Coo Coo for Koulourakia

Today I am getting my Greek on. I have exactly zero Mediterranean blood in my veins, but I have some in my heart. This thanks to my favorite Greek friends, who are warm and sometimes fiery; they are generous in spirit, passionate in their beliefs and above all FUN.

One of my faves recently enlisted my son in making a mega batch of traditional Greek cookies, Koulourakia. Seeing them in the kitchen together via Facetime, working on the cookie-production line, made me smile. It reminded me of being in the kitchen with my own mom.

As we have documented here on this blog, Nina was not invested in cooking unless the cooking was collateral necessity for some messy crafting or shenanigans that brought together kids or grandkids. Despite her own holiday baking ennui, she encouraged us to pursue our own culinary itches, which were usually things that bore little resemblance to the magazine pictures that had inspired us. Cases in point: rock-hard pretzels from ZOOM (the show not the app), a gloppy soft cheese “pine cone” flavored with bacon bits and studded with almonds, dentally challenging popcorn balls, and so, so many more.  

My point is….Nina had her priorities straight. Our holiday kitchen experiments brought us together in one place. The only really important part about the holidays are the people—the family you are born into and the family you grow into. If you’re living a rich life, that family ends up being big and varied and sprinkled all over the country, if not the globe.

That is why seeing the kitchen production half a country away inspired me to try out the Koulourakia recipe I’ve been eyeing (and trying to pronounce) for quite a while. The cookies did not disappoint and will be a holiday staple here. They are sturdy, keep well, travel well and as a bonus are both nut-free and Vegan. They’re low-key addictive—not quite as sweet as a cookie, and less of a commitment than a muffin, making them the perfect late morning or mid-afternoon accompaniment to a cup of something comforting. Book group? Cookie exchange? Hostess gift? Holiday snack arsenal for unexpected guests? Yes and yes on down the line.

There are admittedly many versions of Koulourakia, using seasonal flavors and sweeteners, or butter vs olive oil. I went with Mina Stone’s favorite orange- and cinnamon-flavored version, from her book Lemon, Love and Olive Oil, (purchased at the always magical Woody’s Mercantile). She does the pro option of brushing the tops with honey water and pressing the cookies in sesame seeds. Other versions skip the honey wash and simply roll the rope in sesame seeds before forming the cookies into a circle. You do you, preferably in a messy kitchen with good company and an excellent playlist!

       Koulourakia, Colorado version

Koulourakia

From Lemon, Love and Olive Oil

 Ingredients

The Wet Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) light olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup tahini (120 ml)
  • 1 cup (240 ml) orange juice
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar

The Dry Ingredients:

  • 4 cups (480g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Topping:

  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • ½ cup water
  • ½  cup sesame seeds

Method

Preheat the oven to 350 °F, 180 °C

Line 2-3 baking trays with parchment paper.

Make the Cookie Dough:

  • Combine all of the dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk them together.
  • Combine all of the wet ingredients in a large bowl and whisk them together. Add the dry ingredients in 2-3 batches and whisk together. Switch to a spatula and mix until a smooth soft dough, adding another spoonful of flour if it’s too sticky. Cover loosely with a towel and set aside to rest for 20 minutes.

Make the Cookies:

  • Take about a tablespoon of dough and roll it into a ball. Roll the ball into a 5-inch (12-13 cm) long rope. Shape it into an S or into a circle.
  • Dissolve 1 Tbsp honey in 1 cup water. Form the cookies on the baking tray, brush tops with honey/water mixture then press each cookie into sesame seeds and replace on sheet. Alternatively, roll the rope in the sesame and then place on the prepared baking pan. 
  • Bake the cookies 13-15 minutes, until golden brown on the bottom and lightly toasted on top). Cool on rack.
  • Transfer the cookies to cookie jars or to an airtight container and store at room temperature up to 2 weeks.

Serve with cozy bevvie of choice, or go full Greek and shake up a cold frappe. It’s totally a thing.

     Traditional yodeling marmots and Koulourakia unite!

Thanksgifting

As the rest of you are toiling away in the kitchen, taking or giving orders and wondering why every year it takes so much brainpower to figure out turkey math, I’ll be cooking…nothing. I’m not that happy about it. To me, a proper Thanksgiving involves an element of chaos. This from the second youngest of 12 grandchildren, whose clan always gathered en masse for Thanksgiving; that is, except for the rare occasion when Thanksgiving coincided with a powder day, in which case Thanksgiving was a do-over at Howard Johnsons on the drive home from the mountains Sunday. As I grew into personhood and became a ski racer, Thanksgiving was always an away game, taking place wherever we were training for the start of the season.  

Perhaps that is why, to me, Thanksgiving is less sacred than rogue. I love taking on too many cooking projects, making old favorites, enjoying the satisfaction of new recipes that are surprisingly good (Knock-Out Vegan Pumpkin Pie), and suffering the consequences of epic fails (pretzels that could break your teeth). Ideally, there’s a little bit of all that going on, and nobody really remembers the food anyway because of the chaos and the company.

With the kids gone on their own ski racing journeys, our Thanksgivings have become very small affairs. This year, my culinary responsibilities come down to making a mustard dill sauce for smoked salmon. This task takes all of three ingredients and five minutes, if you are a slow chopper.

It’s is a solid recipe, from one of my few remaining cookbooks, The Silver Palate Cookbook. I have the 1982 edition, with “Thys” penciled in my Mom’s handwriting on the inside cover. As the stains throughout attest, this baby has lived on the front lines for many a Thanksgiving.

Here is the recipe in its entirety, though I’ll be making ¼ recipe which will still be too much:

Dill Mustard Sauce

from the Silver Palate Cookbook

  • 1 cup sweet mustard (the really sweet honey ham stuff)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • ½ cup chopped fresh dill

Mix all ingredients together. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

And that, my friends, is all am making for Thanksgiving; but it just feels wrong, so I’ll bring something else for sure. Bringing an unassigned dish to a small Thanksgiving, however, can be tricky. You don’t want to boss a new dish on everyone when the pressure is on to try it and enjoy it; or steal the host’s mojo by creating a direct competitor to a favorite dish.

It has to be something that can be easily served as a complement, and/or politely stored away for another occasion. If you happen to be in this situation, here are a few suggestions:

You’ll never go wrong with nuts, especially at the holidays. Honey thyme walnuts go well with any cheese spread, and anything from the Bring It nut anthology can stand alone. The app table can always use some substantial Everyone Crackers that accommodate most all special diets, except sesame allergies.

A jar of chili crisp will add a little sass to the turkey without stealing any cranberry thunder (they’re definitely different food groups). Homemade granola is a good call, especially if you are staying over. Press the Easy button with Tahini Granola (sorry again sesame allergy peeps), or super healthy Seed Bark Granola or my current fave Judson’s Crispy Granola from Martha’s Vineyard Magazine.

If you can’t cook, you also can’t come empty-handed. (Huge bonus points for anyone with vintage miniature Pilgrim candles btw). You’re never going to go wrong with flowers, a bag of good coffee, a box of chocolates or a bottle of something fun. Might I suggest Ancho Reyes, which can spice up any margarita or Bloody Mary, either of which may come in handy when the family’s been together for a few days.

That’s all I’ve got for now, because I must go chop my handful of dill and rest. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

For the host who has everything, rice krispy  turkey legs are just the thing.

Stick Season Plant Pâté

November in the east is full-on stick season, a term which, thanks to local boy turned massive celeb Noah Kahan, needs no further explanation. You could listen to the song or just look outside my window at the inspiring brown on brown on brown tableau. Despite the catchy song, it’s not hugely inspiring weather. BUT it is good for hunkering in with hearty fare, which is reason enough to add this fully Vegan and exceptionally delish “pâté” to your stick season repertoire.

This recipe has been on my “to-post” list for months because it multi tasks like a boss and is a hit with Vegans and carnivores alike. It’s worth reading the whole origin story here to see how this umami party came together. I have never been a fan of pâté, so an exact replication of it was never a huge priority. That said, I’m glad Alanna went the distance because this happens to be spot on in texture and, as far as I am concerned, as good or better in taste.

The one weird ingredient is umeboshi—pickled plum paste—which is not a deal killer to substitute (see notes), but worth tracking down. You don’t need much and it keeps as long as anything in my science project fridge. Stick season is also hunting season, which gets to feeling pretty meaty in these parts. Having a tub of this on hand is a brilliant way to fight back and get your veggies in at any meal.   

This is especially good with Everyone Crackers, (another gift from the Bojon Gourmet), but great as a sandwich spread or on any app platter with things like cornichons, baguette slices,  sturdy veggies, etc. Fergawdssakes don’t forget the chile crisp!

I hope you like this and you’re enjoying the hunkering wherever you are!

Lentil Walnut Vegan Pâté

From the Bojon Gourmet, Alanna Taylor-Tobin
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total: 50 minutes
Servings: 8 to 10 appetizer servings (makes about 3 cups—a LOT)

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup dried green lentils** (lentils de puy)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil (divided use)
  • 1 small, yellow onion, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 1 1/4 cups walnuts, lightly toasted (for 6 – 12 minutes at 350º) and cooled
  • 1/3 cup fresh cilantro, basil or parsley, plus extra for garnish, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, oregano or marjoram, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons white or yellow miso paste
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons umeboshi paste*
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • extra olive oil, for drizzling

Method

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the lentils, water and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, partially covered and stirring occasionally, until the lentils are very tender (but not falling apart), 20 – 30 minutes. Drain, discard the bay leaf, and cool completely (you can speed this up by spreading the lentils out on a plate and sticking them in the fridge).
  1. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute, stirring frequently and reducing the heat if necessary, until the onions are golden, about 15 minutes. Stir in the mirin and remove from the heat. Cool completely (to speed up the process, see lentils, above).
  2. Place the toasted and cooled walnuts in the bowl of a food processor and puree until it looks like nut butter, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the cooled lentils and the onion mixture and puree smooth. Add in the herbs, miso, umeboshi, pepper, and remaining tablespoon of olive oil, and blend until smooth.
  3. Serve immediately, or store in the refrigerator for up to a week. Drizzle with olive oil and chopped fresh herbs, and serve with crackers or sliced baguette and cornichons or olives.

Notes:

The unique flavor profile comes from a trifecta of Japanese ingredients—miso, mirin and umeboshi—all of which I can find EVEN in NH. Of the three, Umeboshi is least likely to be in your kitchen. It is described as sour, salty and slightly sweet.

*Teresa, my way-better-chef-than-me friend and neighbor used a sour plum jam mixed with some balsamic vinegar with great success.

** I have used regular brown lentils when I ran out of de puys and they were totally fine.

Love the One You’re With Plum Torte

Not to be bossy but, MAKE THIS DESSERT!

This recipe popped into my life just as I was looking for something purple to post in honor of the Walk to End Alzheimer’s (shameless plug and donation link here). Purple is the color of the cause. Both the cause and the color are dear to me because of my awesome mama Nina who happened to LOVE the color purple.

My first purple food efforts included braised red cabbage and some spiced beets. Both were pretty and delicious but felt a little more like weeknight homework than weekend fun. And who needs more homework in September?

Browned up, cinnamon sprinkled Purple Fantasia

Then, like magic, the New York Times offered up its most requested recipe of all time—Marian Burros’s Plum Torte, resplendent with purple plums.

There are many reasons why this recipe is brilliant. First off, it is easy, and infinitely flexible; hence, the name. In keeping with the Stillsian “love the one you’re with” sensibilities it can be made with really any kind of fruit you’d find in pie. It is made with regular ingredients (not many, and in totally memorizable quantities) you probably have on hand right now, and in whatever pan you’ve got, with a mixer or a fork. It travels like a champ, freezes easily, and is essentially un-messupable.

It’s even easier than Nina’s specialty margarita pie, and considering that the Times has printed it annually since 1983, Nina may have even made it in her day.

It took me a while to try it out because at first I couldn’t find the smaller Italian purple plums, and needed my larger black plums to ripen. They never really did, and still, it was delicious. Don’t let a lack of any specific fruit keep you from making it, because, as the recipe promises, it can be used with any seasonal fruit, from berries and stone fruit in summer to apples and pears in the fall, to cranberries and frozen berries in winter.

I literally road tested my first effort—sliced it in the pan, wrapped it whole then enjoyed it with friends from a tailgate after mountain biking. I made it again with frozen blueberries, and again with the proper, and much smaller, Italian plums. And then again with fresh raspberries. All good! Next up (obviously in this neck of the woods) apples.

An international crew of testers, albeit young and hungry, gave a unanimous thumbs up. They voiced a slight preference for leaving the plums halved, as in the original vs sliced, as suggested in some of the 2,125 comments.

So, make it with anything you’ve got, and share it with anyone you love. Or just share it with whoever you’re with because, you never know.

Love the One You’re With Plum Torte
originally by Marian Burros for the New York Times

Ingredients:

Yield: 8 servings

  • ¾ cup (150 grams) sugar
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup (120 grams) unbleached flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 24 halves pitted purple plums
  • Sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon, for topping

Method:

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream the sugar and butter in a bowl. Add the flour, baking powder, salt and eggs and beat well.

Spoon the batter into a lightly greased and floured spring-form pan of 8, 9 or 10 inches. Place the plum halves skin side up on top of the batter. Sprinkle lightly with sugar and lemon juice, depending on the sweetness of the fruit. Sprinkle with about 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, depending on how much you like cinnamon. (I like 1 Tbsp sugar mixed with ½ tsp cinnamon, then sprinkled together on top)

Bake 1 hour, approximately, checking at 45 minutes. Remove and cool; refrigerate or freeze if desired. Or cool to lukewarm and serve plain or with whipped cream or, duh, ice cream. (To serve a torte that was frozen, defrost and reheat it briefly at 300 degrees.)

Tips

Here is where I’ll guide you to the highpoints of the rabbit hole that is the comment section at the end of  this and every NYT recipe. As proof of this recipe’s brilliance, the notes are far less snarky/judgemental and more contributory/helpful than the usual NYT comment fare.

  • To freeze securely for the apocalypse wrap the torte in plastic, then double wrap in foil.
  • For some of the most popular variations, including flour combos, its best to go to this easy guide.
  • Use whatever pan you’ve got, but DO grease and flour it—the original recipe does not mention that step, but that is a subtle plot from the baking elite to undermine the rest of us baking hacks.

AND NOW, MY PURPLE SPIEL

Today just happens to be GO PURPLE DAY. If you’re still with me, here is my purple pitch, for how to support the Alzheimer’s Association and/or the Walk. Everyone is welcome to join the walks that happen in 600 plus towns across the country. In our hood it’s on Saturday Sept 30 starting at 9:30 at Hanover High School. Sign up right here! Catch the incomparable Cindy Pierce turn her comic genius to Alzheimer’s at Sawtooth on Sept 28, or Go Purple—today or anytime leading up to the walks—to support the cause. Finally a HUGE THANK YOU to all you purple angels who have donated to this cause that means so much to me. Come by for some torte!

 

Vera’s Kale Salad

Kale is good for you. So are friends. But friends are a lot more fun. This is a repost of a recipe that has made a strong comeback in my repertoire and features kale in its most fun version. But it’s really a shout out to two friends who made a huge difference in the lives of everyone around them.

They are Vera and Nina. Last weekend we celebrated the life of Vera, who spread her unique brand of joy for 89 years. Today, her cousin and BFF Nina—my mother—would have turned 89.

Go to the original post for details on how and why to massage kale. Spoiler alert—it softens it into submission and makes it really, really tasty. The salad did what good recipes do, and transferred title of ownership as it gained a following. Once it landed on Bring It, it became Edie’s Kale Salad, and when my sister Anne brought it to Vera’s, where it played on repeat, it became “Anne’s Kale Salad.”

Vera’s home, an oyster shell’s throw from the harbor, was better known as “The Vortex” for its tendency to draw people in and prevent them from leaving. If you came for a night, Vera immediately campaigned for it to be a weekend, then a long weekend.  Vera’s place reminded me of the home where I grew up, on the other side of the country, where Nina’s smile made everyone feel relaxed, welcome and relevant.  

At Vera’s, this salad sat on the table at many a summer dinner, standing up to the heat and humbly letting the feast of lobster and clams and fresh corn take center stage. It sat there quietly, smiling, like Vera and Nina always did, just happy to be among the good company of friends and family.

This weekend, in honor of two friends who brought out the best in each other and everyone around them, I’m serving up some of Vera’s Kale Salad and Nina’s Margarita Pie. I hope you all have a delicious weekend!

Kale Salad with an egg makes it the main event. A beachy rhubarb spritz makes it a summer all star.

Massaged Kale Salad

Ingredients

1 large bunch kale (curly is best)
1 tsp kosher salt (use a little less if using regular salt)
1/4 medium-small red onion, thinly sliced or diced
1/3 cup chopped toasted almonds or nuts of choice
1/3 cup raisins, currants or dried fruit of choice
1/2 large avocado, diced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

Method

Soak kale in water to loosen any dirt. Wash individual leaves as you de-stem them (pull leaf away from thickest parts of stem). Shake dry. Be fancy and chiffonade leaves (stack, roll and slice into thin ribbons) and put in a large bowl. Or, be more Edie than Martha and chop it or tear it. Sprinkle salt over kale and, using hands, massage kale for 3-4 minutes. After about a minute you’ll notice a big difference in the leaves – they’ll start to soften and turn a dark green almost as though you were steaming them. When done, drain off any liquid that collects on bottom of bowl (may or may not happen) and set kale aside.

If you are starting with raw nuts…Heat a small sauce pan, toss in whole nuts and toast until nuts start to brown slightly. Shake pan on occasion to brown nuts evenly and to keep from burning them. Walnuts, pecans, filberts or even sunflower seeds are great in this salad too. Remove nuts from pan and give them a rough chop on your cutting board. Add nuts to bowl of kale.

Add diced avocado, onions and raisins to bowl (again, raisins, currants, your fave dried fruit in raisin-sized pieces or whatever you have on hand). Pour olive oil and apple cider vinegar evenly over bowl of goodness, then toss until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed.

           Vera, always fabulous.

Bring It

One of the many beauties of kale is its indestructibility (if that’s a word). You can bring this anywhere in anything, store it wherever and it will not suffer. I have transported it in everything from ziploc bags to salad bowls to recycled takeout containers and it has survived in backpacks for hours before being enjoyed for lunch or aprés ski.

 

Salad Fix: A Healthyish Addiction

Maple creemees, Halyard ginger beer, Meyer lemons, chile crisp, Wordle. I don’t have many addictions, but the ones I have are strong. None of us go looking for more addictions, but they are wily. They sneak up and find you in places you’d least expect. Like, in your salad.

What we have here is a double header addiction—a sweet, creamy dressing and a salty crunchy topping that can be used on their own or together, on salad or on pretty much any veggie or side that needs a little cha-cha.

This particular addiction two-fer came from my young friend and culinary adventurer Mason McNulty. Mason moved to New York a few years back, and added foodie to her adulting repertoire. She recently started sending out a weekly newsletter with recipes she’s developed as a young professional with boundless energy, enthusiasm and creativity for cooking, but limited time, space and budget.

Mason’s recipes come with detailed instructions and touches that take new cooks by the hand and say, “get it together people–you can do this!” She separates out pantry, fridge and specialty ingredients; she lists necessary equipment; she includes the ingredient amounts measured in multiple ways, and those amounts in the ingredients as well as in the steps. She is the anti-slacker.

So, as one would expect, when I fell in love with her latest recipe combo, I slackered them right up (or down) to my capabilities. I am delivering them to you, BUT I am also attaching Mason’s original instructions and pictures so you can choose your adventure. Get the bare bones version here, and then click on Mason’s step by step version with pretty pictures. But wait there’s more! If you want to get Mason’s recipe newsletters, along with a little vicarious whiff of NYC living, just email her at [email protected]

This recipe combo of Creamy Date and Shallot Dressing + Toasty, Crispy, Nutty Topping was entititled: “How to Make Any Salad or Vegetable Taste Great.” That says it all. The dressing is surprisingly simple and ridiculously good. As I was pondering what to use as an excuse for more dressing Mason suggested “a stick from the backyard” and I swear it would work. So there’s that.

And then comes the topping, which is like almond brittle and homemade croutons got into a brawl and ended in a shattered heap, as BFFs. It has it all—crunchy, salty, sweet, a touch of citrus, optional heat and herbs with juuuuuust enough grease to feel indulgent but not irresponsible. It’s Smartfood vs Cheetos, but way better than either. Mason shows it as a topping for roasted asparagus. I’ve used it to add crunch to everything from caprese salad to egg salad, and I’m seeing it on pretty much every soup in my future.

So here you go. Happy 4th, because apparently the 1st is the new 4th and we’re in it! Don’t forget to click on Mason’s instructions for better pics and the full experience.

Part 1: Creamy Date and Shallot Dressing

Yields 1.5 – 2 cups dressing

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 2 ounces dried dates, measured without pits (~ scant ½ cup, loosely packed)
  • 1 small shallot (~1/4 cup)
  • 1⁄2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1⁄3 cup +1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Prep the ingredients: Pit the dates and roughly chop. Finely chop the shallot.
  2. Complete the initial blend: combine the chopped dates and shallots, the dijon (1 tablespoon), and the apple cider vinegar (1⁄2 cup) in a blender (a bullet blender works really well for this if you have one). Blend until well combined but still somewhat chunky
  3. Complete second blend: Add the olive oil (1⁄3 cup + one tablespoon), plus a big pinch of salt and a few cranks of pepper and blend until very smooth and emulsified. It will look like tahini! Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary
  4. Store: This dressing thicken in the fridge, but you can re-warm it by running warm water on the sides and shaking the container.

The killer combo

Toasty, Crispy, Nutty Topping AKA Salad Granola AKA Salad Crack

Yields ~1 cup (Pro tip: no shame in doubling it)

Ingredients

  • 1⁄2 cup (generous) sliced almonds*
  • 1⁄3 cup (generous) panko
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt
  • ¾ tsp (or more, packed) lemon zest
  • 1 tsp (generous) honey
  • 1/2 clove garlic* grated or finely chopped
  • optional: Red pepper flakes, fresh or dried herbs, lemon juice

Method

  1. Prep the ingredients:  Zest 1 teaspoon of the lemon (should be a packed 1 teaspoon); Grate or chop garlic clove *(add the other half if you like extra garlic!
  2. Fry the almonds: Add the olive oil (2 tablespoons) to a small frying pan over medium heat. Add the sliced almonds (heavy 1⁄2 cup) and cook until golden brown, stirring every so often with a rubber spatula (or whatever tool you want). This will take 5-8 minutes, depending on your stove. You will hear the nuts crackling and popping during the cooking process.

*Edie’s note here- I burned my first batch, so trust your eyes and nose more than the clock). Also, super slackers can start with Trader Joe’s sliced toasted almonds and get them hot before adding the panko.

  1. Add the panko: Still over medium heat, add the panko (heavy 1⁄3 cup) and mix. Cook until golden brown, an additional 45 seconds – 1 minute
  2. Optional: Add the garlic: Still over medium heat, add in the garlic (1⁄2 clove, now grated) and cook for just 45 seconds. Turn off the stove and remove the pan from the heat. Let cool for 5 minutes. Taste and feel free to add the other half of the clove if that’s your jam.
  3. Season the topping: In the same frying pan add in salt (a generous 3 finger pinch, or to taste), lemon zest (3⁄4 teaspoon, or more to taste), and honey (generous 1 teaspoon). Mix together thoroughly and add another pinch of salt if desired. Make this your own by adding red pepper flakes, fresh or dried herbs, lemon juice, etc.
  4. Store: Let the topping cool and then store in a room-temperature location. If you are a monk or have carb discipline it will last 3-5 days. Add however much you want on whatever dish you are serving it with. Some grated parmesan is delish too.

Did I mention the original recipe? Just testing you.  Get it here. To get on her list say hey to Mason at [email protected]

Everyone Crackers: Because Special Orders Don’t Upset Us

“Hold the pickles hold the lettuce….” If you had a heartbeat in the 70’s you know what comes next (and if not, there’s this https://youtu.be/pprTvtHnnTo)

Cutting to the chase of the Burger King jingle, special orders don’t upset us in this house. Granted, as a mother of bottomless pit boys, I love it when people eat everything with glee; but,  I also enjoy the challenge of the hunt when finding recipes to accommodate the “specials” — the gluten frees, the vegetarians, the paleos, the nut-frees, the dairy-frees, the garlic and cilantro haters, the Vegans and any “special combo” of the above. 

Regularly catering to a Paleo, Gluten-free, Vegan “special combo” might put me over the edge. But then again, I’d just make a LOT of these crackers. Everyone Crackers are the reverse concept of Everything seasoning, in that they have few main ingredients and tons of flavor options so they can accommodate everyone. Even the sesame averse have an easy workaround (see recipe notes at the end). 

These goes out to Jules, who also brought us the triple spicy margarita. For that alone she is worth any amount of extra effort. Jules is a “special combo” of gluten free and nut free. That last part is especially tough for someone like me who tries to slip nuts into everything. It’s also difficult because so many gluten free baked goods depend on the heft and flavor of nut flour. 

Say hello to cassava flour, the longtime secret weapon of the gluten-averse paleo crowd. Even for people with no dietary restrictions, these crackers that come straight from the Bojon Gourmet (kinda my food hero) are solid gold. They make a fine addition to any app spread and a vehicle for anything (well hello again, chile crisp!)

Full disclosure, making crackers is a bit of a pain. Within the cracker-making realm, however, these are as easy as it gets: One bowl, few ingredients and no chopping, pre-bake scoring, flipping, or resting time on the counter. The only real skill involved is getting them to a uniform thickness, and if you’ve done any time with Play-doh you’ve got this.  

You will need parchment paper and ideally two baking sheets without rims. Other than that, no special equipment. The ingredients, once you have them, last a good long time so you’ll be set for several batches.

Besides being substantial and delicious, these crackers allow for plenty of room to riff with seasonings in the mix or on top. I left the recipe exactly as written with my notes in italics. Stay tuned for another partner recipe from Bojon Gourmet–this one a crazy-good Vegan “paté”  that has only one wacky ingredient and stands on its own with meat eaters. It does have nuts so, sorry Jules…you’ll have to double down on the crackers!

 

Crackers, pre-breakup

…and after the bust

Everyone Crackers

From Alanna Taylor-Tobin AKA the Bojon Gourmet
Prep Time: 30 minutes minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes minutes
Total: 1 hour hour 20 minutes minutes
Servings: 40ish crackers

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (160 g) cassava flour*
  • ½ cup (85 g) flax seeds (ground flax seeds will also work in a pinch)
  • ½ cup (70 g) sesame seeds
  • ½ cup (60 g) sunflower seeds
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons (265 ml) boiling water*
  • ¼ cup (55 g) olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons for brushing (I often forget to add the oil until after everything is mixed. It still works out, but aim higher than me here and add the oil with the water)
  • flaky salt, for sprinkling

Method

  • Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 300ºF.
  • Stir together the flour, seeds, and salt in a large bowl.
  • Add the olive oil and water, stir to combine. Let sit 10 minutes, then knead with your hands in the bowl into a smooth ball. Divide in two.
  • Roll one piece of dough between two pieces of parchment paper into a large, thin sheet that’s about the size of a baking sheet. If the dough cracks or tears, just squish it back together. You can trim away the wonky edges, stick them into the corners, and continue rolling to make a rectangle. Repeat with the other piece of dough.
  • Brush the dough all over with olive oil and sprinkle with flaky salt.
  • Bake the crackers until light golden, about 40-50 minutes (check at 15 minutes if using a different flour as some bake much faster than others).
  • Let the crackers cool, then break them into 2 to 3-inch pieces. If the crackers aren’t crisp enough after cooling, just return them to the oven for another 10 minutes or so.
  • Store the crackers airtight for up to a week or two… if you can make them last that long!

Notes and substitution suggestions:

For a non-paleo version, try these with buckwheat or corn flour. Or for a more traditional gluten-ful version, use rye flour or spelt flour. Decrease the water to 1 cup if using a flour other than cassava. 

Feel free to play fast and loose with the seeds, using any combination you like. You can try adding hemp, poppy, chia, and/or pumpkin seeds. See why I love this woman???

Seasoning suggestions (add to the dough or on top of the crackers):-minced fresh rosemary-everything bagel seasoning-1 teaspoon cumin or fennel seed-oregano-garlic and/or onion powder-nigella seed-flavorful oil, such as walnut or toasted sesame-chile flakes, Aleppo pepper, or togarashi-nutritional yeast. This is where you can really customize these, which I do differently every time. I often add lemon zest to the dough but my latest batch has Oaktown Spice Vadovan (fancy curry powder) in the mix. The endless array of seasonings from Trader Joe’s make great toppers. 

 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Easter Eggs

Spring is by far my favorite season. Although New England tries hard to convince me otherwise, with too many springs of all mud and no snow, this year spring is back, baby! Even in the east, we’ve got snow on the mountain and sun (sometimes) in the sky. And in the west, you have 20x all that.

I also love spring because it means Easter and Easter means good things like happy kids, tons of candy and cute bunnies. AND it reminds me of my mom, Nina. She hated the effort, planning and hoopla of the big holidays, but Easter—which is all about creativity and messy fun, and no rules—Easter was Nina’s jam!

Let’s be honest here, the green light on eating chocolate throughout the day, starting at breakfast, was and is a big draw. As much as I wish I could buy up all the half price malted milk robin’s eggs and Reese’s peanut butter eggs at CVS the day after Easter, it’s just not a good life plan.

That said, if there was a healthy, yummy, easy-to-make alternative that I could mass produce and keep in my freezer year-round, I’d be all over it. Well don’t you know, there is such a thing, and this recipe straight from Minimalist Baker is it.

The interior taste and texture is spot on, but without any hazardous ingredients. For God’s sake they’re Vegan, gluten-free and grain-free. We’re talking peanut butter, almond flour, maple syrup and salt. And it’s all wrapped up in the chocolate of your choice so you can pick your own adventure there.

My Easter candy fantasy ship has come in, and I invite you to climb aboard. These may or may not forever change your life, but at the very least they’ll let you feel a lot better about eating candy for breakfast. Hippity Hop and Happy Easter to all!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Possibly Breakfast Easter Eggs

AKA Easy Vegan Peanut Butter Eggs from Minimalist Baker

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup almond flour
  • 1/3 cup creamy, drippy peanut butter
  • 2 ½ Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (for Vegan/dairy-free Minimalist Baker suggests Enjoy Life)
  • 1 tsp coconut oil

Method

  • Line a small baking sheet or plate with parchment paper and set aside.
  • To a small mixing bowl, add almond flour, peanut butter, maple syrup, and sea salt. Use a spatula or spoon to thoroughly mix together. If it seems too wet to handle, add more almond flour. If it seems too dry, add more peanut butter.
  • Use a tablespoon-sized measuring spoon to measure out 1 scant Tbsp of filling and roll it in between your hands to form an oval. Flatten it slightly to form it into an egg shape. Place on the parchment-lined baking sheet or plate. Repeat with the remaining dough.

A double batch of nekkid eggs, chillin’

  • Once all of the eggs are formed, place the baking sheet or plate into the freezer and freeze for at least 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, place the chocolate chips and coconut oil into a small microwavable bowl (small is better than large so that you can more easily dip the eggs into it) and microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring in between to prevent burning, until smooth and melted. You can also melt on the stovetop by adding chocolate and coconut oil to a small glass or metal bowl and carefully placing it over ~1 inch of simmering water in a small saucepan, then stirring until melted. Set aside.
  • When the peanut butter filling is set, remove it from the freezer and use a fork to dip an egg into the melted chocolate, turning it over to coat evenly. Shake off the excess chocolate and place the egg back onto the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining eggs.
  • When finished coating, place the eggs back into the freezer until set — at least 10 minutes. You can enjoy them directly from the freezer or store in the refrigerator. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 1-2 weeks or in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Bringing It:

Channel your inner Easter Bunny and have at it!

Note: If you are at all nervous about your chocolate coating/dipping skills, I highly suggest following the instructions closely and watching the short video on the original post. I have a history of toddler-level chocolatiering but I followed the instructions and mine turned out perfectly first try.

     and voila!

 

 

Slacker Chile Crisp

I love Genevieve Ko. To be clear, I don’t know her, but when a stranger changes your life in a good way what’s not to love?

First, some background and context for this new crush. I am a huge fan of chile crisp, the reigning condiment of the year in our household. While I love the version that I first discovered, and shared here, it is a total pain in the arse to make. It involves lots of labor and time, at least one special ingredient you might not have on hand (star anise) and requires way too much focus with sharp knives. Furthermore, having undertaken the labor of love that is small-batch chile crisp production, it was always a gamble to give it to someone; if I later found out they didn’t love it, I kind of wanted to cry.

But then, I discovered Genevieve Ko’s version of chile crisp, or rather it discovered me, tenaciously popping up in my searches before the OG version. I hesitated to try it because it looked too easy to be good. Other than the Sichuan peppercorns (a bag of which will cost 2.99 and last you exactly forever) it involves no special ingredients. More importantly, it involves no chopping. And yet, it still has all the key elements of chile crisp: it’s crunchy, savory, spicy, salty and a just a tiny bit sweet.

This chile crisp is a slightly different animal than the classic—especially with the added twist of sesame seeds– but I think I like it even better. It’s hard to say because the ease of preparation makes me want to like it better. For sure it is on a different planet than Lao Gan Ma, the supposed King Daddy of commercially produced chili crisp. Sadly, I trusted the googleverse and bought a huge vat, which is still taking up space in the fridge. Trader Joe’s chile crisp is similar in texture but can’t hold a candle in taste. 

Make yourself up a batch, or better yet a double batch, because you’ll want this on eggs, pizza, sandwiches, quesadillas, fresh bread, etc. You may find yourself creating chile crisp “fry sauce” by stirring it into ketchup and mayo, and then stumble upon Ms. Ko’s chile crisp fettucine which will make you realize a double batch really doesn’t last all that long.

As with any recipe from the NYT, people have a LOT to say in the comments, and there are plenty of suggestions for how to tweak this to your tastes.

I hope you enjoy this chile crisp as much as my people do!

Slacker Chile Crisp

From Genevieve Ko via the New York Times

Ingredients

Yield: About 1¼ cups

  • ½ cup vegetable oil (or a bit more…there’s not a lot to spare here)
  • ¼ cup dried minced onion
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1½teaspoons kosher salt (Diamond Crystal)
  • ⅓ cup finely crushed dried small red chiles or red-pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground Sichuan peppercorns (optional…but Edie says not optional)

Method

Combine the oil, onion, ½ teaspoon sugar and ½ teaspoon salt in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion becomes evenly golden brown (careful not to overcook), 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the chiles, sesame seeds and Sichuan peppercorns, if using, and sizzle, stirring, for 1 minute, then stir in the remaining ½ teaspoon sugar and 1 teaspoon salt. Use immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Spoon over everything. I mean everything. Maybe not chocolate cake but then again…

 

Golden Ticket Lemon Bars

This post goes out in preparation for the Hahnenkamm Downhill, the most fearsome event on the World Cup skiing tour, which takes place this weekend on “The Streif” in Kitzbuhel, Austria. Specifically, though it goes out in honor of Eric Keck, the American Downhiller who etched his name in Hahnenkamm legend by launching over the “safety fence” in 1991, and emerging bloodied but whole, wielding his broken ski like a battle prize. This remembrance of Keck by Steve Porino comes as close to capturing that particular moment, and the essence of Eric Keck, as the written word can.

Keck, ready to roll as always

Keck left us far too soon, in 2020, but his warrior spirit—a combo of bravery, mischief, humor, and the-sky’s-the-limit aspiration—remains with all who knew him and especially on the Streif. The contact high of being around Eric and his exuberance felt like getting a golden ticket, a window into life’s possibilities. Fittingly, the charity honoring Eric is called “Keck Golden Ticket” and aims to strengthen kid’s lives through the power of action sports.

Eric’s birthday was on January 11, and his favorite cake was not a cake at all. It was his mom Bev’s lemon bars. The recipe got further customized by Eric’s wife Beth, to accommodate Eric’s request for “twice the lemon, half the crust.”

Beth is herself another magical being. She reminds us that lemons are, “Where summer hides in January.” To Bev’s original version, she doubles the custard, and reduces the proportions of sugar. Beth rolls with 2 cups total vs 3, which is plenty for my tastes. Even when halved from the original, the crust is still plenty sturdy to hold the filling. She also sometimes subs out almond flour for the regular flour in the crust.

I took Beth’s adapted version and cross-referenced it with this recipe for lemon bars from John at Preppy Kitchen. He fills in some details and pro moves that don’t make the shorthand of handed-down family recipes. Among them: line the pan with parchment paper; wet the knife to cut the bars; freeze them if, say, you cannot be trusted alone with an entire batch of lemon bars in the dark days of January.

The Preppy version processes the zest into the sugar first, which is brilliant and I support the move, but in fuss-free kitchens…that ain’t happenin’! Plus, I kind of love the texture of zest when I run into it.

There are lots of options here, but there are some hard and fast rules:

  • Use fresh lemon juice…from real lemons you or your minions squeezed. Make us all happy by using Meyer lemons* if possible.
  • Chill before cutting, or you’re in for a messy situation. Better yet, make them the day ahead and you’ll be as ready as your lemon bars.
  • Enjoy every bite! No guilt, no excuses. Like Eric, these are pure goodness —bright, bold, sweet, sassy with just enough New England crust to keep their integrity.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as Eric did, and bonus points for enjoying them straight out of the pan with a fork while watching the Hahnenkamm this weekend. If you want to help more kids live large like Eric, please consider donating to Keck Golden Ticket.

Golden Ticket Lemon Bars

Ingredients

CRUST

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 c confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter

FILLING

  • 8 eggs
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • *2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • *Zest of two lemons
  • ½ cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder

*Special shout out to Sister A for this particular Meyer lemon haul, and to my other lemon angels/dealers: Sister B, Cousin D and Auntie T (also featured in this splash of sunshine recipe). Have I mentioned using Meyer Lemons??? Ok, moving on…

Instructions

Make the crust:

  • Preheat oven to 325.
  • Prepare a 9 x 13 pan by spraying it, greasing it, or IDEALLY lining with parchment paper, pressed and folded nicely into the corners.
  • With a fork, cut butter into flour and confectioner’s sugar until it is the size of small peas. (I have not tried it, but Preppy John melts the butter then adds it). It won’t hang together until you dump it all into the pan and press into an even layer. Bake 20 minutes, until just golden (or however you like it).

Make the filling:

  • Beat eggs and add sugar, lemon juice, zest and flour. Combine well and pour mixture over the warm crust. Bake another 20-25 minutes, until set.
  • Cool, then chill two hours.
  • Sprinkle w confectioner’s sugar and cut into bars with a sharp knife. Wipe the knife with a damp cloth between cuts to make your edges nice and sharp, like you’d want them on the Streif.

Storing, Keeping, Bringing

Keep these in the fridge until they are gone, or freeze on a baking tray, then wrap tightly and freeze for up to three months (so they say). They travel like champs when the layers are separated by parchment or plastic wrap.

      Keck, taking a friend along for the ride