chock full of fresh zest and candied citrus peel

chock full of fresh zest and candied citrus peel

 

tangy, creamy, sweet, crunchy

tangy, creamy, sweet, crunchy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last summer I studied art history in Barcelona.  It was a hot, sticky, but extremely tasty experience. One of my favorite places to relax in the city is a bakery/cafe called Escribá.  It is close to La Boqueria on La Rambla.  Their pastries, tarts, cakes and chocolates are beautiful and “wow” worthy.  I was able to return to Barcelona this past winter break and one of my first stops was Escribá.

 

rich, velvety, dark chocolaty

rich, velvety, dark chocolaty

 

sticky candies, not too sweet

sticky candies, not too sweet

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moist, tasty and interesting

moist, tasty and interesting

 

 

I am starting to toy with using less processed ingredients for baking .  This is difficult, however, because ever since I was little I religiously baked with unbleached white flour, processed cane sugar, and hefty amounts of butter.  101 Cookbooks is helping to change my mind about healthier baking.  

Heidi Swanson’s recipe for a no sugar carrot cake caught my eye.  I love carrot cake.  I bought organic carrots and organic cultured cream cheese (yum) at Berkeley Bowl.  Emre helped me chop the dates, grate the carrots and mash the bananas (thanks ♥).  The cake turned out moist and not sweet like you would normally expect carrot cake to be.  When I frosted it with the agave sweetened cream cheese the cake was delicious.  I think it is a better breakfast cake than a dessert cake.  

My friend Kathleen introduced me to agave syrup.  It is a natural liquid sweetener that is supposed to be better for you than processed sugar.  Does anyone know the real story on agave?  Regardless of its health benefits, it made the cream cheese into an easy, tasty frosting.

 

look how much chocolate is in there!

look how much chocolate is in there!

 Ok, so I was bitter about Ici when I wrote the post about Tara’s.  However, I decided to give Ici another chance and I was pleasantly surprised.

Yes, we [Emre and I] waited for about 15 mintues.  Yes, we were harassed by some people driving by that it was not worth waiting for.  Yet, we waited, because we just came back from camping and needed ice cream.

We shared two cones- one of chocolate chip candied orange and one of dulce de leche cinnamon swirl.  The chocolate chip was chock full of chocolate pieces and the chewy, citrusy candied orange was fun to eat.  Cinnamon and deeply caramelized dulce de leche in creamy vanilla ice cream is just flat out right.

There, Ici ice cream is good sometimes.  I guess it just depends on the flavors of the day.  Ici’s one consistency: their cones are always good—crispy and filled with a knob of chocolate at the tip.  

he isn't complaining about the wait anymore

he isn't complaining about the wait anymore

 

hot, cheesy, fresh and zingy

hot, cheesy, fresh and zingy

 

 

I ate at Cheeseboard twice this week.  It was worth it.

On the first visit this week, I had a slice of asparagus, Gouda, mozzarella, garlic olive oil and gremolata pizza.  They thinly sliced the asparagus into rounds so the pizza was easy to eat.  I also bought a whole head of sweet roasted garlic to schmear on the pizza.  Messy but worth it.

For their Cinco de Mayo celebration, Cheeseboard created a zucchini, corn, mozzarella, onion, feta, cilantro and garlic olive oil pizza.  They gave us key limes to squeeze on top and fresh, spicy salsa verde to dip the crust in.  Ridiculously good.  Sweet pop of corn kernels, salty feta cheese, green taste of cilantro and zing from the limes.  

My friend Jenna and I also shared a small salad with a creamy tomato dressing, jicama and pine nuts.  The greens were fresh, and big enough to eat like chips—pick up leaf, dip in dressing, chomp.  Health-wise, It made me feel slightly better about eating a cheesy piece of pizza.

Cheeseboard is not that expensive.  Slices are $2.50 which includes a big slice of pizza and a small sample slice to eat as you are trying to find a place to sit.  Here is the link to check the pizza of the day.

 

looks fancy, way easy

looks fancy, way easy

I went home for Passover a few weeks ago and my mom presented me with a tin of matzo cake flour.  Great, I had to make a dessert with matzo.  That would be my challenge of the weekend.  However, I conquered said challenge with a mild cop -out— a lemon cheesecake.

Cheesecakes are really pretty easy, and I don’t know why they are not commonly home made.  First of all, there is no hard to make crust involved, like there is with pies.  Second, the filling is ridiculously easy and can be creatively modified to your tastes.  This recipe from Gourmet.com called for lemon zest which made the filling a lovely mellow yellow.

I served the cheesecake at room temperature.  Mistake.  It tasted much better the next day straight from the fridge.  The flavors melded into lemony-creamy goodness. You can replace the matzo cake flour with graham crackers.

To dress up the cheesecake, I delicately placed sticky pieces of candy lemon peel on top.  Here is the recipe for candied citrus peel a la How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman.  

Candied Citrus Peel

4 lemons

2 cups sugar

1. Score the skin of the lemon and peel of the sections of skin.  Place skins in a saucepan with a few cups of cold water.  Bring skins and water to a boil, simmer for 5-10 minutes until tender, then remove and let cool until you can handle them.

2.  Using a spoon or knife, scrape off the white pithy stuff from the inside of the skins.  Discard yucky pithy stuff.  Slice skins into thick or thin slices, whatever you like.

3.  Bring 1 cup water and 2 cups of sugar to a boil in the saucepan to 234°F (I used a digital meat thermometer to measure the temp.)  Place pith-less skins in the hot syrup and simmer for a few minutes, turn off heat and let the skins cool in the syrup.

4.  Remove from syrup with tongs or a fork.  You can roll them in sugar if you like.  Let dry on wire rack or wax paper.  Eat, or use as decoration…then eat.

PS I made candied Meyer lemon peels and they were really good.  More tender and less bitter than the regular lemons.

PPS SAVE THE SYRUP from the candied peel recipe.  This is now a perfect lemon infused simple syrup that you can use to sweeten iced tea, homemade lemonade….or fresh mojitos (:

 

a perfect lunch to keep you going until dinner

a perfect lunch to keep you going until dinner

Heidi Swanson is the creator of one of my favorite food blogs called 101 Cookbooks.  She actually creates recipes (crazy) made with seasonal, natural ingredients.  I am able to  find the ingredients in her recipes—like whole wheat pastry flour, bright magenta chard and mellow white miso paste— at Berkeley Bowl and the local farmers’ markets .  She usually gives substitutions for weird ingredients so everyone can create her delicious dishes.

Her Walnut Miso Noodle recipe caught my attention a few weeks ago because I love anything involving asparagus.  I had never made soba noodles before or a miso dressing, but the dish just sounded easy and interesting.  Now it is two weeks later and I have made the recipe 3 times.  I found a huge bunch of bright pink chard at Happy Boy Farms during the Saturday morning Berkeley farmers’ market.  I substitute lemon juice for the white vinegar because I don’t have any white vinegar.  I found fresh soba noodles in the refrigerated section at Berkeley Bowl.  The miso dressing keeps in the fridge perfectly so make a little extra to put on sauteed spring veggies.

If you are working on your summer bikini bod (good luck) you can increase the amount of veggies compared to the amount of soba noodles in your bowl.  The miso dressing makes the veggies flavorful, creamy and delicious so you won’t miss the extra noodles…that much.

 

creamy, fresh and flavorful

creamy, fresh and flavorful

 

Ok, so I am one of those people who waits in line for over 15 minutes to buy a scoop of ice cream at Ici.  The shop is cute, it is close to La Mediterranee restaurant, and my friend  works there.  However, it never quite lives up to my expectations, and I’m always left wanting more flavor and more creaminess.

Tara’s Organic Ice Cream is a couple blocks further down College St. towards Safeway.  I saw this new ice cream store last semester, but I was too afraid to move away from the intensely popular Ici.  Tara’s never looked busy, which I thought was a sign of unworthiness.  Tara’s isn’t as cute as Ici, it just looks like a normal ice cream shop.  Didn’t we always learn that we can’t judge a book by its cover?

A few days ago I walked past Tara’s and there was a rambunctious group of kids and moms eating ice cream in front of the store.  I asked them how the ice cream was and a mom said “Good enough for us to keep coming back.” 

I stepped into Tara’s and the man behind the counter asked me what I wanted to try.  There seemed to be about 20 flavors on display. I tried garam masala, Tazmanian honey, green tea and blueberry mint.  All of the flavors were pronounced and nothing tasted artificial.  Usually I don’t like blueberry flavored things, but this ice cream tasted like fresh blended blueberries and garden mint.  It smelled and tasted like it should.

Tara’s offers a “smaller than small” cup for $2, which was the perfect size for me.  I like a small amount of amazingly flavorful ice cream and Tara’s delivers.

P.S. The nutritional facts of Tara’s ice cream seems too good to be true, but hey, I’ll believe it so I can eat more ice cream (:

 

fluffy, eggy, steamy

fluffy, eggy, steamy

My mom gave me a Jewish cookbook a year ago called The Book of Jewish Food by Claudia Roden.  Great, I thought, now I officially have the tools to become a good Jewish housewife–noodle kugel and brisket recipes.  The other day I brought out the cookbook because Passover was coming up and I felt like cooking something Jewish-y.  Challah.  I know, I know, totally not Passover friendly, what with the leavened bread and all, but challah is so pretty and tasty.

Since I don’t have a stand mixer or even a hand mixer in the fraternity kitchen, I made bread the old fashioned way, by hand.  I followed the recipe and the bread came out beautifully.  I ended up adding a lot of flour in the kneading process because the dough was sticky.  Just make sure to tap the bottom of the baked loaves to test for the hollow sound which signals doneness.  

Emre and his roommate David scarfed two loaves within minutes after the challah came out of the oven–success.  

Challah recipe from The Book of Jewish Food by Claudia Roden:

Hallah

The Braided Sabbath Bread

Makes 4 loaves

It is made with eggs and comes out so beautiful that you do not resent the labor.

2 tablespoons dry yeast

2 1/4 cups (500 ml) lukewarm water

1/2 cup (100 g) sugar

4 eggs, beaten, plus 2 yolks or 1 whole egg for glazing

1 tablespoon salt

1/2 (125 ml) vegetable oil

About 9 1/4 cups (1 1/3 kg) flour

Poppy or sesame seeds (optional)

Dissolve the yeast in the water with 1 teaspoon of the sugar.  Beat well and leave 10 minutes, until it froths.

In a very large bowl, lightly beat the eggs.  Then add the salt, sugar, and oil and beat again.  Add the frothy yeast mixture and beat well.  Now add the flour gradually, and just enough to make a soft dough that holds together, mixing well, first with a large spoon, then working it in with you hands.  Knead vigorously for about 15 minutes, until it is very smooth and elastic, adding flour if the dough is too sticky.  Pour a little oil in the bowl and turn the dough, so that it is greased all over.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put in a warm place to rise for 2-3 hours, or until it has doubled in bulk.  Punch the dough down and knead again, then divide into four pieces to make four loaves.

To make braided hallah with 3 strands:  Divide 1 piece of the dough into 3.  Roll each piece between your palms and pull inot long thin ropes about 18 inces (46 cm) long and 1 1/4 inches (3 cm) wide.  Pinch 1 end of all the strands together and plait [braid] them…Continue with the remaining 3 pieces [of dough].

Place the 4 loaves on well-oiled baking sheets, leaving plenty of room for them to expand, then leave to rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk.  Now brush gently with the beaten egg yolks, or, if you want to sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds, brush first with the whole beaten egg (the seeds stick better if the white is there too.)  Bake in a preheated 350°F (180°C) oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the loaves are beautifully golden brown.  They are done if they sound hollow when you tap the bottoms.

Variations for sweet hallahs

  • Add 1/2 cup (125 ml) honey to the beaten eggs.
  • Add 3/4 cup (100 g) raisins and knead them into the dough after it has risen and been punched down.
shiny golden brown carbs...yummy

shiny golden brown carbs...yummy

 

carrot cupcakes

carrot cupcakes

I was walking through Sproul the other day and a girl approached me with a plate of cupcakes for sale.  The cupcakes appeared to have real frosting on them with two banana chips on top for a garnish.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t buy one because I didn’t have any cash at the time.  However, I emailed Alamira, the creator of BabyCakes cupcake company, and asked when was the next time that she would be selling.  

So today I met Alamira and bought a carrot cupcake with cream cheese frosting on top for $2.  The cupcake was light and delicate and the frosting was creamy and beautifully applied in a flower shape.  The only suggestion I have is to make the cupcake more carroty to stand up to the frosting.

She also makes fat free cupcakes with fat free yogurt or organic cupcakes with all organic ingredients.  I am just excited someone created a startup baking business.  Next week I will feature the Cal Cooking Club’s snack stand.

Yay for homemade snacks on Sproul (:

 

crunchy, colorful and refreshing

crunchy, colorful and refreshing

 

 

Yes, we know salads, vegetables, dark leafy greens etc. are healthy for us.  Therefore, we try to eat these almost every day, usually in the form of a salad.  Sometimes we get in a rut and eat a similar salad every day.  Boring.

 I live in a large house, with lots of girls…a.k.a a sorority (don’t judge) and we have a salad bar.  There is a good selection of veggies like jicama, broccoli, and cherry tomatoes, but I am bored of the leafy greens.  

Lately I started replacing freshly shredded cabbage for the leafy greens.  Red and green cabbage is crunchy, tasty and colorful.  I usually add shredded carrots, diced avocado, chopped fresh herbs, diced bell pepper and chopped spring onions to the cabbage.  For the dressing I mix chopped fresh garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper. If you let the shredded cabbage sit for a few minutes in the vinagrette it will become a little more pliant and flavorful but will still be crunchy and delicious.

Try it if you like crunch and you are bored of your leafy greens.

Fun fact: DON’T USE FAT FREE DRESSING.  Apparently the fat from olive oil helps your body absorb the nutrients in the vegetables you are eating.  Also, olive oil just tastes good.