vegan vanilla bean cupcakes with chocolate ganache

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Lovely people. If you’re still out there, you have my heart. It has been forever and ever since the last time we were all here and I can’t tell you how much I have missed this place. I feel like so much has happened in the three months I’ve been away. It’s been a journey.

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I wish I could say that I had gone away for three months traveling the world, doing fabulous things, but that just isn’t the case. I did sneak off to Montreal for a weekend in May, which was lovely and hilarious and full of deliciousness (poutine! and fois gras! oui!). I guess the best excuse for my extended absence is my move. I moved to Berkeley in the beginning of June. I didn’t go very far, about 10 miles, but it was a big deal move. It’s my first time ever being on my own, my first time living outside of the town where I grew up. It took me over a month to kind of sort of get it together. I spent the first few weeks slowly bringing things over from my parents’ (so. much. stuff.). Spent an obscene number of hours perusing the interwebs for home furnishings, obsessing over bar carts and throw pillows and pink sofas. Temporarily forgot how to cook for myself. It was rough in the beginning. I use to fantasize about living alone, but it got kind of lonely after the first week. I didn’t realize just how quiet it would be. I bought a small fountain just because I needed some ambient noise. I’m still figuring a few things out, but I absolutely love my place and can’t wait to share it with you.

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These cupcakes were the last thing I baked in my old kitchen, way back in May. My bestie had a birthday party, and I couldn’t show up without goodies in hand, even though she specifically told me not to bake anything (I know she was just being nice, and didn’t want me to be two hours late like previous years). And although I was already packing up my kitchen at that point, I really wanted to squeeze in one last baking day and one last shoot in that old space. So here we are, visiting the old kitchen for the last time.

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If you’re ever in need a solid vegan cupcake recipe, Isa Chandra is the source. I had something very simple in mind, and vanilla cupcakes and chocolate ganache are about as basic as it gets. I couldn’t resist the berries at the market that morning, and they were the perfect way to finish off these beauties. On to the next chapter…

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vegan vanilla bean cupcakes with chocolate ganache

very slightly adapted from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s post punk kitchen

makes 1 dozen

For the cupcakes:

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons cornstarch

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup canola oil

3/4 cup sugar

1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped

For the ganache:

1/3 cup almond milk

heaping 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 tablespoon Earth Balance or margarine 

2 tablespoons corn syrup or pure maple syrup

Bake the cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line muffin pan with cupcake liners. Set aside.

Whisk the almond milk and vinegar in a small bowl and set aside for a few minutes to curdle.

Sift the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl and mix.

Beat together the almond milk mixture, oil, sugar, vanilla extract and vanilla bean in a large bowl. Sift in the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and mix until no large lumps remain.

Fill cupcake liners two-thirds of the way and bake for 20 to 22 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool.

In the meantime, prepare the ganache.

In a small sauce pan, bring the milk to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer and add the chocolate, Earth Balance, and syrup. Mix with a rubber spatula for about 30 seconds. Turn heat off, continue stirring until the chocolate is fully melted and the icing is smooth.

To assemble:

Let ganache cool for about 10-15 minutes. Dip the top of the cupcake in the ganache and then set them on a cooling rack. Alternately, you can spoon the ganache onto the cupcakes. Top each cupcake with a few raspberries and let set in a cool room for an hour or so, or place in the fridge to set.

 

 

fried green tomatoes with buttermilk dipping sauce

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I know it’s super-late in the game to talk about tomatoes. BUT, there were green tomatoes at the market last weekend, so I’m taking that as a sign. It was meant to be.

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All summer long, I was on the hunt for green tomatoes. No joke. I went to all the markets. I asked around. My dad happened to get his hands on some in July. But they were kind of small. I was not satisfied.

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Why the obsession? Well, I had the best fried green tomatoes EVER at my friend Lindsey’s 30th birthday soirée back in June. I made my maiden voyage to San Diego just for the occasion, and it was a blast. There were margaritas upon landing, and pool time, and carne asada fries. But seriously, those fried green tomatoes were so incredible that I have not stopped thinking about them. I now associate San Diego with fried green tomatoes. 

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Thank goodness someone finally decided to bring their late crop green tomatoes to the market. I could barely contain myself. I busted out the panko and my cast iron skillet and it was on. There is just something about deep fried goodness. It’s almost unfair. Does anyone remember when McDonald’s used to deep-fry their apple pies? That’s what I’m talking about. Anyway, the combination of crunchy panko exterior, and tender, juicy, slightly acidic tomato just gets me. And when you throw in some tangy, creamy buttermilk dipping sauce, it’s like all the bases are covered. It’s crazy deliciousness. I made them for Sunday dinner and Granny approved. And we’ve got a winner. 

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fried green tomatoes with buttermilk dipping sauce 

adapted just barely from Down Home With the Neely’s via foodnetwork.com

serves 4-6

for the tomatoes: 

vegetable oil (for frying) 

4 green tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch slices

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon garlic powder

4 eggs

1 -1/2 cups panko bread crumbs

pinch cayenne pepper

pinch paprika

In a deep-fryer or cast iron skillet, preheat oil to 350F.

Season tomatoes on both sides with salt and pepper. Combine flour and garlic powder in a shallow dish. In another shallow dish, beat the eggs. In another dish, mix bread crumbs with cayenne and paprika. Dredge tomatoes through the flour, then the eggs, and then through the bread crumbs. Add only a few pieces to the fryer at a time, so they can cook evenly, about 2 to 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels and serve with buttermilk sauce.

for the buttermilk dipping sauce: 

3/4 cup buttermilk 

1/2 cup mayonaise 

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon chopped chives

hot sauce (like Crystal Hot Sauce of Tobasco)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and mayonaise. Season with salt and pepper. Add the chopped chives and stir to combine. Add a few dashes of hot sauce to taste. Chill until ready to serve.

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elote con queso y mayonesa

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I’m no stranger to street food. I’ve been eating off the streets long before these decked out food trucks became the thing. This is one of the many perks of growing up in the Bay Area. East Oakland taco trucks. Churro carts that pump out spirals of dough into bubbling hot oil (and put those Disneyland churros to shame). Tamales straight from the hands of the Tamale Lady. Ziplock baggies filled with mango and jicama and watermelon and doused in lime juice and chili. And those damn late night bacon-wrapped hotdogs. These are all things dear to my heart.

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Elote is at the top of my list of all time favorite street foods. Hot, sweet corn on the cob slathered in mayo and coated with queso and a squirt of lime and a sprinkle of chili powder. It sounds insane and it is. Insanely delish. Some people can’t seem to wrap their heads around the mayonaise on corn concept, but you need to trust. It’s kind of life changing.

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One of my favorite Sunday morning activities is hitting up the flea market, grabbing a papusa for breakfast, followed by roasted elote with the works. There’s something terribly satisfying about grubbing on corn while perusing the aisles of flea market treasures. But that’s probably because eating and shopping are two of my most beloved pastimes. And it’s also multi-tasking.

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Brentwood corn is the best of the best. And I’ve been picking up a few ears from the farmers market every weekend since June. Though it is fantastic au naturel, it’s way too tempting to have corn on the cob at home and not eat it street style. So that’s what’s been happening over here. Street corn is in the house.

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elote con queso y mayonesa 

serves 4

4 ears of corn 

kosher salt

2 limes, cut into wedges 

1/2 cup mayonaise

1 cup crumbled cotija (mexican cheese) or grated parmesan

ancho or new mexico chili powder 

to roast the corn: 

Heat your grill to medium.

Pull the outer husks of the corn down to the base and remove the silk from each ear. Fold husks back into place, and place the corn in a large bowl of cold water with 1 tablespoon of salt for 10 minutes.

Remove corn from water and shake off excess. Place the corn on the grill, close the cover and grill for 15 to 20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes, or until kernels are tender when pierced with a paring knife. Remove the husks.

**Alternatively, boiled corn works just as well. Remove husks and silk from corn. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the corn. When the pot comes back to a boil, turn off heat, and cover the pot. Remove corn from the pot after five minutes.

Squeeze lime juice over the surface of the corn. Using a pastry brush or spatula, brush each ear of corn with a generous coat of mayo. Place crumbled cotija on a plate and roll each corn in cheese.  Sprinkle with chili powder and extra lime juice if desired.

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lentil soup with preserved lemon

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If January was the month of fun and indulgence, then February has definitely been a time for taking care of business. Self reflection. Home improvement. Getting shit done. It feels like the right time.

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But first I had to recover from my annual bout with bronchitis. I had been fighting off a cold for a few weeks, but it finally caught up with me and everything went downhill from there. I wasn’t much in the mood to cook, but I wanted a bowl of soup in a bad way. Since I couldn’t deal with a whole lot of prep or slaving over a hot stove, I busted out my crock pot (which I had only used once in my life and involved turning canned condensed milk into dulce de leche).

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I also came across some red lentils that I had bought a few months ago and forgotten about, and decided that it was a lentil soup kind of day. Then I remembered a lemony lentil soup that Sara and I had talked about a few weeks earlier. And then I started thinking about the jar of preserved lemons in my fridge. I started googling.

That night I had lentil soup with preserved lemon for dinner. It didn’t take long to find exactly what I was looking for – a recipe that requires very little prep and is packed with flavor. One cup of lentils, one carton of veggie broth, half an onion, and a few cloves of garlic transform into something hearty and satisfying while you spend the day in bed. The crockpot does all of the work for you. I could totally get used to this.

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lentil soup with preserved lemon 

adapted from Mosaic Kitchen

serves 4

4 cups vegetable broth

1 cup lentils, rinsed and picked over

½ medium onion, diced

½ cup thinly sliced carrots

2 cloves garlic, minced 

½ teaspoon ground coriander seed

4 cups coarsely chopped fresh spinach

¼ cup lemon juice

1 tablespoon preserved lemon rind, diced or fresh lemon zest, plus more for garnish (recipe here)

Salt and pepper to taste

fresh grated parmesan for garnish (optional)

Add the vegetable broth, lentils, onion, carrots, garlic and ground coriander seed to a slow cooker pot. Stir together, cover, and set on low for 8-10 hours. The lentils should be very soft.

Stir in the spinach, lemon juice, and preserved lemon. Cover and continue to cook for 20 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish individual bowls with chopped preserved lemon and/or parmesan. Serve hot.

Alternatively…

You can also make this on the stovetop:

Soften the onion and carrots in 2 teaspoons of olive oil in the bottom of a 3 quart soup pot. Stir in the lentils, vegetable broth, garlic, and coriander seed. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes, or until the lentils and vegetables are very soft. Stir in the spinach, lemon juice, and preserved lemon or lemon zest, cover and continue to simmer for 10 minutes longer. Salt and pepper to taste.

baba ganoush

Is it me, or does time just move faster and faster as you grow older? This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. How the days turn into months and the months turn into years, and before you know it, babies are walking and talking, and almost two years go by before you finally realize that you haven’t seen one of your best friends in forever. It’s a bizarre feeling. I’m not sure that I like it.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about friendships and how they deepen and evolve over the years. I am approaching the ten year mark with a handful of friends and it kind of trips me out. How did so many years pass so quickly? How am I so lucky? I love the idea of friendships that span decades, the idea of making memories with the same people for years and years, the idea that there are people in your life that know you way better than you realize; I feel extremely fortunate to have these. I also very much appreciate friendships that stand the test of time and distance and life, the friendships that pick up right where they left off, no matter what happens or how much time passes.

I met Dave in 2003, when we were both young and wild. We were inseparable for almost two years, and when he left San Francisco after college I cried my eyes out. We’ve somehow managed to maintain a very awesome, funny phone relationship, which might explain why it never really felt like two years had passed since we last saw each other. Clearly, a visit was long overdue, so I made my way down to LA last weekend. We spent three days drinking margaritas and ice coffees and shopping and hanging out with the pup. While we were having margaritas at Marix, we called Dave’s grandma, whom I’ve never met, but love to pieces. She recited a verse about the importance of old friends, and though I can’t remember her exact words, it totally resonated with me. As the weekend passed, it became pretty clear how much we’ve both grown up over the years, but in some ways we are very much the same. I find a lot of comfort in that.

This baba ganoush doesn’t really have anything to do with friendship or LA. But it’s what I’ve been eating and I’ve been meaning to share it with you. Baba ganoush is the new hummus in my world. Like hummus, it’s seasoned with tahini and garlic and lemon juice. But the smoky roasted eggplant is what really makes me swoon. It’s great with fresh pita or pita chips or a little crudite. But you might want to eat it by the spoonful like I do. And you should. I won’t judge you if you do.

baba ganoush

adapted from David Lebovitz

makes 6-8 servings

2 medium-sized eggplants

1/4 cup  tahini (roasted sesame paste)

1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt

3 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice

2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon olive oil

a half bunch picked flat-leaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 400°F (190°C).

Prick each eggplant a few times, then char the outside of the eggplants by placing them directly on the flame of a gas burner. As the skin chars, turn them until the eggplants are uniformly-charred on the outside. (If you don’t have a gas stove, you can char them under the broiler. If not, skip to the next step.)

Place the eggplants on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until they’re completely soft; you should be able to easily poke a paring knife into them and meet no resistance.

Remove from oven and let cool.

Split the eggplant and scrape out the pulp. Puree the pulp in a blender or food processor with the other ingredients until smooth.

Taste, and season with additional salt and lemon juice, if necessary. Chill for a few hours before serving. Drizzle with olive oil. Baba ganoush can be made and refrigerated for up to five days prior to serving.

summer squash frittata

This public service announcement has been brought to you by fancyfoodfancy and eggs. Mercury is in retrograde. If you’ve recently found yourself more distracted than usual or have experienced a serious bout of indecisiveness or brain fog, Mercury is to blame. I had a feeling something was going on with the cosmos, but I thought it had do with the moon. After a little bit of googling, I found this. And then this. Being a Mercury ruled Virgo or Gemini will make you even more susceptible to all this retrograde business. So, if you have any big decisions to make, or serious discussions that need to be had, wait until after August 8th. I’ll be marking the next Mercury retrograde (November 6-26, 2012) on my calendar; you should do the same. You’ll thank me later. Good luck.

Now, let’s talk about eggs.

I’m an eggs for breakfast kind of girl. I have them just about every morning. Every now and then I mix it up and have oatmeal or a smoothie. But I always go back to eggs. It’s true. I feel like the day doesn’t start until I’ve had my two eggs – scrambled, over easy, poached. I don’t discriminate.

Surprisingly, I’ve never been much of a frittata fan. But I think that’s because I’ve had a few not so great frittatas in the past. This needed to be remedied.

The squash at the market last weekend looked too good to pass up, so I picked up a few varieties. As I was driving home and contemplating breakfast, I decided that my squash were destined for a fritatta. Eggs, cheese, and summer squash; the combination reminded me of the zucchini casserole my Aunt Maggie makes. I couldn’t wait to make breakfast.

I absolutely love this frittata. It was such a pleasant surprise. This particular frittata has layers of zucchini and yellow squash and is fragrant with thyme and lemon. A generous sprinkling of parmesan provides the perfect amount of savory richness. Frittatas are pretty much great for any meal. I see eggs for lunch and eggs for dinner in my future. And I couldn’t be more pleased.

summer squash frittata

serves 2-4

4 large eggs

1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan, plus more for sprinkling

kosher salt

fresh ground pepper

2 tablespoons butter, olive oil, or ghee

1/2 medium onion, diced

1-1/2 small squash, sliced into thin rounds 

zest of 1/2 lemon

1 teaspoon fresh thyme

Lightly beat the eggs in a medium bowl. Add the parmesan and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in an 8-inch oven-proof skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent. Add the squash to the pan and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the squash is softened. Stir in the lemon zest and thyme and continue cooking for another minute. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes.

Transfer the squash to the eggs and stir. In the same skillet, melt the remaining butter over medium-high heat and coat the entire surface. Pour the egg mixture into the hot skillet and cook, undisturbed until the edges begin to brown and the top is just starting to set. Sprinkle the top of the fritta with more cheese and transfer the entire pan to the oven about 6 inches from the heating element and broil. Check after a minute or so, to ensure it doesn’t overcook. The frittata is ready when the top is fully set and nicely browned.

Remove from the oven. Run a thin spatula around the edges of the frittata to help loosen from the pan. Place a serving plate on top of the pan and then flip over to release the frittata. Serve immediately.

reconstructed potato salad with preserved lemon

It’s about that time again. I have a bad case of summer brain. It’s serious. I can’t focus. I find myself daydreaming about beaches and coastal drives and a house in the woods. Midday cocktails. Ice cream for dinner. Fireworks.

Nothing is getting done around here. Except for this salad. This salad is happening.

Earlier this year, I woke up one morning and decided I must have preserved lemons in my life. I proceeded to salt-pack a couple pounds of Meyer lemons; I had a feeling they would come in handy in the months ahead. I’ve waited very patiently for the magic to happen, the transformation from their natural, fresh-off-the-tree state to that salty, tender, essence of lemon entity. After four months, they’re finally ready.

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This salad has been on my to-do list for over a year. I knew I would get to it as soon as those lemons were ready. I think of it as a reconstructed potato salad. It involves fingerling potatoes, a smear of mayonnaise, and chopped preserved lemon. It’s finished off with a drizzle of olive oil, flaky sea salt, fresh ground pepper, and chives. The preserved lemon really takes it to another level – I love that salty-lemony element; I want to put it on everything. I’m so happy I had the foresight to take care of that lemon situation back in March.

Because of the simplicity of this dish, the ingredients are key. Naturally, you can buy preserved lemons and mayo, but as the ladies at the Canal House say, why buy it when you can make it? I am a firm believer of this philosophy. Plus, as you know, starting with the best ingredients is really important when preparing something so minimal. In this dish, it makes all the difference.

reconstructed potato salad with preserved lemon

reconstructed potato salad with preserved lemon

from Canal House Cooking Volume No. 1: Summer by Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer

serves 6

2-3 pounds small potatoes

salt

1 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup good quality extra-virgin olive oil

fresh ground pepper

rind from 1 preserved lemon, rinsed and chopped

chopped fresh chives or parsley

Put the potatoes in a large pot of cold water generously seasoned with salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until they are tender. Drain.

When they are cool enough to handle, slice the potatoes in half lengthwise and arrange them on a serving platter, spreading mayonnaise on one side of each potato as you work. Drizzle the potatoes with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and garnish with the preserved lemon and chives.

preserved lemons

lemons, preferably organic and unsprayed, washed

kosher salt

sterilized wide mouth container with an airtight lid

Cut the lemons (almost all the way through) into quarters, keeping them attached at the stem end. Working over a bowl, tamp the inside of each lemon with salt. Tightly pack the salt-filled lemons into the sterilized container. Pour more salt over the lemons as you fill the container. Cover the salt-packed lemons with freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Store in the refrigerator. Turn the container occasionally for the first few weeks to moisten all the lemons with the salty brine. The lemons should eventually become submerged in the brine. If the brine doesn’t completely cover them after one month, use a metal kitchen spoon to gently press the lemons under the surface. The longer the lemons cure, the saltier they will become; taste them first before using. Preserved lemons will last up to one year in the fridge.

reconstructed potato salad