Sunday, April 20, 2014

FACE MOISTURISER: ROSEHIP, YLANG YLANG, AND GERANIUM OILS



This is a wonderful skin balancing oil that I've used for years as my daytime moisturiser. It's splendid on my sensitive combination skin and I can definitely feel the difference when I have to use something else if I'm travelling and have forgotten to take this along.

Rose hip oil is quickly absorbed into the skin and doesn't leave any greasiness - great for sensitive skin. Ylang ylang balances oily skin, promotes smoothness, helps with blemishes,  and is a very relaxing fragrance. Geranium balances sebum production and nourishes both dry and combination skin.

I've always used the Now brand of rose hip oil, and both essential oil bottles I've had for over 3 years - essential oils last for a long time! I usually let the moisturizer sit for 1-2 days after blending, to allow the oils to assimilate. But you can certainly start using it right away.

At night I use cocoa butter on my face, and as a body moisturiser I use shea butter. If you plan to use either of these, make sure they say 100% cocoa butter and shea butter. Nothing added (except perhaps an essential oil if you like fragrant moisturisers). 

Face Moisturiser: Rosehip, Ylang Ylang, and Geranium Oils
Makes: 1 bottle

- 1 fl. oz (30 ml) Rose hip oil
- 8 drops Ylang Ylang essential oil
- 4 drops Geranium essential oil
  1. Take off the small plastic inner lid of the rose hip oil bottle and add the essential oils (I add them drop-by-drop directly from each essential oil bottle). Replace both the lids of the rose hip oil bottle, and shake well to combine.
  2. To use: put a few drops of the oil onto your palm and gently rub it into clean facial skin.
  3. Store away from direct sun.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

PICKLED FRESH CHICKPEAS AND CARROTS: LEELA CHANA-GAJAR NU ATHAANU


This is a fresh pickled relish flavoured with fresh green garbanzo beans, carrots, and mustard, quite typical to Gujarat - home for me! Although this is Gujarati in flavours, it's neutral enough to be great with Indian food from any region. 

As I've mentioned before, I have a pickle affliction. And while I almost always relegate dried garbanzo beans to hummus, I simply love fresh garbanzos. They're a bit of work because of the shelling they require but they're totally worth it. I've never made Indian pickles before because I assumed they need things I can't be bothered to go find. But this recipe couldn't be simpler! If fresh garbanzos are out of season, make it with carrots alone.


I find dried garbanzos to be quite heavy so I seldom have them whole, but these fresh ones are mild, light, and easy to eat even raw with a bit of lemon, salt, and cilantro.


Adapted from Gujarati Chatko.

Leela Chana-Gajar nu Athaanu
Makes: 1 - 2 cups

- 1 cup fresh chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
- 4 small carrots, cut into 1 in. pieces
- 1/4 cup black mustard seeds, coarsely powdered in a blender (not in a food processor)
- 2 tbsp. salt
- 1 tbsp. chile powder
- 1/2 cup safflower or other neutral oil
- 1 lemon, juiced
  1. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a rolling boil. Add the carrots and boil for 5 minutes. Turn the heat to low and remove the carrots from the water with a slotted spoon. Spread out the carrots on a dry kitchen towel to dry completely.
  2. Bring the water to a boil again and add the chickpeas. Boil for 2-3 minutes, turn off the heat, and strain the chickpeas.
  3. Spread out the chickpeas on another dry kitchen towel to dry completely.
  4. In a medium bowl, combine the oil, powdered mustard, salt, chile powder, lemon juice, and stir to combine. Add the carrots and chickpeas and mix everything well. Taste and adjust the salt and add more chile powder if you want more heat. Keep in mind that the vegetables will reduce in volume a bit as they pickle so it's best not to overdo the salt and chile.
  5. Transfer to a clean, dry glass jar and close the lid. Leave the jar in a very sunny spot for 3 - 5 days.
  6. Refrigerate and enjoy with any kind of Indian food!

Monday, April 14, 2014

ZUCCHINI AND HERB SOUP


I really love the colour of this soup! And the very refreshing herbal flavours with the creamy  texture of blended zucchini make it perfect for spring and summer when you want a light energizing meal. Plus it's very easy to make. There's not much more to say, really.

I find greens and vegetables very satiating and filling, but sometimes when I just want a more substantial meal, this soup is superb with this incredible cucumber tomato cheese sandwich. It would also go very well with focaccia, Dutch onion and cheese bread, or any other kind of bread, a smoked salmon/trout sandwich, roasted potatoes, a pasta salad, casserole... anything other than fruits.


Zucchini and Herb Soup
Makes: 4-6 servings

- 1 lb. zucchini, cut into chunks
- 1 small yellow onion, sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
- 1-1/2 cups arugula (or baby spinach or watercress)
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped parsley, including tender stalks
- 1/8 cup loosely packed whole fresh mint leaves (or cilantro)
- 1 in. piece of ginger (no need to peel if it's organic)
- 1 tbsp. coconut oil (cold-pressed, or use extra virgin olive oil)
- 1 tbsp. salt
- 1 tbsp. pepper
- 3 cups water, plus 2 cups for blending 
- 1 lemon, juiced - optional

  1. In a large pot, heat the coconut oil on medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and ginger and sauté till the onion is translucent but not browned (lower the heat if necessary).
  2. Add the zucchini and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the water and turn the heat to High until the water boils. Turn the heat down to medium and let everything cook until the zucchini is soft. Turn off the heat.
  3. Add the pepper. Add the arugula and parsley, and push the leaves down to submerge into the cooked vegetable mixture. Let it all cool to luke warm or room temperature. Add the mint (or cilantro) leaves.
  4. Blend the soup until very smooth, adding water as needed to get the consistency you want. It'll have to be blended in 2 or more batches depending on the size of your blender jar. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. If serving warm, transfer the soup back into the pot and heat until the soup is just barely simmering (don't boil it!). If serving cold, transfer the soup back into the pot or another container, chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours and serve as below.
  5. Ladle into large bowls and serve with extra pepper, or a drizzle of lemon juice, or avocado, walnut, coconut, or olive oil.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

FARINATA DI CECI: GLUTEN-FREE CHICKPEA FLOUR FLATBREAD


Farinata is an easy gluten-free snack typical to Liguria, Italy, that is really versatile, but really the best way to enjoy it is to not overpower it with too many ingredients. It takes all of 10 minutes to put the batter together, and another 15-20 minutes to bake, which in my book, makes it perfect for a late and light Friday night dinner with a generous glass of a crisp white.

I know what you're thinking... butttt - if you are in the mood for a lot of vegetables, have them as a salad with the farinata rather than loading up the poor batter with a load of vegetables. Typically it's either plain with just salt added or sometimes with sliced onions and pepper added to the batter or to the pan before pouring in the batter. Light toppings like sliced olives, herbs, minced garlic, minced green chile also work very well and add depth of flavour.


The flavour of olive oil and chickpea flour is amazing and while you don't have to let the batter stand for any time at all, if you do by chance have to let it sit around for a while - even as much as 12 hours or a few days - the flavour of the farinata will just get better.  I've made farinata made with 1 week old batter (photo below), and it was fantastic and much fluffier than batter that's cooked soon after mixing (photo above).


Based on Giallo Zafferano, photos, and trust in commonalities between Romance languages.

Farinata de Ceci: Gluten-Free Chickpea Flatbread
Makes: 1 12 in. farinata

- 1-1/2 cup chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour
- 1-1/2 cup water
- 1-1/2 tsp. salt
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary or thyme, optional
- 3 tbsp. sliced green or kalamata olives (never canned, bottled are ok in a real pinch)*

Suggested serving options: basil pesto, a smear of roasted garlic, a bit of crescenza cheese (or Tallegio or similar soft cheese)
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk the chickpea flour and 3/4 cup water together to make a smooth pasty batter. Whisk in salt, 2 tbsp. olive oil, pepper, and herbs, if using. Whisk the remaining 3/4 cup water to make a smooth batter. The batter will seem a bit thin, but that's ok.
  2. Cover and set aside for as long as possible (from a few minutes up to 12 hours at room temperature, or in the fridge for up to a week).
  3. Before baking, let the batter come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 450 F / 230 C.
  4. Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a 12 in. stainless steel, cast iron, or other oven-proof skillet till it's really hot - you can tell the oil is hot enough when it flows freely in the skillet. Swirl it around to completely and evenly coat the skillet, halfway up the sides.
  5. Add the sliced onion (if using), give the pan a quick shake to make sure the onions are not stuck to the pan. Turn off the heat.
  6. Pour in the batter, add the toppings if using, and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the farinata is firm and edges are browned.
  7. Remove the farinata from the oven and let it stand for 5 minutes. Cut it into wedges, and serve hot, warm, or at room temperature, plain or with any of the above suggested serving options.

*Notes:
  1. Skip the olives completely if that's the only olive option. The farinata will taste better without olives than with canned olives.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

CACIO E PEPE CON ASPARAGI: PASTA IN A CHEESE AND PEPPER SAUCE, WITH ASPARAGUS



As I've said before about cacio e pepe, its pasta, cheese, salt, pepper. What's not to love?! As simple a dish as it is, the flavours of all ingredients really matter, so use the best you can get.

Toasted peppercorns are the perfect smoky spice for anything. Here they complement the cheese exceptionally well to make a cheesy sauce that covers the pasta and asparagus. 

Cacio e pepe is a Roman dish, and traditionally only has cheese, pepper, and pasta tossed together with a little bit of the starchy pasta cooking water added to bind the sauce together. This recipe has sautéed asparagus added because I had some fresh perky asparagus waiting, and I wanted a vegetable with the pasta so I could make it a meal. 




Cacio e Pepe Con Asparagi
Makes: 4 servings

- 1/2 box bucatini or spaghetti 
- 1 lb. asparagus, cut into 2 in. long pieces
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1-1/2 tbsp. coarsely ground toasted black pepper
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 3/4 cup Pecorino Romano, grated (in a pinch use Parmigiano Reggiano, Grana Padano, or other hard cheese (or a combination of hard cheeses))
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and boil until al dente.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large pan.
  3. Add the pepper and asparagus and sauté till the asparagus is tender, about 5 minutes.
  4. When the pasta is done, remove from the heat. Using tongs, lift the pasta from the water, add to the pan with the cooked asparagus and mix in with the asparagus.
  5. Remove the pan from heat. Immediately add the grated cheese and about 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta cooking water and mix so the cheese coats the pasta and asparagus.
  6. Serve hot with additional cheese and pepper to taste.

BROCCOLI AND GREENS SOUP


An easy soup that's delicious warm or chilled... perfect for cold, rainy evenings or warm summer evenings. And, you can chop up the vegetables while the onions and garlic are sautéing, put them all into the pan, add water, cook still soft, season with salt and pepper, and blend! It's important to use fresh vegetables, not frozen, because really the soup gets all its flavour from the vegetables, herbs, and really good quality salt and pepper. 

Herbs: you can use parsley or cilantro if you don't have fennel greens.


Serve the soup with this herb focaccia, any other bread, roasted potatoes or sweet potatoes, or just by itself. If you want it spicy, add a dash of hot sauce, more black pepper, or red chile flakes.



Broccoli and Greens Soup
Makes: 6 main servings

- 1 medium onion, sliced

- 4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
- 2 medium heads broccoli
- 1 small sweet potato
- 2 medium carrots
- 4 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
- 4 collard leaves, coarsely chopped or torn into pieces
- 3 cups spinach
- 1/2 cup fennel greens, parsley, or cilantro
- 4 cups water
- 2 tbsp. salt
- 2 tbsp. black pepper, freshly ground
- 1 tbsp. ghee, or butter (or olive oil, in a pinch, but that'll change the flavour)
  1. Cut the broccoli, sweet potato, carrots, and celery into approximately 1 in. chunks.
  2. On a medium flame, heat the ghee in a large pan and sauté onions and garlic.
  3. Turn the heat to medium-high. Add the carrots, celery, sweet potato, collard greens, and broccoli and sauté for 2-3 min.
  4. Add the 4 cups of water and turn the heat to high. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and cook until the vegetables are just soft, not colourless and soggy.
  5. Turn the heat off. Stir in the spinach, fennel greens, salt, and pepper.
  6. Cool the cooked vegetables and blend into a smooth soup, adding more water if needed to get the consistency you like.Taste and adjust the salt and pepper.
  7. Before serving, heat the soup on medium heat - don't boil!
  8. Ladle into a bowl and serve garnished with minced parsley or shredded cheese and extra pepper. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

ONION AND HERB FOCACCIA


A bread by any other name... focaccia, fougasse, hogaza, schiacciata, pizza... all contain the same basic ingredients: high-gluten (strong) flour, salt, yeast/leavening, oil, water. Focaccia, the predecessor of pizza is thicker, whereas pizza is thin, almost like a flatbread. But both are great with a variety of toppings.

Focaccia is great as a snack on its own, sliced with a bit of meat, cheese, a fried egg, or vegetables inside, with soup, roasted vegetables, meats, cubed and toasted into croutons, in a breakfast strata... the ideas are endless.





The one difference between any focaccia-like bread and pizza is that focaccia has a distinct olive oil flavour thanks to the generously greased pan in which it's baked, and the drizzle of olive oil it gets before baking. Don't skimp on the quality or quantity of oil - in this recipe, I've already pared down the oil so definitely don't reduce the quantity of oil in any step otherwise you'll end up with a dry crust, bottom, and crumb - essentially a dry loaf. No fun.

 

Onion and Herb Focaccia
Makes: 1 loaf, 17 in. x 12 in.

Dough:
- 2-1/2 cups whole wheat flour 
- 2-1/2 cups bread flour
- 2-1/2 tsp. active dry yeast (not Rapid Rise)
- 1 tbsp. salt
- 1 tbsp. lemon juice
- 2 tbsp. olive oil, plus more for greasing the baking tray
- 2 cups warm water (not hot - or the yeast will die and the dough won't rise!)

Topping:
- 1 tbsp. fennel seeds
- 1-1/2 tbsp. rosemary leaves, fresh or dried
- 1 tbsp. thyme, fresh or dried
- 1 tbsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp. black pepper, freshly ground
- 3 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 jalapeño, thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp. flaked or coarse salt
  1. In a large bowl, make the yeast sponge: mix 1 cup warm water, 1 cup whole wheat flour, and yeast. Set aside for 15 minutes - after 15 minutes the mixture should look frothy and feel "spongy" when stirred with a spoon.
  2. In a small bowl, mix the fennel seeds, rosemary, thyme, crushed red pepper, black pepper, and the 3 tbsp. olive oil. Set aside.
  3. To the yeast sponge, add the rest of the whole wheat flour, bread flour, 2 tbsp. olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. Mix well - the dough will be dry and clumpy. Add 1/2 cup warm water and mix into a dough. If needed, add more warm water, 1/4 cup at a time, to bind the dough into a ball. Knead till smooth and supple, about 5 minutes. The dough should be soft but not wet and sticky. If it is, add flour 1 tbsp. at a time until the dough is soft but not wet or sticky.
  4. Form the dough into a ball and put into a large bowl. Cover the bowl and put it in a warm, draft-free place until the dough has risen and doubled in size, at least 1 hour.
  5. Generously grease a 17 in. x 12 in. rectangular jelly roll pan / metal baking tray with olive oil.
  6. Gently push down the risen dough. Transfer to the greased pan and using your fingers, flatten the dough to fill the pan. The dough may spring back - let it rest for a minute and continue to flatten into an even layer.
  7. Let the dough rise in the baking tray for 20 - 30 minutes.
  8. Make sure there's a middle and lower rack in the oven. Preheat the oven to 425 F / 220 C. Fill an oven-proof tray with 1 - 2 in. water.
  9. Using your finger tips, make "dimples" all over the dough.
  10. Brush on the olive oil and herb mixture all over the dough. Gently press the sliced onion and jalapeño on to the dough. Evenly sprinkle the salt, if using, on the dough.
  11. Put the pan (with the dough) on the middle rack, and the tray with water on the lower rack.
  12. Turn the temperature down to 400 F / 200 C and bake for 25 - 30 minutes until the focaccia is golden at the top and bottom (use a spatula to lift a corner and check).
  13. Remove from the oven and cool for 3-5 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day or in the fridge for up to 2 days.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

WAFFLES: EASY, NOT BOXED



Now that summer's here, it's time for waffles-and-summer-fruit weekends! The cornstarch gives these a crispy exterior and the egg whites beaten and folded in make a fluffy interior. If you don't want to bother with separating the eggs and all of that, lightly beat the eggs without separating and add to the dry ingredients when you add the wet ingredients.

According to my Vermont friends, the best maple syrup is Grade B, not Grade A. The consensus is that Grade A is too light and lacks the smoky maple flavour that the Grade B has. So they've advised me to focus on Grade B, and leave the Grade A to snooty New Yorkers. I have both grades at home so I tried them on these waffles and those pancakes, and I'm a convert to Grade B! That's also what I used in these almond and cashew butter fudge bites.

No maple syrup? Honey's just as great!

Waffles
Makes: 5 waffles


1 cup oat flour (grind 1 cup rolled oats in a blender till you have flour)
- 3/4 cup all-purpose (AP) flour (or bread flour)
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
2 eggs, yolks and whites separated
- 1-3/4 cups milk
- 1/4 cup oil (coconut, grape seed, olive, or any neutral oil)
- 4 tsp. baking powder
1 tbsp. sugar
- 1/4 
tsp. salt
- 1/2 
tsp. vanilla extract
- 2-3 tsp. oil (to brush on the hot waffle iron)
  1. In a medium bowl mix all the dry ingredients.
  2. Make a well and add the wet ingredients except egg whites. Stir until you have a smooth mixture.
  3. Beat the egg whites in another bowl till you have soft peaks. Fold into the smooth mixture and set aside. (If you don't want to bother with separating the eggs and all of that, lightly beat the eggs without separating and add to the dry ingredients when you add the wet ingredients.)
  4. Preheat waffle iron.
  5. Brush preheated waffle iron with a teaspoon of oil. Ladle about 1 cup batter onto the hot waffle iron. Cook until golden brown.
  6. Serve hot with butter, maple syrup, and fresh fruits.

ALMOND AND CASHEW BUTTER CHOCOLATE FUDGE


I love homemade nut and seed butters for many reasons: they're easy, quick, additive-free, fresh, you can make any combination and quantity you want, and you can do so much with them. Like this "fudge" with almond and cashew butter.

If you want to know how to make nut butter at home, check out my almond butter blog post. Feel free to use a single nut butter or a combination - hazelnut, almond, pumpkin seed butter, tahini, whatever you fancy. Store-bought nut butter certainly works in this recipe, just make sure it is made with only nuts and has no additives like sugar or oil.

sometimes toss 1 - 2  of these into my breakfast smoothie - totally delicious.



Almond and Cashew Butter Chocolate Fudge
Makes: approximately 25 pieces

- 1/2 cup homemade almond butter
1/2 cup homemade cashew butter
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 1/4 cup maple syrup, preferably Grade B
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder (not hot cocoa or hot chocolate mix!)
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. salt

Optional garnishes:
- 2 tbsp. unsweetened coconut, shredded or flaked
- 2 tbsp. pumpkin seeds, toasted or raw

  1. Mix everything except garnishes in a bowl. Taste the mixture and add 1 tbsp. maple syrup at a time to adjust sweetness.
  2. Spread in a pan to make a 1/2 in. thick layer. Smooth the top and gently press on the garnishes (if you just sprinkle the garnishes on top, they won't stay on).
  3. Freeze for at least 2-3 hours. Remove the fudge from the pan and cut into approximately 1-1/2 in. square pieces (I find it easiest and fastest to cut the fudge into 1-1/2 in. strips in the pan itself, then remove it from the pan 1 strip at a time and cut into squares.) Store in the fridge.