Resistant Little Heart

If you’re cooking for a woman, make a good risotto and a salad. If you don’t have time to make dessert, you can go and buy some macaroons to have later.”

-Wolfgang Puck

The man’s right. On so many levels that probably never crossed his mind when he said those words.

One. Women I know love risotto. While there’s evidently something very attractive about the idea of rice that’s so immensely creamy and sensuous that it becomes one with your tongue, I would argue that it’s the al dente heart of that rice, a proof of perfect sensibility and restraint, that makes risotto that much sexier than rice pudding. You can quote that.

Two. Women are defensive of their toys, I mean, kitchen. Because, just like how children are forever fearing that their out-for-the-evening parents are late to return because they’ve died in a car crash, we girls grow up to fear that boys will burn down our kitchens once 30 minutes pass. Sorry, it’s not you, it’s me. But that doesn’t matter – risotto only takes 25 minutes, phew.

Three. Women love men who can cook. It doesn’t have to be a romantic relationship. It’s just that everyone loves to have someone close who will, on the right occasions, cook for them. It could be a best friend, a brother, perhaps from a different mother, who cares? Who cares if they bought the dessert? They cared enough to make you risotto.

I cared enough to make risotto.

In all honesty, that’s all you need to make a good risotto. It’s not some pretentious art as gastromedia casts it. The only thing, which isn’t even difficult, is the constant stirring. Stirring increases the amount of the rice’s surface area which comes into contact with liquid, which in turn helps release the starch. This means you will have a very creamy risotto as the “creamy” texture is essentially the married portion of stock and starch.

And at all costs, keep tasting – that’s key to catching your perfect al dente!

I remind you that you should

stir up the gift of God

which is in you through

the laying of my hands.

-2 Timothy 1:6

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As much as I love risotto, I think I would still appreciate it more if it goes along with several varying textural components, not to mention a even coverage of all the flavour bases. Here, aside from the creaminess and al dente of the rice, there is equally the buttery firmness of the halibut, the crunchiness of its skin, as well as the near-transparent crispness of the fried basil and ginger. The acidity of the lime is hardly detectable in the finished dish, but it is crucial to the balance of flavours – it’s what keeps you coming for another bite without feeling weighed down.

Ingredients for the green basil risotto, serves 6:

3 tbsp coconut oil

1 c diced white onion

1 1/2 c short grain rice, do not rinse this!

2-3 tbsp green curry paste, depending on its strength

4 c unsalted chicken/vegetable stock

1 can unpasteurized full-fat coconut milk

1 c gently packed fresh basil leaves

1/2 lime, juice only

sea salt, to taste

To make the risotto, melt the coconut oil in a deep saucepan or small pot. Add the onions and sweat them until soft, being careful not to brown them. Tip in the rice and stir until the grains are evenly coated with oil and are translucent. Stir in the curry paste until fragrant.

Pour in 1 cup of stock and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. Continue to add stock, 1 cup at a time, still stirring and keeping the heat low for about 15~18 minutes.

Meanwhile, puree the fatty portion of the coconut milk with the basil and lime juice to a vibrant green milk shake. Chill until needed. Stir the remaining watery portion of the coconut milk into the rice.

Once all the stock has been absorbed, taste your risotto and see if you like the doneness. It should be very creamy, but still retaining a bit of nutty texture in the center of each grain.

Incorporate the coconut basil mixture and take away from the heat. Spoon onto warmed plates and top with the seared halibut, fried basil and ginger (follows).

Ingredients for the crispy-skinned halibut, fried basil, and ginger:

2/3 c mild vegetable oil, for frying

12 ginger slices, thinly sliced with a mandoline or very sharp knife

18 fresh basil leaves

1 lb thick halibut fillet, cut into 6 neat portions

sea salt

To make the fried garnishes, heat the oil in a small saucepan until a chopstick’s point submerged bubbles vigourously. Add half the ginger slices and fry, spooning the oil over the slices occasionally until golden and crisp. Take them out and drain on a plate lined with paper towel. Repeat with the rest of the ginger.

To fry the basil, lower a couple basil leaves to the hot oil – be careful, it will sputter. Fry for 5-10 seconds, until crispy and bright green. Drain on paper towel.

For the halibut, blot the portions dry with paper towel and season the skin side generously with sea salt. Heat a heavy-bottomed pan on medium-high heat.

Add a couple spoonfuls of the basil frying oil to the pan and swirl to coat in a shimmery layer.Place the halibut portions (don’t crowd the pan, do it in two batches if you need to), skin-side-down in the pan and leave them there for 3 minutes, to really crisp up the skin. Flip them over and cook for another 1-2 minutes, you want to see a thin line that is still translucent beige along the sides. Transfer them onto the plate, keeping the skin side facing upwards, and allow to rest for a couple of minutes before plating.

Plate up and serve with a salad as WP suggests or, if it’s a chilly day where you find yourself, consider steaming some green beans and yellow zucchini to brighten up your day!

Enjoy! (And for once, dessert is optional!)

Take a minute

I just realized that I’ve never actually posted a blueberry recipe here before. How do I even call myself a British Columbian right? I do have a handful of blueberry recipes rolled up my sleeve, but it can be tough sometimes to actually go and feature something when you are figuratively swamped by it.

Yeah, yeah, I know this sounds super bratty and ridiculous (like those people who say “sorry, I only have fifties”), but I’m not complaining at all. It’s just that I don’t even bother to do anything remotely (subjectively) worth mentioning or creative with those blues. Most of the time I just eat them like popcorn (I imagine this would be an appropriate comparison though I don’t even eat popcorn), straight out of the bowl.

Thankfully, this post will fix that. And for those of you folks halfway around the world gawking at pictures of fresh blueberries (because you only have mangoes and papayas, you poor souls) you can use frozen blueberries. It doesn’t even matter if they’re small and tart, it actually means you’ll have more fresh blueberry flavour once the cake’s done.

Coffee, anyone? And this is best eaten warm and crisp from the oven, so share!

Whoever has two tunics

is to share with him who has none,

and whoever has food

is to do likewise.

Luke 3:11

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Ingredients for the Blueberry Almond Double-Crumble Coffee Cake, 9-inch:

for the batter:

3 c oat flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

1/2 c almond milk or other milk of choice

1/4 c coconut oil

1 large ripe banana

1/2 c packed brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 large lemon, zest and juice

generous 1 1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (do not thaw)

for the crumble topping:

1/2 c packed brown sugar

1/2 c oats

1/2 c oat flour

1/3 c pure almond butter

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

To make the blueberry crumble cake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, with the rack placed in the center of the oven. Line the bottom of a 9-inch cake pan with parchment.

Make the crumble topping; mix together thoroughly all ingredients for the crumble in a small mixing bowl. Set Aside.

Prepare the batter; whisk together all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Puree the almond milk, coconut oil, banana, brown sugar, lemon, and vanilla in a blender until smooth. Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and stir just to combine. Fold in the blueberries.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out the top. Squeeze a handful of the crumble mixture to let it clump up, then break it coarsely over the  batter. Repeat with the remaining crumble mixture.

Bake for 35-40 minutes if you used fresh blueberries. If you used frozen blueberries, bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the top is browned and toothpick inserted comes out with moist crumbs.

Let it rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing. Don’t fuss over getting clean, beautiful slices (there’s double crumble, so just forget it).

Enjoy with your favourite coffee!

 

 

A Bit of Spring Cleaning

Get ready! Because you’re about to be hit by a blizzard , no it’s not winter anymore, I mean, explosion of recipes, all of which are vegan, super vibrant, fresh, and absolutely delicious! For those of you who are staying in touch via instagram (it’s on the right-hand-side, just click and follow to stay up-to-plate with everything I’m whipping up), you’ve probably been wondering why I haven’t put up the recipes to those pictures and I apologize!! Sorry, I truly am because sometimes I click on something that looks totally yum hoping to find its recipe but then it just turns out to be foodporn, and that makes me really disappointed.

I get that. So here’s a treat: a collage of recipes to kickstart spring!

Here I wanted to feature some of those under-acknowledged ingredients such as beet greens, parsley stems, green peas, and grainy mustard. Beet greens and parsley stems tend to just get trimmed off and thrown into the garbage which I find to be such a waste. Beet greens are actually loaded with all the great nutrients its roots has, but with more fibre and less sugar while parsley stems have even more flavour than the leaves, not to mention the nice texture it gives to the green falafel mash (recipe below!). Green peas and grainy mustard, on the other hand are like ugly christmas sweaters – you have them lying around not because they’re a kitchen staple, but because there was this one day when some magazine or trend convinced you to buy a bag/jar of the stuff (like how your friends convinced you of the sweater at Value Village). Then ever since that day it’s just been a shameful lump stuck in your pantry or fridge door.

It’s okay, it’s all good, literally. And I encourage you to really take this as a new starting point, see what poor miserable thing is your fridge or pantry that you’ve been wanting to get rid of, and cook dat thang!

For those who exalt themselves will be humbled,

and those who humble themselves

will be exalted.

Luke 14:11

Collage

Rice with Beet Greens (Top Left):

1 tbsp avocado oil

1 medium brown onion, finely diced

1 bunch beet greens, stem portion diced, leaf portion shredded

2 cups cold, cooked red and brown basmati or jasmine rice

sea salt

white pepper

pinch of cinnamon

To make the rice with beet greens, heat the oil on medium in a skillet or wok. Add the onions and let it sweat until translucent and fragrant. Turn up the heat to high and add the chopped beet greens, continue stirring until tender, then add the rice and season well to taste. Stir until the liquid is fully absorbed and mixture is heated through.

Serve immediately, with an earthy wild mushroom or nutty pureed squash soup.

 

Garlic Coconut Butter Grilled Naan

with Green Falafel Mash, Parsley Mango Slaw, and Sriracha Aioli (Top Right):

for the garlic coconut butter grilled naan:

2 fat cloves of garlic, minced

2 tbsp coconut oil

4 pieces whole wheat naan bread

To make the coconut butter, put combine garlic and coconut oil in a small bowl and microwave for 30-45 seconds until fragrant. Brush the mixture onto one side of the naan and put that side down on a hot grill pan (it’s still pretty cold where I am, but if it’s summer wherever you are and you have the luxury of using a grill, by all means fire it up!). Lift up a corner to see if it’s nicely charred, once it is, brush the oil on the upper side and flip it over to get it grill-marked.

for the green falafel mash:

2 cups flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped (throw the stems in there!)

1 can (540 ml) chickpeas, drained

1 generous tbsp madras curry powder

3 tbsp tahini

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

juice of 1 lemon

sea salt, to taste

Put all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until a coarse puree forms. Transfer to a bowl and drizzle with some more EVOO and set aside.

for the parsley mango slaw:

1 large mango, ripe but firm, thinly sliced

1 cup finely shredded flat leaf parsley

Stir together the mango and parsley in a bowl and set aside.

for the sriracha aioli:

2 heaping tbsp good quality mayonnaise, feel free to use your favourite vegan mayo or cashew cream!

1 tbsp sriracha hot sauce (don’t tone it down, go beyond if it’s your thing!)

1 tbsp lime juice

In a small bowl stir together the mayo, sriracha, and lime juice, adding a bit more sriracha or lime juice to get a nice drizzling consistency. To assemble, spread the falafel mash onto the grilled naan, top with the mango slaw, and drizzle with the sriracha aioli.

Serve immediately with a minty cooler : blend together frozen yellow watermelon cubes + fresh mint + lime + coconut water!

 

Roasted Aloo Gobi (Bottom Right):

1 head cauliflower separated into bite-sized florets

1 large baking potato, diced into 1-inch pieces, boiled for 12 minutes

8 cremini mushrooms, sliced

1 cup shelled green peas, frozen is fine

3 tbsp madras curry powder

2 heaping tbsp grainy mustard

1 cup crushed tomatoes

2 tbsp melted coconut oil

sea salt, to taste

2 tbsp honey or agave

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Combine all ingredients besides the honey and place into two large baking trays. Bake for 1 hr, stirring every 10~15 minutes. Drizzle with honey and bake for another 10~15 minutes until vegetables are tender and caramelized.

Serve with coconut steamed basmati rice or garlic coconut butter grilled naan (above).

 

Lemon Butter Bean Tartines  with Spring Sugar Peas, Butter Lettuce, and Radishes (Bottom Left):

for the Lemon Butter Beans:

1 can (540 ml) white or butter beans, rinsed and drained

1 heaping tbsp grainy mustard

zest and juice of 1 small lemon

2 tsp honey or agave

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

sea salt

black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth, you might need to scrape down the sides of the bowl a couple of times. Set aside.

for the tartine assemby:

few slices toasted baguette or spelt or dark rye bread, really anything goes

1 head Boston or butter lettuce, leaves washed and patted dry

1 cup shelled sweet peas, frozen ones are fine, just let them sit at room temperature for 20 minutes

2 scallions, thinly sliced

4~5 radishes, thinly sliced

Spread a bit of the bean puree onto the toasted bread, then put the lettuce on (that way the lettuce will actually stay on the tartine). Fill the lettuce with more of the puree and garnish with the peas, scallions, and radish rounds.

Serve  with a strawberry almond milkshake: blend together frozen strawberries + almond milk + agave + vanilla extract

Happy spring cleaning your body, mind, and pantry!

 

Why taste her cherry chapstick?

To those of you who are not the 0.0000001% of drop-dead gorgeous women (or men) who override the effects of traffic lights in New York City’s bustling streets, cheers. Cheers because your friends are not jealous of you. Cheers because you have weaknesses that you can boast about. Cheers because even though you don’t stop every car that passes you by, you really only need to stop one person in the midst of their life who knows from first sight how special you are.

Oh, and did I mention you’d also get to eat cheesecake without everyone around you turning heads whispering “I can’t believe she’s eating cheesecake!” No I’m not saying go pig out on cheesecake tomorrow in front of your girl or guy friend. I mean, they’ll still love you for who you are, but mind your health. There’s no point in trying to make yourself feel loved by stuffing yourself.

Have cheesecake if you’re feeling down.

But don’t have too much for that’ll weigh you down.

Plus, you never know – maybe this is actually how somebody sees you, actually, someone does see you like this:

“You are beautiful, my darling,

        beautiful beyond words.

Your eyes are like doves beyond your veil.

Your hair falls in waves, like a flock of goats

        winding down the slopes of Gilead.

Your teeth are as white as sheep,

        recently shorn and freshly washed.

Your smile is flawless,

        each tooth matched to its twin.

Your lips are like scarlet ribbon;

        your mouth is inviting.

Your cheeks are like rosy pomegranates behind your veil.

Your neck is as beautiful as the tower of David…

You are altogether beautiful, my darling,

beautiful in every way.

~Song of Songs 4:1-7

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Ingredients for the nutty crust (this is such an amazing crust, you must try it!)

1 c oats

1/2 c raw pecan halves (walnuts, almonds, cashews or even roasted mixed salted nuts will do)

2 tbsp cornstarch

1/4 c brown sugar

3/4 tsp fine sea salt (use 1/2 tsp if using salted nuts)

a pinch of cinnamon, optional

3 tbsp coconut oil

To make the nutty crust, put the oats, nuts, cornstarch, brown sugar, and salt in a food processor or blender. Whiz together until the mixture resembles graham cracker crumbs. Add the coconut oil and pulse until the mixture begins to moisten and clump up.

Line the bottom of four 4-inch springform pans or one 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper. Press the oat and nut mixture evenly, and firmly into the pan with a measuring cup with a flat bottom or your fingertips. Place in the freezer until firm, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, with the rack placed in the middle of the oven. Take the crust from the freezer straight into the oven and bake for about 15 minutes or until golden and slightly puffed. Use the back of a spoon to gently press down on the crust then let cool completely before chilling until needed.

Ingredients for the cheesecake batter:

1 kg 2% cottage cheese, strained, at room temperature

250 g full fat cream cheese, cut into cubes, at room temperature

3/4 c sugar

zest and juice of 1 lemon

1/2 tsp vanilla paste (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

3 free range eggs, at room temperature

To make the cheesecake, preheat the oven to 325 degree F, with a rack placed in the center of the oven, and another rack below it. Fill a pan with water and put it on the bottom rack – this will create the bain marie without risking a water-soaked crust.

Put the cottage cheese in the blender and whiz until smooth. Add the cream cheese, a cube at a time until the mixture is thick and creamy without any lumps. Add the sugar, lemon zest and juice, vanilla, and sea salt and continue blending until smooth. On low, pulse in the eggs just until evenly incorporated.

Pour the cheese batter into the chilled baked crust and bake in the top rack for 30-40 minutes if using small springform pans or 60-75 minutes if using a large springform pan. The middle should jiggle a little bit when you remove it from the oven, but don’t worry the residual heat is sufficient to cook it through.

Cool it completely before covering and chilling overnight to set.

When ready to serve, simply run a thin-bladed knife around the side of the pan to release the cake.

I actually like to sprinkle a generous layer of sugar on top then torching it to make it a creme brulee cheesecake, just sayin’.

But honestly, you really can’t do much to top a cheesecake, perhaps some cherry compote, but really, I mean, it’s cheesecake.

Enjoy, but don’t pig out.

(At least don’t blame me if you do, I provided fair warning)

Two Steamy Hot Grannies for One

As a child, I did not enjoy apples. Not even honey-sweet fuji’s, so don’t even let me see that malicious green of granny smiths. Nor did I, as a child, see the light and succumb to the revelation of coconut. And “give me wheat”, I said “give me white flour” I said. What are oats?

I reasoned that apples were to crisp and firm for my budding teeth, and green ones which must have been under-ripe would have broken my jaw. Coconut, I claimed, had too milky a taste and at the same time was sweet with a touch of acid. What? Finally, oats were goopy and slimy, mind you, I still don’t like pudding.

As a friend pointed out, “if I can’t accept you at your worst, then maybe you should change.”

Hey, I’m a cook, I do that to feed myself.

So,

what if apples were not tied to the word “crunch”, and “firm”? What if they melted on the tip of your tongue like gold, molten caramel? What if coconut did not taste so pale, but smelled of toasted pecans and browned butter? And what if oats were, instead of stodgy and heavy, crisp and flaky like the outermost shell of a Parisian croissant?

But no, I’m not starting a revolution, and who knows, maybe apples were meant to be fondues, maybe coconut was meant to be caramelized, and oats were meant to be toasted. I’m defining my own little bit of happiness, that’s all. So if you really think your grandmother makes the best apple crisp, go ahead. By the way, I never said this was an apple crisp.

History merely repeats itself.

It has all been done before.

Nothing under the sun is truly new.

~Ecclesiastes 1:9

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Ingredients for the pommes fondues au four:

2 granny smith apples, peeled, cored, thinly sliced into wedges

1~1 1/2 tbsp packed brown sugar (I like the tartness to really shine through, but it’s up to you how sweet you want yours)

1/2 tsp ground cardamom

1/4 tsp fine sea salt

1/2 tbsp potato starch

2 tbsp oats

2 tbsp oat flour

2 tbsp lightly packed brown sugar

1/2 tsp sea salt (I know this seems a bit much, but trust me it makes the crumble so much more addictive)

1 generous tbsp coconut oil, melted

To make the pommes fondues, first start by softening the apples; toss the apple slices evenly in a large bowl with the 1 tbsp brown sugar, the cardamom, and the 1/4 tsp salt. Let the mixture sit for at least 10 minutes, up to 2 hours, covered, until liquid accumulates at the bottom of the bowl – this is very important because that’s what will give the end product that smooth, sticky caramel texture.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 365 degrees F, with the rack placed in the middle of the oven.

Add the potato starch to the softened apples and stir gently to combine evenly and rid of any lumps. Don’t use flour, corn starch, or rice flour; I’ve experimented with those and potato starch is definitely the winner with the smoothest, most luscious mouth feel and best glazing effect.

In a separate bowl, stir together the remaining ingredients for the oat crisp. Then dump the apple mixture into a small baking dish, I used a ceramic oval, but really as long as it has some depth and can be directly spooned out of it’s fine. Shake the dish around a bit horizontally so the apple slices fall into place. Pour all of the juices over the apples, then top with the oat mixture.

Bake for 40~50 minutes, or until the top is crisp golden and the apples are veritably melted.

Enjoy! (Add a dollop of vanilla bean ice cream or creme fraiche, cut yourself some slack.)

the banana thief

I have deduced, to some extent, yet another disturbing way of humans that grotesque as taken at face value, in fact ensures our survival.

We are all thieves.

While some of us have stolen away to the more extreme hemisphere of the matter, we have all, to some extent, taken that which is not ours.

Maybe you were four years old when your chubby little hand found its way over the counter top and into the cookie jar. Yes, that counts. Perhaps eight years later you saw your adorable younger brother with his fudgsicles, plural, and you had none because you’d eaten them too fast. In the next instant they were your fudgsicles, and your wee baby brother? None. Yes, that counts. Another eight years after that, frosh and bright-eyed in this new pool called university, in a sub-pool called the cafeteria you see bananas. In this cafeteria, there’s never bananas. There’s only ever four different types of apples. But then there they were . . . hear the bananas beckon.

We’ve all been thieves.

But banana bread can fix that. I promise.

Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.            

Ephesians 4:28IMG_0720

Ingredients for the mocha chip banana bread:

3 cups rolled oats

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp fine sea salt

3 very ripe bananas

1 1/2 tsp instant coffee granules

1 tbsp coconut oil

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

2/3 mini dark chocolate chips

additional oats for topping

To make the banana bread, first preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, with the rack placed in the center. Line the bottom of a loaf pan with parchment paper.

Place the oats in a food processor and grind until as fine as possible, don’t worry if it’s not quite as fine as regular flour. Add the baking soda and sea salt then pulse until mixed. Transfer this into a mixing bowl.

Next, puree the banana, coffee granules, coconut oil, brown sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Pour this into the oat flour mixture and stir just until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle some oats on top.

Bake for 40~50 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out with very moist and stick crumbs.

Cool completely and let it rest, wrapped up, for at least a day before eating. Store leftovers in a sealed container in the fridge and microwave for 20 seconds before eating.

Enjoy!