Set out to make a cake made with olive oil to see what it would taste like. One bowl. No eggs. No dairy. Vegan. [Ed. note: Vegan? Chocolate cake? Is this allowed?] Why yes! Yes it is. In fact, because of the olive oil it's so incredibly moist, with a deep dark-chocolate flavor, it made me swoon. [Ed. note: Taking notes.]
This has been called a Wacky cake or Depression Cake (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Depression_cake), as during those years milk, sugar, butter and eggs were either expensive or scarce. Now my love of cake-making with oil instead of butter runs deep. I have baked many a cake with grapeseed or canola oils (both flavorless), but this was my first foray into using olive oil. The result is a far more moist dessert that keeps exceptionally well. Deb of Smitten Kitchen says, "On day four in the fridge, ours was as moist as day one, basically a miracle."
Using olive oil, for some strange reason, just never seemed right. I think of olive oil as being savory, but I was wrong. It truly works here.
Adapted from: Smitten Kitchen
Number of Servings; 8-12
Last October the BF and I were invited to dinner at the house of some dear friends. Husband, wife, and two adorable kids. The hubs is a grill-master, and the wife is a wonderful cook who treated us to Indian-spiced grilled chicken, roasted yams and a kale salad that was so good I asked if we could use it for a future blog, and she was kind enough to say yes. She does not know the specific origins of the recipe as it came to her from a friend. No matter. Our benefit, and yours.
Since that dinner the salad has accompanied many meals for the meat-loving BF, and was a highlight of our last Thanksgiving feast. It's almost too easy to assemble, and could not be healthier.
NOTE: Okay, maybe a little healthier. To make this vegetarian dish vegan, simply substitute the mayonnaise with Vegenaise eggless or other vegan substitute.
Adapted from: Our dear friends around the corner!
Number of servings: 2-4
[Ed. note: Quick addendum to give a heartfelt farewell to a man who REALLY loves his kale, former San Francisco Giant outfielder Hunter Pence. As a bay area kid who grew up experiencing a lot of awful Giants baseball (Boo LeMaster!), it was thrilling to watch you patrol AT&T Park's angular right field, preach the championship blood through two World Series victories (2012, 2014), and get that ridiculous three-stage hit that people here will forever be talking about. All love and best of luck to you as you play for your Arlington-hometown Texas Rangers. Yes. Yes. Yes.]
So, Valentine's Day is this week, and at some point I usually make a dinner the BF really loves. [Ed. note: Hey we're going out too! Cripes, now we'll get letters.] The main course is a no-brainer: prime ribeye. [Ed. note: Changing reservation to a more expensive place.] For dessert, want to make a treat that we both swoon over. Well aware that chocolate and Valentine's Day are synonymous, it's just not always the case in our house. Now, the BF likes chocolate but, unlike me, he really has to be in the mood for something super-rich chocolatey. He actually can say no to chocolate—I know, gasp! [Ed. note: Watches hate mail pile up.]
This pot de crème is like a turbo-charged version of butterscotch pudding. A decadent custard that's silky, butterscotchy, caramelly, salty-sweet, with deep notes of brown sugar. Squarely in the BF's wheelhouse, and I definitely don't feel like we have to have chocolate every night. Got to spice things up sometimes, right?
Truthfully, this is a solid go-to dessert for guests as it takes no time at all to prep (talking about ten minutes) and looks-tastes pedantically fancy. As easy and straightforward as the directions are, the only vexing part is dirtying two pots and two mixing bowls. It's worth it.
An added bonus, can halve the recipe so it just makes two small ramekins.
This recipe is adapted from Molly of Orangette, who describes these pots de crème as "Cold and rich and almost hyperbolically creamy, the custard yields under the spoon the way a good down pillow does under your head: with a welcoming, slippery whoosh. The gates to heaven have never opened so easily."
She is not lying.
Adapted from: Orangette
Number of servings: 4
PS: A year ago I broke out the Paderno Brand 3-Blade Spiralizer for some kohlrabi "noodles" with bacon, carmelized onion and shaved parmesan (www.moveablefeast.me/blog/kohlrabi-noodles-bacon-caramelized-onion-shaved-parmesan).
PPS: For those of you muttering to yourselves through clenched teeth, "Fake vegetable noodles? Forget that and this butterscotch deal, I want chocolate," let's revisit this chocolate oblivion truffle torte (www.moveablefeast.me/blog/chocolate-oblivion-truffle-torte).
After a wonderful birthday meal at San Francisco's China Live (chinalivesf.com/), detailed in the last blog, am happy to say gong hey fat choy!
Truth be told, the BF and I could eat Chinese food every day of the week. [Ed. note: Confirming.]
Yu choy is a long, leafy Chinese green with yellow flowers and tender stalks. Very mild, with a little sweetness to it. Am very lucky I can find it in almost all of my local grocery stores, as well as farmers markets. It's one of my favorite greens (BF loves it too). It's also easily stir fried, sautéed or steamed, and you can prepare it as a healthy side dish or main course. Serve it alone, as in the picture above, or with a protein like steak, as below.
Wishing everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous Year of the Pig!
NOTE: I made the dish exactly as written below (although streamlined some of the directions). You can also sauté the greens as opposed to blanching. Either way it's easy and delicious.
Adapted from: The Woks of Life
Number of servings: 4
Pictures below are from my celebratory birthday trip through San Francisco and China Town.
"Guess what? I've got a fever, and the only prescription...is more fungus."
-The Bruce Dickinson (Christopher Walken)
[Ed. note: Yes, yes. We used "fungus" for "cowbell."]
Fungus lovers unite! Since a wee child, I have loved mushrooms. The one veggie that most kids didn't like, I loved. Go figure.
If you're a fungus fiend like me, this dish gives you an excuse to try all those interesting mushroom varieties you see in your produce section, but didn't know what to do with them. Here, nameko, shiitake, trumpet & brown cremini mushrooms were used, but you can use whatever you have available to you. Don't be afraid to experiment. Although, if you use portobello mushrooms, remove the gills.
The BF loved this dish. [Ed. note: Don't say that out loud, I told the guys we had cheeseburgers.] It would make a to-die-for Valentines Day or date-night dinner (as the BF and I had). I cut the recipe in half and it made three servings, which was perfect for us for dinner plus a little leftover for the next day. It's also perfect for your favorite person who maintains a gluten-free diet.
A note about this risotto. The original recipe called for goat cheese, which I thought overpowered the entire dish and took away the actual mushroom flavor. Now I love my cheese, but this still felt like overkill. If you feel like it needs a little more creaminess at the end, add one to two tablespoons of whipping cream, mascarpone or crème fraiche. But honestly, I don't think it needs any dairy at all.
Only made a few other changes to the original. Added rosemary from the backyard garden, which I thought it added a zing. Also added about one cup more broth than called for. Perhaps it's the brand of rice I use, but seems I always need more broth than called for.
Some more notes about risotto. They can be a bit of a mystery and to be honest, it's not always done right and can be easy to screw up. Below are a few excellent tips and how to avoid some of these common mistakes, from bon appétit assistant food editor Alison Roman.
Do not use a cold stock
Adding chilly stock to a hot pan will cool everything down and mess up the cooking process. Keep stock at a simmer in a small pan so everything stays hot and cooks evenly.
Do not stir it constantly (or not at all)
Stirring the rice constantly will add air into the risotto, while cooling it down and making it gluey. But if you don't stir enough, the rice will stick to the bottom and burn. Agitating the rice is important, because risotto's creaminess comes from the starch generated when grains of rice rub against each other. So stir it often, but feel free to give your arms (and the rice) a break.
Do not add stock all at once
If you dump in the stock all at once, you're just boiling rice. By slowly adding stock, you allow the rice to bump up against each other, creating that creamy starch. Wait until the rice absorbs all the stock to add some more.
Do not cook the rice until it's mushy
Like pasta, the rice should be al dente (just cooked, with a little bite to it). If you can mold a risotto into a shape (yes, like some restaurants do) you've cooked it too much. Risotto should have body, but should not be overly mushy and starchy. You're not making rice pudding!
Do not use a wide pot
If your pot is too wide, the rice will cook in a thin layer and won't be able to bump and grind enough to generate starch. Another problem: there will be hot and cold spots in your pot, so choose one that fits perfectly over your burner.
Do not cook at too low a heat
Yes, risotto is supposed to be a slower cooking process; but if you cook it at too low a heat, it will never cook. The rice should be at a medium simmer throughout cooking.
Do not cook vegetables with the rice
Except for your mirepoix (onion, mushrooms, garlic), you should add already cooked vegetables into your risotto after the rice is finished cooking. This is important for tender greens like spinach, delicate herbs like chives, lemon zest, and veggies like asparagus, mushrooms, and legumes. Again, you don't want anything mushy in your risotto. Make sure you cook your vegetables separately before adding them in.
Do not add cheese too early
Save things like mascarpone and Parmesan for the end of the cooking process. Fat will break under the heat and it will be, in a word, yucky. When the rice is finished, stir in some fresh whipped cream (unsweetened, of course) to give the risotto a light, silky texture.
Adapted from: Eva Kosmas Flores, First We Eat
Number of servings: 6
This Russian cabbage borscht is another winter warm-up secret weapon. Not to be confused with borscht made with beets or various meats and winter vegetables; while that is good, this soup is pure Jewish comfort food. Just a handful of simple ingredients, mainly cabbage.
When I was a kid, momala made a cabbage borsht flavored with short ribs or brisket. Once the meat finished cooking, she would shred and add it back into the soup. After pouting, I would pick out all the meat and leave the cabbage. Then I would complain. A lot. (Cabbage: not a favorite.) My childhood best friend loved the soup, so much so that momala would joke that she was the rightful daughter, not me. Today, I would never dream of doing that. Cabbage is actually my favorite part.
However, this version is different from my mom's soup, but an homage all the same. Kept her addition of golden raisins for the sweetness, but I made this version more brothy and added caraway seeds, V8 juice and cayenne for a little kick. Also, everything is finely chopped or minced rather than chunky. Always have to mention, the BF absolutely loves this soup. [Ed. note: Can confirm.]
You can even make this vegan by using vegetable instead of chicken broth.
Healthy, flavorful, delicious, inexpensive and it freezes very well. Makes a delightful lunch or perfect dinner paired with Russian rye or black bread. [Ed. note: HOW ABOUT VODKA OKAY JUST KIDDING]
What's not to love? Momala would be proud!
Number of Servings: 10-12 cups
Did you learn to cook anything new last year? Among many discoveries, I found that roasted radishes are a revelation. A delicious and fantastic complement to carrots, can't believe I have never tried them roasted before. [Ed. note: Calling the proper authorities, this has to be a violation of some kind.]
If you're not a fan of lentils, make the roasted carrots and radishes with tahini sauce. You won't be sorry. It makes a wonderful lunch, side or main course.
NOTE: I'm relying more and more on Trader Joe's pre-steamed lentils, usually located with the fresh produce. It's such a time saver and the lentils are firm, yet tender, which is exactly what you want. If you want to make lentils from scratch, I have included instructions below.
PS: Last year we got a little tipsy on this citrus champagne bundt cake (www.moveablefeast.me/blog/citrus-champagne-bundt-cake) and recovered nicely thanks to this ginger turmeric detox broth (www.moveablefeast.me/blog/ginger-turmeric-detox-broth).
Adapted from: A Beautiful Plate
Number of servings: approximately 4
"The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written."
"The beginning is the most important part of the work."
"Boy, this year sure was a long decade."
Happy New Year!
Here's a deliciously bright carrot soup made with ginger, coconut milk, fresh orange juice and infused with warming spices. Simple as can be, plus-bonus-it's vegan and gluten free. It's even BF approved, so you know it's good. [Ed. note: Can confirm. Also, my primary-care physician called. He said, "More vegetables."]
The BF and I hope you're enjoying a wonderful holiday, and that this soup warms up any cold, wintry days.
Adapted from: Feasting at Home
Number of Servings: 8 cups
'Tis the season for good food and great company. My wonderful cousin and younger sister, traveling from Oregon, paid the BF and I a visit, and we showed them a few of our favorite local spots. Even though I had to work for clients while they were here, we managed to squeeze in much fun.
One day, we visited the Cantor Museum and Rodin Exhibit on the Stanford University campus. On another, we walked up and down Palo Alto's University Avenue and had dinner at a delicious Menlo Park Turkish restaurant.
The last day, we took our choco-lab Marlowe and walked around Bol Park, aka "Donkey Park" (Perry was the model for "Donkey," voiced by Eddie Murphy, in the film Shrek), and ate lunch at Thai Bistro on California Avenue. In the evening we made gingerbread cake topped with eggnog whipped cream along with spiralized celeriac latkes [Ed. note: I don't think we ate it in that order?], and watched a superb documentary called Shanghai Ghetto.
When they left, while cousin and sister went up the long escalator at a local Bart station, Marlowe let out the most woeful cries as they slowly disappeared from view. [Ed. note: We'll forward the therapy bills.]
My cousin is an expert beekeeper and gifted us with the most amazing raw honey, which we can't stop dipping into. She also gave us homemade lemongrass soap and lip balm, as well as some sinfully good Burnside Distillery small-batch bourbon, which kept everybody warm! [Ed. note: Can confirm.]
My sister is very knowledgeable and talented with rocks, stones and gems. She gave us beautiful hand-engraved stones that say "Shalom" and "DZ," which now rest proudly on the kitchen window sill that I work in front of every day. More significantly, she also gave me custody of our mom's engagement ring (we trade off every year), which was was so brilliantly polished and shiny it practically glittered. She is also adept in the landscaping arts, and got to work in the backyard well before unpacking. (She makes up for my black thumb.)
Marlowe is always a happier camper when she has a "pack," and as usual the did the nighttime "rounds," visiting the visitors as they slept.
Life is good when these girls are with us.
And it wouldn't be a family gathering without dessert, so for December: peppermint! It just says winter to me.
This cheesecake is almost too easy. No baking, no sugar, low carb and comes together in about 15 minutes. With a crust that tastes like Oreo cookies, it was the most popular dessert of the visit, even though we had plenty of other desserts with real sugar. There's only a slight change to the original recipe (upped the whipping cream from 2 tablespoons to 4), as I like a fluffier mousse-like cheesecake. Also added a pinch of salt to the crust. Should also note that I used my favorite brand of sugar substitute called Swerve, but you can use whatever you like.
Adapted from: All Day I Dream About Food
Number of servings: 16
Happy Hanukkah! One of my favorite holidays to celebrate with my BF and family. It's also latke time!
I love this method for making latkes, mainly because it's baked and not fried. You use oil, but it won't splatter all over the stove.
And yes, it's parsnips instead of potatoes. Parsnips taste nutty and sweet, so to complement that sweetness you can top the latkes with tangy creme fraiche or sour cream, hot pepper jelly and chives (as shown in the photos above and below). Smoked fish or poached eggs are also delicious as a topper. The BF and I love them with mashed avocado and a poached egg, drizzled with chimichurri sauce (bottom photo).
If you don't have a Spiralizer, don't worry, the large grate on your hand grater will work fine. The bones of the original recipe are from Inspiralized, I just changed the quantities to my liking.
Closing on a different note, my cousins in Chicago recently sent me this amazing "Bohemian Chanukah" by Six 13 (see below), and this, along with the fact the BF and I loved the film Bohemian Rhapsody [Ed. note: if Rami Malek doesn't get a best-actor Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury, the offending non-voters should be studied in a lab], reminded me that Queen is one of my favorite bands of all time.
How favorite? I actually "gave" a Queen documentary DVD to the BF as a Hanukkah gift, and he kindly reminded me that he'd actually received a press-review copy of the same film years ago when he was working as a music journalist. He offered it to me, and for some reason at the time I said no.
Sometimes you need to be reminded.
Reminding you that we hope you are enjoying a wonderful holiday with family and friends.
Adapted from: Inspiralized
Number of servings: makes 5-6 large latkes or 10-12 mini latkes
I'm Jacquie, personal chef & recipe developer in the bay area. Living life with my wildly funny boyfriend and dog Marlowe. Lover of books, bourbon, chocolate and movies.