Lemon Cake

15 08 2012

This dish is a dance that took 12 months to create.  The foundation was simple:  Make a cake.  The rhythm was more challenging:

No animal products… no eggs, butter, dairy.

No refined sugars… no honey, agave, stevia.

No oils… not olive, not coconut, not avocado.

Only whole wheat flour.

And make it taste good.

After 12 months of practicing the steps, this is my dance.

Lemon Cake

Serves 8

2 tablespoons flax meal

½  cup dates, soaked in warm water

1 tablespoons dried lavender buds

½ cup raw cashew butter, no-salt-added

1 cup non-dairy milk

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 ½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon turmeric

1/8 teaspoon salt (optional)

1 lemon, zest and juice

1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

Preheat oven to 350.

To make flax eggs:  Combine flax meal with 6 tablespoons warm water.  Whisk together and let sit 5 minutes, until mixture is gelatinous and slimy, like eggs.

To combine wet ingredients:  Remove dates from soaking liquid.  Place in a blender or high-speed food processor with ½ cup of the soaking liquid.  Puree until well-blended and smooth.  Add dried lavender, cashew butter, non-dairy milk, and vanilla.  Puree until smooth.

To make cupcakes:  Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, turmeric, and salt in a large bowl.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry.  Add the lemon zest and juice and vinegar.  Stir well to combine.  Line an 8” round cake pan with parchment (or use a 12-cupcake silicon baking mold).  Pour the cake batter into the pan and spread evenly.  Bake 20-25 minutes for regular cake (10 to 15 minutes for cupcakes).  The cake will be done when it is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove from oven and let cool.  Let fully cool before frosting.

Lemon Frosting

Makes 1 cup

1 cup raw cashew butter, or 1 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight and drained

8 dates, pitted and soaked in warm water

1 lemon, zested and juiced

1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric

To prepare the Lemon Frosting:  Place the cashew butter (or soaked cashews), dates, vanilla, and ¼ cup warm water in a high-speed blender or food processor.  Pulse the mixture several times, and then blend until the ingredients are thick, smooth, and creamy.  If needed add 1-tablespoon at a time of water to the blender until the desired consistency is achieved.  Cream can be use immediately or may be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days.    

Freezes beautifully.

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Chroegraphy of a Chef

15 08 2012

The cook dances.

He hears a rhythm in the chaos of a busy dinner service.

The ticket machine clicks a stoccato prelude.

The expediter bellows the first deep notes “Two shrimp pasta, fire! ”

The melody begins.

Saute pan slides onto fiery burner.  A squeeze of oil shimmers with the smooth roll of the wrist.  Drop down for t12 shrimp, sharp SEAR as they hit the pan.  A ballerina’s sprinkle of seasoning.  Jolting reach for pasta.  Sharp poses from prep pan to boiling water.  A shake, a stir.  Techno robot flips the shrimp.  A reach and dip.  Sauce hits the pan.  A scoop and shake.  Al dente pasta meets pan.

Flick and flip.  One dish.  Swipe.  Spoon to taste.

Click clack.  Spoon down, fork up.  Twirl up a tall mound of pasta.  Gently floats to meet plate.

Ping ting.  Fork down, spoon up.  Shrimp float around the edge.  Sauce drizzles all over.

“Shrimp pasta up.”The bass returns, the evening continues.

The dance continues all night long.
This is the cook.  The steps are etched in his muscles, the rhythm pulsing through his veins.  Each dinner, he executes the dance with flawless, inspired precision.

The chef?  The chef is the choreographer.

Her dance is one of creation, of trial and failure.  Her dance is unpredictable and uncertain.  She is inspired by other rhythms, other melodies.  She listens, she feels, she moves with experimentation.

The movement begins to tell a story.  It has passion, fire, gentility.  It inspires.  The steps take over the body and the mind until they become habit… Obsession.
The steps become fluid.
The rough edges smooth.
The recipe becomes a song.
The food becomes a story.
The plate becomes a dance between creator and audience.
This is the choreography of a chef.

 

For an inspired dance, check out this recipe for Lemon Cake





Red Rice, Yellow Cauli

30 07 2012

Time to embrace color.  Red Himalayan rice comes from Southeast Asia.  Yellow Cauliflower is colored with the golden hue of Indian curry powder.  Make sense out of two perplexing ingredients.

Serves 4

2 cups red rice

1 white onion, diced

2 tablespoons curry powder, home-made or pre-made

1 large head yellow cauliflower, cored and cut into bite-sized pieces

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

To cook the rice: In a small pot, cover rice with a couple inches of water.  Simmer until tender, about 25 minutes.  Turn off heat, fluff, and keep covered until cauliflower is ready.

Meanwhile, to make your Yellow Cauli:  Place onion, curry powder, and 1/2 cup of water in a large saute pan.  Sweat gently over medium heat until onions are soft and the liquid becomes paste-like.  Add cauliflower to the pan and stir well to coat in the yellow curry paste.  Cover and reduce heat to low to steam cauliflower.  Cook until cauliflower is tender, about 10 minutes.  Add cilantro and stir well to combine.

Serve a big scoop of yellow cauliflower over a huge mound of red rice.  Enjoy!





Cauliflower: What is White?

30 07 2012

What is white?

Cauliflower.  Cauliflower is white.  It always has been, it always will be.  That’s just the way it is.

Or, that’s what I thought.  Then I met farmers.  I went to markets.  I read cookbooks, I talked to chefs, I tasted, explored, experience.

Now, cauliflower is still white.  And it’s purple, green, and yellow.

My world opened up, my knowledge expanded, and my understanding changed.


In ten years, my visions has shifted:  From a world of only-white to a world of variety.

This world is changing.  Nothing is just white any more.  There’s too much more out there to taste.





Strawberry Seduction

20 06 2012

You look up.  She catches your eye from across the room.  In a sea of browns and greens, her seductive red lures you in.  The laws of attraction elicit a deep breath as you inhale her sweet aroma.  Her glowing charm glints like the girl next door.  Her fragile skin hints at precious innocence.

All you want to do is grab her, pick her up, and take a big, juicy bite.

She is strawberry.

 

Let her radiance inspire you.  Fantasies of chocolate-dipped desserts, colorful breakfast bowls, and simple afternoons licking your fingers run through your mind.  Share company with her friends Blue, Black, and Rasp.  Let her meet your buds Almond, Arugula, and Ginger.

She’s not in it for the long-haul, little more than a summer fling.  But she’s good for every last, juicy drop.

You can find her at optimal beauty at places like:

Seedling Fruit (at Chicago’s Green City Market)

Whole Foods Market (all over the world)





Berry Oatmeal in a Jar

19 06 2012

Who has time for breakfast?  Make a full supply of these Sunday night for Breakfast-on-the-go all week.  Or, do like me, and chow on these for a post-workout refuel.

Makes 6 jars

3  cups oats (thick-rolled have a nice chewiness)

3 tablespoons ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1/2 tablespoon grated nutmeg

3 cups berries, any variety, let your nose and eyes choose

6 mason jars (holds at least 2 cups each)

Clean out jars.  Open lids.  Place 1/2 cup oats in each jar.  Combine the cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg in a small bowl, then even disperse among the jars (about 1 tablespoon in each jar).  If you have Pumpkin Pie spice mix on hand, this will also work.  Evenly disperse the berries among the jars.  Frozen berries or cherries also work.  Add enough water to each of the jars to cover the oats and come almost to the lip of the jar, about 1 1/2 cups.  Screw the lids on the jars, and refrigerate.

To enjoy: Simply screw the lid off the jar, microwave for a minute, stir, then another 30 seconds.  Enjoy warm.

The longer the oats soak in the water, the softer they’ll get.  Feel free to add in chopped, toasted nuts or fresh vanilla seeds for extra flavor.





Duo Talent: Rainbow Chard

11 06 2012

Duo Talents are hard to miss.

Duo Talents catch your attention with a notable first impression.  They perk your ears with a clever joke.  They challenge your thinking with a poignant question.  They have incredible shining eyes, a bright smile, and glowing confidence.

And then, they get better.

Beyond that first impression, lies another layer.  It’s the richness of self-motivation, the audacity to take risks, and the warmth of listening to your concerns.

The Duo Talent has two sides to entice.  They have a vibrant, crisp intro to attract.  Then they have a textured, soulful depth to keep you interested.

Rainbow chard is a duo talent.  It draws you in with bright, seductive stalks.  It keeps your interest with luxurious green leaves.  In one beautiful bundle, you get a two-for-one.  You can chop the stalks for braising, soups, sauces, or slaw.  The leaves offer layers for fluffy salads or wilted sides.

By enjoying both talents of this vegetable, you savor the many talents it brings to the table.  Just don’t let the other mustard greens get jealous.