3/26/2013

triple coconut muffins

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OH MY GOD.

That was pretty much what I said/thought/felt when I came across this particular recipe. (Of course, on Smitten Kitchen.) I looove coconut. And that is not nearly enough o's to convey how deep my affection really runs for this tropical fruit. Coconut is such a funny creature, and such a difficult one at that. It's a lot of work to crack one open, if you've never tried, and even more work to then dig out the "meat" (Ah! A vegetarian blog that said meat! Sound the alarms!) out once you're in; I tried this once as a young child, with the assistance of my very patient father. I gave up after about five minutes, drank the coconut water that was inside, little that their was, and went off to play.


Only years later (many, many years at that) did I actually try the raw insides of a coconut. There was a pure white wedge on top of a fruit salad I bought at a farmer's market in Los Angeles. Expecting the flavor of the sugary-sweet soft shredded stuff, I was surprised when I bit into this very hard, very NOT sweet crunchy piece of .. fruit? It was definitely worlds away from the Almond Joy's and Easter candy I'd consumed before. And BETTER.


Fast forward into present day, where I regularly use virgin coconut oil for baking and sautéing, sub coconut milk into baking recipes and morning oatmeal, and sprinkle the (unsweetened) shredded version onto yogurt and cereal. So OF COURSE, you can imagine me instantly jumping on board when I found Deb's recipe for double coconut muffins. As you already know, I decided to up my coconut factor by subbing the Greek yogurt for creamy coconut milk: why double when you can triple?

For this recipe, you'll need:

1/2 cup virgin coconut oil
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup coconut milk
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Line 10-12 muffin cups with papers, OR: grease lightly with coconut oil. Would that technically be quadrupling?


If you've never worked with coconut oil, you'll notice that it's usually a white solid. Unless of course it's mid-July in NJ and you're a boiling hot kitchen with no air conditioning. Otherwise, you'll need to (gently) heat your coconut oil to make it usable. Deb recommends heating on a stovetop. But I went the cheater route and just stuck it in the microwave for about 15 seconds. Suddenly this white paste that you scooped out with a spoon resembles, in fact, an oil. Warning, though: don't heat the oil until it's hot. Just melted is all you need, and the oil itself should still feel cool or barely warm.



Whisk together your flours, baking soda and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Mix in 1/2 cup of your shredded coconut. In another bowl, whisk together your egg, sugar, coconut oil, coconut milk and vanilla extract. Mix together your wet ingredients with your dry until just combined.

Divide your batter into prepared muffin tins and sprinkle the tops with your remaining 1/4 cup of shredded coconut.


Bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Okay. These are AMAZING. They're rich and crumbly and not too sweet. The perfect afternoon snack or breakfast treat, taking me back to that first heavenly piece of real, raw coconut, times three.



3/21/2013

kumquat-cranberry crisp

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I recently came in possession of a bowlful of kumquats. (My grandmother has a small potted tree, which I hear has more fruit on the way: kumquat trees can produce hundreds or even thousands of fruits a year!) These teeny-tiny fruits are the babies of the citrus world, an average one being about the size of a large-ish grape. Bright, sunny yellow-orange and oh-so-tart, this South Asian native is usually eaten whole, rind and all. The small size of these guys makes the skin thin (think clementine) and actually milder than the fruit itself.


So what to do with this big bowl of mouth-puckering sunshine? A little too much to eat as is, though few have attempted it. My first thought was jam, or marmalade, and after perusing the internet searching for "kumquat recipes" or "kumquats" or "kumquat uses," I found food blog after food blog thought the exact same thing. Tart fruit + sugar overload = bearable or even delicious results! But, yawn. I did come across one salad recipe with a sliced kumquat garnish. More ambitious, sure. But also yawn. I mean, Dade City, FL has an entire festival devoted to the kumquat: surely there has to be more than an accessory to our morning toast?

After a trip to one of my favorite local farmers' markets, and one unexplainably necessary purchase of some gorgeously red cranberries, I thought: pie? (The Dade City festival does one.) Maybe. Or a crumble? A coffee cake? A crisp? A CRISP.


I don't know about you, but my memories of crisp-like desserts are some of my fondest. Summertime at my grandfather's house, warm, sugary oatmeal-topped fruit ,vanilla ice cream, blueberries from the backyard garden. Amazing.

So though there was nary a kumquat (or kumquat-cranberry) crisp recipe to be found on the internet (until NOW!), I decided that any ol' crisp concoction would do. I would just swap out the prescribed fruit, blueberries, peaches, apples (good, but YAWN!), for what I had one hand.


For this INVENTION, you'll need:

About 2 cups of medium-sized kumquats, sliced
About 1 cup of fresh cranberries, whole
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
2 tablespoons of brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cup rolled oats
About 4 tablespoons of cold butter, cubed

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Take your sliced kumquats and whole cranberries and place in a medium-sized bowl. Stir in both sugars, granulated and brown, and 1/2 a teaspoon of your cinnamon. Mix thoroughly.


In a separate bowl (SURE, also medium-sized), toss your oats and the remainder of your cinnamon. Take your butter, distributing throughout the bowl, and cut in without over-mixing. You want the crisp topping to be crumbly, not blended.


Spread your fruit evenly in a 9-inch ungreased pan. (I used a 9-inch round because, well, that's all I have. Square will also work just great.) Sprinkle your crisp-oat mixture over the top.


Pop it in the over for about 25-30 minutes. The fruit will be tender almost immediately, but you're looking for a nice golden-brown color on the oat topping. Once you have a color like the one shown below:


Well, then try not to grab a spoon and get started right on the spot. Because it's going to smell really cinnamon-y and good but it's also going to be really, really hot. Let it cool for about 15-20 minutes (because you want to eat a crisp at least warm, after all) and serve with a scoop, or two, of vanilla ice cream. And a drizzle of honey.

Note: Since this recipe is new and made up, a few adjustments could be made, mostly in the sweetening department. Kumquats are not a naturally sugary-sweet fruit; they have a very bright, tart bite. All in all, it could use a little more sugar. Maybe up your granulated sugar to 3/4 cup and your brown sugar to 1/4. If you choose a different fruit, the above sugar amounts should work just great for a sweet but not-too-sweet dessert.



3/10/2013

spicy carrot soup w/ crispy chickpeas + za'atar pita

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Ah, yes. There's no way to beat the winter blues quite like a big bowl of steaming soup, am I right? But with cold weather on its way out the door sooner rather than later (see ya NEVER), I had to try to get one more broth-based recipe under my belt. You know, in preparation for next winter. That is, if I haven't fled to the equator by then. Of course.


This recipe was inspired by, though not 100% adhered to as-per-usual, my 2012-13 winter-food blog of choice, Smitten Kitchen. Though Deb's concoction was both cardamon and ginger-free, mine had to do without the tahini dollop, due to circumstances quite out of my hands: the tahini had a strange off-smell, which was promptly ignored and then discarded. Moving on.


With about 2 pounds of fresh carrots (I mean, as fresh as they can get, people. So caked in Mother Earth dirt that after scrubbing said carrots I then had to scrub my sink, twice, in order to remove all of the now-mud), I set to work peeling and dicing. Tip: You can chop your carrots earlier in the day, or even the day before, and store them submersed in water in a covered bowl. The water keeps them from turning brown or drying out. Besides the carrots, you'll need:


2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
6 cloves of garlic (yes, 6!), smashed
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 cups vegetable stock
Black pepper, to taste

Start by heating your olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add your carrots, onion, garlic, ginger and spices and stir until slightly browed and super fragrant, about 15 minutes.


In the meantime, preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Toss 1 can of chickpeas on a large baking sheet with a generous coating of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. I also added: oregano and the juice of 1/4 a lemon. (YUM.) Spread evenly over the baking sheet and roast until they're crispy and only slightly darker.


Okay, back to the soup. It's time to add your broth; use the liquid to scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pot. This is the good stuff: THE FLAVOR IS HERE. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and simmer for about 30-40 minutes.

While your soup simmers away, take out a second baking sheet for your pitas (or pre-wedged pitas, as Deb rightfully suggests: wedging after may leave you with more pita crumbles than crisps). Brush lightly with some olive oil and add a generous sprinkling of za'atar. I also added a little extra sea salt as well as some black sesame seeds. Za'atar is a Middle Eastern spice mixture that usually includes dried sumac, salt and sesame seeds, though several varieties exist. Not super easy to come by in most mega-markets, but can be found in either specialty stores or local Middle Eastern markets. Or you could always make your own



Tuck your pitas into the oven (next to or under your chickpeas) and toast for about 5 minutes, or until crisp.


Man, what a recipe for multi-tasking, right? Good thing I skipped the tahini. While your chickpeas round to the finish line and your pitas start to toast, peek into your soup pot. Chances are the smell is going to kill you with goodness, but if you manage to make it, test a carrot with a fork. It should definitely be soft enough by now for the really fun part: using your new immersion blender! Or at least, using my new immersion blender. (It's yellow!) Get to work and puree your soup until mostly smooth--a few chunks of your smashed garlic is nice, as well as leaving a slight texture from those beautiful carrots.


Serve with a sprinkle of your crispy chickpeas and a side of za'atar pita. Too pretty in all its orangey, beta-carotene glory. And too good: full of flavor, slightly sweet and a touch of heat. I'll be saving this one to repeat next year.