Posts Tagged ‘nuts/seeds’


Don’t call it cake. (SWEET CARROT BREAD)

March 29, 2011

I like to make healthy quick breads to have around for easy, one-handed breakfasts. Quick bread, by definition, is a sweet or savory baked-good that is leavened by something other than yeast like baking soda, baking powder, eggs, etc. Banana bread, zucchini bread, cornbread, scones all fall under this category. I try to make it so the bread  has an inkling of nutrition to it. In other words, it can’t be straight up cake… not for breakfast anyway. I save up my pastry-in-the-morning points for when I am in France.

When I come across an interesting recipe, I’ll tweak it here and there so it meets the standards of morning fare; subbing whole wheat flour or natural sweetener, adding bran or nuts and things like that. This recipe has benefitted from some of those adjustments and the result is a slightly sweet, moist, nutty cake… um, bread.


(adapted from Alton Brown Good Eats, 2005)

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour + extra for the pan

1 cup finely ground almonds (almond meal)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon 5-spice powder

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 cups grated carrots

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup honey

3 eggs

3/4 cup plain yogurt

3/4 cup vegetable oil + extra for greasing the pan

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  • Butter and flour a 9-inch round  cake pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Set aside.
  • Put the flour, almond meal, baking powder, baking soda, 5-spice, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl and whisk until combined. Toss the carrots with the flour mixture until they are coated.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the sugar, honey, eggs, and yogurt. Whisk in the oil in a constant stream.
  • Pour the wet mixture into the dry and stir until just combined.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Fat New Year. (POPOVERS)

February 20, 2010

First morning of the year I made something I had been thinking hilarious for a while. A king-sized, over the top power brekkie I referred to in my head as the Elvis Popover. A popover is somewhat half biscuit, half inflated pancake. The eggy batter gets huge in the oven, full of nothing but its own hot air. Elvis enters the kitchen with his legendary love of the peanut butter, banana and bacon combo, a square meal if I’ve ever seen one and maybe the perfect candidate to fill the void (and cure the hangover) on this festive morning, 2010. Trashy though it may sound, with the ingredients upgraded to a food snobbery quality, it was pretty fantastic. I would do it all again even if one short week later wasn’t the King’s 75th birthday.

The base was inspired by my friend Megz, who had recently made a batch of gluten-free popovers for an afternoon gathering. Quite impressively, she took this recipe, plain as day, and swapped out all-purpose flour for spelt flour (1:1) to excellent results, pleasing immensely the guest who didn’t go that way. The melting butter and honey over the airy and dense pastry was ridiculously good and got me thinking of all the things one can put in the empty space that is the heart of a popover.

For this version, homemade peanut butter* consisted of honey roasted peanuts and almonds, the first layer on the split popover. Piled on top was bacon acquired from the kind, meat-loving hands of friends at Dickson’s Farmstand, which I like to cook -mess free- in the oven, intertwined with your everyday unlocal bananas. This heap was coated in raw honey from Clermont, NY. The jar reads ‘produced by the bees of Ray Tousey’ and every time I eat it I feel like I am being introduced to the honey and it is awesome. We can be friends with food.

Happy New Year! …it’s still new.


2 eggs

1 cup milk

1 cup flour

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • Preheat oven to 450 F. With butter, grease a muffin pan that makes (6) large muffins.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together all ingredients until smooth.
  • Pour batter into muffin cups filling 1/2 – 1/3 of the way up.
  • Bake at 450 F for 20 minutes, then lower the temp to 350 F for another 20 minutes.
  • When the popovers come out of the oven, make a small slit the top to let off some steam.
  • Make an Elvis special out of them or don’t! Enjoy.

Though they are best straight from the oven, remaining popovers can be reheated at any hour for days to come. They won’t do any  science magic like swell up again but keep them in the oven until crisp on the outside and heated through. They will have great flavor and texture, just about begging for your jam and butter, or savory stuff like cheese or ham. Teatime!

* Process the nuts until smooth and peanut-buttery, you can fold in some coarsely chopped nuts afterwards if you are feeling chunky. I kept it smooth like Elvis’ early years.


Redux redux. (HUGUENOT TORTE)

October 9, 2009


In 1965 this recipe ran in the New York Times. In 2009, it was published again in an article by Amanda Hesser. My friend caught it a few Wednesdays ago and politely suggested that I make it for him. Why not be a part of American history? The legendary Huguenot Torte is so full of sugar, it may very well outlive the teeth of anyone who eats it regularly. For a recipe of so few and such straightforward ingredients, it turns out a rather complex confection. The final torte surprises with three layers of texture, all very different from each other. The crisp, light, sugary top forms over a gooey middle where the apples have gone so soft and sweet, it mimics a perfect old school pecan pie, sans corn syrup. The third and my favorite layer, is the the bubbly, sticky caramelized edge that, after the torte deflates, lines the pan and in this case, my oven.


To avoid such troubles, place a cookie sheet at the bottom of the oven to catch any dripping sugar and beware of the bad smell that is burning sugar. This recipe doubled beautifully in a 9×12 inch pan and served about 16 pieces. The recipe below is for 8. Reading about the torte, it is well stated that it will not present beautifully and it doesn’t. Once cut it is a little hard to divide up properly, since that caramelized edge is difficult to scrape off the side of the pan and serve. Instead, I found myself peeling that layer off and eating it straight from the oven (be careful.. hot!). Unfortunately when cooled it was nearly impossible to remove. Next time I would put the batter into individual ramekins so everyone, not just the greedy baker, can experience the whole sugary thing.


Adapted from the New York Times (September 9, 2009)

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup peeled and chopped tart cooking apples

1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  • Beat the eggs and salt with a rotary beater until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the sugar.
  • Add the vanilla, flour and baking powder. Fold in the apples and pecans with a spatula. Pour into a well-greased baking pan about 8-by-12 or 9-by-9 inches and at least 2 inches deep. Bake for 45 minutes, until sunken and crusty. Cut while warm. Serve warm or chilled, with whipped cream.
  • Serves 8.


July 11, 2009

I make pretty strong coffee* and think it kind to offer some sort of baked good to go with even though, as previously stated, I don’t love baking very much. And, as a part of the commercial food chain, it is impossible to NEVER bake. So every once in a while I give in, make something nice and hope that it will become more natural to me as time goes by. When it comes to recipes, I am an off-roader. I change and tweak and substitute and cross reference and experiment all the time. The problem: it is hard to do this when it’s essential to follow the rules (as a novice baker). So instead of being rebellious and left with something inedible, I pay attention and keep in mind some of the tips I have picked up to increase the baking-success-rate and fend off frustration:

  • read the recipe all the way through before starting
  • have the ingredients measured and ready
  • grease and line and re-grease every cake pan
  • non-stick spray is your best friend
  • add wet ingredients to dry
  • if you are multiplying a recipe, do all the math first
  • which is it!!? baking soda or powder. always double check
  • proof your yeast
  • when in doubt, the answer is usually 350F
  • use an oven thermometer
  • don’t boil gelatin
  • a small scale is very useful
  • Even Cook’s Illustrated likes Pillsbury Rolled Pie Crust and you will bake alot more blasphemous pies as a result of discovering them. (Of course they are not as good as homemade, but they can do…)
  • Speaking of Cook’s Illustrated, it is an excellent resource for baking complicated stuff because they walk you through every single detail.
  • I set a timer to go off halfway through the cooking process to check the oven in case the items need to be rotated or moved for even cooking, then I set a timer for a few minutes before recommended time is up to make sure nothing is getting too dark.
  • Avoid opening the oven during the first ten minutes of anything that is intended to rise.
  • It is true that practice makes… improvement, at least.

As a natural born rule-breaker, I find myself cheating in small ways; changing spices, adding handfuls of nuts, dried fruit and secret sprinkles of salt, black or cayenne pepper to my batters, etc. Safe substitutions also include playing with the types of flour (i.e. using some whole wheat or rice flour) or sweetener (honey or maple for sugar), or oil for butter. It works sometimes… Another trick I like is adding a crisp topping to quickbreads, muffins, cakes or fruit before baking. Putting the streusel together takes no more than pretending you are in a sand box, scrunching the ingredients with your fingers. Sprinkle it on and proceed as directed by the original recipe. You can even put a layer of streusel on a baking sheet and bake it by itself until crisp (about 30 minutes @ 350F). Embellish ice cream, oatmeal or fresh fruit. This is a great secret weapon which bakes up beautifully, giving even the ‘healthy-twist’ recipes an extra layer of deliciousness because what good is a whole grain flax zucchini yogurt muffin if no one is going to eat it…


Snazzy Streusel
3 tablespoons flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts or hazelnuts)
3 tablespoons butter, cold, cut into pieces
2 teaspoons cinnamon (optional)

Combine ingredients well with your fingers. Should resemble coarse crumbs.


Make your favorite banana bread recipe extra-dreamy: sprinkle on before baking and proceed. If the streusel looks like it is getting too dark before the batter is baked, cover the top with loose foil.


Sprinkle a layer of this stuff on top of chopped fruit (apples, peaches, pears or berries) and bake 45-50 minutes until crisp and fruit is bubbly. Perfect for summer!


Make your own music, it’s rather foolproof!

* This ‘back to basics’ coffee I have become addicted to brews in the cup. Add two tablespoons of freshly ground coffee to your 8 ounce mug. Pour some boiled water on top and stir. Wait patiently for the grinds to settle and drink until the grinds are visible…um, don’t drink the grinds. Make great coffee anywhere, even in a Vegas hotel room where the nearest good coffee is San Francisco. Just please do not bring your coffee grinder on an Everest expedition whatever you do. Thx!


A six pack and a potato. (BLACK PUDDING & HAZELNUT SALAD)

May 28, 2009


What is an Irish seven-course meal? ….. a six pack and a potato. That joke dates back to Truly Tasteless Jokes Part 3, which my classmate stuck a Moby Dick bookcover on and frequently passed to me during class. He is an international lawyer now and I cook for a lovely group of Irish people who have helped me to dispel Irish food stereotypes. Working in their kitchen has been a real learning experience as I’ve been introduced to many incredible artisanal products from ‘back home’ such as smoked eel, trout and salmon, a barn-full of cheeses, black and white puddings and hams of many kinds, not to mention whiskey and beer and fantastic homemade brown bread. Sausages, butter and honey, fruit preserves, tea and biscuits, all fit under the belt of Irish cuisine and I am the lucky chef who gets to play in this high-quality pantry where products are obviously made with pride. I am given great freedom to interpret them in a new way, in a new setting.

The idea is to showcase these items in an assortment of interesting dishes that fit each event. Sometimes I am inclined to call on another country’s culinary traditions to help set the stage for some of this good stuff. For example, a few delicate pieces of smoked Irish eel go perfectly with a smooth puree of potato and garlic skordalia, borrowed from Greek cooking. Beautiful Cashel Blue Cheese and Irish blackberry preserves stuffed into a French gougere makes a sweet, salty, puffy hors d’oeuvre that begs the other hand to hold a glass of wine. Sous chef J9 and I have been at the stove for a few years inventing a whole string of canapes for these countless cocktail parties… but there are also many multi-course meals celebrated, with the silver brightly polished and the Waterford clinking merrily.

Most recently my J9 wasn’t there to help out at a ten person affair. So this post, in addition to telling a nice story about Irish specialty products and the kindly people who eat them, is for J9 who didn’t get to witness this particular three-course dinner. Alone in the kitchen, the evening’s menu was straightforward and seasonal. For starters there was a black pudding salad; crispy-topped, pan-seared blood sausage over whiskey-glazed apples, mixed baby greens and a hazelnut vinaigrette. The idea of blood sausage scares lots of folks but fear not get with it! Some form of blood sausage appears in almost every national cuisine. It is even tasty! I was skeptical at first too. See the recipe below for more details and get ten gold stars for trying it out. Second course was a take on well-loved Irish stew. Traditionally these stews are thick and dark, sticky with stout and laden with root vegetables. Since a meaty, heavy stew did not seem appropriate with spring hovering around, we went with a lighter version featuring healthy chunks of halibut and a sprinkle of spring vegetables. The broth was made velvety by pureeing some simmered veggies with wine, stock and aromatics and oven-roasted halibut, potatoes and fennel were set to float on top. A few green peas were added for color and pop and a knob of herbed butter was dotted on the fish for extra richness and flavor.

In case there was any room left at all, dessert featured a mixed berry trifle. Cubes of honey infused cake were layered with freshly whipped cream and all kinds of berries with their subsequent juice. Dairy plays a big part in Irish cooking, I guess for all of those big hungry cows, sheep, goats, etc. eating all of that lush green grass. The meal nodded reverently to Irish food but remained rooted in what this locale has to offer right now. Everyone wins, no joke.

1/2 tablespoon butter
1 apple, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons whiskey
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon oil
4 slices black pudding (about 3 ounces each)
4 cups mixed salad greens
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
Hazelnut vinaigrette: (there will be extra)
1/2 cup hazelnut oil
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons shallot, minced
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • For the dressing, simply drop the ingredients into a lidded jar or container and shake vigorously to combine.
  • For the salad, gently saute the apple slices in butter in a medium skillet until lightly browned.
  • Sprinkle whiskey and sugar over apples and cook until evaporated. Set aside on a plate and wipe out skillet.
  • Add oil to the skillet and when hot, place black pudding pieces in the skillet.
  • Cook until slightly crisp, about 5 minutes and flip. Fry on the other side until heated through, another 3-5 minutes. Drain on a paper towel before adding to salad.
  • Assemble salad: Dress greens with vinaigrette and divide among 4 plates. Top with apple slices and pudding. Sprinkle with hazelnuts.