But I am really intrigued by the last recipe in this chapter, quite simply called Torta. It is like a focaccia, but made with 70% olive oil in its formula. I bet it is amazing!

LA DOLCE VITA, NAPLES: My showcased recipe, Torta Caprese, comes from this chapter, where you will find many of the most authentic examples of Italian baking, like Pizza Margherita, Ciabatta, Focaccia. But the one that captured my imagination is Gatto di Santa Chiara, a cross between a quiche and a pie. The dough calls for some mashed potato in it, which I know results in incredible texture. Definitely something to make in the near future.

FRENCH FANCIES, PARIS: My home away from home! He opens the chapter with royalty, Croissants… And offers some other classics like Quiche Lorraine, Eclairs (be still, my heart), and Madeleines (made with brown butter). Baguettes are there too, just in case you are wondering…  I have my mind set on Chocolate and Hazelnut Meringues, though.

PUDDING LANE, LONDON: A city I visited three times, and find absolutely amazing, definitely want to go back. You will find a basic recipe for Scones that you can adapt for any flavor you like, the famous Victoria Sponge, Chelsea Buns, Lemon Drizzle Slices (similar to a cake I just blogged about, but with fancier icing), and Battenberg (a two-color cake that is calling my name).

DANISH TASTIES, COPENHAGEN: Another place I’ve never visited but hope to stop by some day, to get fully acquainted with the meaning of hygge, a very fashionable word. Danish is in there, a version with Apricot and Passion Fruit,  Seeded Rye Bread, and the recipe I almost picked to showcase, Danish Raspberry Slices. They look so cute, I know I’ll be making them for our graduate students in the very near future.

BAVARIAN BITES, MUNICH. I’ve been there, years ago, ate superbly well. Beautiful place! Paul offers a recipe for Pretzels that has some unexpected twists, I am a lover of soft pretzels, and have been meaning to try and bake them at home for…. forever.  Stollen, the famous bread is in this chapter, as well as Lebkuchen Biscuits, a sort of soft spice cookie that I’m sure I would fall in love with at first bite. Prinzeregententorte (say that three times fast) seems like the kind of cake that could be the weapon of my self-destruction. Seven layers of sponge cake that must be absolutely identical, as they represent the regions of Bavaria in 1886. Are you amazed yet?

AMERICAN PIE, NEW YORK: There we are at the Big Apple, the chapter opens with Bagels, rightfully so! Also a big nod to Bittman’s No Knead Bread, New York Cheesecake with details for baking that definitely take it to the smoothest consistency ever.  I really want to try my hands at it. So many recipes, so little time!

FUN IN THE SUN, MIAMI: Still in the US,  dear friends…  Paul loved the beat of Miami – who doesn’t? – it is packed full of Brazilians (sorry could not resist a little wave to my home country). Great items in this chapter, starting of course with Key Lime Pie, passing by  Best- Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies,  Waffles, and American Pancakes.

PRIDE OF POLAND, WARSAW: Would I be repeating myself too much if I say I’d love to visit Poland? Not only I have great Polish friends, but all my friends who visited were mesmerized by it. Seems like a fantastic place indeed.  Here are the recipes I loved the most: Babka, for obvious reasons. A bread, beautifully swirled with chocolate. And Polish Cheesecake. Yes, I need to get to know this, if not in Warsaw, in our kitchen.

THE RUSSIAN OVEN, SAINT PETERSBURG: Paul was really smitten by that city, and I also heard plenty of great things about it. Of course, I would never go in the winter, just looking at the photos of Paul in full winter gear when he landed there, made me cringe. No, a Brazilian cannot face that ever. But the recipes seem just amazing. Russian Pies (much more involved and complex than the name implies), the famous Blinis, Medovik (a gorgeous honey cake), Sweet Berry Pancakes, but what really won my heart is something call Vatrushka. Go ahead, google, and drool…

So there you have it, my little tour of Paul Hollywood’s The Weekend Baker is over. The book has a little introduction to each recipe, with interesting bits about them, gorgeous photos, not only of the finished product, but of the places he visited.  Well-balanced, actually. You will not be bombarded with personal photos like some cookbook authors do (not naming any names), but you’ll have enough to tease you, make you dream about that plane trip to see the world.

Paul, thank you and Penguin Books for allowing me to publish your recipe.

Before I leave my dear readers… yes, a lower Kd will always indicate higher affinity. For any enzyme in the known universe. I am sure you can all sleep better now…

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Texas Sheet Cake

TWO YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, September 2015

THREE YEARS AGO: Sour Cherry Sorbet: A Labor of Love

FOUR YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen – September 2013

FIVE YEARS AGO: Raspberry Sorbet at Summer’s End

SIX YEARS AGO: When three is better than two  (four years with Buck!)

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Grating Tomatoes (and loving it!)

EIGHT YEARS AGO: A Peachy Salad for a Sunny Day

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ROSE, CARDAMON AND COFFEE SQUARES: CHETNA MAKAN’S COOKBOOK REVIEW

Last year I binge-watched The Great British Bake Off, originally aired in 2014. One of the reasons it took me so long to go for it, is my intense dislike of ANY food competition. I was never too wild about Iron Chef, barely stand the countless versions of Chopped, and despise Cutthroat Kitchen with every cell of my body. There. I feel better. But, despite all that, one day I sat down and put the first episode of The Great British Bake Off to play. I was hooked. First and foremost for the friendly atmosphere. When you watch any of the competition shows from FoodTV-USA, it is impossible to ignore a certain mean streak in the competitors. Each one wants to win so bad, they keep hammering on why they are clearly better than all others. The blatant arrogance really bothers me. I also prefer the format of the British show, particularly when all contestants need to make the exact same (very challenging)  recipe and it gets evaluated in a single-blind way. Today I share with you a recipe from the cookbook of my favorite contestant,  Chetna Makan. She made it almost to the end, facing all sorts of challenges with poise, grace, and a warm smile. And after the recipe, I will walk you through The Cardamon Trail. What a beautiful name!

ROSE, CARDAMON AND COFFEE DESSERT SLICES
(published with permission from Chetna Makan) 

200g (7oz) chocolate digestive biscuits
50g (1 ¾ oz) unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for greasing
225ml (8fl oz) milk
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 tablespoon coffee granules
3 large egg yolks
75g (2 ¾ oz) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon boiling water
2 teaspoons powdered gelatine
250g (9oz) mascarpone cheese
1 teaspoon rosewater
white chocolate curls to decorate

Heat the oven to 180 ° C (350 ° F).

Grease a 20cm (8in) square cake tin and line it with nonstick baking paper. Put the digestive biscuits in a plastic bag and bash them with a rolling-pin to crush them to crumbs. Transfer the crumbs to a bowl and pour in the melted butter, mixing thoroughly so that the crumbs are completely coated. Tip the mixture into the prepared tin and press down firmly with the back of a spoon to create a smooth, even base layer. Bake for 15 minutes, then set aside to cool completely.

In a small pan, slowly heat the milk to scalding point. Add the ground cardamom and coffee granules and mix well, then remove the pan from the heat. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, cocoa and 2 tablespoons of the spiced milk together to form a smooth paste. Slowly add the remaining milk, whisking the whole time. Tip this mixture back into the saucepan and cook over a low heat for 2– 3 minutes until it thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Strain through a sieve into a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 10 minutes until lukewarm.

Put the measured boiling water in a small bowl and sprinkle in the gelatine. Stir until the gelatine powder has dissolved. Add this to the lukewarm pastry cream and mix well. In another bowl, beat the mascarpone and rosewater together. Fold this into the pastry cream and pour the mixture over the biscuit base. Cover the tin with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight to set.

When ready to serve, carefully remove the cake from the tin and cut it into squares. To finish, sprinkle with white chocolate curls (or any decoration you prefer). The slices will keep, refrigerated, in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Chetna described it perfectly! This is a dessert for grownups. It has that exotic quality, the barely there sweetness, a very unique and complex mixture of flavors. I loved it!  I must confess I messed up big time, though. I used the wrong type of  cookies for the base. She specified chocolate digestifs for the base, but our grocery store carried only two types: regular digestifs, or some with a coating of chocolate at the bottom, very similar to these beauties made from scratch by my friend Karen. After I made the dessert, I exchanged emails with Chetna and she told me I could have used the digestifs either plain or with the chocolate coating, but the type of cookie I used (very thin chocolate Goya Maria brand) would need tweaking, probably some other binding agent to properly work. Learned a lesson there. The result is that the base got a bit too crumbly rather than giving a nice support to the deliciously smooth top layer.  I intend to make it again soon, but did not want to wait any longer to blog about it. So make sure to gather the right tools for the job…

TEASER RECIPE

On the very same day I made a batch of her Clove, Cinnamon and Chocolate cookies… 


OVERVIEW OF THE RECIPE

The cookie dough is made with self-rising flour, butter, two types of sugar, a touch of cinnamon and ground cloves. Then chocolate chips and diced pistachio nuts are mixed in.  I substituted white chocolate because I found out that I had 4 bags of white chocolate chips and not a single one of semi-sweet. Apparently every time I go to the grocery store I tell myself “you better get a bag of white chocolate chips, because you only have the dark ones.”  In case you did not know, I do research for a living. Shocking, I know. Once again, Chetna describes these gems very well:

Yes, everyone thought they come together beautifully….

And now that I shared a recipe and teased you with another one, let’s take a walk through
The Cardamon Trail: Chetna Bakes with Flavours of the East..

Chetna opens the book explaining that it is all about her culinary journey. It brings her food memories in the form of lovely bakes and new taste sensations. She grew up in Jabalpur, a city in central India, and her cooking is heavily influenced by her Mom, who cooked every single meal from scratch while Chetna was growing up.  Her book is divided in six  chapters, as follows:

Cakes. Each of the twenty cakes featured is enticing to me. Always some unexpected flavor that takes them to a higher level.  The very first one, Pear and Cardamon Caramel Upside Cake, already got me dreaming. You might remember that I have a very weak spot for cardamon, so obviously this cake speaks dearly to me.  Second one? Mango, Cardamon & Coconut Cake. Next? Rose and Honey Cake.  But so many more: Rose, Mint, and White Chocolate Cheesecake, Orange and Cinnamon Mini-Cakes (I almost picked them to showcase in this post).  Pistachio, Cardamon, and White Chocolate Cake… Saffron Meringue Cake…  Masala Chai Cake…. Black Sesame and Lime Cake… I tell you, it’s one temptation after another, a showcase of interesting flavor combinations.

Pies and Tarts. This chapter brings savory stuff to the game. I list my favorites: Peach, Star Anise, and Almond Tart…  Chocolate and Mango Tart (beautiful photo!)…  Passion Fruit, Lime, and Ginger Tart. On the savory front,  very creative recipes like Moong Dal Pie, Curry Onion Tart, and Chickpea Curry Pie. I definitely do not bake pies and tarts often enough. Hubby is usually the one in charge of those concoctions. But I need to get more practice and make them by myself.

Sweet Things. Twenty seven goodies for you there… She opens this chapter with something called Saffron Rasgulla, and I think it’s something I had once at a party and fell madly in love with. A little soft ball of curdled milk and saffron, cooked in a simple syrup. I could enjoy that every day of my life without ever getting tired of it. It seems a bit involved to make, but Chetna says it’s not that hard. It is a specialty from Western India.  Now, are you ready for this? Fig and Chocolate Macarons. Yes, my obsession of the past few years! She shares a great take on this French classic. Which of course, I intend to make in the near future. The only reason I did not pick them to feature, is the fact that I have two macaron recipes already waiting in line. The Rose, Cardamon & Coffee Dessert Slices come from this session of her book, as well as the Clove, Cinnamon and Chocolate Cookies, my teaser recipe.  I also bookmarked Sweet Baked Samosas (I am addicted to the savory version),  Mango and Passion Fruit Baked Yogurt, and Star Anise and Rhubarb Profiteroles. She does incredibly nice variations on classic desserts, I love it!

Savory Small Bites. A lot of savory things to tempt you here, I will just list the ones that would be my top choices. Corn Rolls: these are inspired again by one of her Mom’s recipes, Chetna uses phyllo dough to make little parcels with sweet corn kernels mixed with ginger, chilli, and other spices.  They get baked and served warm with chutney. O.M.G. Coriander Chicken Parcels made with puff pastry seem like perfection to me…  Tapioca Vada is another intriguing recipe, different from anything I’ve ever tried. Tapioca pearls are mixed with water to form a kind of dough that gets mixed with mashed potatoes, crushed roasted peanuts and spices. The mixture is fried until golden brown, forming little patties that I am sure are addictive.  I was also quite taken by her Buckwheat Potato Pakoras, I never skip ordering pakoras when I go to an Indian restaurant. Vegetarians will love her Cashew Nut and Paneer Koftas, which use desiccated coconut to improve texture.  But my favorite of this chapter might very well be her Savory Semolina Cake, with spinach and spices such as ginger, turmeric, and black mustard seeds. The photo is drool-inducing.

Breads. Twenty options to make any baker happy.  She opens the chapter with a show-stopping bread: Savory Potato Couronne. It is simply gorgeous, but you don’t have to take my word for it.

The dough is enriched with milk, eggs, and butter, then some grated boiled potatoes are mixed in. The exotic ingredient amchur (mango powder) is also included in the dough. Obviously, I need to get some. Tomato and Paneer Loaf is a nice example of a quick bread, made in a loaf pan. Another absolutely gorgeous picture included. Now, how about some Cumin Bread with Smoked Eggplant? I swear, it’s just one amazing twist after another. Another great temptation for yours truly, Chocolate and Chilli Loaf.  As Chetna put it:

This beautiful loaf has the indulgent feel of a cake yet is, in fact, very light…
The cocoa creates a deep-colored loaf, while the chilli provides a real kick to the aftertaste.

A couple more examples for you, Star Anise, Date, and Chocolate Bread (amazing shaping), and a Lemon Challah with Coconut Paneer. She closes the chapter with several options for Parathas, and a Chicken Naan. Yes, you read it correctly. A version of the quick bread naan, turned into a full meal with ground chicken and plenty of spices. To die for, I am sure!

Accompaniments. In this chapter, she offers little goodies that will go well with many of the recipes in the book. Seven types of chutney, two types of pickles (beets, and cauliflower), Indian Coleslaw, and three types of Raita, the classic cucumber, plus Boondi and Bhindi Raitas. Curious? Boondi are fried chickpeas… Imagine them as a base for raita… Bhindi is okra. Not my favorite veggie in the world, but I bet that prepared the way Chetna describes, I would eat it all with a big smile!

So that wraps up our walk through The Cardamon Trail.  In my mind, it is a perfect cookbook because I adore spices both in savory and sweet concoctions. As I watched the Great British Bake Off, Chetna’s confidence and creativity with the use of spices left a huge impression on me. This book simply confirms her skills. I could not wait to start baking once I got the book downloaded, but then was sort of paralyzed by the number of recipes I picked as “top” choices.

To order the book, click here

I would also like to mention that Chetna has a blog and is also very active uploading videos on her youtube channel.  On youtube you can see her cooking with her kids, with her Mom, it’s really nice!  I subscribe to both blog and videos, so I never miss anything new coming from her.

Chetna, thank you for giving me permission to publish one of your recipes…
I am just about to start a batch of your Black Sesame and Macha Tuiles…
looking forward to enjoying them!

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ONE YEAR AGO: When Side Dishes Steal the Show

TWO YEARS AGO: Venting on Vaccines

THREE YEARS AGO: Prime Rib Roast, Mexican Style

FOUR YEARS AGO: Sourdough Bread with Walnuts and Dates

FIVE YEARS AGO: Braised Brisket with Bourbon-Apricot Glaze

SIX YEARS AGO: The Real Vodka Sauce

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Pork Tenderloin and Blue Cheese

SHORT RIBS WITH CHICKPEAS AND CHARD & LONDON COOKBOOK REVIEW

In my previous post I mentioned I’ve been mesmerized by all things Middle East. True. But there’s more. I’ve been also enjoying a virtual love affair with the United Kingdom in general and England in particular. A fascination that started many years ago when I got obsessed by Henry VIII. To the classic question ‘which book would you take to a desert island?” my answer comes quickly, The Autobiography of Henry VIII, a masterpiece composed by Margaret George. A real tour de force in historical research and writing. More recently, shows like Outlander, The White Queen, The Tudors, and The Crown have only added to my fascination with the UK. So, when amazon.com suggested The London Cookbook: Recipes from the Restaurants, Cafes, and Hole-in-the-Wall Gems of a Modern City I wasted no time investigating it further. Next thing I knew, it was in my  shopping cart. The book, written by Aleksandra Crapanzano, is pretty much a declaration of culinary love to one of the most amazing cities in the world. I’ve been to London a few times, a couple of those super briefly on a weekend break while living in Paris. Reading the book gave me an intense desire to buy a ticket and fly back. With the book in hand, following Aleksandra footsteps. Speaking of it, she opens the book with a nice walking tour that passes by… Ottolenghi’s spot, in search of his legendary Tahini Cookies.  A book that starts like that… is a book I must own. Aleksandra was kind enough to allow me to publish a recipe from it, so without further ado, here I go…

short-ribs2

SHORT RIBS WITH CHICKPEAS AND CHARD
(published with permission from Aleksandra Crapanzano,
recipe from The London Cookbook).

1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground caraway
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
4 pounds bone-in beef short ribs
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
1 bunch Swiss chard, stems removed, leaves coarsely chopped
2 cups cooked chickpeas
6 cups chicken stock
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 lemons
1 cup labneh or full-fat Greek yogurt

Combine the salt, cumin, caraway, coriander, and paprika. Sprinkle half of the spice mixture over the ribs. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. The next day, pat the ribs dry with paper towels.

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan. Add the ribs and cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until golden brown. If your pan is on the small side, work in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan. Transfer the ribs to a plate, leaving the oil behind. Add the onions to the pan and sauté over a medium-low heat until they are soft and nearly translucent. Stir in the garlic followed by the chard and the remaining spice mixture. Stir and cook for 5 minutes longer. Add the short ribs and chickpeas, pour in the stock, and bring to a boil. Skim any foam that floats to the surface and then lower the heat, partially cover, and simmer for 2 to 3 hours, basting occasionally. The ribs are done when the sauce has thickened and the meat pulls away from the bone. Season with salt and pepper and the juice of 1 lemon. If you have labneh, use it. Otherwise, vigorously whip the yogurt and olive oil together with a fork. Season to taste. Serve the stew with a dollop of labneh and a wedge of lemon.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Short ribs are the definition of comfort food, but when chickpeas and chard are added as supporting actors, you have a show-stopping dish that spells comfort in capital letters. I knew it would be hard to get a good picture, because well, that is the problem with brown food, but allow yourself to go past the photo and trust me, the taste is sublime. Plus, Aleksandra’s choice of labneh to spoon on top fulfills the circle of my fascination, joining Middle East and England in one amazing dish. There’s something about labneh, you must try it if you are a labneh virgin. Easy to make if you cannot find it at your grocery store, just follow Sawsan’s recipe and be ready to be amazed.

shortribs

And now, a virtual tour of Aleksandra’s book…

First, let me say that she is a delightful writer. She doesn’t simply offer you a recipe, she will show you why that particular restaurant made the cut to be showcased in her book. The quality of the food matters, but it’s clear that behind great food and service you’ll find genuine, hard-working people with the passion to share their cooking with family, friends, and customers. You will read fascinating stories about places that have been in business for a long time… She offers the perfect amount of prose before each recipe, with a nice balance of wit and knowledge. The recipes are for the most part quite straightforward to make at home, Aleksandra often suggests adaptations for ingredients that might be hard to find.  As you know, I have no partnership with amazon.com or any other company, and only review cookbooks I fall in love with. This was definitely one of them.

The book is divided in 10 chapters.

Chapter #1 – Light Fare. The first recipe of the chapter is a perfect example of what the book is all about. A wonderful praise of Ruth Rogers, from The River Cafe, the way she runs her restaurant with “no shouting, no swearing, no fear.”  The recipe, a Crab and Raw Artichoke Salad. Have you ever considered shaving artichokes to enjoy in its raw form? I had not. Intriguing…  Other favorites from the chapter: Potted Shrimp, from Rules, a place dear to my heart, since Phil and I enjoyed two very romantic dinners at Rules years ago; Shrimp Aguachili Seviche with Jalapeno and Citrus; Grilled Leeks, Chevre, Brown Butter & Smoked Almonds. Smoked almonds, now that’s something to dream about.  In this chapter you will get to know interesting facts about Ottolenghi, in the introduction to one of his recipes – Mung and Haricots Verts. As Aleksandra puts it, the recipe is “very Ottolenghi.” The mung beans are Asian, the haricots verts French, the spices Indian. The recipe for the classic Welsh Rarebit comes with a delightful description of two gentlemen enjoying it at St. John. All very proper, as you must expect for all things London.

Chapter #2 – Soups. My heart missed a beat with the description of the Fennel and Watercress Soup from Newman Street Tavern. Fennel is like green candy for Aleksandra, and I was left nodding in full approval. She mentions walking in blizzard-like conditions in New York to get some fennel juice at City Bakery, and that made me want to go to London with a stop at JFK with enough hours to allow for a quick Uber drive to that spot. If you live in New York, go sip a glass and tell me all about it.  She follows with Smoked Paprika, Piquillo Pepper, and Tomato Soup with Chevre Toasts. Yes. To. All. How about Roasted Corn and Chorizo Chowder? But the recipe that had me mesmerized for good was Celeriac and Chanterelle Soup. I made it. I absolutely loved it. Here it is, as a teaser for you. Simply spectacular.

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Chapter #3 – Pasta, Rice, and Grains.  This whole chapter is a must-cook. Just to give you a couple of examples, consider the Cinnamon-Scented Porcini Duck Ragu, from Mission. If I had easy access to duck meat, I would definitely make it.  Another dish that almost made it to my choice to feature the book: Pork Shoulder, Black Pepper, and Mascarpone Ragu. Totally understandable, right?  But maybe the very best is a Chestnut Straccetti with Mushrooms and Chestnuts. You make the pasta from scratch using chestnut flour. OMG.  Her description says it all: This dish is, quite simply, a knockout.  The photo, folks, the photo is almost too much to stand. You need to host a dinner party for your very best friends and bring that to the table.

Chapter #4 – Vegetarian.

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This session opens with Spiced Heritage Carrots, Freekeh, and Labneh, which prompted her profession of love for cardamon, which I totally share. In fact, I also open the jar and take a good sniff just for the pleasure of it. It makes me feel like riding on a magic carpet to far away lands. This recipe has my name written all over it and I know I’ll be making it soon.  It follows with Roasted Squash, Braised Lentils, Soft-Boiled Egg, Garlic Yogurt, and Dukka. A symphony. Potato Chaat with Pomegranate, Mint, and Rose Raita also quite enticing to me, and apparently to everyone who dines at Gymkhana: almost everyone who walks through the door of Gymkhana orders this potato chaat before even being shown to a table. Talk about endorsement!

Chapter #5 –  Seafood. Scallops with Corn Puree and Chile Oil is maybe my favorite choice in this nice chapter.  Of course, she includes the classic Fish and Chips, her version coming from Tom’s Kitchen.  In her words: They are indisputable. A fact of British life. “Since the days of Charles Dickens and his chips with reluctant drops of oil“.  How cool is that? But there’s also Sugar-Brined Salmon with Radish, Cucumber, and Pea Shoot Salad, Ginger and Cilantro Spiced Cod with Cauliflower Couscous (love this one!), or my favorite fish in the world, Sea Bass with Hot Paprika Vinaigrette, from Moro a must-visit restaurant.

Chapter #6 – Fowl.  I would gladly cook (or eat) every single one of the recipes in this chapter. Period.  It starts with Chicken Scaloppine with Mushrooms and Marsala, you simply cannot go wrong with that. But how about Indian Chicken and Pumpkin Curry?  In fact, the chef behind that recipe, Mark Hix, from Tramshed, was one of the first to offer recipes, encouragement and introductions to Aleksandra when she started her research for this book.   Chicken Berry Britannia is a very interesting recipe too, the name pays tribute to a very famous place, Bombay’s Britannia. Americans will flip for Buttermilk Fried Chicken in Pine Salt. Yes, pine salt. Or some Honey-Glazed Duck Breast with Roasted Plums and Bok Choy

Chapter #7 – Meat. The recipe I shared with you comes from this chapter, obviously. The chapter is full of unusual recipes, counting three different takes for the fashionable pork belly: Kakuni (Japanese Braised Pork Belly), Ottolenghi’s Pork Belly with Apple and Yuzu Puree with Black Bean Sauce, and finally Treacle-Cured Pork Belly. You will also find the super classic Beef Strogonoff, a version coming from The Delaunay. Her words: strogonoff has lost its reputation, having appeared too often and never well, on one too many cafeteria lines and airplane trays. So true!  This recipe will do away with unpleasant  memories… I should try it, as Beef Strogonoff is a favorite of ours.

Chapter #8 – Desserts.

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I would make every single one of the recipes. There, I said it. And I don’t even like sweets that much. Starting with Chocolate Nemesis, described as “this is the real thing.” But how about Ras El Hanout and Buttermilk Loaf?  Irresistibly intriguing. Muscovado Custard. OMG. My favorite perhaps would be Orange, Mint, and Rose Petal Cake. I almost chose it as featured recipe. Bakewell Tart from Rules also called my name. By the way, did you know that Rules Restaurant opened the same year that Napoleon began his campaign in Egypt? Yeap, 1798, making it the oldest restaurant in London.  And was a favorite spot for Clark Gable, Charles Chaplin, amongst others. A total of 22 mouth-watering recipes to choose from in this chapter.

Chapter #9 – Chilled Desserts. Baked Alaska is in there, but the recipe that has me absolutely mesmerized is Black Sesame Panna Cotta. I even bought black sesame paste and intend to try it soon. Her description (and the photo) is enough to make me drool in anticipation.  Of course, Orange Blossom and Milk Pudding, Burnt Orange Chocolate Sorbet (swoon!), and Marsala Raisin Ice Cream would be more than welcome to wrap up a dinner party.

Chapter #10 – Cocktails. I confess that the “idea of a cocktail” appeals more to me than actually having one. But if you enjoy them this chapter will be quite amazing.  From River Cafe you’ll find White Peach Summer Martini, and Blood Orange Winter Martini. There’s also a Mumbai Martini from Benares, one of the most sophisticated restaurants in London.  This particular drink has notes of curry and ginger. Maybe I should turn it into a tea? (just kidding).  But, speaking of tea the Cinnamon Bellini would be perfect for tea lovers, as it mixes Assam tea leaves with cinnamon schnapps (Godschlager). Ottolenghi shines in this chapter too, with a Sage and Cardamon Gin with Pineapple and Cloves.  All quite enticing!

I hope you enjoyed my little virtual tour of  The London Cookbook. Consider making a little place for it on your bookshelf, even if it is a bit crowded, like ours. Or, go Kindle for a guilty-free experience, which is exactly what yours truly did.

Aleksandra, thank you once more for allowing me to publish one recipe from your wonderful book! I simply must go back and go straight to Ottolenghi to grab a nice portion of tahini cookies. Then, keep calm and carry on!

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ONE YEAR AGO: Asian-Style Short Ribs 

TWO YEARS AGO: Herbed Goat Cheese Souffles

THREE YEARS AGO: Barley Risotto with Peas

FOUR YEARS AGO: Jammin’ Blueberry Sour Milk Pancakes

FIVE YEARS AGO: Scallops with Black Pasta in Orange Cream Sauce

SIX YEARS AGO: Stir-fried Chicken with Creamed Corn

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Potato, Cheddar, and Chive Torpedo

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ZUCCHINI LEMON & WALNUT CAKE + COOKBOOK REVIEW

A while ago I was browsing cookbook suggestions in amazon.com and spotted one called “French Desserts“, by Hillary Davis. I simply had to investigate it further. C’mon, French Desserts, how could I possibly let that slide? The book was published just last month,  so not very many readers posted reviews yet. However, whereas all gave it 5 stars, one person ranked it with 2 stars only. Her criticism was the use of store-bought items like puff pastry to make some of the recipes. Hillary herself replied to that reviewer and she did so with such class and gentleness, it really impressed me. I browsed through the index, and ordered the Kindle version, which always makes me feel a bit less guilty. Very glad I did not let that review mess with me. The book is a delight, great photography, just the right amount of prose with the recipes. I bookmarked many to try, but the first one I made to share with you today was part of her chapter called Homey Cakes.

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ZUCCHINI, LEMON & WALNUT CAKE
(ever so slightly modified from French Desserts)
printed with permission from Hillary Davis

for cake:
1-1/ 2 cups (192 g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/ 4 teaspoon baking soda
1/ 4 teaspoon salt
1-1/ 2 cups (220 g) coarsely grated zucchini, squeezed very dry
(about 170 g after squeezing dry)
1 cup (135 g) chopped walnuts
1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
1/ 2 cup (110 g) olive oil
3 large eggs
1/ 2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons lemon extract (I omitted)
1/ 4 cup (60 g) lemon juice

for icing:
1 + 1/2 cup  (188 g) confectioner’s (icing) sugar
a little over 3 tablespoons lemon juice

Heat oven to 325 degrees F.

Butter and flour a 9 x 5 inches loaf pan. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the zucchini and walnuts and stir to coat. In another bowl, whisk together the sugar, olive oil, eggs, vanilla, lemon extract, lemon juice, and lemon zest.

Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients just until combined. Do not overwork the batter. Scoop batter into the loaf pan and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool in the pan for 15 minutes before turning out onto a serving plate. If desired, make an icing with the powdered sugar and lemon juice, drizzle all over the cake. Cut in slices and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This was one delicious cake! The picture doesn’t do it justice, not even slightly. There is no obvious zucchini taste, it simply gives it moisture and a lovely texture even after sitting at room temperature overnight. It is very lemony and the flavor and crunch of the walnuts a perfect match for the citric tone. I did not have enough walnuts, so I added just a little bit of diced pecans to reach the required amount. I think the combination of nuts worked well too.  I made the loaf on a Sunday afternoon and took to our department next morning. I had tried a very small piece when the cake cooled (quality control), and hoped to get a slice mid-morning. That did not work, because around 10am, I found the platter clean. Oh, well. The best laid plans…

So lemony!
Not too sweet, just right!
Love the walnuts!
It made my Monday so much better! 
(some comments from our colleagues that made this baker very happy)

 

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Now, let’s have a little tour of Hillary’s book. I will go straight to the recipes, although she does include a comprehensive section on Essentials of Baking. You can look at the full index in amazon.com, I will simply list the recipes from each chapter that made my heart miss a beat. Or two…

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Homey Cakes: Great collection of cakes that are simple to prepare in a loaf type pan or as a single layer round cake. The one I featured comes from this chapter, but I was tempted by many others, like Plenty of Pears Salted Caramel Loaf Cake, described as invisible cake. Invisible cakes indicate that very little batter is used to hold the fruit together. I love this type of cake, very much like Doris Greenspan’s Apple Cake which happens to be the most popular recipe in my blog.  From this chapter I quickly bookmarked her Whole Wheat Nutella Loaf Cake (need I say anything more?), a Hazelnut Cake with Nutella Drizzle (O.M.G.), a Walnut Cake with Warm Honey Glaze, and a Fabulous Butter Cake from Brittany.

Cookies: Perfect for the season are Pumpkin Seed Tuiles, I must save some pumpkin seeds to try them, because tuiles have been on my list of culinary projects forever!  Sablés au Chocolat are her take on a classic, buttery cookie from Normandy. Another very tempting choice for me would be Orange Madeleines with Orange Glaze. Together with tuiles, madeleines are part of my list of projects (I even own a madeleine pan, feel guilty every time I look at it).

Baked: I cannot stop thinking of her Roasted Peaches in a Pool of Crème Anglaise… I will give you a moment to think about it. Wonderful, right? But how about Individual Berry Gratin with Yogurt Whipped Cream? Or maybe you would rather have Puffs with Warm Chocolate Sauce? I must also include a very exotic concoction (unknown to me) called Far Breton Prune Custard Cake, a specialty from Brittany. Made me think of the many things I could have tried while I lived in France, but had no idea existed. Such is life.

Verrines: I simply adore verrines. Stunning presentation, in small portions. Perfect. I can tell you one thing, there are 10 recipes in this chapter and I would love to make and enjoy each and every one of them.  Just to give you some examples, the first one is called quite simply A Cloud of Lemon Vermouth Mousse. I am officially in love. Chocolate Ginger Pots de Crème..  Grand Marnier Mousse…  Lemon Rice Pudding with Blackberry Caramel Sauce…  One tempting sweet after another….

Frozen or Refrigerated Desserts: Very interesting recipes in this chapter, starting with a child-friendly Vin Chaud Sorbet with Frosted Grapes. You cook the alcohol out, but the idea is to have the flavors of vin chaud, often served in Alsace during cold months. And in a nice parallel, back home in Brazil we have “vinho quente” traditionally served in the month of June, welcoming the first chill of the year. I would love to make her Strawberry Frozen Yogurt, with a touch of balsamic vinegar. Or her Peach Melba with Muddled Vanilla Ice Cream.  She closes the chapter with a stunning retro dessert: Vanilla, Raspberry and Chocolate Ice Cream Bombe. Imagine that to awe your guests at the end of a dinner party?

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Vin Chaud Sorbet with Frosted Grapes

Waffles, Crêpes and Pancakes: Tempting chapter. The recipe that impressed me the most: Farz Buen Broken Crêpes. The name indicates exactly what it is. You start with a traditional crepe batter, then break them as they cook, as if making scrambled eggs. Her description of this delicacy from Brittany made my mouth water. Must. Make. It. Crêpes Suzette is in there too, how could it not be?  Such a classic!

Puff Pastry: Her recipes call for store-bought pastry. Now, I realize she was criticized for it, and I find it very unfair. I’ve lived in France several years and have never ever met a French woman who made her own puff pastry. Maybe they are out there, but in a very rare minority. Why would they make them when you can find excellent products at the store, many brands of pure butter puff pastry waiting for you? Sure, if you’d like to make it, go for it, but don’t twist your nose at the boxed product. I use it all the time, puff pastry and phyllo dough, thank you very much. Anyway, my favorite recipes in this group are Niflettes, a specialty from Provins, not only because they are impossibly cute but for the story behind them. Folklore says they were created to console orphans crying over the loss of their parents. Nowadays they are served in All Saints Day in that region of France. Alsatian Marzipan Apple Strudel would be amazing to try too. as well as – ready for this? – Sweet Vol-au-Vent with a Strawberry Tarragon Coulis. Just wow.

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Niflettes

Tarts: I rarely make them but find them quite fascinating. Many options tempted me, starting with her Rustic Plum Tart in a Sweet Fennel Crust. She follows with a very interesting Medieval Custard Tart in a Clove-Scented Crust. I adore spices and find their addition to pie crusts a strike of genius. I also have my heart set on her Swiss Chard and Goat Cheese Cheesecake Tart.

Candies and Mignardises: Mignardise might be one of the cutest words in the French language. Fun to say, fun to enjoy… I would make every one of these recipes, starting with White Chocolate White Truffles with Dried Cherries, moving to Mini Pain d’Épices (I was basically addicted to those while living in Paris), and Nonnettes, a concoction made by nuns in the Middle Ages, little cakes with orange marmalade in the center. From the Middle Ages, can you wrap your mind around it?  Too cool!

Special Occasion Desserts: Chocolate Soufflé, a must-make!  White Chocolate Crème Brûlées with Salty PistachiosA Precious Pear Charlotte, Baba au Rhum closes the chapter.

Hillary, thank you for allowing me to publish the recipe from your beautiful cookbook!

zucchini-lemon-walnut-cake-from-bewitching-kitchen

 

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ONE YEAR AGO: Paleo Energy Bars

TWO YEARS AGO: Pecan-Crusted Chicken with Honey Mustard Dressing

THREE YEARS AGO: Mozzarella Stuffed Turkey Burgers

FOUR YEARS AGO:  Cashew Chicken Lettuce Wraps

FIVE YEARS AGO: Clay-pot Pork Roast

SIX YEARS AGO: Panmarino

SEVEN YEARS AGO: A Classic Roast Chicken

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SLOW COOKER CARNITAS LETTUCE WRAPS AND PALEO PLANET REVIEW


They say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and I cannot think of a better phrase to start this post. Several months ago – a few too many – I learned that the hostess of one of my favorite food blogs (A Calculated Whisk) was publishing her first cookbook. After I was done with my extended version of the happy dance, I pre-ordered the book, Kindle version. The book was downloaded to my computer in August last year, but within a couple of days I asked for a refund, and immediately switched to a paper copy of it. I guess that tells you how much I loved it…  I then contacted Becky and asked if it would be ok to publish one of the recipes and do a little review of her cookbook. She was adorable, sent me right away a list of recipes that the publisher agreed could be shared by food bloggers, and I made her Bacon and Spinach Souffle.  My intention was to blog about it on the first week of December, but the pictures turned out really bad, doing no justice whatsoever to the great taste of the dish. I was disappointed and decided to make it again later.  Just as I was getting ready to do it, Becky herself blogged on that very recipe, with drool-worthy images… So yes, I re-made the souffle’ because we enjoyed it so much the first time, but skipped blogging about it. Instead, I jumped right away on another goodie, Lamb Meatballs with Saffron Sauce… One word: WOW. Ok, another, OMG. That makes four words? Sorry. I need them all. But here’s three more for you: Slap To Forehead.  That particular recipe was not in the list approved for sharing by her publisher. Can you feel my pain? Undeterred, although a bit embarrassed by my comedy of boo-boos, I attacked yet another recipe: Slow Cooker Carnitas Lettuce Wraps with Pineapple Salsa.  Five words for you: Third Time’s the Charm. Let me blog about it quickly before someone else beats me to it…
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SLOW COOKER CARNITAS LETTUCE WRAPS WITH PINEAPPLE SALSA

(slightly adapted from Paleo Planet)
reprinted with permission from Becky Winkler)
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for the carnitas:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 bone-in pork shoulder (about 2.5 pounds in weight)
1 onion, thickly sliced
Juice of 2 oranges (reserve the shells)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
for the salsa:
3/4 cup fresh pineapple chunks (I used diced mango)
1 small red onion, chopped
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 avocados, diced
1 head of Boston lettuce for serving
Cashew cream or Mexican crema for garnish (optional)
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Make the carnitas: mix the olive oil, cumin, salt, black pepper, oregano and cayenne in a small bowl. Rub the mixture all over the pork. Place it in the crock pot and top with the onion and citrus juices. Add the orange shells to she slow cooker as well. Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours.  The meat should be fall-apart tender.
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When you are ready to serve the meat, turn the broiler on and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, preferably the heavy-duty kind. Remove the pork from the slow cooker, discarding orange halves and onion slices. Shred the meat using two forks into bite-size pieces. Place the meat on the baking sheet, spoon some of the liquid left in the crock pot over the meat, and broil until browned on top and crispy around the edges, about 5 minutes.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
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Make the salsa: combine all he ingredients in a small bowl except the avocado pieces and mix well to combine. Gently toss the avocado, taste and adjust seasoning, adding more lemon juice if so desired.
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To serve, spoon the meat over leaves of lettuce, top with the salsa, and drizzle with crema or cashew cream.
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ENJOY!
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to print the recipe, click here
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 Comments: This was superb. Absolutely superb. I am a pulled pork cheerleader, so I could be slightly biased, but still. It was one delicious meal. The salsa, so simple to prepare was a perfect topping for the meat. I was lucky to have blood oranges available when I made this recipe, they gave a gorgeous color to the cooking liquid. I highly recommend you make this dish when they are in season. As for the salsa, I used mango instead of pineapple simply because I tend to develop canker sores when I eat pineapple, which is pretty sad, since I love the fruit. Oh, well, there are worse problems to have in life.  I used this recipe for cashew cream, which I blogged not too long ago.
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holidays
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And now, it’s time to share my views on Becky’s first cookbook,
Paleo Planet: Primal Foods from the Global Kitchen…
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As expected from a cookbook published by a reputable food blogger, the photos are amazing, so if you are a very visual person when it comes to picking a recipe to try for the first time, this cookbook will be a huge hit with you. But not only the photos are great, the book was designed with a wonderful sense of aesthetics. Details like the edge of the pages in each chapter marked with a different color, so browsing through is easier… also, each color matches the font in the list of the ingredients. The book is a pleasure to hold, open, and read. I smiled my whole way through it. Another thing I love about it? Becky did not go through 126 pages to explain what is Paleo diet, why you would benefit from it, and listing every single ingredient and gadget you will need to make a Paleo meal, including 3 sizes of wooden spoons, that… come to think of it, cavemen lacked, I am sure. I joke. but some Paleo cookbooks take you for such a looong detour before giving you what you want (recipes!) that it becomes tiring, at least for me. Becky devotes austere 9 pages of text to cover not only her own experience with Paleo, but everything you’d need to know in case you are new to the subject. That is it. I loved it!
book

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Chapter One:
  Spice Blends, Pantry Staples and Sauces…
 In this chapter you will find gems like homemade date syrup (after paying for a bottle and getting addicted to it, I am sure it will be fun to make my own in the future), Cashew Cream (another one of my recent addictions), Slow-cooker caramelized onions, a few chutneys like onion, tamarind, and mint, and many other things to spice up your food.
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Chapter Two: Appetizers, Soups, Salads, and Snacks… How do you feel about Tahini Glazed Chicken Wings? Yes, they are there. Malaysian Beef Satay with Quick-picked cucumbers?  Also waiting for you… Some super enticing soups like Butternut Squash with Fried Garlic and Chile Oil (the photo made me swoon…), or Cauliflower and Mushroom Soup with Gomasio (a fun, simple item ready in seconds that would go well on many dishes). For some reason, I associate Gomasio with a handsome butler…  “Gomasio, please bring me a glass of carbonated water with a dash of Angostura bitters, will you?”  Nah, trust me, nothing to do with it.
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Chapter Three: Poultry... I pretty much wanted to make every single dish of the 21 included in this chapter, but what can I say? I love poultry. Roast Chicken with Za’tar and Yogurt Sauce maybe gets the number one spot with me, but some serious contenders would be Coconut Tamarind Curry, Drumsticks with Mole Poblano, and Chicken Tagine with Potatoes and Quick-Preserved Lemons. WOW!
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Chapter Four: Beef, Pork, and Lamb… Mat lovers, get ready to dig in! Another chapter I could cook from first to last. Includes my featured recipe (Slow Cooker Carnitas), and the one I could not blog about, Lamb Meatballs in Saffron Sauce, but also gems like Date Glazed Pork Tenderloin, and Honey Chipotle Short Ribs.
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Chapter Five: Seafood…. Great recipes in here too, starting with her Lemongrass Shrimp with Cucumber Vermicelli, for which you will need a spiral cutter to make your life easier. You know you need one, almost as badly as you need Becky’s book, so order them both at amazon.com and help keep our great economy moving. Once you get the spiralizer, you can make the second recipe of this chapter, Cilantro-Lime Shrimp Scampi with Zucchini Noodles. See? It all falls in a nice place in the Paleo Planet.  I also want to make her Broiled Salmon with Ginger-Orange Sauce, although I would probably opt to grill the fish instead.
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Chapter Six: Vegetables... Cauliflower Rice is there, in case you are wondering. How could it not be? It is probably the staple of choice for Paleo diet lovers.  Her take on it is simple, straightforward and works great. But how about some Smoky Sweet Potato Latkes?  I want to make them soon, hoping that mine would look half as gorgeous as hers. Another great choice would be the Ginger-Lime Parsnip Puree, as I see parsnips as a great ingredient, often ignored. Love this chapter, it even includes a recipe for okra, which tempted me, but I resisted, I suspect my beloved husband is grateful for it.
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Chapter Seven: Breakfast and Brunch…
I thought it was interesting that she added that more to the end of the book instead of the beginning, unexpected pleasure to stumble upon the chapter. Surprisingly, one of my favorite recipes of this chapter is already in my blog!  Mini-Quiches with Mushroom Duxelles and Baby Broccoli, was my choice of recipe to make from her blog in The Secret Recipe Club back in January 2015. Check it out here. By the way, very few of the recipes from her book were previously on her site. No worries about ordering your copy. Spinach and Bacon Souffle, the first recipe I made but with disappointing photos is also from this chapter.I have a single photo that is not too bad to share, take a look at how creamy it was…
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Chapter Eight: Desserts…
Becky managed to assemble a collection of 17 recipes that don’t make you go “I don’t know about this one…”  You know what I mean, Paleo recipes sometimes bring blueberry muffins made with stuff as tasty as sawdust and sprinkled with honeyed seaweed.  No, not the case. You will find options that are naturally Paleo friendly such as Vanilla-Cardamon Berries, Chocolate-Ginger Truffles, Mocha Panna Cotta, Mexican Brownies, Lemon Olive Oil Cake, and the last recipe closing the book is Coconut Whipped Cream, something lots of bloggers rave about, but I haven’t tried yet.
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So that is my take on a great cookbook that I’m glad to own in its real format, I’ll take the opportunity to save some trees later.  The book was clearly made with love and attention to every detail. Becky follows a Paleo nutrition but doesn’t act like a member of the Paleo Police, quite the contrary. I appreciate that very much, and highly recommend her cookbook, no matter the type of nutrition you enjoy or follow. Of course, vegetarians might find the options slightly limited, but if they don’t mind skipping three of the chapters, there’s plenty to cook from Paleo Planet.
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Becky, I am sorry it took me so long to get this post published, but as I said in the beginning, I had very good intentions…
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If you’d like to order Paleo Planet, follow this link.  I am not associated with amazon.com, and will not profit from your purchase. My reviews of cookbooks and products arise exclusively from my desire to do so.
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A SMASHING PAIR

No, I am not talking about Phil and I, although the thought crossed my mind…  It is actually a quote from my newest cookbook:

Have you tried roasted carrots and avocados together?
What a smashing pair!

I don’t think I ever thought of mixing carrots with avocados, but the other day a simple email with notification of a new post by Kelly arrived, and I dropped everything I was doing to check it out. She shared the recipe for a gorgeous quinoa concoction found in  “The Clever Cookbook.”  Cute name, almost as cute as the blog hosted by the author, Emilie: The Clever Carrot. I can see you’re smiling now, it’s impossible not to smile at the name. I need another cookbook as I need a third eye, but my will power for certain temptations is non-existent. I don’t even try to put up a fight anymore, just go to amazon and get the job done.  Ordering the Kindle version minimizes the amount of guilt, in case you are wondering how I deal with my weaknesses.

That night I laid in bed for a long time reading the book,  and could not wait to make this salad, because who could resist getting acquainted with a smashing pair? Less than 24 hours later the salad was part of our dinner, and it was a tremendous success!  I urge you to try it too. I modified the recipe a bit, but you can find Emilie’s original in her book,  which by the way is a total delight! You need to have it, so don’t even bother resisting.

Spice Roasted Carrot and Avocado Salad

SPICE-ROASTED CARROT AND AVOCADO SALAD
(adapted from The Clever Cookbook)
printed with permission from Emilie Raffa)

4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 heaped tsp Southwest spice blend (I used Penzey’s)
1/4 cup slivered almonds
a few yellow grape tomatoes, halved
1 ripe Hass avocado
Juice of ½ lemon
Pinch of salt
arugula leaves

Heat your oven to 425 ° F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the carrots in a large bowl. Add the olive oil and sprinkle with Southwest spice, and a little salt. Toss well to coat. Spread the carrots out on your sheet pan. Roast for about 20 minutes, or until the carrots are caramelized and tender. In the final 5 minutes, add the slivered almonds on top. Remove from the oven, add the tomatoes.  Give it a good stir. Allow the mixture to cool slightly while you dice the avocado and drizzle the pieces with lemon juice to prevent browning.

Add the avocados to the carrots, and toss gently to combine. Place the mixture on top of arugula leaves on a serving bowl, drizzle olive oil and some more lemon juice, adjust seasoning with salt. Toss very gently and serve at room temperature.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

 

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Comments: Talk about a delicious dinner! It’s not everyday that a salad draws enthusiastic compliments from my beloved husband. We both went crazy for this one, and Phil in particular thought that the grilled chicken was a perfect match, making the meal worthy of a fancy French style bistrot. On a slight tangent: the chicken was super simple.  I marinated boneless, skinless chicken thighs early in the morning in a mixture of yogurt,  a touch of olive oil, lemon juice, paprika and turmeric. A smidgen of agave nectar just because. When it was time for dinner, I scraped the marinade off, seasoned the meat with salt and pepper, and grilled until done. The combination of sweet roasted carrots, the hint of spice, and the creaminess of the avocado was irresistible!

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The salad has enough substance to stand proud on a fully vegetarian menu. Maybe paired with a hearty pasta dish, or next to crostini with mushrooms and cheese?  Or you can skip the greens and use the smashing mixture over grains such as farro or quinoa. Your call.

Emilie, thank you for allowing me to publish your recipe…
I must say you are absolutely right, roasted carrots and avocados are “a smashing pair!”

Now, a little bit about the book…

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The book is organized in a slightly unusual way. You won’t find chapters for Main Dishes, Appetizers, or even a particular kind of ingredient. Instead, her approach is to divide the book in strategies that make your life easier in the kitchen. For instance, the first chapter is called “Prep Ahead Vegetables”, and shows how if you invest a little time in prepping veggies they can help you out in many recipes. The chapter includes soups like 30 minute Broccoli and Feta Soup which immediately called my name.  The following chapter, “Back to Basics”  lists her “non-negotiable” items. Stuff that she always has around like toothpaste, chocolate, and the cell phone  (yeah, she is adorably witty). In that chapter, you’ll learn how to make her Triple Duty Chicken Stock, Basic Tomato Sauce, and Master Stir Fry Sauce. Well, you get the gist of it. A little investment of time to make batches of those, and cooking on a daily basis will be a breeze.   But my favorite chapter was one called “Process This.” Clever ways (it is a clever cookbook, after all) to use the food processor. I must try her Banana Cloud Cake included in the chapter, and the user-friendly No-Peel Butternut Squash Soup (sounds like a dream, right?).  Two other chapters that I was quite fond of: “Batch Cooked Grains” and “Freezer Marinades.” The Clever Cookbook is definitely one that will not sit collecting dust in your shelf.  If you are a busy person, with or without kids around, this book is a must-have. To order, follow this link. And while you are around the ordering process, go ahead and subscribe to Emilie’s blog too. I did, because I don’t want to miss her future culinary adventures…

Kelly, thanks for the heads up about Emilie’s cookbook and blog. Loved “meeting” her through you…

😉

ONE YEAR AGO: Spinach and Mushroom Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

TWO YEARS AGO: Crispy Chickpea and Caper Spaghetti

THREE YEARS AGO: Spring has Sprung!

FOUR YEARS AGO: Chickpea and Fire Roasted Tomato Soup

FIVE YEARS AGO: Double Asparagus Delight

SIX YEARS AGO:  Sun-dried Tomato and Feta Cheese Torte

 

 

POACHED WHITE ASPARAGUS WITH LEMON AND PISTACHIOS

I have a cookbook recommendation for you: Rose Water and Orange Blossoms, by Maureen Abood, who runs a gorgeous food blog I’ve been following for a while. As I browsed through my Kindle version, I was surprised by the number of recipes I bookmarked, a feature I love in the Kindle reader, actually. Makes it so easy to go back to favorites. So I did that A LOT. I also love when a cookbook mixes just the right amount of prose. Don’t make each recipe a reason to pour your soul out and tell me all about your childhood and that of your close friends, but give me enough to dream about, to make me understand why that recipe is special for you, special enough that you chose to include in your cookbook.  Maureen does just that. The first recipe I made from her cookbook is simple yet very elegant. Poached white asparagus with pistachios. She used pistachio oil to drizzle the dish, I decided to go with my recent acquisition, a blood orange-infused olive oil.  I am quite fond of its color, a soft reddish tone, and I think the taste matched the white asparagus very well.

White Asparagus with Pistachios

POACHED WHITE ASPARAGUS WITH LEMON AND PISTACHIO OIL
(from the cookbook Rose Water and Orange Blossoms)
reprinted with permission from Maureen Abood

Makes 4 servings

1 pound / 450 g white asparagus
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons shelled roasted, salted pistachios
4 teaspoons pistachio oil (I used blood orange infused olive oil)
Fine sea salt, to finish

Trim the asparagus by snapping the ends off at their natural break. Peel them from just beneath the tip to the end with a vegetable peeler. Cover the asparagus with water in a large sauté pan. Squeeze the lemon into the pan and add the teaspoon of salt.

Cover the pan and bring the water to a boil, and then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until a spear can be easily cut with a knife and fork. Drain and set the asparagus aside to cool. Remove the thin papery skin on each pistachio to reveal the bright green nut underneath by rubbing the skin off of each nut between your fingers and thumb. Coarsely chop the pistachios.

Divide the asparagus among four individual salad plates, or pile them, all facing the same direction, on a platter. Sprinkle the pistachios across the center of the asparagus crosswise, forming a line. Drizzle everything with pistachio oil, and finish with the sea salt.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments: White asparagus will always make me think of a trip to Germany many years ago. We were living in Paris at the time, and went for a little scientific mission to a couple of cities in Germany. We arrived at the peak of asparagus season and one restaurant in particular had pretty much all dishes centered on them. I still remember a gratin of white asparagus and ham that blew my mind, it was superb! Until I got Maureen’s book, I confess to butchering my share of white asparagus when trying to cook them at home. It never occurred to me that these pale white creatures need to be treated differently from their siblings, the ones allowed to grow under full sun. Maureen gives two simple tips for success: peel them all the way from the bottom to the region right below the tips. And cook them gently but for a longer time. I was amazed at the difference these two little modifications brought to my culinary life.

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Now, back to Maureen’s book. So many dishes I want to cook from it, it’s not even funny…  Doesn’t “Flower Water Syrup” make you go in a dreamy daze? Many of her recipes are simple but join unexpected flavors, leaving you with that feeling of “why didn’t I think of that?” For instance, Warm Dates with Almonds and Lime Zest… I just know it will be an amazing recipe. Or… Tahini Avocado?  Za’atar Roasted Tomatoes? It all sounds perfect.  And to me, nothing is better than a great kibbeh, I love it. She shares her classic version of Baked Kibbeh, and one particular recipe I had a few times in Brazil and find spectacular: Yoghurt-Poached Kibbeh.  You may think it is strange, but trust me, it is the best kind. I guess I was lucky to grow up in São Paulo where we have many great Lebanese restaurants, some pretty close to the university where I studied. Still on the kibbeh front, Maureen offers several variations that were unknown to me: Fried Kibbeh with Mint Butter, Vegan Tomato Kibbeh, and Potato & Spinach Kibbeh. But I will tell you what will be my next recipe for sure: Whipped Hummus with Minced Lamb. One little tip she gives in that recipe is worth my weight in chickpeas. But I share no more. You will have to invite her book to join your collection, and that will be a very wise move. Go for it with a simple click here.

Maureen, thank you for allowing me to publish your recipe, and best of luck with your cookbook!

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THREE YEARS AGO: Quinoa Salad with Roasted Beets

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