Ube Cheesecake with Toasted Coconut Crust and Blackberries
Makes a moderately tall, 9-inch cake – serves 12
Toasted Coconut Crust:
1 c unsweetened dessicated coconut
1 sleeve Maria biscuits, roughly broken up
1/3 c coconut oil, melted
In a skillet, stir the coconut over medium heat until golden, crisp, and aromatic. Transfer to a plate, spreading it out evenly, and let cool completely.
Add the toasted coconut and Maria biscuits to a blender or food processor and blend do a sand consistency.
Transfer the crumb mixture to a bowl and stir in the coconut oil until the mixture resembles damp sand.
Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper and press the crumb mixture firmly into the pan to form the crust.
Chill the crust thoroughly in the fridge, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Bake the crust for 20 minutes, or until golden and lightly browned along the edge.
Cool completely while you make the cheesecake batter.
Ube Cheesecake Filling
2 small ube or purple sweet potato – scrubbed clean and steamed until tender
750 g 2% cottage cheese
500 g full fat cream cheese, room temperature
3 eggs, room temperature
2/3 c sugar
1 tsp coconut extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F, with a rack set at the lowest part of the oven and a rack at the center. Place a sheet pan on the lower rack.
Break the steamed ube into pieces and blend on LOW SPEED until smooth and thick with the cottage cheese. (Vigorous blending may destroy the protein structure of the curds and prevent your cheesecake from setting properly. You’ll know you’ve taken it too far when you’ve essentially liquefied the mixture.)
Beat the cream cheese, sugar, coconut extract, and vanilla extract in a large bowl until smooth. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until smooth.
Pour the ube mixture into the cream cheese mixture and stir until thoroughly combined.
Once your oven is preheated, pour water into the preheated sheet pan (step 1) to quickly create steam.
Pour the cheesecake batter into the prepared crust, place on another sheet pan, and bake on the top rack for 50-60 minutes, or until the edge is slightly puffed and only the center has a slight jiggle.
Turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake to cool until warm enough to touch with the oven door slightly ajar.
Remove the cheesecake from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature before covering with foil and chilling completely in the fridge (preferably overnight).
Run a thin blade between the cheesecake edge and sides of the pan before unmolding.
Top with blackberries, whipped coconut cream, diced mango, or any other topping that you feel like.
Slice with a sharp chef’s knife dipped in hot water, cleaning and reheating the blade between each slice.
In essence, smart tech enables us to swipe left on life.
A couple of weeks ago, I was driving to Toronto with a close friend and fellow blogger, Helena (who happens to be coming over for dinner tonight to save me from drowning in the beautiful abundance from Henceforth Farm). And as the stifling Torontonian traffic on the 401 ground the wheels of Eggplant (this is the name of my car) to a halt, our conversation picked up – as if to compensate for the loss of stimulus on the road.
I forget who asked the question, as apart from our taste in books, our minds seem to be the other’s mirror image. But the question I do remember.
We tugged at the issue from different angles and distracted ourselves from the drag of traffic with sufficient success. Yet even as I eventually pulled away from the congested stretch behind me at 160 km/h, I couldn’t shake the topic from my head.
When you become a parent, at what age will you give your child a smartphone?
This is more than the (perhaps simpler) question of “Is Technology Good or Bad”, so we’ll start there. As long as you’re not some hypocritical hipster, or paranoid conspiracy theorist, I think we can agree that in general, the gains from technology far outweigh the faults. Or if you’re more moderate, at least you might agree that living sans tech would make one’s life unnecessarily tedious. (Try to plan high school reunion without a phone or computer.)
So technology has been good, in general, to humans. But how does it effect children specifically? Adam Alter‘s Irresistible was rather helpful.
To set the tone, might I cite Steve, as in the Steve Jobs who masterminded the i-suite.
“They haven’t used it. We limit how much technology our kids use at home.” He was referring to the iPad. And at the time of the interview, neither did is children use the iPhone.
So what does that mean? It means Jobs knew exactly how an iPad or an iPhone effects the brain, because he was the architect behind every detail of the product – the fit of every curve, the placement of every icon, the smoothness of each swipe of the screen, which ultimately defines effects it has on the user.
And if he’s not giving it to his kid, something’s up.
But then you might say that since technology is so integrated into the daily functions of today’s society, by withholding smartphones from kids, you’re setting them up for isolation, irrelevance, and ultimately failure.
This is a valid concern, and it was certainly the hardest to wrap my mind around. I don’t want to raise a sociopath. I want my kids to be connected to others, to have meaningful relationships. I want them to know what’s happening in the world, to be aware of the times. I want them to have the relevant skills, so that they can be a contributing member of society.
But what do those things really mean? To me, being connected means cultivating meaningful relationships. Knowing what’s happening in the world means having a good set of values and thus being able to formulate a sensible opinion on what they read about. And having the relevant skills means giving them a resilient and curious mind so that they will be never stop learning.
No, a smartphone does not do that for a child.
A smartphone is a super computer that fits in the palm your hand, which makes it a super calculator on three shots of espresso, a bag of Sour Patch Kids, and God knows how many doses of steroids. And as any math teacher knows, a student should not use a calculator until they know how to do the arithmetic by hand. And financial math textbooks will teach (with proofs!) you the formulas before showing you the instructions for using the presets into your financial calculator.
Similarly, smart technology is designed to make your life easy, to satisfy your wants in as little time as possible, and to reduce the frustration in your life. Google calendar remembers all your appointments for you, sometimes automatically. Wondering where to go for brunch? The most-reviewed restaurant will pop up at the top of your Yelp search. If you want to break up with your boyfriend, you don’t even need to set a time to meet up, just tag him in a meme.
In essence, smart tech enables us to swipe left on life, on the gritty and sticky bits.
It might be hella useful if you already know how to do life and be a functional, likable person. But it’s destructive for kids who have yet to acquire those critical life habits and skills, (which are naturally extremely difficult to learn given life’s unpredictability and our emotional weakness) because it provides a pseudo way out.
I don’t know about the 10% of parents who think it’s a good idea to give their kids smartphones before the age of 5, but I intend to raise a human being who will look me in the eye when I speak with them, who will know the peace of watching a late summer sunset, and will be compassionate enough to cry when a friend cries and laugh when a friend laughs, instead of responding with a pathetic “lol”.
Count it all joy, my brothers,
when you meet trials
of various kinds, for you know
that the testing of your faith produces
And let steadfastness have its full effect,
that you may be
perfect and complete,
lacking in nothing.
James 1: 3-4
With only 5 ingredients, there’s really nowhere to hide. Use a good bread – if you’re in the GTA, Blackbird Baking Co. is a no-brainer, otherwise look for a well-hydrated, naturally leavened sourdough. Use good radishes – seek them out at your local farmer’s market. Use good butter – unsalted, preferably grass-fed. Use good salt – I used black salt, because with the pink of the radishes it just looks that much better. Use good extra virgin – go for something creamy and sweet like Colavita, I wouldn’t do a spicy one, just because the radishes have some kick already. And caviar, which is optional, but really rounds out the toast. I used truffled kelp caviar, which is completely vegan and actually tastes really good.
Radish an Butter Toasts with Caviar
2 slices sourdough bread
2 tbsp softened butter
finely ground black salt
2-3 radishes (french breakfast, cherry bomb, small turnips also work)
1 tsp caviar
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
Butter your toasts right to the edge. Sprinkle lightly but evenly with salt.
Slice the radishes thinly on a mandoline or with a sharp knife. Arrange the slices onto the buttered toasts.
Dot the caviar randomly in small clusters on top of the radishes.
Those were the words etched into the pristine white wall of the Museum of Moving Image, in sans serif bold.
Meanwhile, 226.2 miles south congregated in front of the White House is the Women’s March on Washington. Perhaps it is because I have been hardened by the Canadian cold, or that I’ve nested myself too comfortably in this culture of sorries and eh’s. But I’m not one bit partial to this movement.
But you’re a woman?
Of course I’m a woman.
But you don’t care about gender rights?
Of course I do.
But you don’t care about the Women’s March on Washington?
Those do not correlate.
Take a read from the following excerpt, extracted from the event’s Facebook page:
The rhetoric of the past election cycle has insulted, demonized, and threatened many of us–women, immigrants of all statuses, those with diverse religious faiths particularly Muslim, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native and Indigenous people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, the economically impoverished and survivors of sexual assault. We are confronted with the question of how to move forward in the face of national and international concern and fear.
This does not look to me to be about advancing the rights of my gender. To me, this is an outlet for the anger that is not getting who you wanted for president. For the frustration that was the Orlando Shooting. For the restlessness that was terrorism. For the disappointment that was Brexit. For all the lost fights of 2016.
I am a woman. I care about gender rights. But I am not with her. At least not in the context of this movement pretending to be for advancing the rights of women.
I will not agree to any single agenda that claims to represent the dreams and goals anyone who is a woman. Because such a thing does not exist. That’s what’s beautiful about being human. I will, however, honour the system that is democracy despite its shortcomings because even with all of these flaws I am still damn lucky to be a part of it. I will recognize that in a society that is priviledged enough to have the opportunity of figuring itself out there will be disagreement, and there will be disunity. And that disunity should be in hopes of achieving unity, and the disagreement in progression towards deeper understanding. These are not excuses for kicking the dog when shit don’t go your way.
In a world where we are increasingly seeing only what we want to see (thanks Facebook), without a doubt we’ll have greater and greater trouble seeing eye-to-eye with anyone who bursts that bubble. It’s easy to believe that something’s wrong with the world and that it needs fixing if the news popping up on your feed looks nothing like the world as it is.
Here’s to you America, and anyone whose hearts are feeling broken: this is your chance to reconnect, to re-evaluate, and truly restart. Not with another post of self-righteousness. Be patient, and do what’s in your power to make positive change starting with those closest to you, those who you care about most. Why should I care what that middle-aged man with a permanent pout and corn-yellow hair thinks? I’m focusing on making an impact on those closest to me, those whose opinions matter to me most.
How are you going to make that change?
Oh, and to whoever said “Don’t forget to set your clocks back 300 years tonight”, it may have been @chrisrock, for the record, we’ve made huge progress in placing our trust in democracy and its results, whatever they may be. If we turned our backs on that now we’d really be turning back our clocks 300 years.
And Obama, you did okay I guess.
It is He who changes the times and the epochs;
He removes kings and establishes kings;
He gives wisdom to wise men
And knowledge to men of understanding.
Tahini Date Truffles
2 c chopped pitted dates, no need to splurge on medjools for these
1 c raw almonds, ground in your blender or food processor
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 c raw cacao or cocoa
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 c tahini
Place all ingredients in a food processor in the order listed. Pulse until the mixture begins to clump together. If the mixture still appears dry after 2-3 minutes, add a tablespoon of water at a time until it comes together.
Shape into bite-sized balls and roll in cocoa. Shake off any excess in a sieve.
Store in Ziploc bags in the freezer. Don’t worry, they won’t freeze hard!
Enjoy straight from the fridge, with a cup of uber creamy and frothy matcha coconut flat white!
Coconut Matcha Flat White
1/2 tsp ceremonial grade matcha powder
2/3 c hot water, about 80 degrees F
1/4 c full fat coconut milk (not the stuff you put in your cereal)
Place the matcha in a mug and add about 1 tbsp of hot water. Use a milk frother (I used this one) to mix it up evenly.
Add the rest of the water and continue frothing for 25-30 seconds.
Meanwhile, heat the coconut milk in another cup piping hot, about 1 minute.
Froth up the coconut milk the best you can, because of its low protein and high fat content it won’t form the nice fine foam you might be expecting.
why do we do Thanksgiving anyway? According to the internet*, or BuzzFeed (it’s all the same to me), it’s not about giving thanks. 44% of respondents said family was the point of thanksgiving, and 28% said it was all about the food. So what?
This means that T-dawg is f*cking stressfull, that’s what. Why? Because if the mother-in-law ain’t impressed with the less-than-impossibly-flaky crust beneath the pumpkin pie, Thanksgiving is ruined. Because if the turkey is (oh sweet baby Jesus forbid) dry, Thanksgiving is ruined. Because if anything is less than perfect, T-dawg gon’ flip the table that you spent half an hour setting and send all the green bean casseroles, cranberry jelly, and lumpy mashed potatoes plastered to the wall.
Why do you think this hypothetical mother-in-law will be taking a ruler to your crust? And if your crust has only nine hundred and ninety-nine layers, or is kind-of soggy because you skipped blind baking it, will she loathe you for all eternity? And if you catch her pursing her lips and not taking a third bite, how does that somehow mean that Thanksgiving is ruined?
You see, much like in statistics, things are much more simple if we make the assumption that each covariate (fancy word for things that you think are important for, in this case, predicting the successfulness of Thanksgiving) is independent. If you see each gesture, each dish, each word, each family member, each unfinished or finished plate as somehow leading to another thing that adds up to how much you scored on Thanksgiving, you’ll find yourself seeing nothing but a huge bowl of tangled-up spaghetti (and spaghetti, I think we can all agree, is the worst thing to show up on this day. Literally a slap in the face.)
Things are always going to go wrong on a day as big as this, just keep in mind:
One bad thing doesn’t have to lead to another.
Your family is there most likely because you’re their family too, and food’s secondary.
There’s nothing a few extra glasses of wine can’t fix.
But is that the best you can do? See everything as a set of random events that don’t really lead to how well the day turns out?
Well, here’s the thing. If you define the value of Thanksgiving as spending quality time with family and eating tons of delicious food, then that really is the best you can do.
On the other hand, if we see Thanksgiving for giving thanks and appreciating everything we already have, then guess what? Thanksgiving will be 100% every time, because its value is based on that which has already been given to us and which nobody can discredit.
*Admittedly the internet has repeatedly proven itself to know nothing twice this year after June 23rd and November 8th.
So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now;
rather, we fix our gaze
on things that cannot be seen.
For the things we see now
will soon be gone,
but the things we cannot see
will last forever.
2 Corinthians 4:18
Roasted Garlic Tahini
1 c roasted garlic
3/4 c tahini
1 tsp honey
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
water, as needed
Place all ingredients besides water in a blender and blend until smooth. Add enough water and blend through to adjust the consistency to that of thick yoghurt. Store in a mason jar and refrigerate until needed. Stores up to 3 weeks.
1/2 c Roasted Garlic Tahini (above)
1/2 c plain Greek yoghurt
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
salt, to taste
Stir together all ingredients until smooth. Use immediately.
8-12 small beets, washed and trimmed (but not peeled)
1 c white vinegar
1 c raw sugar
1 tbsp coriander seeds
Steam the beets until tender. Place in a mason jar.
In a saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, coriander, and cloves. Bring to the boil and pour over the beets to cover.
Seal with the lid and cool completely before refrigerating for at least a week before using.
2 c brown basmati rice, rinsed and drained
2 1/2 c water
1 tsp salt
2 tsp rice spices
2 tsp turmeric
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp dried currants
2 tsp vegetable oil
Place all ingredients in the rice cooker and let the rice soak for 3 hours.
Steam until tender and fluff with a fork.
2 tbsp oil
1 large brown onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp anchovy paste
1 tbsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 kg ground beef
4 c bread crumbs
salt and black pepper
1 1/3 c milk
Saute the onions and garlic in oil until broken down and deeply caramelized. Stir in the anchovy paste and fry until fragrant.
Meanwhile, place the cumin, fennel, and oregano in a spice grinder and grind until fine.
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients, season very generously, and mix through until homogeneous, without over-mixing. The mixture should be moist and soft. Add more milk or water as necessary.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Shape the mixture into 2 tbsp-sized balls and place on baking sheets. Brush the tops with a bit of oil and bake until browned, about 25-30 minutes.
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
2 tbsp oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Toss the florets with the oil and season well.
Transfer to a baking sheet with the cut sides facing down and bake for 30-35 minutes until tender and charred on the bottom and around the edges.
2 large garlic cloves
1 bunch carrot tops, washed thoroughly
1 tsp hot chili flakes, optional
1 tsp toasted coriander seeds
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1/3 c whole roasted almonds (in the microwave will do)
1 strip lemon zest
2 tbsp Parmiggiano-Reggiano, optional
1 c olive oil
Place the garlic in a pot of water and bring to the boil. Add the carrot tops and remove immediately (5 seconds max) to refresh in ice water. Squeeze out any moisture and add to the blender with the boiled garlic cloves.
Add all remaining ingredients to the blender and blend until a textured sauce forms.
Transfer to a mason jar and refrigerate until needed.
When ready to use, spoon what you need into a small bowl and stir through with some extra virgin olive oil for brighter colour and flavour.
Skhug, thinned out with some EVOO
date syrup or pomegranate molasses
Divide the rice among 5-8 plates. Add a dollop of tahini crema to each plate and top with the spiced kofte (you can skewer them after baking if you want, for fun). Pile on the cauliflower and add a pickle. Drizzle the skhug over the meatballs, and everything really. Finish with a swirl of date syrup and dusting of sumac.
Not because of any particular scornful or contemptuous experience, but straight-up that I never even tried. Surrounding this strange celery-chard looking vegetable that bears as much resemblance to a fruit as a tomato does to a vegetable but which somehow passes as one in all of the best baked offerings in this balmy season were too many questions for this me of a stranger.
Why is it sometimes pale green dirtied with half hearted contours of muddied red? And does that mean it’s unripe and therefore toxic to eat (in parallel with tomatoes)? Do I roast or stew it first before incorporating it into recipes, or does it soften at a compatible rate as the rate at which most pastries and batters cook? How well does it retain its bright red colour under heat? How acidic is it really? And this last one which for some odd reason gives me a level of unrest borderlining the societal anxiety associated with the oatmeal cookie raisin-vs-chocolate debate: are strawberries a must?
As you can see, in the time I spent deliberating each of these questions, the following two recipes could have been sent well on their way in the oven. To further the iron content in all this, all of those questions were answered only after I got my hands gritty with two pounds of rhubarb.
And the fruits of this new-found friendship, as you will soon discover in the recipes to follow, are worth the labour.
So that got me thinking, maybe people are (just) like rhubarb? Such that as one actually makes the simple effort of adding a bit of warmth and sweetness to the equation, it solves itself, and the questions either melt away and become negligible, or are answered in the process?
Oil and perfume
make the heart glad,
so a man’s counsel
to his friend.
Rhubarb Shortbread Bars – makes 1 9-inch square pan
For the butter shortbread
1 1/4 c all purpose flour
1/2 c icing sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 c cold unsalted butter, cubed
2-3 tbsp cold water
Line a square baking pan with parchment paper extending past the sides by at least 1 inch (this will act as ‘handles’ by which you can lift out the entire piece later for slicing).
Place the flour, sugar, salt, and butter in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is even and very pale yellow throughout.
With the motor running, add the water one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture begins to clump together.
Dump the crumbly dough into the prepared pan and press it down firmly to form an even layer right to the edges.
Stick the pan in the freezer to chill for 10~15 minutes as you preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Bake in the center of the oven for 20 minutes, or until lightly golden and the top no longer appears wet.
Take it out to cool as you make the rhubarb curd.
For the rhubarb curd
1 lb rhubarb, chopped
1 can (355ml) cranberry juice concentrate
3/4 c sugar
1/2 c cornstarch
few drops red food coloring, optional
Place the rhubarb, cranberry juice concentrate, and sugar in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil and continue to simmer until the rhubarb is very tender, about 20 minutes. Allow the mixture to cool completely.
In a blender, blend together the rhubarb mixture (including all the liquid), cornstarch, eggs, and food coloring until smooth.
Pour the mixture back into the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until very thick (the mixture is quite thick to begin with, so it’s safe to bring the mixture to a sure simmer, which also ensures that the starch-destroying enzyme alpha-amylase is gotten rid of).
Pour the curd onto the baked shortbread base, smooth out the top with a spatula, and bake at 300 degrees F on the lowest rack for a further 30-35 minutes, or until only a slight jiggle remains in the center.
Cool completely on a rack before putting it in the fridge to set overnight.
To serve, loosen the edges by sliding a thin knife right along the sides of the pan. Grab the extended parchment handles firmly and lift the entire bar out onto a cutting board. Make neat slices with a straight-edged knife by running the blade under hot water and quickly wiping it dry before every slice. There’s no need to dust it with icing sugar as the bars will have produced a nice glaze on its own.
And east is east and
west is west
and if you take cranberries
and stew them
they taste much more like prunes
than rhubarb does.
~ Groucho Marx, 1890-1977
Rhubarb Frangipane Tarte Fine – makes 2 tarts as pictured above, adapted from the Bojon Gourmet’s Rustic Rhubarb, Almond, and Honey Tart
For the Almond Frangipane:
90 g ground almonds
75 g sugar
40 g rice flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
85 g unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender (if you are using a blender, make sure you put the eggs in first so the blender can run smoothly) and blend until as smooth and even as it will go. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4 days if not using immediately.
For the rest of the Rhubarb Tart:
2 sheets puff pastry
6 rhubarb stalks cut in half crosswise (so that it fits on the pastry), about 1 pound
1 beaten egg, for brushing
2 tbsp sugar
icing sugar, for dusting
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, with the rack placed in the top third of the oven.
Dust the pastry with flour and roll it out to fit the pan. Prick the pastry all over with a fork, leaving only the outer 1 inch un-pricked.
Divide the almond cream between the two rolled sheets of dough and spread evenly, leaving the outer 1-inch bare.
Arrange the rhubarb over the almond cream.
Brush the edges of the pastry with the egg and sprinkle sugar on the rhubarb and the brushed edges.
Bake for about 25 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and the rhubarb is tender.
Let cool before dusting with icing sugar and slicing.