Plum Muffins with Cinnamon, Cardamom and Orange Zest

Plum Muffins

Yield: 12 Muffins

½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup whole roasted and salted almonds
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon orange zest (zested on a Microplane)
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 whole eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 (medium-sized) ripe plums, quartered, pits discarded

Set an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a muffin tin with paper muffin cups.

Place the sugars and almond in a food processor with the blade attachment. Run for 1 minute until it begins to clump. Add the flour, zest, baking powder, spices and salt. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter. Pulse 5 to 7 times, until it starts to resemble wet sand. Add eggs and vanilla extract. Pulse until the texture turns into a uniform, thick batter.

Fill each muffin tin equally, with 2½ tablespoons of batter. Gently press a quarter plum into each muffin, skin side up or skin side down – both ways are equally delicious!

Transfer to the oven and bake for 25 minutes. Test readiness by poking a toothpick or knife in the middle of a muffin; if it comes out clean, it’s ready.

Remove from oven. Place tin on a cookie rack and let the muffins cool in the tin for 15 minutes before removing the muffins from the tin.

Frisee and Traviso Salad with Sherry Vinaigrette

Salad Blood Orange Evoo

Yield: 3 to 4 servings

 

1 large shallot, peeled and diced small

2 tablespoons aged sherry vinegar

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 small heads of frisee, cored and leaves cut in half, lengthwise

1 head traviso, cut into 1/3 inch slices on a bias

kosher salt, to taste

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

8 medjool dates, pitted and quartered

3-ounces chevre, torn into small pieces

½ cup pomegranate seeds

½ cup marcona almonds

 

In a small container with a tight fitting lid, combine the shallot, sherry vinegar and olive oil, close the lid tightly, and shake well to combine. Or, whisk to combine the ingredients in a small bowl.

In a medium bowl, combine the frisee, traviso and vinaigrette. Mix together. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Divide the salad equally among plates. Equally divide the dates, chevre, pomegranate seeds and marcona almonds among the plates.

Drought Friendly Recipe – Roasted Eggplant Caponata

It’s time for another drought friendly recipe.

On March 18, Super Sous and I wrote a blog post about the California Drought and introduced the idea of Drought Friendly Recipes. These are recipes that use foods with a low water footprint. (Lower than some of the heavier hitting foods, like California nuts (e.g. almonds, walnuts, pistachios) and anything related to the California beef/cattle industry.)

The premise of this idea is that between 74-80% of all water (figures vary) in California is used for agriculture and 50% of all our agriculture is exported to feed the rest of the country, so we are all affected by this drought and we can all help conserve California water.

This week, California’s Governor Jerry Brown announced mandatory cuts to water use for the residential users of California’s water. (A reduction of 25%) And while every drop counts and Californian’s pull up their grass to install drought tolerant plants and restaurants stop serving water to patrons unless requested, what is being done to address the 80% of water use?

California farming/commodities is a 46.4 billion dollar industry with 1/3 of that amount being attributed to milk & cream, grapes and almonds crops.

Let’s take a brief moment to reminisce. What happened to the days of the good ole peanut? Peanut butter, peanuts on a your salad? Virginia grown peanuts?  You know… think back about 5-10 years ago. California almonds use 9-10% of California’s agriculture water. Almonds trees need to be watered year round. I love almonds like the next person, but in a time of extreme drought, how many almonds do we need to be eating? Some figures state that it takes about a gallon of water to produce 1 almond.  In our original blog post, Super Sous and I gave the global water footprint number (from the Water Footprint Organization) which is 1,927 gallons of water for 1 pound of almonds. Upon tweeting this from @chefnathanlyon Twitter account, the California Almond board and I had this conversation:

1of3almonds

20f3almonds

3of3almonds

So… until that number is produced, I think we can safely say that it takes a lot of water to produce a pound of almonds.

I think the real / underlying question is – where is the oversight in our agriculture and water system here in California? Who is looking at the big picture view? Certainly, no one wants a small farmer/family business, regardless of the crop, to go under because of this drought (which sadly is already happening). California grows over 400 crops. It’s a wonderful thing… if you have water.

If you own a farm which has access to groundwater that hasn’t dried out and/or has access to reservoir water and can afford the water, then you are green-light-go. If you own a farm that has no ground water or access to reservoir water or you can’t afford the water, then your fields will go fallow. Anyone can choose to plant any crop on their land. There is no one saying that we need x amount of wheat or x amount of nuts from California to feed the world. In times of extreme drought, should there be? And should Governor Brown give restrictions to farmers? Should farmers also be subjected to a 25% reduction of water?

Jon Stewart from The Daily Show addressed this very issue the other night:

Daily Show Drought Clip

Regardless of restrictions, we need to have a ready supply of water in California if we want to keep California agriculture a thriving business. We need a solution.

So really – when are we going to start talking about a water pipeline or desalination. Every time these ideas come up, the phrase “so expensive” follows suit. Isn’t it more expensive for California to lose its 46.4 billion dollar industry? Or for residents to run out of water (which has already happened in some towns)? Or for the United States to have to import more food internationally?

In the meantime, every bite we take counts in conservation. So, enjoy our latest drought friendly recipe. It’s a Roasted Eggplant Caponata. My take on the classic Sicilian eggplant dish chock full of cooked, sweet veggies. Pairs well with pasta, toasted baguette, over a bed of greens or with a bowl and your favorite spoon. No nuts needed.

eggplant caponata

Roasted Eggplant Caponata

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

1 large Italian eggplant, peeled and diced medium (approximately 7 to 8 cups)

2 medium yellow onions, peeled and diced small (2 cups)

7 tablespoons of grapeseed oil, divided

3 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced (1 tablespoon)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground fennel seed

¼ teaspoon crushed red chile pepper (chile flakes), or to taste

1 fennel bulb, diced small (1 cup)

1 large red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, cored and diced small (1¼ cup)

1 (14-ounce) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained

3 tablespoons capers, rinsed, drained, and chopped roughly

1 cup green olives, pits removed and chopped roughly

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Kosher salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

⅓ cup roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley

7 medium-sized fresh basil leaves, stacked, rolled and sliced very thinly

Adjust two oven racks to the middle position, then preheat the oven to 450ºF.

In a large bowl, toss the eggplant with 3 tablespoons of oil, and season well with salt and pepper.

Spread out the eggplant in one layer onto two parchment paper-lined sheet pans. Roast, uncovered, in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove the sheet pans from the oven, stir the eggplant, then place the sheet pans back in the oven, this time on opposite racks. Bake 15 minutes more, until the eggplants are lightly colored and cooked through.

After the eggplant has been cooking for 15 minutes, stir the diced onion with ¼ cup of oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook for approximately 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft, translucent, and lightly caramelized.

Next, stir in the garlic, cumin, ground fennel, and chile flakes and cook until fragrant, 1 minute.

Add the diced fennel and the bell pepper and cook until they begin to soften, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes, capers, olives, vinegar and baked eggplant. Cook until the caponata has thickened, approximately 15 minutes, then remove from the heat, season to taste with salt and pepper, and stir in the parsley and basil.

Serve and enjoy.

P.S. Check out our recent Drought Friendly Recipe for Eggless Shakshuka.

Toasted Almonds – Your Way

It’s not a particularly sexy recipe, but it makes a world of difference in terms of taste, texture and freshness when you toast your own nuts (heyyyy-o – who said this post wasn’t sexy?!).

Toasted Almonds

 

Toasted Almonds

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position, then preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Spread out raw nuts on a sheet pan in a single layer.

Bake, uncovered, for 15 to 17 minutes, stirring occasionally for even cooking, until lightly colored. Be sure to set your timer. To test for doneness, break one nut in half and check for color. It should be a light golden brown color on the inside.

Remove from the oven and transfer the toasted nuts to a plate to cool, or toss in a bowl with a very light drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a good sized pinch (or two) of kosher salt.

 

 

 

Spiced Carrot Almond Bites

A few months ago, I had an excess of carrots (and by excess I mean about a 20 pound surplus) and a bit of a sweet tooth. Well, what to do? Throw some carrots, fruit, nuts, spice and cocoa in my food processor and minutes later, my sweet tooth problem was resolved! Hooray! As far as my surplus of carrots, well, I made a very small dent with this dessert snack, but I can say that I did enjoy a lot of carrot juice that week. Win-Win! (Did I mention these are raw, gluten free, vegan and DELICIOUS?)

P.S. You can see a video of me making these on my Facebook Page.

 

Spiced Carrot Almond Bites

 

 

Spiced Carrot Almond Bites

Yield: approximately 16 balls

 

3 small carrots, peeled and chopped into the size of whole almonds

1 teaspoon orange zest

15 deglet noor dates, pitted

5 dried black mission figs, chopped roughly

1 tablespoon old fashioned rolled oats

1 cup toasted almonds

1 teaspoon cocoa powder

1 tablespoon grade B maple syrup

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1-ounce good quality dark chocolate, 65-70% cocoa solids, chopped roughly

¾ cup unsweetened shredded coconut

 

Place all ingredients, except coconut, in a food processor and process until well combined and the ingredients stop moving about in the bowl.

Place shredded coconut on a large plate.

Using your hands, roll dough into 1-inch balls and roll balls in the coconut to coat.

Refrigerate 30 to 45 minutes to firm up before serving.

 

 

Gluten Free Granola Bars

Have you ever made your own granola bars? It’s super easy and you have the added bonus of making something delicious AND healthy! My version is gluten free and the sweetness comes from maple syrup and dates – even more reason to bake some off and share with your friends (if you feel compelled to share, of course!).  #freshfoodsdiet

 

Gluten Free Granola Bars

 

Gluten Free Granola Bars

Yield: Approximately 15 2- x 2-inch squares

 

2 cups old fashioned rolled oats

1 cup whole toasted almonds

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ cup pitted deglet noor dates (approximately 20), chopped roughly

¾ cup dried blueberries

½ cup dried cranberries

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/3 cup grade B maple syrup

1/3 cup creamy peanut butter

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

 

Place an oven rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Line a 7 x 11 baking dish with parchment paper, allowing the paper to come up on all sides. (This will make for an easy transfer out of the pan).

Combine oats, almonds, cinnamon and salt in a food processor and pulse 15 times, until the oats and almonds are broken up into small pieces. Transfer contents into a large bowl.

Stir in the dried fruit, breaking up any fruit clumps. (I like to use my hands!)

Place butter, maple syrup and peanut butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until butter is melted and ingredients are well combined. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract.

Transfer wet ingredients from saucepan into the large bowl with the dry ingredients and fruit. Stir until well combined.

Place granola mixture in the parchment filled baking dish and pat down so that the granola is packed together and evenly spread throughout the baking dish.

Bake for 50 minutes until the granola is lightly brown on top.

Remove from the oven and let granola cool completely before cutting.

 

 

Spiced Amaretto Peaches

Warmed peaches, brown butter, Amaretto, mint, almonds, cinnamon. Sounds like a perfect summer dessert to me. What more is there to say?!

 

Spiced Amaretto Peaches

Spiced Amaretto Peaches

Yield: 2 servings

 

3 ripe peaches, washed, cored and sliced thinly

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

1  2- to 3-inch stick cinnamon

¼ cup Amaretto liqueur

5 fresh mint leaves, chopped finely

2 tablespoons sliced almonds

 

Combine the butter, sugar and cinnamon in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. When the butter begins to brown after 2 or 3 minutes, add the sliced peaches, stir and simmer until tender.

Warm the liqueur in a small saucepan. Carefully add the warmed Amaretto to the sauté pan with the peaches and ignite by tilting the pan away from you. The flames will subside in seconds as the alcohol burns away. Heat and stir until glazed.

To serve, divide sautéed peaches among bowls. Spoon any remaining sauce from the pan over the peaches. Garnish with sliced almonds and some mint.