Peach & Honey Cake (Gluten Free)

 

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Soon I’ll be boarding a flight to South Carolina to see one of my bests, Eileen, get married. It was just years ago we were carousing the streets of New York City together, seemingly with no direction, yet with such purpose. It was May and the season was just settling in with its damp heat. The longer days sported tank-tops, street fairs and pigeons.  The 9th Avenue Food Festival was in session, offering us all the grilled corn, arepas, and watermelons we could possibly consume while sitting on the stoop of whose apartment we did not know. There we sat in the afternoon sun eating our melted cheese and drinking our fresh squeezed lemonade and speaking in girl language. Which boyfriend do I keep? Which do I give away? And which will forever pull me through the tumult of unrequited love? The answers seemed so important at the time, that is until a spry pigeon swooped over my head that doubled as a toilet. As soon as it left its mark, Eileen produced a kleenex and sprang over to my side. Without hesitation she gently slid the kleenex through my soiled locks, wiping them until the golden strands emerged shiny and clean. It was from that moment I knew Eileen would make a loving wife and a caring mother. This tall redhead from Alabama really knew how to take care of sh*t, so her soon-to-be-husband better watch his. She’s a real peach, a southern act of kindness.

Peach and Honey Cake

2 cups of all purpose flour or Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose Gluten Free Flour

1 tsp baking soda

3/4 cup of honey

3 eggs room temperature

1/4 stick of butter room temperature

4-5 peaches or nectarines, peeled and diced

Preheat oven to 350˚. Sift dry ingredients together.  In a separate bowl mix eggs, honey, and butter together. It’s best when the liquid ingredients are room temperature so that the honey stays soft and combines well. Once thoroughly mixed, slowly add the egg and honey mixture. Mix in the peaches, you can also use sweet nectarines as well. They will sink to the bottom, so I like to add a few on top as a garnish only after it has baked and cooled. Butter a 10″ cake pan and pour batter into it. Bake for about 40-45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

This is the first time I have used Bob’s Red Mill gluten free flour. I made this cake three times until I got it right. The flour is a sturdy blend of ground chickpea, yuca and potato. It has a slight different taste than regular old wheat flour, but seemed to bode well with the honey for sweet taste of this cake.

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Rosemary Yuca Cheese Rolls (Traditional Pan de Yuca) vs. The World Cup Finals (Gluten & Grain-free Free Snacks)

I’ve never been one to watch American Football and consider this a major flaw on my part, being American and all. I do however enjoy football, as in soccer. The players gracefully maneuver their way up and down the field guiding the ball strategically into a goal (gracefully that is, until one player bites another).  In 2006 when Italy won the World Cup title, fans in my old neighborhood in Queens drove up and down the streets with their red, white and green flags hanging out of the windows. The cacophony  of cheers and car horns blasted through the night into the wee hours of the morning. The entire neighborhood came together in a fit of blissful victory that could only be achieved through that one moment. The traffic came to a jammed halt and the cluster of cars spewed out clouds of exhaust and waves of screams in heavy Italian accents cheered, “Victory!!!” Bystanders crowded the sidewalks in excitement and amazement. Everyone was invited to this party, participation not required, but attendance mandatory. I am excited to see what today’s 2014 World Cup final Argentina vs. Germany brings to the streets of the city and if I’ll be attending the party.

If you’re watching the match at home today here’s a simple recipe to make. I originally found these Colombian treats at one of my favorite New York City bakeries, Big Booty.  After some inspiration and much experimentation, I finally learned how to make a version of them for myself. The blend of yucca flour and cheese makes a chewy soft texture that pulls apart like a ripe slice of pie.

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Cheese Rolls or Pan de Yuca

1 1/4 cups of Yuca or Tapioca flour

2 cups of grated Queso Blanco or mozzarella cheese

2 sprigs of rosemary

1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 stick of butter room temperature

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large egg room temperature

Preheat oven to 450˚. Chop rosemary leaves into very fine pieces or grind using a pestle and mortar. Blend flour, salt, baking powder with a whisk. In a separate bowl, blend butter, egg and olive oil, when combined add to the flour mixture. The dough will come to a rubbery texture. Add the cheese and rosemary then knead dough until all ingredients are blended. Bake for about 10-12 minutes on parchment paper until the edges and top have a golden brown color. Makes about two dozen small rolls.

*Inspiration for this recipe came from this great site.

 

Good-Bye to All That: Dark Chocolate Cherry Ice Cream (Dairy-Free Version, Vegan)

As I write this, it’s been exactly one week since my friend Jessica and I sat across from each other at a cafe on Park Avenue, indulging ourselves in what would be our final meal together in New York City. We talked about our lives, which entailed unresolved romances, frequently empty bank accounts, overly crowded subway rides, and unaffordable real estate.  And we wondered, is it all worth it? With all the ugliness of the city also came beautiful experiences that were rarely captured elsewhere. For example, we were, at the moment scarfing down oysters doused in hot-sauce and lapping up as many margaritas as our bodies could handle. Happy-hour and half-off deals made these indulgences possible. We sat and chatted and laughed as strangers passed by. The evening sun reflected off of some of the most amazing architecture in the world. The city was ours in that moment. But, is all the exciting decadence worthy of  all the hardships and challenges? No, it is not, she decided before we stumbled out on to the sidewalks full-bellied and jovial. All of this is not worth all of that. And so, there I was standing on the sidewalk with a dark feeling of loneliness looming. I knew that I would soon be sending her off, back to her homeland in Canada. I congratulated her on her decision to determine that no, all the struggles in the city are not worth the random and brief satisfactory moments. It takes guts to live in this city, but it takes even more guts to leave it. I congratulated her on her decision to say good-bye, good-bye to all that. And off she went, up north. And there she is, embarking on a new life.

Upon her departure, knowing my love for creating recipes, she thoughtfully left me a book, The Flavor Thesaurus, which inspired the recipe below. It takes a while to realize that, un-like cooking, there are no rules to life and the decisions you make are ultimately your own. You can only experiment with the flavors, some good, some bad and hope that some will better suit you in the end.  You take them all, mix them together and hope for the right outcome, without actually knowing what that outcome is supposed to be.  There is no “Flavor Thesaurus” for life, so dig in. Because, what else can we do?

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Good-Bye to All That: Dark Chocolate Cherry Ice Cream

3 13.5 oz cans of coconut refrigerated milk fat (or 2 1/2 cups of heavy cream)

1 1/2 cups of almond milk (or 1/2 & 1/2)

1/3 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 cup honey

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

1/4 cup of diced black cherries

4 squares of chopped 85% Lindt Dark Chocolate

Separate the thick fatty part of the coconut milk. This works best when it is refrigerated for about hour or so. You can skim the thick park off the top, it will be the solid part of the milk. In a saucepan mix together the coconut milk, honey, cocoa, vanilla and almond extracts. Whisk at a low-medium heat until thoroughly blended. Make sure it is warm, but not boiling. Honey will not mix well with chilled liquid so heating the milk is important. Since I don’t like to wait around for the liquid to chill before making the ice cream, once the heated mixture is complete, remove from the stove into a separate bowl. Add the remaining chilled almond milk. This should set the temperature at a cool state again. Make sure the mixture is at least at room temperature and place in an ice cream maker. After about fifteen minutes, once the ice cream is semi soft, add the chopped cherries and chocolate. Mix until complete, for about another ten minutes. Eat. Serves 4-6.

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Drunken & Virgin Horchata Made with Coconut Milk (Dairy Free & Paleo)

It’s hot and steamy here in New York City. The night is young and the humidity is high. The heat bulldozes over your senses like a thick cloud of smoked molasses infused with jalapenos. The fan in your window teases you with an unfettered breath of cool air that briefly brushes your damp skin. Your brain melts like a slice of cheese on blacktop in the sun. This, my friend is summer in the city.

Cool off with a homemade glass of iced horchata, the traditional Mexican rice, almond and cinnamon drink. There are various ways to make horchata depending on the country of origin.  This version is made with coconut milk. It’s a great use for that leftover coconut milk after making coconut milk ice cream (since only the fatty portion of the milk is used for ice cream). I make this all the time and drink it quickly. It tastes just as good without the alcohol, a perfect treat for adults and kids.

Drunken Horchata and Virgin Horchata

13 oz can refrigerated coconut milk (skim fatty top off)

1 1/2 cups of almond or rice milk (preferably unsweetened)

1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon

2 cinnamon sticks for garnish

1 teaspoon honey

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 dash of nutmeg

2 shots of whiskey or coconut rum (omit for virgin horchata)

I don’t like to use my stove in the summer, but this recipe works better when heated. In a sauce pan, heat coconut milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and honey to a medium-high temperature. Do not boil, but make sure it’s hot enough to infuse honey and spices. Whisk mixture for about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and add almond milk, whiskey and ice to chill. Serves two.

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4th of July Summer Cocktail: Strawberry Mint Spritzer

What tastes better than fresh fruit from the farmer’s market on a summer afternoon? A cheap bottle of rosé with said fruit. With a little, ahem, research and some  extensive taste-testing, I came up with this easy and refreshing recipe for a quick summer cocktail. Sip until your heart’s content and your mind’s relaxed.

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Strawberry and Mint Spritzer Summertime Cocktail

4 cups seltzer water

3 cups rosé wine

3 tablespoons honey or brown sugar (optional)

4-5 sprigs of fresh mint, leaves only

12 strawberries or 2 cups chopped in half

Add all the ingredients in a blender, blend until frothy liquid consistency, ice and serve. If you do not have a blender, dice the strawberries and mint leaves and place into a pot on medium heat with the honey and rosé. Heat and macerate strawberries until mixture yields a smoothie consistency. Remove from heat and chill until cold. Add the rest of the ingredients with an additional cup of wine, as it will evaporate when it is heated. Ice and serve. Makes about 6 servings.

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How to Make Matcha Green Tea Ice Cream (Dairy Free)

I went to a food entrepreneur seminar recently and an editor from the Food Network Magazine said something like this, “It’s easy to photograph a cheeseburger, but can you photograph a plate of refried beans and not have it look like sh*t?”. Words of the wise.

I haven’t tried to take any photos of refried beans lately, but as I held my camera in the evening summer sun today, I asked myself, gee, does this really look like ice cream?

Matcha ice cream has a cool refreshing taste and isn’t too sweet. Packed with antioxidants for a healthy summer treat!

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Matcha Green Tea Ice Cream

2 13 oz. cans of coconut milk- chilled for two hours

1 cup almond milk

5 packets green tea powder

3 tablespoons honey

Heat and whisk together the honey, almond milk, and green tea powder on high heat for a few minutes. Do not boil, turn down to medium heat. Open the cans of coconut milk and separate the thick coconut fat from the liquid milk. Add the coconut milk to the almond milk mixture and stir thoroughly on medium heat for a few minutes. Place in refrigerator for about two hours, or until cool. Blend in an ice cream maker. Makes about four servings.

If you want to make this dessert with dairy, just replace the coconut milk with two cups of cream, and the almond milk with one cup of 1/2 & 1/2.

Note: You don’t need to heat the mixture, but the heated liquid helps to dissolve the powder.

Watermelon and Watercress Salad with Lime Vinaigrette

Summer is approaching and so are the bounty of fruits that bless us with their sweet presence when the weather gets warm. There is nothing like a cool, crisp watermelon to carry you through the stagnant heat. Watercress is an underrated green that is packed with vitamin A & C. Its slightly bitter taste complements the sweetness of the watermelon and saltiness of the feta. This salad is super healthy and versatile. Eat it as a meal, after a meal or before a meal. Or…just because it’s so good.

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Watermelon and Watercress Salad with Lime Vinaigrette

1/2 ripe watermelon

1 bunch of watercress

1/2 cup feta

Lime Vinaigrette

1/2 cup olive oil

2 slices of lime, squeeze juice into mixture

1-2 tablespoon of honey or brown sugar

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Thoroughly rinse watercress with cold water. Chop all ingredients into bite-sized pieces and add to a bowl. Whisk together olive oil, vinegar, lime juice and sugar. Drizzle vinaigrette over salad to taste. Serve and eat! About two servings.

 

Summertime Drink: Mint and Honey Lemonade

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Happy June everyone! Just 20 days until Summer begins, and I haven’t even gotten an air conditioner yet. It won’t be long until we all sport tank-tops embellished with beads of sweat while waving paper fans apathetically in the evening sun. In the meantime, I’ll have to strategically coerce a few of my brawny friends to assist me in lifting the heavy mass of metal and plastic up my four flight walk-up. Until then, I’ll drink this Mint and Honey Lemonade to quell the heat.

Mint and Honey Lemonade

2 cups of water

4 sprigs of mint

2-4 tablespoons of honey

1-2 lemons for juicing

ice and chilled water, about one liter

Boil mint in two cups of water for about 8 minutes. Add honey (I use 2 tablespoons) while water is still hot and stir thoroughly. This process will extract the mint flavor while infusing the honey into the water. Strain mint leaves and pour leftover mint water and honey mixture into a liter of cold ice water. Juice lemons, depending on how tart you like your lemonade, add one to two medium sized lemons. I like mine tart, so I added 1 & 1/2 lemons. Add ice. Serve chilled.

BK17 Brooklyn Baker Finds Healing Powers of Sourdough Baking

Sourdough expert and horticulturist, Sarah Owens, owner of BK17 Bakery, began baking sourdough bread from her small Park Slope apartment when she learned that the fermentation process of the grains could ease her digestive problems. It is thought that grains are difficult for people with digestive disorders to digest. Instead of giving up grains, like so many people do, she took matters into her own hands, literally, and began baking sourdough bread to alleviate the symptoms. Being a sourdough-lover who is also stricken with a digestive disorder myself, I was excited to sit down and ask Sarah exactly how she got started, what is her technique and when the heck is her new cookbook coming out?! To get all the updates on what she is baking and where you can purchase the goods, check out her site at BK17 You can also read more about how fermented foods aid digestion here.

Baking en Cuenca Sarah
Sarah Owens owner of BK17 Bakery Photo Courtesy Sarah Owens
How did you come to the conclusion that you had to eliminate grains from your diet and does a lot of your diet now consist of fermented foods? 
When I was having major stomach issues and often sick in a way that completely interfered with my work and personal life, I had no choice but to slow down and begin with elimination diets.  I found that grains of all kinds, but especially whole grains and nuts, gave me the most problems.  The lactic acid fermentation process of sourdough has completely mediated the negative effects of phytates present in these foods for me.  Using sourdough is now allowing enjoyment of what some would consider a very grain-based diet.  I’ve also found that my tolerance is greater for other foods that I once had issues with (mostly dairy but I still avoid soy).  Do I eat lots of fermented foods?  Hmmm….does alcohol count?!  I believe keeping a healthy gut flora is a major part of balancing your immune system and keeping your body healthy in general.
I would love to hear more about this cookbook you are writing? What is the focus? Specifically on sourdough bread or other stuff? Is there a title or release date yet?
The cookbook is 101 recipes that include sourdough either as a leavening agent (as in breads) or a flavor enhancer (as in sourdough cheddar crust for apple hand-pies).  My journey with sourdough began by using it mostly as a digestive aid and a way to make the nutrients in grain more available to my body.  This book chronicles the recipes I’ve developed in rythm with the seasons to feed my body and nourish my soul.  There are a few additional recipes to augment the sourdough and round-out the meals. (The book is due out Autumn of 2015)
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Sarah’s Wild Rice Levain Photo Courtesy of Sarah Owens
I used to work in a sourdough bakery and we had all kinds of crazy breads, where do you get the ideas for your recipes? I noticed a cherry bread on your site. Looks divine.
Most of my ideas come from specific cravings like chocolate and cherries or from inspiration at the market.  Because I work outdoors every single day of the year, I am quite attuned to the seasons and what’s fresh to eat.  For instance, I’ve noticed these past few weeks that dandelion greens are really pushing and that they are getting ready to flower.  So now is the time to pick them, before they turn too bitter.  I made some dandelion and chive sourdough souffles for Easter that reflected this inspiration.
Without giving too much away, what’s your technique? There is so much that has to go right with sourdough, the timing, the temperature, the humidity. Do you have different techniques for when the weather changes?
Working with sourdough really requires you to hone your intuition and slow down to listen and respond to the dough.  Yes, there are so many variables!  If you are using local flour, it will change dramatically with each season, depending on the weather.  You may have to adjust hydration and handling for a weaker or stronger flour, the humidity, and of course the temperature.  This year I have declared August as bread fasting month because it’s just so difficult to make good bread in sweltering conditions.  The best flavor from sourdough is when it is developed over long, slow periods of rest and a cold retard.
My technique varies mostly depending on the ingredients.  A lot of this will be addressed in the book but I don’t follow a blanket ‘master method’ for working with dough.  For example, if a dough has a high percentage of spelt or rye, it has more available food for the yeast and bacteria to feed on and will ferment much quicker than other doughs.  If I were following some formula, my dough would overproof and I would be frustrated with the results.  But if I learn how to read the dough and notice how my movements, as well as ambient temperature and time affect its development, then I will be a better baker.
What was it like watching your grandmother bake? 
I grew up in a valley in rural East TN where my paternal grandmother was renowned for her cooking. She fed armies of people on the weekends with whatever she harvested from the garden or the acreage of her farm.  We ate lots of weeds!  I was always trying to help and learn from her in the kitchen.  She had her methods and I was often just in the way.  But I always thought the baking was magic and loved when she made what she called ‘friendship bread’ from her starter.  It was terribly sour, as she didn’t use fresh starter.  But I learned to appreciate it more as I grew older and my taste buds weren’t so sensitive to the acidity.
Advice for Aspiring Bakers: Learn to use a scale, follow recipes but hone your intuition, and use the best quality ingredients you can get your hands on!

 

The Feast: Weekend Get-Away Recipes, Asparagus & Potato Frittata, Rosemary Chicken and Much More!

Pack up the car. Don’t forget to bring your hiking shoes and nail polish! We’re going on a road trip. No! Sleep! ‘Til Wurtsboro! Upstate New York that is. Just an hour outside of the big city sits a cabin atop a hillside. The magnificently rustic setting is equipped with a dreamy waterfall and views that will make even the most luxurious skyscraping floor-to-ceilings apartment dweller jealous.

Every year around this time my good friend Joy (who writes this great blog) opens her heart and home to us ladies, for a weekend full of donuts, drinking and debauchery, otherwise known as Girls Weekend 2014. There is so much to do in this little town and we only skimmed the surface. We hiked the Shawangunk Ridge, enjoying vistas that went for miles. We discovered the trails with hidden remnants of the historical blueberry picker houses. We picnicked around the mystical sky-lake. Sky-lakes are created when rain water collects on the top of a mountain eventually forming a crystal clear reservoir. We tasted wine at the local Bashakill Vineyards. We painted our nails, told stories, ate like queens, and stargazed. This year was special for a few reasons; One, it was Chrissy’s birthday so there were cupcakes. Two, Dora is getting married therefor we foraged the woods for rocks and twigs for her DIY wedding decorations. Three, Chrissy and I got the chance to cook for everyone and share these great recipes! Four, we spied a bald eagle and her eaglet, thanks to the Bashakill Area Association.

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Enjoying wine tasting at the Bashakill Vineyards.
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Nature…peace, quiet and bugs.
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The mystical skylake atop Shawangunk Ridge. Photo credit, Stephanie Andriole.
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Nothing like watching a family of eagles to start your evening.
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Bald Eagle photo credit http://www.thebashakill.org/

The Feast!

Breakfast: Potato and Asparagus Frittata

12 eggs

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

2 large russet potatoes sliced into ‘chips’

6 stalks asparagus chopped into bite-sized pieces

1 cup diced ham

1 jalapeno pepper diced

olive oil for greasing the pan

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Preheat oven to 350˚ Chop all ingredients as instructed, shred cheese and set aside. Grease 8’x10′ baking sheet with olive oil, be sure to cover the sides as well. Spread potatoes on the bottom, covering the surface, but don’t overlap. Layer with ham, asparagus, peppers and more potatoes, repeat. In a bowl whisk together the eggs as if you are making an omelet, pour over the layered potato mixture, top with shredded cheese. Bake for about twenty minutes or until eggs have baked through. Serves six.

Chrissy’s Fruit Salad

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You get the picture. Apples, blackberries, bananas, strawberries, grapes and a touch of lemon juice.

Dinner: Rosemary and Sun-dried Tomato Chicken

6 chicken breasts or thighs or three of each

1 1/2 cups of sun-dried tomatoes chopped

4 cups chopped mushrooms

2 teaspoons oregano

1/2 cups kalamata or greek black olives (not canned!)

2 cloves garlic diced

4 sprigs fresh rosemary

3 tablespoons olive oil (more if you desire)

Preheat oven to 350˚ put all ingredients in a baking pan or divide into two baking pans to cook faster. Bake for about 40 minutes or until chicken is baked through. Serves six.

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Drink: The Infamous Dornado (created by Dora)

I can’t remember exactly how to make this. There were mentions of frozen strawberries, seltzer water, vodka, splash of lime, repeat!

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This post wouldn’t be possible without these five amazing women, Brenda, Chrissy, Joy, Dora and Stephanie. All of whom contributed to this fantastic weekend!

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The ladies (I’m blowing Joy a kiss, that’s not a duck face I swear!)

Stories and Recipes from My Unrefined Life in Sunset Park Brooklyn

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