Seafood is my animal protein of choice, but I am well aware that a lot of fish have contaminants and even high levels of mercury. Like all food groups, I try to aim for variety, but minimize the toxic burden. I will come clean and admit that I LOVE tuna of all varieties. But ordering tuna steak at a restaurant has been crazy expensive lately and it is so easy to make at home. My son goes absolutely nuts for this marinated seared tuna!Continue reading
If you’ve been to Jon & Vinny’s in LA, you may recognize this salad which they call Gem Lettuce, Calabrian Chili Dressing, Parmigiano, & Bread Crumbs. It’s basically a spicy Caesar salad with the most delicious breadcrumbs and baby romaine leaves. It’s insanely good and worth every bit of the $16.50 they charge for one portion. Or is it? Well, we can make it at home and it’s just as good, friends! I make it all the time when I have people over or we want a really great Caesar. Ok, let’s do it!Continue reading
I taught this luscious dessert in my classes two years ago, but I had seen cashew “cheesecakes” all over the place for many years. But of course I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand how blended cashews could be turned into something that resembled cheesecake, a cheesecake that I would actually want to eat. So I put off trying all these recipes that I saw on Pinterest and Foodily. I caught glimpses of vegan cheesecakes made with chocolate, key limes, pumpkin, lemon and lavender, blueberries and so on. I just wasn’t convinced.
My mother-in-law and I have an arrangement for Passover — I make all the desserts for both seders and she does everything else. I clearly got the easier, more fun job. However baking for Passover, a holiday which revolves around NOT eating anything with grains or flour made from grains, isn’t as straightforward as baking for any other holiday. But I still have lots of fun coming up with delicious treats that don’t involve a box of Manischewitz cake mix. Every year I make the very traditional coconut macaroons, as well as a lemon ice torte that I have been making since I graduated from college. And no holiday would be complete without something chocolate, so I bake a few mini-flourless chocolate cakes. So delicious.
But I can never leave well enough alone, so one year I decided to give this cashew cheesecake thing a go. OMG. Get out of here. I was blown away! And then super bummed I had let so many opportunities to go by when I could have been enjoying this deliciousness. The texture is so much like cheesecake. Very rich and creamy, and slightly sweet. I really couldn’t get over it. Of course the crust is raw and vegan, consistent with the rest of the cake. But I think you could go with a graham cracker crust and fool everyone into thinking this is cheesecake.
What amazed me about this cake is how digestible it is and how clean the ingredients are. We use soaked raw cashews (read my post about why soaking nuts and seeds is beneficial to your health,) coconut oil (such a good, healthful fat), honey or maple syrup (not going to save your life, but less acid-forming than refined sugar), lemon juice and vanilla. Amazing. Although, I did a little rough math and this isn’t the kind of dessert you can eat very often because it’s really high in (good) fat and calories. Just saying, in case you were tempted to eat half a cake. Not a good idea. In fact, I put on a few pounds in the months I was testing this recipe. True story. But this is a fantastic idea for Passover or Easter and no one will ever in a million years guess what’s in it. Another fun Passover dessert coming soon!
Serves: 10-12 (because it's rich, you want to cut small slices)
1 cup raw almonds (or pecans or walnuts)
1 cup soft Medjool dates, pitted (about 10)
¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
¼ teaspoon sea salt
3 cups (1 pound) raw cashews, soaked for at least 5 hours or overnight, and drained
⅔ cup fresh lemon juice
⅔ cup unrefined coconut oil, melted (if you have a Vitamix, no need to melt)
⅔ cup raw honey (not vegan) or Grade A maple syrup (vegan, but not raw)
Seeds from 2 whole vanilla beans (or 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract)
2 cups fresh strawberries (my preference) or raspberries (thaw completely if frozen)
Place almonds, dates, coconut and salt in a food processor and process until the mixture holds together (it should be sticky). Transfer the mixture onto the bottom of a 9” spring-form pan and press firmly, making sure that the edges are well packed and that the base is relatively even throughout.
In a Vita-Mix or food processor, place all filling ingredients (except strawberries) and process on high until very smooth. This may take a minute or two.
Pour about 3 cups of the mixture onto the crust and smooth with a spatula. Add the strawberries to the Vita-Mix/food processor and blend until smooth. Pour the strawberry mixture onto the first layer of filling. Place in the freezer until solid. Cover with foil to protect from freezer burn.
To serve, remove from the freezer at least 60 minutes prior to eating. After it has defrosted, store in the refrigerator until ready to eat. Run a thin knife between the cake and the pan and then release the springform ring. Serve on its own, or with fresh fruit. Store leftovers in the refrigerator if you plan to eat within a few days. Otherwise, store leftovers in the freezer.
Unfortunately, there is no substitute for the cashews which become very creamy when blended, nor the coconut oil, which solidifies when refrigerated and gives the cake its firmness, otherwise it would be a gloopy mess.
We had such a lovely getaway in Palm Springs with the kids this weekend. My husband, who designs and builds houses, likes to go to a few days of Modernism Week every year and we decided to make a little family trip of it this time. My kids are exposed to a lot of talk about food because of what I do, but my husband also discusses his business with them, too. I wouldn’t say they could go out and build a house tomorrow, but they have an understanding of architecture and design.
So it was kind of funny to me when my kids would walk into a home on a tour this weekend or a show, and people would be shocked to see them. “Oh my word! We have children here!” The first time I heard this, I figured the kids weren’t welcome. But I was very wrong. “How nice to see children appreciate design!” I was proud of the kids because they were well-behaved and seemingly interested. And it made me think about how the experience was a little analogous to food and eating. I always tell my students that part of the process of creating a healthful eater is simply exposing the kids to a wide variety of nutritious food. Another critical part of the process is modeling good eating habits. One day it will all click with them and they’ll end up surprising you!
I am flexible with Mr. Picky though. Sometimes I will make something like this couscous with dried apricots and herbs for dinner, but leave a little plain couscous and apricots for him on the side. I usually encourage, but often insist, that he at least try the dish with all the herbs and such. Sometimes he will and sometimes he won’t, but this strategy works well for me since I can accommodate him a little without my having to make a second meal. And the message that I am sending is that eventually he will eat like the rest of us.
Mr. Picky happens to like couscous and dried apricots and if he’s really hungry, he’ll eat the herbs and all. He won’t eat it mixed with the Moroccan chicken I posted on Friday. He will eat them separately though. No problem here, although I personally like couscous as an accompaniment to soak up something juicy and saucy. Other than that, my girls will take leftovers in their lunch boxes with some feta and maybe a little extra lemon juice and olive oil. Yum!
Couscous is like a busy person’s dream come true. You pour really hot water or stock on it with a little salt and perhaps some olive oil and presto! Ten minutes later you have a nice fluffy side dish. I know that couscous is processed durum wheat flour and not a whole grain, but there’s still a decent amount of fiber in it and you can also find whole wheat couscous if that’s important to you. Of course you can also make this recipe with quinoa if you want a gluten-free version which I have done many times. In fact, I’ve often said to people who haven’t tried quinoa that you can take your favorite couscous dish and sub quinoa. Only you cook them differently. But you knew that. And there are other ways to mix this recipe up — dried cherries or raisins instead of the apricots, pistachios or chopped almonds instead of the sliced almonds, parsley instead of the cilantro or just use all of one herb. This is an easy recipe to let your personal taste be your guide!
If you follow me on either Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you’ve probably figured out that I am back on Long Island at my parents’ house. We picked up Daughter #1 on Saturday from her summer program in upstate NY. I was so beyond excited to see her after 6 weeks, I was afraid I was going to suffocate her when I saw her. It was great for the five of us to be together again and I couldn’t resist another visit to Stony Brook. Love that place in the summer.
We’ve had an amazing few days here — peaceful, not in a rush to do anything, no stress, beautiful. My father’s garden is bursting. I lost count of how many basil plants he has this year, perhaps around 40. I have made pesto every day so far! But the big fun has come from the new outdoor pizza oven my father had built. It was a major project when I was here in June, with each of my parents saying to me without the other hearing, “I don’t know what we were thinking.” But once the dust settled, literally, we have enjoyed the most fantastic pizzas — you know the thin kind with a little char on the crust? So darn good. Not fitting in my skinny jeans today, but so. darn. good.
Sorry this isn’t a post about making your own pizza in a wood-burning oven, but I personally don’t have one nor will I in my current house since my “yard” is a patio! Figuring most of my readers don’t own one either. Instead I wanted to share my favorite new green bean recipe. No yawning! These are great! But I know where you’re coming from. Green beans come into season in the summer and I try really hard to get excited about them, but they have to compete with tomatoes and corn. Kind of hard to do. I honestly don’t have too many exciting green bean recipes that I think to myself, “I am soooo craving those such-and-such green beans.” Until now.
I taught these honey-lemon green beans last month and I couldn’t wait to eat them after each class and any leftovers for dinner the same night! The dressing has a bit of mustard too, and a little kick from the cayenne which is always something I love paired with sweet (honey.) They are seriously addictive. One of the only cooked vegetables Mr. Picky likes is green beans, but he doesn’t care for vinaigrettes yet. Except he did love these! He’s starting to develop a taste for spicy food. Very exciting!
The recipe for the green beans and the dressing is completely straightforward and quick to make. If you are in a time crunch, just make that and forget about the shallots. Blanching and quick-pickling the shallots is definitely another step that won’t make or break the recipe, although they are scrumptious. You can certainly take care of that while the beans are cooking and while you’re setting the table or grilling some fish. But sometimes when I try and multitask too much, that’s when I forget things -like shallots pickling in apple cider vinegar that I remember when I start washing dishes.
I know what you’re thinking. “We waited five whole days for a new recipe and it’s blueberry sauce? That’s the best she could come up with?” You know what, friends? I have been busy! Daughter #1 is still far, far away playing college student and Mr. Picky is at sleep away camp for two weeks. I sure do miss those brats. But Daughter #2 is an only child right now and is acting like it. She wants all of our attention, especially since it was her birthday the other day. She wore a tiara for three straight days. If you’re new here and you’re envisioning a toddler, Daughter #2 is 15. Just to paint an accurate picture.
Besides doting on my newly crowned princess, I have been taking advantage of a little more freedom and I am trying to tackle my list of ambitious projects and must-dos. Why does it seems as though two weeks is plenty of time to reorganize the garage, Mr. Picky’s room and the pantry AND watch the entire season of “The Americans” AND test new recipes AND exercise, get a manicure and visit a museum? Well, I am 10 days into those two weeks and I think I moved a box of finger paints from one corner of the garage to another and took Mr. Picky’s room apart, but haven’t put it back together. No so productive. The hubby and I did go to the Hammer Museum in Westwood Saturday afternoon before meeting our friends for dinner who also have kids away at sleepaway camp. Lovely. We also obsessively watched the entire season of “The Americans” in three nights. “It’s only 11:45. One more episode!” So testing new recipes has sort of fallen by the wayside, sorry!
But before you think this blueberry sauce is something you can live without, I will tell you to think again! We have been eating this on everything, it’s so amazing. My husband keeps asking me, “Is there anymore of that blueberry sauce left?” “Where did you hide the blueberry sauce?” Maybe you’re hiding it, dude. In your stomach! I’m so not funny. The point is, we have found so many ways to enjoy this, albeit not such original ways — swirled into yogurt with or without granola, on pancakes, on top of hot oatmeal or porridge, over vanilla ice cream. And it takes a whole 1 minute of prep, about 5 minutes to cook and makes everything seem extra-special. See, I had time for something.
Can we chat for a second about some of the other blueberry sauce recipes out there? I’m not pointing links or anything, but what’s up with the 1 cup of sugar for a pint of blueberries? Fruit is already sweet, for goodness sake. I don’t get it. If you don’t want to taste blueberries, don’t make blueberry sauce!
I absolutely love blueberries and I can argue that they are one of the most beneficial foods out there. How excited are you right now? Delicious and insanely good for you! Blueberries have one of the highest antioxidant profiles, as well as lots of fiber and Vitamin C, and they’re lower in fructose than most other fruits. High antioxidant + low glycemic = beauty food. Botox or blueberries? You don’t have to answer that. In all seriousness, blueberries contain compounds that support the health of the cardiovascular system, as well as eye health, cognitive function, and blood sugar stability. Have I convinced you to give this a try? Good. Gotta run. Hubby wants to watch the entire season of “House of Cards” and Mr. Picky is back on Saturday!
Why is the best hummus always in restaurants, especially Middle Eastern ones? I think I make a delicious, flavorful hummus that has a great consistency and is better than the ones you find in the supermarket. But, it doesn’t compare to the silky, light and creamy hummus that I’ve had in restaurants. I want that kind. The kind that will drip, not plop, off your pita if you’re not careful. The kind you can suck up with a straw. You know what I mean.
I got into bed with a book the other night, because reading helps me wind down and relax from my typically crazy day. But of course, I read cookbooks in bed before I go to sleep which is an absolutely terrible idea because that does nothing to quiet my overactive brain which doesn’t stop thinking, thinking, thinking! Regardless, I was reading Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s not-so-new, but gorgeous book , “Jerusalem.” So many recipes, so little time, people. I turned to their recipe for “Basic Hummus” and I swear I almost flipped the page without so much as a glance, because like I said, I already have a perfectly great hummus recipe which I have actually turned into four different flavors. But then I thought “have some respect, you never know.”
The word “supersmooth” caught my attention immediately and then I knew I found it — the hummus of my dreams. Let me jump to the chase. The Ottolenghi hummus is the kind I love at restaurants and they tell me all their secrets. Most importantly, the chickpea skins are removed after cooking and before pureeing. I know!!! Why didn’t I think of that? But before you think I have the kind of time to sit around peeling chickpea skins, think again. After soaking and draining the chickpeas, they are cooked with a little baking soda and then water is added to boil the beans. Most of the skins float to the top of the pot and you just skim them away. I know!!! Brilliant. They also add a lot more tahini (sesame paste) than I do which makes the hummus so creamy. And water. I would never have thought to add water, but it really makes the hummus lighter and cleaner than adding the chickpea liquid which is how I do it. “Better late than never,” is what I was thinking.
I wouldn’t say that my first attempt came out quite as smooth as Ottolenghi’s primarily because not all the chickpeas lost their skins and I was not about to go peeling them, but it was really, really good and very smooth. You can see the image of that below. I also tasted the hummus after adding 2/3 cup of tahini instead of the recommended 1 cup + 2 Tbs. and I thought it was divine. I made it a second time and did take the time to pull off any skins that didn’t come off during the boiling process and the hummus was a tad bit creamier, but I’m not sure it was worth the extra 12 minutes it took me to do that. You should do whatever makes sense to you and if you have the time, feel free to pick out every last skin. For that matter, you can buy canned cooked chickpeas and pull off the skins and proceed from there.
I served this to friends the other night, friends who have had my hummus a million times and they all said “where did you get this? This is so good.” I know, a tad insulting since the implication was that I could not have made it, but I was totally fine with that. Since then, we’ve enjoyed this immensely with pita bread and raw veggies (wow, I could actually hear you yawn through the computer), slathered on a baguette with grilled veggies and slow roasted tomatoes (my recommendation), and dolloped on a Greek salad with chicken souvlaki (we had this for dinner the other night — major hit!). There is an insanely beautiful picture in the book of the hummus topped with whole cooked chickpeas, pine nuts, chopped parsley, cooked lamb and the whole thing drizzled with olive oil. A-mazing.
No matter how you make it, hummus is rather nutritious and especially high in protein and fiber. It’s one of the more healthful spreads and dips, provided you don’t go to crazy on the pita bread or chips. I have even used it in place of mayonnaise in chicken salad. I have even eaten it with a spoon. I have even dreamt about it. You will too, until you make it!
Author: adapted from "Jerusalem" by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
1 ¼ cups dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans)*
1 teaspoon baking soda
6 ½ cups water
1 cup light tahini paste (Ottolenghi recommends 1 cup + 2 Tablespoons, but I thought anywhere between ⅔ and 1 cup was great)
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 medium cloves garlic, crushed
1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
6 ½ Tablespoons ice cold water
Unrefined olive oil and sweet paprika for finishing, if desired
Place the chickpeas in a large bowl and cover with at least 4 inches of cold water. Allow to soak 6-8 hours.
Drain the chickpeas. In a medium saucepan over high heat, add the drained chickpeas and the baking soda. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the water and bring to a boil. Make sure the water covers the chickpeas by at least 2 inches. Reduce heat and simmer, skimming off and foam and any skins that float to the surface. The chickpeas cook faster this way and may only need from 20-40 minutes to become tender, but possibly longer. You know they’re done if you can squish a chickpea in between your thumb and forefinger.
Drain the chickpeas. You will have about 3⅔ cups. Transfer the chickpeas to a food processor fitted with the metal blade and process until you get a stiff paste. With the machine running, add the tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and salt. Lastly, slowly drizzle in the ice water and allow it to mix for about 5 minutes until you get a really smooth and creamy paste. I actually set my timer for 5 minutes and washed the dishes in the meantime.
Transfer to a serving bowl and allow the hummus to rest for at least 30 minutes. If not serving right away, refrigerate until needed. Make sure to remove it from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before serving. If desired, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with paprika.
*Or you can use 2 15-ounce cans of cooked chickpeas, drained, and peel the skins manually. Place the peeled chickpeas in the food processor and proceed with Step 3.
London has been amazing! Freezing, but amazing! At least we were prepared with our winter outerwear for the unseasonably cold temperatures. We have seen so much and the kids have really enjoyed it all. After our month in Europe this summer, we learned a bit about how to keep the kids engaged and not wanting to kill each other. We also learned that Mr. Picky, who is 9, has a 1 1/2 hour time limit in any museum (2 hours if he just ate breakfast.) Whatever we didn’t get to see will just have to wait until our next visit.
This week we have also booked a private guide each day, which has taken the pressure off my husband from whatever palace or neighborhood we are checking out. Besides going to many of the major sites, we also had a tour of London’s East End and its many outdoor markets, a rock tour (think The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, not One Direction), and a Shakespeare tour. All worth it and much more interesting for the kids! We are leaving London today for Chewton Glen in Hampshire. My husband visited when he was a child and loved it. I’m hoping it’s still as wonderful 30 years later and I’m hoping we make it in one piece since my husband will be driving us there. On the other side of the road. You know I’ll give you all the details either way!
Now I hope you didn’t think I was going to scamper about England this week and forget about you cooks. Rubbish! Although I’ve been tweeting what I’ve been up to and posting a few things on Facebook, I didn’t want the week to go by without something for you to try in the kitchen. Believe me, after a week of scones and mash (not at the same time, of course), I’ll be ready for a few salads like this when I return home.
First of all, if you think you hate beets, you may not hate them raw so stay with me here. This salad converted everyone who thought s/he didn’t like beets. I am fairly obsessed with chopped and grated salads. One of my favorites is my grated carrot salad with avocados and sunflower seeds. I love vegetables cut into small bits so that you get a lot of different flavors in one bite. And grated vegetables can actually be a totally different experience from their whole counterparts. This is completely true with respect to carrots. If you haven’t tried the carrot salad I just mentioned, you absolutely must!
The one thing you do need to do for this salad is go into your garage behind the piece of exercise equipment, pull out the Cuisinart box and find the medium grating disc which I’m hoping you didn’t throw out thinking you would never use it! If you did, go to the manufacturer’s website or thegourmetdepotco.com where you can buy missing or broken parts to almost any appliance. The grating disc is amazing, one of my favorite kitchen tools especially since I broke up with my mandoline. No love lost there. I use my grating disc to make very quick work of shredding cheese, onions, potatoes, zucchini, apples, cabbage, and of course carrots and beets. One tip I can give you is that many food processors give you the option of feeding your food through the wide part or the much narrower feed tube. In the case of carrots, I like to process them horizontally the wide way for longer shreds for a salad and through the feed tube for short shreds which are better for carrot cake or carrot muffins.
I was doing a Moroccan-inspired menu last month and I desperately wanted to include a carrot salad. Many Moroccan salads are too sweet for me and include dried fruit plus lots of honey in the dressing. In my opinion, carrots and beets are already rather sweet, so this salad is dressed with a cumin-orange-lemon dressing, a little tart and just a little sweet. You can leave this as grated veggies and dressing for a fab 5-minute salad or make a little extra effort and add the delightful fresh herbs which turn this into something really awesome. I eat this without feta since I’ve gone dairy-free (moment of silence), but if you can handle a little goat or sheep cheese, add it and you won’t be sorry! Either way, this is a juicy, crunchy, thirst-quenching, gorgeous salad which happens to be super nutritious and alkalizing.
I have served this salad with all sorts of fish dishes, simple roast chicken, frittatas and vegetable stew. I’m sure it would be great with lamb or grilled beef kabobs. My point is that you don’t have to be eating a Moroccan meal to enjoy this. A little heads-up about eating red beets, though. If you’ve never tried them, just be aware that when you eliminate, there will be a tinge of hot pink/red. I can’t tell you how many stories I heard of people calling their doctors or googling “hot pink poop.” On the other hand, eating beets can be a good indication of how efficient your digestive system is. If you see beets later that day or the next, things are moving nice and quickly. But if it takes 4 days for those beets to appear again, you probably need a little more fiber and water in your diet. Just a thought.
Ok, that’s all I have for today, friends. I’m leaving the hustle and bustle of London for the English countryside and hoping to make it in time for Afternoon Tea which has become my favorite way to wind down after a busy day. I know some people like a glass of wine at 5, but I’m not sure they’ve tried sitting down to tea with a warm homemade scone. Brilliant!
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (I like goat feta)(optional)
Using the shredding disc of your food processor, shred the carrots and beets. Transfer the vegetables to a serving bowl.
Add herbs to serving bowl.
In a medium bowl or in a screw-top jar, combine lemon juice, orange juice, sea salt, cumin, paprika and olive oil.
Pour enough dressing on top of carrot mixture to coat lightly and toss to combine. Add more if desired.
Add feta on top of salad and taste for seasoning. If you dress the salad early, the dressing will pull water from the vegetables and make a pool at the bottom of your serving bowl. You can just serve from the top or pour off some of the liquid no problem.
Salad can be dressed the day before and herbs and feta added just before serving.
For a delicious, spicy note, add about ¾ teaspoon harissa to the dressing.