Frangipani

When I hear “frangipani,” I smell a waft of orange and almond blossoms and I’m transported to the island of Majorca, where I stayed for a few weeks when I was 22. I’d heard about two villages, Fornalutx in the mountains and Deìa on the coast, as idyllic places for artists. A room with a view and breakfast cost $15 a night. On the overnight ferry from Barcelona to Palma, watching the sun rise as we approached the island, I was both lonely and entirely happy to be alone. On the old, wooden train to the town of Sóller, I saw my first citrus trees—by June laden with fruit, yellow and orange globes shining out from glossy dark green leaves, easy to pick. 

I would like before I die to walk once again that stony path from the Deia village hilltop to the tiny blue harbor below, hardly bigger than a pool. So safe it felt to swim there, the walk made fragrant by olive and almond trees, musical from the tiny bells on goats, occasionally the chime of churches or the buzzing of honey bees. No one I knew knew where I was. No keys, no work, no plans. What did I do with my time?  One day I trudged along the one road through town in the hot sun and hitchhiked to Valldemossa, where in 1839, George Sand and Frédéric Chopin wintered in the charterhouse, an attempt to treat his tuberculosis. A tourist notes on TripAdvisor that the monastery was  a “real disappointment.” I don’t remember being disappointed, perhaps because I had no expectations. “Expect Nothing” is the title of a poem by Alice Walker that ends, “live frugally on surprise.” Everything about that time was a surprise, perhaps because everything was new for me.

I gorged on ensaimadas, yeast-raised coils of dough fried in lard and dusted with powdered sugar, lighter than doughnuts and barely sweet.  They were served as breakfast in my pension but I went to the bakery to buy more. I treated myself to fish cooked at the little shack overlooking the swimming harbor. I ran out of books in English. 

The Deìa expats could be well off or poor, they spoke fluent Spanish, and they hung out together at the cafes. In one of Deìa’s two cafés, I met the poet Robert Graves, Alzheimer’s-addled but still regal in his black hat, on the arm of his twenty years younger wife Beryl. Norman was a painter who talked fast with an accent and smiled with toothless charm. “Hey, honey, woodya like to see my etchins?” In his room a few steps away from the café, I acquired a watercolor of a bullfight: his black pen hadn’t left the paper. Man and bull awash in yellow. The color of plumeria blossoms. Back in the café, Norman savored a steak in exchange for that art while he told me his story of leaving New York and an advertising job in the sixties for the paradise of Deìa.

Ripe pears smell like frangipane sounds. Frangipane literally means “breaking bread” in Italian, but is also the name of a noble family from the Middle Ages. They might have acquired their name from Eucharist liturgy or from their practice of distributing bread to the poor.  But “Frangipane” is also an almond filling around fruit, usually in a crust.  One member of that noble Roman family supplied perfumes to Louis XIII. 

The Latin name of frangipani is plumeria, in homage to the seventeenth century Frenchman, Charles Plumier, who “discovered” them. The  five-petaled velvety pastel flowers look simpler than orchids. Plumeria is related to dogbane and the euphorbia (myrtle spurge) that has taken over my hillside here in Utah. Hard to imagine the spurge whose sap irritates my skin related to those creamy plumeria flowers. The  trees grow in Central America, notably not on Majorca. Plumeria is the most common flower of Hawaiian leis,  but is not indigenous to Hawaii.  

It’s a trick of memory for me to align my time on Majorca with a flower that doesn’t grow there. 

Plumeria flowers have a heavenly scent, but no nectar, so they trick nocturnal sphinx moths into pollinating them. Was I tricked into thinking that long-ago state of unrootedness, a leisure as shallow as the waters below the village of almond and olive and lemon trees, could last? 

My version of frangipane tartlets has no crust.  I like to suggest plumeria blossoms by adding flowery essence—a drop of fiori di sicilia or bergamot oil—to the almond and vanilla, which make it taste a bit like a creamsicle or panettone or like the air in Deìa in May forty years ago. The following recipe for frangipane tartlets is light and rich.

4 ounces salted butter (1 stick) (use the best quality as you will taste it)

1.6 ounces sugar

6 ounces cup finely ground almonds (almond flour). You can also use pistachio or hazelnut flour.

3 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract, a few drops almond extract, two drops bergamot, orange or lemon oil, or some fiori di sicilia flavoring.

1 ounce flour (I use chestnut flour or corn flour and thus make the tarts gluten-free. You could use a blend of tapioca starch and sorghum flour or white flour.)

½ teaspoon baking powder

1 ripe pear, cut into quarters or eighths, depending on the size of the tartlets, sliced thinly and fanned

Cream the butter, sugar and almond flour until smooth (I use a food processor). Add eggs one at a time, then the flavoring and the flour.  Taste the mixture: the flowery-citrusy notes should be pronounced as they will lessen in the baked product and over time. It will be the consistency of cake batter. Spray muffin tins or tartlet pans with Baker’s Joy or thoroughly grease and flour or use paper cups. Fill each pan about 2/3 full and place into each a fan of sliced pear. Red pears are particularly beautiful although their color fades a bit after baking. You can also use apricots or other fruit, but be aware that the batter is moist and some fruit will make it too soggy. I used pitted chokecherries for the batch in the photos.

Bake at 375 until puffed, golden and set, about 13 minutes for small tartlets. Let cool for a few minutes and then tip out with an angled spatula. They might fall a bit upon cooling.  You can whip the egg whites if you want a lighter product (or add ½ tsp of baking powder.) Dust with powdered sugar. The tartlets will keep for two days at room temperature and up to a week in the refrigerator. Bring back to room temperature to serve.  This recipe will serve six to eight, making about 24 one-inch tartlets. It is easy to double and also easy to vary the size of the tarts.

Zucchini Season

 

When the farmer’s market is so loaded a dollar gets you two big ones. When overgrown zucchini find their way to the faculty workroom. Or our front door.

My favorite ways to use them start with taming: Cut in halves or quarters and take the seeds and spongy part out with a grapefruit spoon or other sharp spoon; i.e. a cheap metal spoon with an edge. Grate the flesh not too fine on a box or flat grater. Toss with a little salt (say 1 teaspoon for a zucchini the size of a big guy’s forearm) and let sit, at least fifteen minutes or as long as you like. Then wrap in a cotton handkerchief and squeeze out by the handfuls. You can squeeze out too much liquid, I discovered once when I was particularly avid, and the resulting bread was a bit dry. When you’re done squeezing, the cloth should not drip liquid, but neither should the zucchini feel like shredded paper.

Zucchini Bread

This recipe is just right: a bit of spice, a bit of herb, lightly sweet and neither greasy nor dry.  It will stay fresh in the refrigerator for a week.

2 cups shredded, squeezed zucchini, tightly packed

3 eggs

¾ cup avocado oil (or other vegetable oil)

¾ cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp. salt

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (4 ounces)

3/4 cup high fiber flour or a mix of flours: banana flour, teff flour, coffee flour (or whole wheat or rye) (4 ounces)

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. cinnamon

½ tsp. nutmeg

¼ tsp. cloves

½ tsp. allspice

¼ cup minced fresh basil or 1 Tbs. minced tarragon leaves (optional, but worth the trouble)

1/2 cup toasted pine nuts (optional, and other nuts are OK, too, but the pine nuts and basil are heavenly)

Beat eggs, oil, sugar, and vanilla until thick and smooth. Whisk together dry ingredients, gently beat into wet mixture. Fold in zucchini, basil, and nuts. Pour into loaf pan sprayed with Baker’s Joy. This recipe fills my 14×3 pan. Two smaller pans are also fine. The batter will not rise much—and the bread will have a flat top. Bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Cool in pan 15 minutes, unmold and continue cooling on a rack. Wrap tightly when cool and refrigerate. Slices best when cold.

And here’s another version of what I called “Middle Eastern Frittata” in an earlier post:

Zucchini-Mint-Feta fritters

Mix 2 cups packed zucchini with 6 eggs, one bunch chopped scallions, 3 Tbs. finely chopped mint, ½ tsp. ground black pepper, and 8 ounces Greek or other imported sheep’s milk feta cheese, crumbled. Spoon into muffin tins you have sprayed with Baker’s Joy or lined with paper cups. Bake at 375 until a pick comes out clean, maybe 15 minutes for the muffin size. These are delicious warm or cold. Good for picnics!

 

Prunus Virginiana Jam

 

Prunus Virginiana is the only native North American cherry, commonly called “chokecherry” for the astringent taste of the fruit. The trees grow wild in many places, for instance along the hiking trails of Salt Lake City’s Emigration Canyon, so the fruit can be foraged. Chokecherry trees are resistant to bugs and blight, and when their branches are laden with ripe fruit, it seems like every bird in the neighborhood has gotten the memo, creating a lively spectacle for our cat (who prefers to catch and eat mice). The fruit is extremely high in antioxidants and unusually delicious. How to describe it? A whiff of rose, a titch of almond, a depth akin to black currant. Alas, chokecherries are the saffron of the fruit world–extremely labor intensive.

You won’t find any recipes for jam (as opposed to jelly) because the only way to get the flesh off the tiny pit (about a quarter the size of a lady bug) is to boil the cherries and then pit each one by hand. A couple of years ago, I borrowed a steam juicer and extracted the juice for jelly, but jam is more satisfying: the texture of the cherry flesh provides interest.

Anyway, for evenings of labor, I set myself up (covered in an apron and towels) with three bowls–boiled cherries, flesh, and pits–and I can pit a pound in two hours. (See photos above of raw cherries, boiled ones, and pits.) It is slightly easier to pit the cherries when they have been boiled (for about 1/2 hour, and then left to cool). I have dreamed of hiring children to do this, but I doubt they would have the patience. If I’m watching something on a screen, however, it’s satisfying not to “waste” the time. After pitting, I go through the mound of flesh and juice with my fingers (stained red and black) to feel for stray pits and discard them, because like many stone fruits, they contain cyanide. I then cook the flesh and juice with sugar (and pectin or cranberries, for a more firm jam. I freeze a bag of cranberries for this purpose each fall.) And voila–the most exotic jam you can’t buy. But can easily make, with an investment of time.

And here’s a recipe for a moist chokecherry ricotta cake. Because a fruit as healthful as chokecherries deserves an equally nutritious cake. The flavorings can be varied or even left out, because the fruit is the star.

2 ounces unsalted butter

4 ounces sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

4 drops lemon essential oil

15 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese

4 eggs, separated

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar, plus 1 teaspoon sugar

3.7 ounces all purpose flour

3.7 ounces blanched almond flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

8 ounces pitted, uncooked chokecherries (dust with 1/8 tsp stevia if you’d like a slightly sweeter cake)

Preheat oven to 350 with a rack in the middle.

In a food processor, cream butter and sugar. Add egg yolks and flavorings, then ricotta cheese. Process until smooth. Blend in flour, almond meal, baking powder, and salt until combined. Be sure to scrape bowl. Stir in all but 2 tablespoons of the chokecherries.

Whip egg whites with cream of tartar, whipping in a teaspoon of sugar once they are stiff, but not dry.

Fold about 1/4 of the whipped egg whites into the batter until well combined, then gently fold in the rest of the egg whites. Pour batter into a 9 inch springform pan, and sprinkle the remaining chokecherries on top. Even with an angled spatula.

Bake for 50 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Cake will puff during baking and then fall upon cooling, to a height of about two inches.

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Gluten-Free Almond Chiffon Cake

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The problem with strawberry shortcake—call me on this if you like—is the biscuit base. No matter how buttery and/or flaky, it’s still mostly white flour. In my view, delicate fresh strawberries are burdened by the dense and stodgy biscuit, with the flowery berries demoted to a topping rather than the point. Granted, I’m the person who savors every bit of the fruit and cream and takes only one bite of the biscuit. Previously, my version of strawberry cake was genoise layers, filled with sliced strawberries in their own syrup and frosted with lightly sweetened stabilized (by cooking a bit of the cream with cornstarch) whipped cream. That cake has the texture—light, meltingly soft, spongy—of my dreams. But this month, we’re doing distance dining in our backyard with one or two other people, and it seemed silly to bake and assemble a layer cake only to keep it unseen in the kitchen. Moreover, genoise, which uses whole eggs, seemed somehow too yellow, too rich, for the blank canvas I was dreaming of. I gradually realized that a chiffon cake would make a perfect base for fresh strawberries and cream. I wanted to use almond flour, and once that thought lodged, I thought it would be silly not to also make the cake gluten-free.

I love egg whites, because of their protein nutritive value (I remember reading that Martha Stewart’s diet consisted mostly of hard-boiled egg whites), and because they become something else entirely when air is whipped into them, a blank canvas. My favorite cakes use whipped egg whites as leavening. (I use the leftover yolks in brioche and stollen dough and in custards.) Angel food cakes seem cloyingly sweet to me, while chiffon cakes have the same lightness and a more moist texture. According to most sources, the chiffon cake is an American invention of the 1920s by an insurance agent named Harry Baker. Its genius lies in the combination of whipped egg whites plus baking powder for leavening.

So here’s an almond chiffon cake, whose (please cut them big) wedges make a wonderful base for fresh, sliced strawberries and softly whipped or drizzled heavy cream. The faint almond taste adds interest but does not destroy the “blank canvas” of the cake. Like a trifle but in no sense a leftover, and not at all messy, this cake needs no alcohol to revive it. If you do have raspberry eau de vie or kirsch on hand, you could add a splash of that to the sliced berries and sugar. Or just a squeeze of lemon juice. You could, of course, use other berries or sliced fruit—any stone fruit would be lovely with the almond flavor. This is the cake I’m going to bake all summer long.

Gluten-free Almond Chiffon Cake

6 ounces almond flour

2 ounces white rice flour

1 ounce tapioca (or corn) starch

8 ounces sugar (whirred in a food processor or blender until superfine), divided in half

2 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. salt

½ cup avocado (or other neutral vegetable) oil

½ cup whole milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. almond extract

3 egg yolks

10 egg whites

2 tsp. cream of tartar

Heat oven to 325 degrees and place one rack in middle.

You’ll need three bowls, plus a stand mixer and its bowl, and an ungreased angel food or tube cake pan.

Whisk together almond flour and starches, baking powder, salt, and half the sugar. Set aside.

Whisk together oil, milk, egg yolks, and extracts.

Whip 10 egg whites until foamy, add cream of tartar, and whip until soft peaks, then gradually add half the sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Dump the stiffly beaten egg whites into a large bowl (11 quart).

Into the mixer bowl (without washing) dump the flour mix and the oil/milk mix and beat about one minute or until very smooth.

Take about two cups of the beaten egg whites and fold it into the oil/flour/yolk mixture to lighten. Then fold the rest of the mixtures together in the largest bowl.

Pour into an ungreased angel food (or large tube) pan and bake for 55 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Turn pan upside down onto a cup or bottle (if the pan does not have feet, or even if it does) to cool at least two hours.

Once the cake is completely cool, use a long, thin sharp knife and a metal skewer to dislodge the bottom and sides and around the core. I use a paper clip that I have straightened out for the core (the same device I use to test if the cake is done). Invert on a greased wire rack and reinvert onto a serving plate or cake keeper. One point about the crust: it gets gummy, like a genoise crust, and detracts from the pure sponge texture. I cut off a thin layer of the cake top and bottom before serving, and I’m glad I did; the result is cleaner and more attractive. The cake lasts in the refrigerator for over a week, and at room temperature for a few days.

 

 

 

Vegan Mushroom Bolognese

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One thing I’ve missed since I mostly stopped eating meat is Bolognese sauce, so umami and rich, with a satisfying chewy texture. I also miss the combination of a meaty sauce with those very broad noodles called pappardelle. I remember eating them with a wild boar ragù in Lucca in 1985. We found the restaurant by asking a passerby—a middle-aged woman in a suit—for a good place to eat lunch, and soon found ourselves in a cozy osteria with walls hung with tapestries and a vast wine display.

So here is a recipe (serves about 4)  that will surprise you—the first time I served it to a friend she said, “Are you sure there’s no meat?”

1 pound tofu, extra firm/high protein or equivalent pressed (the less water in what you start with, the less frying time)

¼ cup olive oil (you may need more)

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 tbs. smoked paprika

½ small can tomato paste (2-3 tbs.)

(optional) a few drops Liquid Smoke

(optional) red pepper flakes (if you like a touch of heat)

1 ½ ounces dried porcini mushrooms (about 1 cup), covered in boiling water, then finely chopped in food processor

6 ounces fresh shitake mushrooms, diced or minced

Salt and pepper

8 ounces raw cashews, covered with water and simmered until soft (about 20 minutes)

4 cloves garlic

Red wine (as desired or needed) or water

To serve: fresh chopped parsley and grated parmesan cheese

Heat olive oil in large deep skillet and crumble in the tofu. Fry until all of it turns golden brown, and about half of the crumbles have crisp edges. Add chopped onion and smoked paprika and cook until onion is soft and moisture has evaporated. Add fresh mushrooms, cook five more minutes, then add dried, soaked, minced porcini and the grit-free soaking liquid.

To prevent grit from dried mushrooms getting into your food, lift the mushrooms out of the hot water into the food processor, and let the liquid in the soaking container settle. Then carefully pour off the top 90% into another container. Discard the last 10% and grit at the bottom.

My wife doesn’t like the texture of mushrooms, so I minced them in the food processor, but you can cut them into whatever size pieces you like as long as they are not bigger than the crumbled tofu. Add more olive oil if the mixture looks dry. You might need to use another ¼ cup.

Puree the simmered cashews, garlic, and water in a blender. The mixture should look like a milk shake. Add red wine (or more water) if it’s too thick.  Stir this into the tofu-mushroom mixture and cook for about five minutes until well blended. The cashew cream absorbs any grease from the sauce and it also adds protein, but it doesn’t add flavor, so add salt and pepper to taste, and add Liquid Smoke and red pepper flakes if you like. Add more red wine (or water) until the sauce is the right consistency for your pasta, but be sure to cook off the alcohol so the sauce doesn’t taste boozy. (If you’re making vegan Bolognese lasagna and don’t want to use ricotta cheese, you can use this cashew cream (salted) as a separate layer over the tofu-mushroom mixture, instead of combining them.)

The pappardelle pictured are made with eggs from a friend’s chickens—Thank you, Lynn! although of course you can use any kind of pasta. I love America’s Test Kitchen recipe because it’s easy to work with and egg-rich, which makes it full of flavor, too. For 3-4  servings: 5 ounces of flour (OK to include fine semolina or high protein flour but add another egg yolk); 1 egg, plus 3 egg yolks, 1 Tbs. olive oil. Let rest (wrapped in plastic) at least an hour and up to four hours. Roll out by hand or through a machine. Cut into 1 ½ inch noodles and boil in very well salted water. Because the sauce is so meaty, I like the noodles a tad thicker than if the sauce were lighter—5 on an Atlas machine as opposed to the last setting of 6.

Please let me know if you have questions or what you think if you try this!

Seed Cookies

SeedCookies

What’s as portable as a granola bar, but neater and homemade?  What contains lots of protein and fiber but no sugar? These cookies (should I call them energy balls?) have a firm and somewhat chewy texture. You can put them in your pocket and they won’t crumble. You can eat them and feel like you’ve had a good breakfast. You can mail them and not worry if the package takes a week to get there or sits in the sun. And you can make them with varied ingredients and they’ll still turn out OK.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup evaporated milk

4 ounces butter or other fat

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 tsp salt (omit if you use salted butter)

stevia, erythritol or a combination, to taste

1 1/4 cup rolled oats

1 cup dried cherries, cranberries, or apricots

1 1/2 cups white hulled sesame seeds

1 cup raw sunflower seeds

Combine ½ cup evaporated milk with 1 stick melted butter. (It’s fine to use plant-based substitutes, i.e. coconut oil and cream, nut milk, vegan margarine. I have also used heavy cream in place of both butter and milk.) Add 2 tsp. vanilla and ½ tsp salt. Sweeten with stevia and/or erythritol to taste.

Whir and pulse 1 ¼ cups of rolled oats in a food processor with 1 cup of dried cranberries, cherries, or chopped apricots. The oats keep the fruit from sticking. The resulting mixture should have small and even particles of fruit.

Stir the oat/fruit mixture into the milk/butter mixture and let sit at least 30 minutes (longer is fine, too, just refrigerate if it’s overnight). Mix in 1 ½ cups hulled white sesame seeds (or 1 cup chia seeds) and 1 cup raw sunflower seeds. The mixture will be very stiff, like Play-Doh.

Roll into one-inch balls and place on baking sheet. Greasing your hands makes this easier. Bake about 25 minutes at 325 or until golden AND LET DRY IN THE TURNED OFF OVEN until cool.  If you touch one while hot, it will crumble.

These stay fresh and good a long time, and refrigeration makes them last even longer.

Teacake

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Maybe it’s all the British TV and films we’ve been watching, or maybe it’s because I want “stay at home” to feel cozy, but I’ve been craving a poundcake-fruitcake hybrid, a buttery cake, moist and not too sweet, interesting yet somehow simple. I looked at recipes for both fruitcake and poundcake and couldn’t find one I wanted to follow, so this is my hybrid; Rose Levy Beranbaum’s pound cake is an influence, yes, but the almond flour, whipped egg whites, and alcohol-soaked fruit are mine. I keep a container of golden raisins and zante currants steeped in brandy, for use in stollen, the yeast-raised German Christmas cake, but you can use any dried fruit, as long as the pieces are small and they have been soaked as long as possible. You could “rush soak” by heating the fruit and alcohol together if you don’t want to wait.

Teacake (makes two 8 1/2 x 4  inch loaves)  Use room temperature ingredients.

2 cups dried fruit (apricots, figs, raisins, prunes, currants, etc.) cut into raisin-size pieces or smaller, soaked in (covered with) brandy or rum for as long as possible but at least three days, drained very well

2 cups almond flour

3 cups AP flour

3 sticks unsalted butter

1 ½ cups sugar

6 eggs, separated

1 ½ tsp baking powder

1 tsp cream of tartar

½ tsp salt

½ cup milk

1 tsp each almond and vanilla extract

Prepare loaf pans with parchment paper sling and spray with Baker’s Joy. Or butter and flour.

Cream butter with sugar until light and fluffy—sugar needs to be thoroughly dissolved into the butter. Add the egg yolks one at a time and keep beating until smooth. Beat in extracts and salt. Beat in almond flour.  In another bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder, and mix into the batter alternately with milk. Stir in drained, macerated fruit. Scrape batter into a large bowl.  Clean mixing bowl well, and beat egg whites with 1 tsp. cream of tartar until stiff but not dry.  Start with one-quarter of the egg whites,  mixing into the batter, then continue with rest of egg whites until well blended.

Bake in 315-325 oven for 80-90 minutes. Check for doneness after 70 minutes: If a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, the cake is done. Let cool in pan for about five minutes, then use paper sling to lift out of pan. Continue cooling on a rack for at least two hours. Slice with a very sharp knife.

Middle Eastern Frittata

Baked frittatas are my go-to for using up old vegetables (red lentil soup is the other). I sauté the vegetables in olive oil until they have released their moisture, combine with eggs and cheese, seasonings, leftover grain if I have it, and bake in quiche pans or muffin tins.

This frittata is unusually fresh-tasting, however, because it used uncooked vegetables and herbs, and yet it is not watery, thanks to a couple of tricks.  For two 8-9 inch pans (8 dinner servings), start by coarsely grating 1 1/2 pounds of small zucchini.

Sprinkle with one scant teaspoon of salt and let sit at least an hour (or all day if you like). When ready to bake, place handfuls of the now soggy zucchini in a handkerchief and squeeze out all the liquid. Place the dry zucchini in a bowl and add one generous bunch of chopped green onion, a few handfuls of parsley and and a handful of mint, 8 eggs (my picture shows only 6 but I realized later I needed more), ground pepper, and about 10 ounces of crumbled feta cheese. NB: One friend made this recipe using US (Wisconsin) feta and found it too salty with 10 ounces. The Greek brand I used was not too salty. Also note that today I had to use less parsley and mint than usual because it’s not yet abundant in our garden. So the picture of the herbs on the chopping board is misleading in terms of the ideal.) Here’s the other trick: add two heaping tablespoons of powdered pea protein. This not only increases the nutritional value of the frittata, but also absorbs any excess moisture. I buy it online–it’s the main ingredient in Beyond Meat, for example. If you don’t have pea protein, I think any finely milled and blandly flavored grain, bean or even nut flour would work. Combine everything well and spoon into greased quiche pans (or cake pans, anything low).  Bake at 375 until puffed and a little brown around the edge, 30 minutes. It tastes good hot, warm, or cold, and keeps for five days, refrigerated.IMG_1302

 

 

Seed Crisps

seed crisp

This makes a high protein, gluten free cracker that tastes something like Mary’s Gone Crackers, but better, I think. I like having control over the size of the pieces. You can use other raw seeds, like chia. You’ll see the imprint edges of the cookie sheet in the middle piece above. Why buy if you can so easily bake?

You will need two cookie sheet sized Silpats (silicone liners) and two cookie sheets, approximately 13×18 inches. (Of course you can spread the batter on larger or smaller ones, too.) Heat oven to 325 degrees.

2 cups water

½ cup gluten-free flour—I’ve used light teff, sprouted buckwheat, chestnut. I think any gluten-free flour would work. Mary’s Gone Crackers uses rice and quinoa flour. Rice makes the cracker particularly crispy, but I prefer teff or buckwheat. If you use chestnut flour, leave out the extra sweetening. You could flavor this cracker with spice (turmeric, cumin, etc.) if you wanted, but that makes it less versatile. Plain, it goes with anything.

2 Tbs. maple syrup (or equivalent Stevia powder—about 1/4 tsp.)

1 tsp. salt

½ cup sesame seeds

½ cup golden flax seeds

1 cup sunflower seeds

1 cup pumpkin seeds

Whisk flour into water and add sweetener and salt. Whisk in small seeds, then large seeds. Taste for the level of sweet and salt you like, and adjust, if necessary.

Let sit at least 15 minutes (longer is fine: this allows the starch to absorb the water and the flaxseeds to swell), then pour or spread onto silicone liners. I used a small angled spatula. Bake in middle of oven at 325 about 20-25 minutes, or until crisp and evenly brown. Rotate the baking sheet if necessary. If the seeds are browning before the water evaporates and the cracker dries out, turn down the temperature. If you like a lighter cracker, you can turn off the heat before it is completely baked and let the cracker dry out in the turned-off oven, even overnight. Break into pieces and store airtight for several weeks.

Perfection

I’m lucky to have a cousin who lets Laura and me stay at her house in San Francisco. This, and reasonable airfares from Salt Lake City, make regular food trips to that city possible. Over the years, like dogs returning to where they have buried bones, we visit Delfina, Tartine Bakery, the Slanted Door, and Rainbow Grocery. About Rainbow Grocery: where else can I find (in small quantities, without shipping costs) light teff flour, purple barley, and scarlet runner beans?

On our last trip in November, we walked up Valencia street bemoaning the fact that I had missed the window to make a dinner reservation at Flour + Water, a restaurant in the Mission. So we headed to Delfina for a pizza, salad, and maybe arancini. Just before turning onto 18th street, I noticed a new Flour + Water pizzeria on the corner! Fifteen minutes later as we tucked into a Marguerita pizza and salad, we ruminated about why this pizza was not only leagues better than anything available in Salt Lake City (sorry, Settebello and From Scratch), but also even better than Delfina. A chewy, charred, perfectly crisp cooked crust (yeah, gluten!) full of wheaty flavor, a sauce that was the essence of summer tomatoes. A few basil leaves and some mozzarella. Attention to detail and purity of ingredients. Flour + Water bakes its pizza at 600 degrees; Settebello in SLC advertises a Neapolitan pizza cooked for just one minute in a 900 degree oven—but often I’ve had soggy, not just foldable, pizza.

At Flour + Water we noticed also the camaraderie and joy of the workers; during shift change, one baker walked out the door with three boxes of pizza, while another stood at the corner of the oven in his leather jacket and bantered with the people coming in for the new shift. Producing perfect food requires not only the best ingredients but a consistent attention to detail, to which every worker signs on.

Also on that weekend, before  lunch at the Slanted Door, we walked through the farmer’s market outside the Ferry Building. We admired organic red gem heads of lettuce for $2, five different kinds of Asian pears, and at the stall run by June Taylor, jams, candied and jellied fruit, and one pound loaves of Christmas cake. Since I, too, make these things, I talked to June about her ingredients and process. She stressed the necessity of pure ingredients and attention to detail, time that she acknowledges not everyone may have, costly time. She sun dries different grapes for her fruit cake, sources unusual citrus (yuzu, heritage grapefruits, mandarins, lemons, and limes) from local and organic growers (varieties we never see in the grocery because they are either hard to grow or otherwise not moneymakers) and candies the peel herself, using organic sugar. She dyes and block prints paper to wraps the $75 cakes. Years ago, when I first acquired a dehydrator, I decided to make my own raisins. In went four pounds, laboriously washed and stemmed. Four days and who knows how many kilowatts of electricity later, I had a handful of lovely, juicy raisins. They were unlike anything commercially produced—so full of flavor. Maybe this fall I’ll try sun-drying another batch—if the weather cooperates.

In any case, I came home from this San Francisco trip committed to seeking out more pure ingredients—switching from white cane to organic sugar, for example. And paying more attention to detail.