Archive | holidays RSS feed for this section

A Pie Class with Joy the Baker: Pics, Tips, and Memories

28 Oct

I started Figs in My Belly in June, 2009. At that point in my life, I was living in California, getting a degree in Nutritional Science, staging (interning) in the kitchen at a small handful of restaurants, working at a cooking camp for kids, and making dinners for my housemates at the co-op where I lived. Oh, and I was totally obsessed with Joy the Baker and her blog.

That August, I heard about a rooftop picnic in downtown Los Angeles that Joy was hosting and jumped on the opportunity. I brought my mom along and we spent the afternoon enjoying Joy’s biscuits, fried chicken, coleslaw, and cupcakes while mingling with other Joy the Baker fans.

Cut to more than five years later, and I now live in New York City with a short (four-year-long) pastry cook career currently on pause while I finish up a graduate degree in Nutrition Education and a dietetic internship to become a registered dietitian. And, as you might have guessed, I am still totally obsessed with Joy the Baker and her blog.

Joy is currently on tour for her latest cookbook, Homemade Decadence. I attended her book signing at The Brooklyn Kitchen, and the following weekend, my friend Michelle and I drove up to King Arthur Flour in Vermont, where Joy was teaching a hands-on pie making class. Joy taught two four-hour pie classes on the same day. She is a warrior.

I’ve made my share of pies in the past, but pie still intimidates me, and I wanted to gain some pro tips to boost my pie confidence. Plus, my friend Michelle never made her own pie before, so this was the perfect opportunity to learn. We road tripped for pie! Continue reading

Blueberry Compote (with gin!)

1 Sep

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

David Lebovitz said I should put gin in my blueberry compote. So I did.

In the headnote of his recipe, Lebovitz writes, “…Gin’s herbaceous flavor does indeed marry nicely with blueberries–it can hardly be tasted once cooked, but somehow it just rounds out the blueberry notes…”

I was immediately sold. I took out a saucepan, set it on the stove, and proceeded to make what is now my favorite fruit-based “condiment” of the summer (I imagine another similar summer berry, such as a blackberry, could be substituted for the blueberry).

Cooking the blueberries helped bring out that intense deep blue color and concentrated the flavor, giving off a quintessential blueberry smell. The texture of the berries changed, too, leaving the sometimes-mushy consistency of a fresh blueberry behind and highlighting a blueberry that bursts and oozes a juicy filling instead. Nature’s gushing candy!

********

Toss blueberries in a pot with a little sugar and a little gin and cook the mix for just a few minutes until the blueberries soften and begin to release their juices. 

That’s the shorthand version of the recipe. 3 ingredients. 1 pot. 5 minutes.

Serve chilled, room temperature, or slightly warm. I have been enjoying the compote with a generous scoop of plain yogurt, and spooned atop pancakes. It would also pair well with: oatmeal, ice cream, cake, nut-butter toast.

Blueberry Compote (with gin!)

from David Lebovitz’s Ready for Dessert; makes about 2 cups

*When I made the compote, I had slightly under 2 cups of blueberries. I ended up eyeballing the sugar and gin to about 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 heaping spoon of gin. If you feel comfortable eyeballing to taste, go for it. The proportions listed below are the original ones used in Lebovitz’s book.

  • 2 1/2 cups (12 ounces/340g) fresh blueberries (or frozen)
  • 1/4 cup (50g) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) gin (I used Hendrick’s Gin)

Combine the blueberries, sugar, and gin in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the berries just begin to soften and release their juices. Remove from heat and let stand, uncovered, and let cool to room temperature. Taste for sweetness and add more sugar, if desired.

Storage: This compote can be stored in a jar or tupperware the refrigerator for up to 3 days.  This compote is actually better when prepared a day in advance, which gives it time to thicken nicely.

Variation: If you do not want to use gin, you can substitute water and a good squeeze of lemon juice.

Rhubarb Pudding Cake

12 Jun

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

I moved from Northern California to New York City three years ago. Determined to find a full-time job in a restaurant kitchen, I spent my first few weeks “trailing” (a fancy term for trying out) at a handful of restaurants, mostly in pastry.

Typically at a trail, I got a quick tour of the restaurant, I was assigned some kitchen prep tasks, and eventually if all went well, I was allowed on the line during service to observe and help out with some small finishing touches on the dishes.

At one of the restaurants, my task was to peel rhubarb stalks. The peels were eventually going to get candied.

Rhubarb tends to have this “skin” that can be delicately peeled off into hot pink (and sometimes light green) strands. This is not an easy task when you have an entire box of rhubarb to peel and you haven’t eaten or peed for six hours and your hands are trembling with nerves (trembling because earlier that day I incorrectly measured out the dry ingredients for a giant batch of cookies). Nonetheless, I put on a smile, bit my lip, and persevered. Trying out for a new job, after all, is not an easy task.

*Side note, I met my friend Elizabeth at that trail. She was working the line and I was allowed to observe her. I was fresh in New York, and she was the coolest, funniest, nicest person I had met since moving (and still is!), and I knew I had to keep her close. Plus, she had experience in the kitchen and could offer me advice. I never ended up working at that restaurant and she left shortly thereafter, but Elizabeth and I became fast friends.  

My back-of-the-house restaurant life has been on hiatus for the last two years as I finish up graduate school and try to become a registered dietitian.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

While I feel somewhat nostalgic for candied rhubarb tendrils, in the comfort of my own home (if you call comfort a shared apartment with three dudes), I tend to crave a more rustic dessert.

Rhubarb pudding cake fits the bill. It’s a rhubarb compote plopped on top of cake batter and baked. The rhubarb gets chopped and simmered into a compote until just soft. Fast, easy, and absolutely delicious. I did pull out my KitchenAid mixer for the cake batter, but at least I didn’t have to deal with cleaning a giant hobart mixer.

The “pudding” in the cake is created by pouring a hot, vanilla-infused rhubarb compote over a thick sour-cream (or yogurt) batter.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

To memorable restaurant experiences, to good friends, and to pink vegetables that taste like fruit. Bon Appétit!

Rhubarb Pudding Cake

adapted from Vintage Cakes

makes 8-10 servings

1 pound rhubarb, trimmed of leaves and ends, diced (~4 cups)

1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract (or 1/4 vanilla bean, split lengthwise)

1/2 cup water

1 2/3 cup (8 1/3 ounces) all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon fine Kosher salt

1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 large eggs, room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup (9 ounces) sour cream or plain yogurt, room temperature [I used a 6-oz container of low-fat Greek yogurt mixed with some milk to equal a cup]

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 or 9-inch round or square cake pan or a 2 1/2-quart baking dish with butter. (I lined mine with parchment paper, too).

Make a compote by tossing together the rhubarb and 1 cup of the sugar in a medium saucepan with a lid. Add the vanilla and water, cover, and simmer over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until the rhubarb is soft but has not completely broken down, stirring occasionally. Take the compote off the heat but keep it covered so it says warm while you make the cake.

To make the cake, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl, then whisk the ingredients by hand to ensure they are well mixed.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar together on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. As you make the batter, stop the mixer frequently and scrape the paddle and the bowl with a rubber spatula. Blend in the eggs one at a time, adding the second egg as soon as the first one has disappeared into the batter, followed by the vanilla. Blend in the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the sour cream in two parts, so that you begin and end with the flour mixture.

Spread the batter into the prepared dish or pan and distribute the compote over the top. The compote will be quite runny, but don’t fear: all will be well once the cake has baked. Place the cake in the center of the oven and bake until the edges are firm and the center no longer jiggles, 45 to 50 minutes. Let the cake cool for about 30 minutes, then invert it onto a serving plate and cut into slices, or spoon it right out of the pan.

This cake is best the day it is made, but well-wrapped it can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 days. 

Vegan Chocolate Loaf with yogurt, warmed cherries, and chocolate balsamic

6 May

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Because it’s Tuesday.

Because I’m in the thick of finals (last semester of grad school!).

Because I like to eat “healthified cake” for breakfast. 

Because sometimes, I like to plate my food up fancy. 

I ate a slice of this chocolate loaf for breakfast today. No shame. Vegan chocolate loaf cake with some plain, low fat yogurt, frozen cherries that were warmed in the microwave and poured on top, the juices seeping into the cake, and a final glug of chocolate balsamic vinegar that I re-discovered I had in the cabinet. This could easily be dessert.

Healthy decadence is my jam.

Nicole from CucinaNicolina and I are on the same page in terms of our mindset that life is too short not to have a slice of something sweet, especially when that sweet something is homemade, with a little bit of health mixed in. Throwing in some whole wheat flour and a sprinkling of ground flaxseeds helps make cake an acceptable breakfast in my opinion. Oh, and there’s a cup of coffee in hiding in the loaf, too. I always have a little extra from my morning French press, so this was a great excuse to use it up.

This weekend, I tasted the Brooklyn based White Moustache yogurt in sour cherry flavor. The yogurt company is a father-daughter business, and the yogurt is made from Hudson Valley Fresh whole milk and live probiotic cultures. While the price is steep, this yogurt was a real treat, and was worth every penny. Plus, you get to keep the container to re-use.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

This sour cherry combo got me craving cherries. Since cherry season is not quite here, I found some frozen cherries and just heated them up and poured them over this vegan chocolate loaf. Cherries, chocolate, and creamy yogurt were meant to be together!

Since I gobbled down my jar of White Moustache yogurt, I served the cake with my other favorite brand, Wallaby Organic Plain Low-fat Greek Yogurt. If you want to keep everything vegan, just omit the yogurt or make some sort of coconut based cream.

IMG_2475

Vegan Chocolate Loaf

adapted from Cucina Nicolina

makes 1 loaf or ~8 servings

Nicole says, “As always, replace the whole wheat pastry flour and/or spelt flour with all purpose if that’s all you have. A non-dairy milk or plain water can be swapped for the coffee, but I love the coffee note in there and would be loathe to miss it.” I used whole wheat and all purpose flour to keep things simple, and yes, I LOVED the coffee note.

1 3/4 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup dutch processed cocoa powder

2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds

3/4 cup light or dark brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar (I used slightly less)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup room temperature coffee

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350 F. Grease a standard sized loaf pan with oil or butter (omit butter if keeping this vegan) and lightly dust with flour.

In a large bowl, whisk together flours, cocoa powder, flaxseeds, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together coffee, olive oil, and vanilla.

Dump the wet ingredients all at once into the dry and whisk until just combined. The batter will be more firm than wet.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely before serving.

Serve with a dollop of yogurt, some warmed cherries, and a glug of chocolate balsamic vinegar (regular balsamic vinegar would work, too). 

Life Is Busy, But We Still Need To Eat

23 Apr

It is too easy to fall into eating the same things everyday, so I’m trying to shake up my routine a little, and give you some inspiration to shake things up, too! Today’s post compiles some snapshots of the food I’ve been eating lately.

Most of the foods pictured are quick to prepare yet still filled with nourishing, colorful ingredients. Life is busy, but we still need to eat.

Have you tried any new or different foods recently?

Breakfasts: A warm bowl of oatmeal with a dab of nut butter usually hits the spot for me in the morning. Below are some other fun breakfast options:

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

A variation of a single-serving oatmeal protein pancake. Combine 1/3 c. quick oats, 1 large egg, 1/2 teaspoon each of baking powder, chia seeds, vanilla, and cinnamon. Add some fruit to the batter, i.e. 1/4 cup of frozen berries. Cook on a lightly buttered non-stick skillet for about 3 minutes. Flip, and cook for another 3 minutes. Top with something yummy, like plain, whole milk yogurt with a little drizzle of maple syrup.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Whole wheat toast with cottage cheese and black pepper. A quick way to get in some protein and whole grains first thing in the morning. Add a side of frozen mango cubes for refreshing brightness.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Speaking of mango, here’s a classic bowl of plain yogurt with granola, chia seeds, and mango slices. As you can see, my brain is already on “warm, sunny weather” mode.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Another simple breakfast or snack: CRUMPETS. Like an English muffin, the airy wholes of a crumpet are the perfect vehicle for a slick of salted butter and a little jam (I used guava/apple jam). Nut butter, avocado, or a runny egg also sound like excellent crumpet toppings.

Light lunches and snacks: I usually like to make my own lunch at home. I have to remind myself that simple is often the answer. Last week was Passover, so I tried to get creative with matzo…

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Matzo spread with hummus and topped with boiled egg and cucumber slices. To boil an egg, place it in a pot, cover with cold water, bring to a boil. Once boiling, shut the heat off and cover the pot for 10-13 minutes, depending if you are using a large or extra-large egg. Place the eggs in a bowl of ice water to cool. Peel and slice!

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Eating out during Passover is a fun adventure. This matzo was topped with smashed avocado, chili flakes, cumin, and lemon. Can’t go wrong. At The Commons Chelsea. 

Quick, easy weeknight dinners: Keeping some easy staples like frozen/canned vegetables, tofu in the fridge, grains in the pantry, and even fish in tins means a healthy dinner is almost always accessible.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Whipped up a tofu vegetable curry for dinner one night. With a few apple slices and peanut butter on the side. This is a go-to meal for me, but I changed it up by using a little baby corn. Organic canned baby corn gets drained and rinsed and added to the curry with some fresh broccoli. A different vegetable than I would normally use, and I appreciate the change. Did you know you could “dry sauté” tofu? Slice the tofu and place it in a heated, dry non-stick skillet. The heat takes out all of the excess moisture, and still gives it a nice “crust” because the skillet is non-stick. Now the tofu is ready to soak up all of the yummy curry sauce (a similar effect to “pressing” tofu).

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

First time buying a tin of sardines! I made Ellie Krieger’s pasta with sardines. Whole wheat fusilli, broccoli rabe, golden raisins, and pine nuts tossed with sardines. Add Parmesan for a little extra salty goodness.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Taco night. Corn tortillas toasted on the gas stovetop flame. Smear with refried black beans. Top with leftover chicken, and some sautéed bell peppers and onions. A little salsa or hot sauce for acidity.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Rainbow Nachos. Blue corn tortilla chips, carrot ribbons, black beans, smoky gouda, spinach. Toast in the oven for ~7-15 minutes. Top with avocado and plain Greek yogurt.

Some noteworthy restaurant eats:

IMG_2342

Carrots | Fluke from The Pines in Gowanus, Brooklyn

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Green Falafel “with everything” from Taim in Nolita

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Rice Bowl with Marinated, Grilled Tofu from Community Food & Juice in Morningside Heights

Happy Passover

15 Apr

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Happy Passover. Or if you don’t celebrate, Happy Tuesday.

This year, I made a small dinner for a small crowd. Charoset, a light salad, spatchcocked flat-roasted chicken with carrots and parsnips, maple-roasted sweet potatoes (I used less syrup than the recipe calls for and added in some cinnamon). Complete with matzo sheets and red wine. Dessert was coconut macaroons from the bakery I work at, with a few squares of chocolate and a few more sips of wine.

A few more old favorite Passover recipes:

Matzo Lasagna

Kiss n’ Swirl Meringues (use Kosher for Passover vanilla, or omit altogether, if you do not consume vanilla on the holiday)

xo

Stephanie

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

 

(Vegan) Lasagna with Tofu “Garden Ricotta”

11 Mar

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Spring is around the corner, it is almost, almost here, but I still feel the slam of the cold on my face and hands every time I walk outside.

This lasagna is a transition from heavy, cheesy winter comforts to lighter, colorful spring fare. By using a tofu “ricotta” instead of actual ricotta, this pasta dish gets a lighter makeover so that we won’t have to undo the top button on our pants after eating.

I used to make tofu “ricotta” back when I was cooking for 60 students in the Berkeley co-ops. Pulse some firm tofu in a blender or food processor, add some aromatics and spices, and it turns from rubbery soy product to magical cheese-like goodness in seconds! I really like the addition of white miso paste to this version.

…and because I am flexible, I added a little grated Parmesan cheese to top off my vegan lasagna. Hey, it’s a transition, remember? A little Parmesan offers a nice salty punch without weighing down the pasta, but if you are vegan, just omit.

I also love my carbs, so a little toast with olive oil and salt is a nice crunch contrast to the lasagna.

Now, bring on the warm sunshine!

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

I love lasagna, and I believe there should be a lasagna for every occasion. Check out this summer version with zucchini here. And check out this Passover matzo lasagna here.

Vegan Lasagna

adapted from Chloe’s Kitchen

Serves 6-8

**Make ahead: you can prepare the unbaked lasagna and keep it in the fridge for about 2 days before baking. 

Garden Ricotta

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic

1 14-oz package firm or extra-firm tofu, drained

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon white miso paste

3 cups fresh basil

Sauce & Assembly

2 tablespoons olive oil

8 ounces mushrooms, sliced

1 24-oz jar marinara sauce

1/4 milk of your choice *I used cow’s milk, but to keep things truly vegan use soy, almond, or rice milk

1 bunch kale, stemmed and chopped (you can also use spinach or another green)

1/2 pound no-boil lasagna noodles

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. You will need a 9 x 13 inch-pan.

To make the Garden Ricotta: In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat and saute onions until soft. Add garlic and cook one more minute. Remove from heat.

In the food processor, combine onions, garlic, tofu, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and miso paste. Pulse until the mixture is almost smooth but still has some texture. Add basil and pulse a few more times to incorporate it.

To make the sauce: Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet (just use the same skillet you used to saute the onions). Add the mushrooms and cook until soft. Add marinara and milk. The milk should soften the acidity of the tomatoes (you can also add a tablespoon of brown sugar or maple syrup here, but I just omitted it).

To assemble and bake the lasagna: Spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the prepared pan. Arrange 4 lasagna noodles across the pan. Spread half of the Garden Ricotta over the noodles. Layer half of the kale over the Garden Ricotta. Arrange 4 more noodles on top. Spread another layer of sauce over the noodles, then arrange 4 more noodles on top. Top with another layer of sauce, the remaining Garden Ricotta, and the remaining kale.

Cover the pan with foil and bake for 45 minutes, or until the noodles are cooked and the sauce is hot and bubbling. Remove from the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Optional: If you are not vegan, I enjoyed the lasagna with a little grated Parmesan on top before serving.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 110 other followers