When I was little, pomegranates were considered an exotic and a very rare treat. They usually appeared around mid-September, and my mom would make us get naked and go outside in the backyard to eat them. She was a bit of a neat freak in those days, and pomegranate stains are a bitch to get out. I have fond memories of those backyard orgies with my sisters.
I was in Israel the first time I ever laid eyes on a pomegranate tree. Laden with heavy red globes, about to burst with ripeness, I thought it was the most beautiful plant I had ever seen. According to Jewish folklore, the pomegranate has 613 seeds, which corresponds to the 613 mitzvot (good deeds) of the Torah (Jewish written law). While it makes for a good story, scientists suggest that the actual number of seeds in a pomegranate is most likely dependant upon the degree of pollination.
Their jewel-like seeds add crunch and a sweet-sour tang to a Farro Salad. A tart vinaigrette and boldly flavored mix-ins of pistachios and ricotta salata cheese are a perfect complement to the nutty farro.Cook the farro in a combo of water and vegetable or chicken stock. A bay leaf, garlic clove and a few parsley stems help infuse the farro with more flavour. Fresh squeezed lemon juice creates a bracing vinaigrette. Shallots add gentle onion flavour and mildly bitter Italian parsley adds brightness and balance.This salad keeps well for several days in the fridge. Any leftovers make a very satisfying breakfast the next day.
Ok, let’s all breathe a big sigh of relief. We made it through January. We’ve heaped the recommended daily servings of veggies onto our plates all month long. I’ve posted about carrots, green beans, cauliflower and chick peas. It’s officially February. Can we please talk about (and eat) cake?
Specifically, this cake. Brown Butter Banana Cake with Coconut Meringue. This is indeed a magical cake. A layer of airy coconut meringue is spread over a base of banana cake batter. The whole thing goes into the oven and comes out perfectly baked, 30 minutes later. As I placed it into the oven, I had my doubts that the cake layer would be completely baked by the time the meringue was golden brown.
But, given the source of this recipe, I should have known not to worry. This cake was crafted by the genius mind of pastry chef Joanne Yolles. I have been a fan since I first tasted her coconut cream pie at Scaramouche restaurant many years ago. It’s kind of brilliant to layer meringue over cake batter. Culinary alchemy at it’s finest.
We need to brown the butter because “brown food tastes better“. This recipe is a perfect way to use up those brown bananas buried deep in your freezer.I used a 10 x 10 inch cake pan. A 9 x 13 pan would also work well. Don’t use anything smaller. You want a shallow layer of cake, so that the cake batter and meringue are done at the same time.The brown butter banana cake is feather light and very fragrant. The coconut meringue is soft and all marshmallowy underneath that crispy browned top.Top with a light dusting of icing sugar.And, a scoop of vanilla ice cream too, because you deserve it.
Some people consider green beans boring. I prefer to think of them as a blank canvas. Their neutral flavour is a perfect backdrop for all kinds of culinary profiles. These blistered green beans are ideal for when you just want to crunch your way through something green.
This recipe was featured in the 2015 Thanksgiving (November) issue of Bon Appétit. I wanted to cook and bake almost every recipe in that magazine. While I still mourn the loss of Gourmet, I think that editor-in-chief Adam Rapoport is doing a stellar job at the helm of Bon Appétit. The magazine feels fresh and modern to me and the photography always leaves me feeling inspired.The pesto sauce for these beans is a riff on a traditional Catalan sauce made with roasted red peppers and almonds. Roasted tomatoes stand in for the traditional peppers. While winter tomatoes are often insipid, roasting infuses them with tons of flavour. The green beans spend about 10 minutes in a blisteringly hot pan, until they become lightly charred but still have some crunch. Crunchy, fresh, and tangy-sweet, these green beans hit all the right notes. They are sure to become a regular in your weekday rotation.
The concept of “nose to tail eating” has been gathering quite a bit of momentum over the past several years. It stems from a desire to be more responsible and waste as little as possible of the animals being killed for our food.
I try to be a more responsible carnivore. I buy whole chickens and cut them up myself, using the bones and neck to make stock. However, I just can’t seem to jump aboard the whole animal movement when it comes to using up veal tongue, beef cheeks or pigs ears. I’m just not that adventurous an eater.
Happily, for me, the nose to tail movement has recently made it’s way over from animals to vegetables. There’s a movement afoot by chefs, to use up every part of each vegetable we pull from the garden. Here’s a crusade I can get behind. I’m already great at using up broccoli stems and corn cobs.When I stumbled across a recipe for using up the green carrot tops on epicurious.com, it kind of blew my mind. Who knew that carrot tops were edible and that you could create a pesto from them? I was very excited to try it. Carrots get oiled and seasoned and then blasted in a hot oven to roast for about 30 minutes. I left a tiny bit of the stems on because it looks so pretty. Using up the tender green carrot tops in a pesto is a very clever way to use them up. They taste fresh and clean with a mild carrot flavour. Fresh basil, parmesan, garlic, macadamia nuts and some extra virgin olive oil get blitzed in the food processor with the carrot tops to make a smooth pesto.
Salty, crunchy, tangy and just perfect for mindless snacking, these roasted chickpeas are addictive. I was introduced to these a few months ago by my friend Marla. She made them to serve with drinks at my house. They were quickly gobbled up by everyone.
While roasting chickpeas may seem like a new idea, they’re actually quite a retro snack, dating back to 1000 CE. Known as Leblebi, they are a very common snack food in Turkey, Iran and Algeria. Often seasoned with salt and hot spices, once in a while you come across candy coated ones. I’m thinking of trying a salt, cumin and smoked paprika variation next.
I used canned chickpeas to keep things fast and easy. Rinse and drain a couple of cans.Tip them into a pot and cover with 2 cups of plain white distilled vinegar. You could be fancy and try apple cider or champagne vinegar if you wanted. Bring to a boil. Cover pot, remove from heat and let sit for 30 minutes. The key to getting the chick peas super crispy is to dry them very well. After draining them from their vinegar bath, I spread them out on a few layers of paper towels and let them air dry for about 30 minutes before coating with oil, salt and pepper. 45 minutes in a hot oven and they are golden brown and perfectly crispy.Inspired by street food snacks in the Middle-East, I decided to serve them in paper cones. I fashioned them out of parchment paper and then dressed them up with a band of pretty wrapping paper.I first learned how to fashion a cone out of parchment paper when I was in culinary school. We had to make them to use as a piping bag for decorative icing in our baking class. My fine motor skills are not the sharpest, so I had difficulty making them. I got the brilliant idea to bring in plastic disposable piping bags, but was promptly scolded by my teacher. He said that the plastic piping bags were for “housewives” and we were professionals! I practiced over and over again and can now make them in my sleep. Here is a great video tutorial.