All posts in recipes

  • carrot and polenta cake with marsala

    carrot cake with polenta and marsala

    “Let’s go for a walk”, Cory suggested and before I knew it, we were slipping on our shoes and heading out the door. We didn’t have a destination in mind, but our feet took us in the direction of Powell’s Bookstore, which is where we inevitably ended up. Powell’s is a large independent bookstore, taking up an entire city block and then some. It’s a labyrinth of a place and I hardly know where anything is, except for the cookbooks. They must have at least 3 aisles of cookbooks. It’s completely overwhelming and easy to lose an hour there, conjuring up future meals in my head. Despite how often I cook and how much I think about food, I only own a few cookbooks. After two cross country moves in less than 18 months, packing up box after books got old fast, so we ended up donating much of our book collection. Now that we’re in Portland and intend to stay here for at least a couple years, adding a couple cookbooks to the shelf here and there won’t be too painful when we pack up our stuff again, right? That’s what I tell myself, at least. A copy of Domenica Marchetti’s The Glorious Vegetables of Italy went home with me that night.

    I’ve been happily cooking my way through the book, making crostinis, baking polenta, roasting squash, pureeing soups, and most recently, baking a cake. This is definitely my kind of cake. No frosting, no fondant, no layers, and it doesn’t have to look pretty. While it may seem plain looking at first glance, this cake has a lot going on. The polenta gives the cake a nice coarse texture, it’s accented with a bit of citrus and hints of nutmeg, and your favorite olive oil really gets the chance to shine through here. After just a few minutes in the oven, our little apartment was filled with the scents of orange and marsala. It felt a little like Thanksgiving or Christmas, the days we always have a pot of mulled wine simmering on the stove. It’s the kind of cake I can’t wait to make for just about everyone I know. I have plans to bake it for a get together next week and I’m wondering how it might hold up in the mail with all the other Christmas treats I plan on sending to family. The cake is perfect for dessert, and hey, you could probably get away with having it for breakfast too.

    carrot cake with polenta and marsala 2

    Carrot Polenta Cake with Marsala
    (adapted from The Glorious Vegetables of Italy)
    I made a few minor tweaks to the cake based on what I had on hand. The original recipe calls for the zest of an orange and lemon, but I just used the zests from two oranges since I was out of lemons. I also used a 9″ springform pan, instead of an 8″ x 8″ cake pan. The cake was ready after 32 minutes for me, instead of 35.

    1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
    1 cup sugar
    2 eggs
    1/2 cup dry marsala wine
    zest of 2 oranges
    1 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
    1/2 cup polenta
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    dash of freshly grated nutmeg
    2 cups shredded carrots (about 3 large carrots)
    powdered sugar, for dusting

    Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Brush an 8″ x 8″ cake pan with olive oil. Shred the carrots.

    In a large mixing bowl, mix together olive oil, sugar, eggs, marsala, and orange zest until blended.

    In another bowl, whisk together flour, polenta, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Mix the flour mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly to avoid the clumps. Stir in the carrots until thoroughly mixed in. Transfer the batter into an oil-lined cake pan.

    Bake the cake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick runs clean. Depending on your oven, it may help to check the cake a few minutes early. Once the cake is done, transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 20 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan and set on the rack until warm or room temperature. Dust the cake with powdered sugar, and serve.

    Serves 8-10

  • roasted delicata squash with pearl couscous

    roasted delicata squash pearl couscous kale cranberries

    Persimmons, quinces, chestnuts, pomegranates, apples, and squash. I’m pretty much over the moon for fall produce. It’s a little like being reunited with old friends — except uh, I get to eat them. Squash has been a mainstay in our kitchen the last few weeks. My little kitchen cart has been overflowing with pumpkins, acorn squash, butternut squash, and I can’t seem to get enough of delicata squash. Delicata squash is similar to butternut squash, but smaller and the skins are thinner. No need for peeling, just slice them in half, scoop out the seeds, let them roast for a half hour, and before you know it you’ll be eating creamy and delicious winter squash.

    For the most part, I’ve just been roasting squash with butter or olive oil and a little salt and pepper. Here though, I’ve roasted delicata squash into little crescents and tossed them with pearl couscous and chickpeas, all coated together in a fragrant slightly sweet and spicy olive oil dressing. It’s like autumn in a bowl. Kale can be tough to chew, so I massaged it with my hands with just a little olive oil for about 30 seconds until it softened.

    Roasted Delicata Squash with Pearl Couscous

    1 delicata squash, halved and sliced into 1/3″ crescents
    1 cup pearl couscous
    1 cup chickpeas
    8 kale leaves, torn into small pieces and massaged with olive oil
    1/2 teaspoon coriander
    1 teaspoon dried mint
    2 teaspoons harissa or hot sauce
    2 teaspoons maple syrup
    salt and pepper, to taste
    1/4 cup olive oil
    1/4 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
    2 tablespoons cranberries

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash and pat dry the squash, lay on a cutting board, cut in half, scrape out the seeds, and cut into crescents that are about 1/3″ thick. Lay on a roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper in place in the oven. Set the kitchen timer for 30 minutes.

    Meanwhile, prepare the couscous. Bring a pot of salted water to boil. It should take about 10 minutes for the pearl couscous to be ready, but will vary depending on the size of the couscous, so check the package directions. Once done, drain and set aside. Measure out one cup of cooked chickpeas and set aside.

    While the pearl couscous is draining in a colander, take the pot you boiled the couscous in, and add the kale. Drizzle just a little bit of olive oil over the kale and massage gently with your hands until the kale softens.

    Check on the delicata squash and turn the pieces over.

    Prepare the dressing by mixing together coriander, dried mint, harissa, maple syrup, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Add the dressing to the pot with the kale, along with the chickpeas and couscous. Mix thoroughly.

    In a small frying pan, add walnuts over medium heat and turn a couple times, until browned. I don’t recommend leaving the kitchen when toasting nuts. Whenever I’m toasting nuts and leave the kitchen, even just for a moment, they burn. Remove from heat and let cool. Once cool, chop the walnuts into small pieces.

    Check on the delicata squash, and if it’s soft and beginning to brown on both sides, it’s ready. Add the squash, walnuts, and cranberries to the pot and mix thoroughly. Turn the heat on low, and serve when the mixture is warm.

    Serves 4

  • pomegranate walnut tabbouleh

    pomegranate tabbouli parsley walnuts

    My CSA share this week included a monstrous pile of parsley. Half of it was frozen into ice cubes for future soups, some of it went into a frittata, a handful was stirred into a tomato sauce that was served with polenta, but I wanted to make sure the rest of it a chance to shine on its own. I set out to make tabbouleh, but things did not go according to plan once I went shopping. I passed on the tomatoes for a gorgeous pomegranate and bulgur was nowhere to be found, so I went home and made something that wasn’t quite authentic tabbouleh, but sort of  a transition into fall tabbouleh. Tabbouleh is a Lebanese salad, made primarily with parsley and a handful of mint, with flecks of bulgur (cracked wheat), chopped tomatoes, and coated with a lemon and olive oil dressing that begs to be sopped up with copious amounts of bread. It’s not uncommon to see tabbouleh recipes that use couscous, quinoa, or millet instead of bulgur, but I used crushed walnuts here. Since discovering pomegranate and walnut stew a few years ago, I’ve learned that pomegranates and walnuts make a great pair.

    This makes a good side dish to just about any Middle Eastern meal, but it’s especially delicious with a little tahini sauce or hummus rolled up in a piece of flat bread. I’d say this serves 6 to 8 as a side dish, but I keep sneaking into the kitchen several times a day to take bites out of it straight from the container, so who knows. It’s almost gone and I’m already itching to make another batch.

    Pomegranate Walnut Tabbouleh
    Note: to avoid soggy tabbouleh, let the parsley and mint dry before chopping. This can be done with a strainer and paper towels, but a salad spinner will be your best friend here.

    2 cups flat leaf parsley, chopped
    1/4 cup mint, chopped
    1/2 red onion, diced
    seeds (arils) of one pomegranate
    1/3 cup walnuts, crushed
    3 tablespoons olive oil
    2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice
    1/2 teaspoon sumac
    1/8 teaspoon allspice
    salt and pepper, to taste

    Chop the parsley, mint, and onions with your sharpest knife. De-seed pomegranate. Place the walnuts in a mortar and crush them with a pestle (or give them a whirl in your food processor). Juice lemon. In a large bowl, mix together the parsley, mint, pomegranate, walnuts, olive oil, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, sumac, allspice, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper until fully incorporated. Give the mixture a taste and add more lemon juice and salt, if necessary. Serve with your favorite Middle Eastern dish or as part of a mezze. Delicious both at room temperature and cold.

    Serves about 6-8 as a side

  • mujaddara deluxe

    mujaddara deluxe

    When I originally posted my mujaddara recipe 4 1/2 years ago, I was pleasantly surprised when it became one of the most popular recipes on the blog. Mujaddara is a rice and lentil pilaf and very near and dear to my heart. When I decided that once and for all I would learn how to cook at the age of 22 (!), it was the first thing I set out to make. All you need is an onion, rice, lentils, olive oil, and salt. How hard could it be? Not very, it turns out, but it took several attempts and fine tuning to get it just where I wanted. In the years since I posted the recipe, I usually don’t make it “as is” unless I’m serving it as a side dish.

    On those nights when the pantry and fridge are looking scarce and I don’t know what to make, mujaddara is a reliable friend since I almost always have the ingredients handy. The base recipe remains the same, but I like to dress it up as much as possible with whatever I can scrounge up. You know those forlorn jars that live in the fridge door? That jar of red bell peppers? Sundried tomatoes? Hearts of palm? Old hot sauce? Harissa? That almost empty bag of frozen peas? The remaining bits of cashews shoved in to a corner of the cupboard? This is their time to shine, along with any other odds and ends in your fridge, freezer, and pantry that you may have forgotten about. Feel free to play around with spices, too. A little bit of coriander or pinch of cardamom work well here. It’s a truly everything but the kitchen sink kind of dish.

    The recipe below includes my latest version of mujaddara deluxe as I call it, along with some ideas for other variations. While I prefer to caramelize one onion per serving when making mujaddara, I only had one here.

    What’s your go-to pantry meal?

    Mujaddara Deluxe

    Base:
    olive oil
    1 onion, sliced
    3/4 cup rice
    3/4 cup lentils
    salt and pepper, to taste

    Extras:
    1/4 cup frozen peas
    2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
    2 tablespoons pickled sweet peppers, chopped
    1 sundried tomato slice, chopped
    1 tablespoon almonds, chopped

    Other variations:
    Dried or fresh herbs: thyme, rosemary, parsley, basil, mint
    Spices: cumin, coriander, cardamom, paprika, sumac
    Nuts: hazelnuts, almonds, pine nuts, walnuts
    Vegetables: carrot, bell pepper, jalapeno, cucumber, zucchini, radish
    Fragrant things: dash of rosewater or pomegranate molasses
    Hot things: hot sauce, harissa, sambal
    Canned things: artichokes, hearts of palm, beets, red peppers
    Sauce: yogurt, tahini

    Heal oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium low heat. When hot, add the onions. Add the onions and a few dashes of salt, stirring every few minutes, for 30 minutes. Turn the heat up a bit and continue cooking until the onions until they are a deep, golden brown, another 15-20 minutes or so. Set skillet aside.

    In the meantime, prepare the lentils and rice according to their package directions. Some people prefer to cook the lentils and rice together in the same pot, but I find that this results in overcooked lentils, so I always cook them separately. About 30 seconds before the rice is ready, drop in the frozen peas. When the lentils and rice are ready, pour them into a colander to drain out the water.

    Mix together the lentils and rice in a big pot. Add salt, pepper, a couple glugs of olive oil, most of the caramelized onion, parsley, pickled sweet peppers, sundried tomato, and almonds. Heat until the mujaddara is warm, add more salt and pepper to taste.

    Serve in bowls and garnish with the remaining caramelized onions. Serve warm and gobble it up!

    Serves 2

  • diy coffee liqueur

    coffee liqueur

    This year, I’m determined to right the wrongs from last Thanksgiving and Christmas. Just 10 minutes into Thanksgiving dinner prep, I sliced off a chunk of flesh from my finger. The rest of my afternoon consisted of bleeding and watching the Forsyte Saga and Quantum Leap (yes, I’m a very cool person) while Cory took over dinner. Dinner was still delicious, but it put a damper on the day I hadn’t experienced the likes of since Thanksgiving ’95. That was the year my dad thought it would be a great idea to show my extended family a home video of me singing, dancing, and pretending to be the great Cornholio from Beavis and Butthead. These days, embarrassing myself is one of my favorite hobbies and you can find a clip from that video on YouTube. I think it’s adorable now, but at age 10? Mortifying. As for my homemade Christmas gifts, all but the buckeyes ended in disaster. We didn’t even get to visit family due to a power outage. So here I am, many moons later, gearing up to shower friends and family with tasty homemade treats.

    First up, coffee liqueur! When I was a wee one, having Kahlua in the house was a rare and very special thing that my parents would use for making White Russians. Those are nice and all, but I also recommend using coffee liqueur almost anywhere you would vanilla. It’s a simple way to give baked desserts and goods a little bit of “ooh, what’s in this?”. Adding just a small amount can go a long way. We’ve been putting coffee liqueur in smoothies, coffee, hot chocolate, chocolate milk, cookies, popsicles, and drizzling over ice cream. Your coffee liqueur will be ready in about 4 weeks. Technically, you can pop it open whenever you’d like, but it’s best to allow the vanilla to infuse for 4 to 6 weeks. It’s so worth it.

    Damn girl, where did you got those bottles?

    I love swing top bottles. The bottles pictured above are from World Market. I must’ve bought them on sale because they’re a little more expensive on the website, but Amazon sells the same bottles for about twice as much. If you’re in Portland, Kitchen Kaboodle has a huge selection of glass bottles on the cheap. Want a really large bottle? IKEA sell 34 ounce bottles for just $4. Maybe keep that one for yourself and give the smaller ones away? That’s what I’m doing!

    Coffee Liqueur
    (adapted from Food in Jars)

    I actually doubled this recipe so I could keep some for myself and give away to others. If you don’t really care for vodka, try this with rum or bourbon. Admittedly, I’ve only used vodka but I’ve had a lot of success making vanilla extract with both bourbon and rum.

    2 1/2 cups white sugar
    2 cups water
    3/4 cup instant or ground espresso
    2 vanilla beans, split and scraped
    3 cups vodka

    Heat sugar and water in a large pot over medium heat. Stir often until sugar is completely dissolved. Then, add the espresso and stir until it has been fully dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside. Mix in vodka, bourbon, or rum.

    Split and scrape the vanilla beans and stir the seeds into the coffee mixture. Drop vanilla beans into your bottle or jar (cut them in half if using multiple jars or bottles). Then carefully funnel the mixture into each jar(s) or bottle(s). Give each bottle a shake every few days. The liqueur will be ready in 4 to 6 weeks. Enjoy!