black bean taquitos with black bean guacamole + some thoughts on the big gooper’s latest cookbook

chicken taquitos

There’s something about Gwyneth Paltrow that reminds me of dissecting earthworms in the 11th grade. The innards are gruesome to look at, but you can’t seem to turn away. In fact, you’re compelled to dive right in. Or maybe this is just the part of me who secretly wishes she had the drive and competency to be a surgeon finding its way into a blog post. There’s so much about Paltrow that’s worthy of ridicule: the patrician insouciance, the lithe frame, the pizza oven in her backyard, the unconscious coupling nonsense, the bad acting, the why-is-she-famous-while-Winona-stews-in-obscurity questions, Contagion, our laughter during Contagion–the jokes write themselves, so much so that it’s almost too easy. I unsubscribed to Goop two years ago because I couldn’t read her newsletter without wanting to take a shower afterward it was so banal, basic and out-of-touch. Paltrow-bashing, for most, has become a pastime sport.

But those fucking cookbooks.

Mostly I tell people that I like Julia Turshen’s (Gwyneth’s former collaborator) cookbooks. When I had to abstain from gluten, dairy, yeast (gluten-free bread was verboten FOR A YEAR), and 37 million other foods, Paltrow’s It’s All Good was a gentle reprieve. That and the Oh She Glows Cookbook whispered: you’re not going to die, face-down, in a bowl of gluten-free pasta. Not yet, anyway. Finally, I regarded cauliflower with a reaction that no longer resembled disgust.

Yet, I read her cookbooks with a perpetual side-eye. From the Kinfolk-esque photographs of her dreamily staring off into her multi-million landscape that breeds that “simple life” and the endless name-dropping (we get it, you’re besties with Beyonce) to a pantry that costs multiple paychecks to stock, it’s hard not to drop-kick her cookbooks while eating the delicious meals I made as a result of said cookbooks. It’s really hard.

I’ll be honest–I was looking forward to It’s All Easy because I wanted simple, healthy recipes that I could make at home on the days I have back-to-back conference calls and Powerpoint has me seeing double. But then I got the cookbook and sighed because, oh, it’s her interpretation of easy. Easy for the patricians, but rough for the plebeian-crunching lot. I cook often and have a pimped-out pantry, but some of the ingredients had me doing a double-take: who has Gochujang paste, Ponzu, Sambal oelek, kuzu root, and Bonito flakes on hand? I don’t even know what these ingredients are (although I’m clearly curious) much less have confidence that my local grocery will have them in stock. The point-of-view is curious–a mish-mosh of Tex-Mex, Korean, and vegan fare–to the point where the book felt a bit ramshackle even if the most of the recipes score well in terms of ease and flavor.  I paged through the book, read through her insufferable name-dropping and did that squinty thing I do with my eyes when I’m confused.

But some of the recipes (at least the ones with ingredients that were easy to procure) are pretty good. I’ve made her falafel (I did the chickpea soak thing and I am DONE with peeling shells), chicken salad, acai bowl, and eggs, and so far, so good. But still. I was disappointed with her follow-up to It’s All Good simply because these recipes aren’t easy, aren’t meals you can wrap up and store for later. However, if you love Goop, love Gwen, love this Kinfolk aesthetic, live your life and fawn over this cookbook.

These taquitos were really tasty. I changed her recipe a bit for my spice and flavor level, and they ended up being DELICIOUS. I have leftovers in the fridge, and I’ll update this post if they’re crap upon re-heating.

INGREDIENTS: Taquito recipe from Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Easy, modified. Of note, I like this cookbook but it’s kind of comical to call it “easy”. I quite liked the spot-on L.A. Times review, and this recipe road-test was hilarious. // Guacamole recipe is my own
For the taquitos: This recipe serves 4
1 package of corn tortillas
1 15oz can of black beans, drained + rinsed, reserve 2 tbsp of the beans
1 cup Mexican cheese blend
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp chipotle chili flakes
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
Salt, for seasoning

For the guacamole
1 ripe avocado
juice + zest of one lime
1/2 tsp chipotle chili flakes
1 tsp onion powder
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
Salt/pepper to taste
Reserve 2 tbsp of black beans

DIRECTIONS
Pre-heat the oven to 400F, and grease a baking dish or baking sheet. Set aside.

Mix all of the ingredients for the taquitos in a large bowl. On medium/high heat, add 1 tbsp of olive oil to a small, non-stick pan. Add one tortilla at a time, and cook for 30 seconds on each side. Once the tortilla is cooked, quickly transfer it to a plate. Add 2-3 tbsp of the taquito mixture. Wrap tightly, tucking in the mixture as you wrap, and place the filled taquito, seam side down, in the baking dish. Repeat with the remaining 7 tortillas. Midway through the process, I had to add another tablespoon of oil to avoid smoking out my apartment.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

While the taquitos are cooking, mix all the ingredients for the guacamole. I like my guac smooth, not chunky, so I really get in there with the fork. Stir in the beans so as to not break them.

Once the taquitos are out of the oven, let them rest for 1-2 minutes. I love stuffing the guac inside the taquito like it’s a little cannoli. Chow down and serve with arugula or your favorite mixed greens.

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chicken taquitos
chicken taquitos

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vegetarian chili (grain + gluten-free)

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Have you ever looked at your house and realized it was your home? I’ve spent the better part of my childhood and early adulthood as a nomad, moving from apartment to apartment, and home had become the place where my mail was forwarded. Until this year. Until I walked into another apartment in my building on a cold night in February and felt like I was finally home. My apartment is simple, spacious and although the kitchen is a bit smaller than I’d like, I’ve made some of the best meals in this space. I’ve toasted the success and comforted the pain of some of my closest friends.

On Thanksgiving, everyone prattled off a list of things for which they’re grateful. I felt odd doing this because I express gratitude, quietly, to myself, every day. I’m grateful for having changed perspective when it comes to my body–caring for it like a house I want to maintain instead of burn and ruin. I’m grateful for my health, my life and for the ability to write. And I’m most grateful for the fact that I’ve spent a decade cultivating a small group of close friends whom I consider a family.

One of those lights spent some time in my apartment last night, her visit was a needed respite as I’ve been editing like mad and going a little bonkers in my solitude. I made this chili for her and can I tell you she had three small bowls of it? It’s that good. THAT GOOD. This coming from two proud carnivores.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from Gwyneth Paltrow’s My Father’s Daughter
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 large yellow onion, peeled and finely diced
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 large red bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
3/4 tsp mild chili powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp chipotle in adobo
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes with their juice
1/2 cup puy (French) lentils, rinsed and drained
1 14-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 14-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
Big pinch coarse salt
3 tbsp tomato paste

DIRECTIONS
Heat the olive oil in a medium soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, bell pepper, garlic, chili powder, cumin, & black pepper. Cook, stirring, for 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened. Add the chipotle & stir to combine.


Turn the heat up to high, add the tomatoes and their juice, crushing them a bit with your wooden spoon, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low & simmer for 40 minutes.


Add the lentils and beans. Fill one 14-ounce can with water (or broth) & add it to the pot, along with the salt. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, & simmer for 40 minutes.


Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 20 more minutes, or until the lentils are soft and the flavors are melded.

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chicken + chickpea green salad with creamy parsley dressing

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Let me tell you about the morning I had. I woke, dragged myself to the shower–can we call a spade a spade and say I limped–to get ready for a spin class I couldn’t cancel, lest I be charged $20. The reason for the geriatric hobble can be attributed to a brutal Core Fusion Extreme class, during which I questioned whether I’d make it out of the class alive. After what felt like a million squats, lunges, TRX planks, box jumps, and tears–oh, the tears, so many of them–I came home, collapsed face-down on the couch and slept the sleep of children.

Then I woke to soreness.

I should say that I lasted one full song during my spin class before I realized I was toast. I called it a day and limped to the market to pick up a pile of veg for my first week off Sakara and into the real world. Some people get bewitched by clothes; I become obsessed with herbs, leaves I’ve never heard of, and in-season vegetables. You should know that my fridge is 80% composed of vegetables in labeled bags (Exhibit A, below). Because this is my life. 80% of a plate covered in veg. Veg at every meal, so I’ve got to make these recipes desirable, sustaining and GOOD.

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I should also confess that I shamefully succumed to the horror that is VEGENAISE. This is a weakness, friends, because in real life I LOATHE MAYONNAISE. Not as much as the WRETCHED MUSHROOM, but my hate is vociferous and real. But yet, I had a hard time recreating the DELICIOUS creamy dressings Sakara sent with my meals, and since getting their recipes is akin to breaking into Fort Knox, I’m left to my own devices.

GWYNETH PALTROW. Listen, people, a woman needs to survive. My beloved pasta, bread, bananas, cheese, turkey, sweet potatoes and a fucking laundry list of food have been stolen from me. I need to adapt. I need to succumb, and I succumbed to the damn cookbook that delivers seriously good recipes. I thought I would hate this creamy parsley dressing when in fact I do not.

I LOVE IT.

This is a HUGE salad, but it will keep you full until dinner, and it’s SO SO healthy and SO SO good.

INGREDIENTS
For the salad
1/2 cup lacinato kale, de-veined roughly chopped
1 cup spinach
1 cup Amaranth leaves
2 radishes, finely sliced
1/2 cup shredded carrots
2 sweet peppers, sliced into thin strips
1/3 can of chickpeas, drained, rinsed, and sauteed in a small pan with 1 tsp of olive oil, salt and pepper for 2-3 minutes

For the chicken
3 pieces of chicken breast tenders (total weight shouldn’t exceed 4oz)
1 large egg
1 cup gluten-free cornmeal
1 tbsp slivered almonds
1 tsp coarse salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp of olive oil

For the creamy parsley dressing: Recipe from Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Good
1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup organic Vegenaise
3 tbsp water
½ tsp coarse sea salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

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DIRECTIONS
First, make the chicken. Pre-heat the oven to 400F. I had the luxury of having a whole tub of pre-made chicken tenders I cooked from the previous evening (it pays to prepare!), which I chopped into chunks. However, if you’re just making the chicken now, set up an assembly station: 1 bowl of the beaten egg, 1 bowl of the cornmeal, almond and seasoning, and one oven-ready bowl for cooking the tenders in the oven. Dip each tender into the egg to coat and then toss in the cornmeal mixture. In a medium skillet set to medium, add the olive oil. When the pan is hot, add your tenders, spacing them evenly apart and cook for three minutes a side. Once the tenders have a nice, crunchy coating, transfer them to the oven-safe bowl and cook them in the oven for 5 minutes.

While the chicken is cooking, combine all ingredients for the creamy dressing in a blender until completely pureed. Keeps well in a jar with a fitted lid for up to one week, as you’ll only need a tbsp or so for this recipe.

Assemble the items for the salad. Note, this is what I love. Add the veggies that you love–there are endless combinations. I used what I had on hand and what was lovely at the market.

Once the chicken is done, let cool for 5 minutes, chop into chunks, and add the lot to one huge bowl and toss with the dressing.

DIVE IN.

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lentil salad with chicken + mustard vinaigrette

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Feasting on a different dish is easy when you have oceans of time to spend at home, cooking. Since I don’t lead a Gwyneth Paltrow lifestyle, where one has hours to putter about the house and chop things, my meals have to be simple, yet abundant. Especially for the days when I’m in the office, sitting through back-to-back meetings. One needs nourishment, a meal that has the ability to cut through the length of the day.

I’m on-site with a client three days a week, and typically I’ve vacillated between making bad choices in the company cafeteria–telling myself that I’ll make it up at dinner but I never do–or packing simple, carb-rich lunches. Pasta with bolognese, that sort of thing. Part of what I’m learning is that I can’t just leave things to chance; I’ve got to have a plan and a back-up plan for the day. To that end, I’ve revamped my packing list for the week. Sunday afternoons are now spent making dishes and packing tupperwares with snacks and delicious foods for an easy grab-and-go situation when I’m bleary-eyed in the morning.

This week, I’m packing this delicious lentil salad, which I found in the lovely Sophie Dahl’s cookbook. I’ve punched up the original recipe with some chicken, and I plan to either bring a prepped side salad or soup to round out the veggie mix.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from Sophie Dahl’s Very Fond of Food (modified slightly)
For the salad
1 1/4 cup/225g French puy lentils
a handful of cherry tomatoes, finely chopped (I nixed the tomatoes)
2 celery sticks, chopped
1 cup/150g feta, crumbled (I opted not to use the feta as I’m off dairy for the month)
a handful of fresh parsley, chopped
1 lb/16oz of chicken breasts, sauteed, + cut into bite-sized chunks
Salt/pepper for seasoning

For the dressing
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped

DIRECTIONS
Place the lentils in a pan, add water to cover and simmer over a low heat for 20 minutes. Drain. In a serving bowl, mix the lentils, tomatoes, celery, cooked chicken, and feta. To make the dressing, whisk all the ingredients together, dress the salad and toss with the parsley.

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feather light chocolate chip banana loaf

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After a weekend spent connecting with a few hundred people who wrote me after having read my Medium review, people in Paris, Italy, Denmark, and Australia, who shared my distaste over the Kinfolk culture that breeds infection (they are a contagion, I said to my business partner today. They make Gwyneth Paltrow look like trailer park whilst waxing poetic with their decorated beards and expensive boots!), settling in with Joanne Chang’s Flour felt like a homecoming. I let down my guard, was less skeptical, because I knew I was dealing with a methodical trained baker, as opposed to a slew of moneyed artists projecting an unrealistic lifestyle under the guise of authenticity. I first encountered Chang and her infectious passion for baking when I reviewed her second cookbook, Flour, Too. I feel in love with her writing and the way in which she completely changed the course of her life, a story that falls in rhythm with the course of events in which I’ve found myself over the past year.

51uIJ1u3EWLFlour is a true delight for anyone who gets gleeful when flipping through pages of sugar. Crisp pies, tiered cakes, cookies and whipped pastry — you’ll find everything you love about baking and sweets in this accessible cookbook.

Over the years, I’ve made banana loaves, ad nauseum. However, Joanne’s recipe is amazing in the sense that the loaf is light, not as dense and meaty as banana loaves tend to be. Incorporating air into the eggs does this, and the only adjustment I needed to make was swapping nuts for chocolate.

Suffice it to say, the loaf was a success. My business partner and I gobbled down our hot slices with black coffee, while working on projects. Now that is what I call a gathering.

INGREDIENTS: Adapted from Joanne Chang’s Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe
1 2/3 cups (210 grams) all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup plus 2 tbsp (230 grams) sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup (100 grams) canola or other flavourless oil
3 1/2 very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed (about 1 1/2 cups or 340 grams mashed bananas)
2 tablespoons creme fraiche or sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS
Position the rack in the centre of the oven and preheat to 325°F (165°C). Butter and flour your pan of choice. In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, or a handheld mixer, beat together the sugar and eggs on medium speed for about 5 minutes for the stand mixer, and about 8 minutes for a handheld mixer; or until light and fluffy.

With the machine on low speed, slowly drizzle in the oil. Do not pour the oil in all at once. Add it slowly so it has time to incorporate into the eggs and doesn’t deflate the air you have just beaten into the batter. Adding the oil should take about 1 minute.

Add the bananas, creme fraiche/sour cream, and vanilla, then continue to mix on low speed just until combined.

Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour mixture and nuts just until thoroughly combined. No flour streaks should be visible and the chocolate chips should be evenly distributed.

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white bean salad + carrot salad with carrot ginger dressing + ripping the band-aids off

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When you begin to realize that there are divisions in your life that are not mathematical, is when things start to get dicey. It’s as if I’ve spent the past four years blissfully asleep, content in my ignorance, happy to let the world and all the beauty within it, slip, and then I woke from this night terror, confused and disoriented. The costs of ignorance are incalculable, I can’t even begin to do the maths on this one, and while I work on getting my personal house in order I’m growing concerned about the world around me, about the people in it and how they’re content to go through their day under anesthesia.

Have you ever seen the film, Carnival of Souls? A woman who was meant to die in a car accident, doesn’t, and you watch as she roams, soulless, through Utah. She’s a fragile wisp of a thing, prone to hysterics, but at the same time she’s comfortably uncomfortable in her self-imposed isolation from love and faith. In a few scenes in the film, you see her running through a department store, park or a crowded thoroughfare, screaming. No one can hear her, and this terrifies her — the threat of being alone in her torment, the idea that she can’t be heard when she wants to. This silence forces her to face the specter that was there all along — her death, physical + spiritual.

This is a roundabout way of saying that at times I feel very much like this woman. When I’m surrounded by people whose greatest lament is not getting their preferred Soul Cycle class, when an awkward silence falls when I talk about the world and all the monstrous things in it (The AP scandal, brutal rapes in Rio and India), when people can’t fathom going beyond their own sympathetic brunch because being a friend means you have to be there for the long haul, not just for a clasped hand and a few nods and a brunch paid — when all of this, all of this happens, I feel as if I’m alone in my lament.

When I talk about my writing and my excitement for it, and for looking for a job that won’t compromise it, people stare at me blankly to a point where I always, inevitably, ask, Am I boring you? When I think about how I shouldn’t have created such a sharp divide between myself and my co-workers, and how I now don’t know how to be friends with them, even after we’ve left the place that threatened to undo us, many don’t understand.

Maybe I’m hypersensitive (it wouldn’t be a first) or overtly-critical, but I’m walking through life without medication, walking with all the band-aids ripped off, and I need to move toward people who are going to get it. Who are going to be there for the long haul. Those who know that in the end, our friendship was worth the stretch.

In the interim, I’m focusing on making my life (amidst all this complexity) as simple as possible. Naturally, every conversation in my life starts, ends, or involves food, and this would be no different. How simple is it to make a cold carrot salad and a hot white bean one when a friend sits across from you and says she’s scared of the world, too? Or when your best friend, the woman you’ve known for half your life, tells me on a phone line that she doesn’t care about petty politics, she just wishes people would climb out of their damn box. These conversations give me hope. Warm my heart.

INGREDIENTS: Recipes adapted from Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Good
For the carrot salad + carrot ginger dressing: Of note, there is a different version in her cookbook, however, you’ll find that it’s merely a shift in serving size rather than an alteration of ingredients.
4 cups shredded carrots (this is for the salad)
1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped (this is for the dressing)
1 large shallot, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh ginger
1 tablespoon sweet white miso
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon roasted sesame seed oil
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
2 tablespoons water

For the white bean salad: Of note, I made some alterations to Paltrow’s original recipe, as I didn’t feel her version had enough thyme
1 14oz can of cannellini (or white kidney beans), drained and rinsed in cold water
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1 shallot, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely diced
2 tbsp of olive oil
Salt/cracked black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS
For the carrot salad + carrot ginger dressing: Pulse the carrot, shallot and ginger in a blender until finely chopped. Scrape down the sides, add the miso, vinegar and sesame seed oil and whiz together. While the blender is going, slowly drizzle in the grapeseed oil and the water. Toss spoonfulls of the dressing (how much you add is to your taste, really. I prefer salads that are lightly dressed as opposed to drenched) onto the carrots. I added a handful of black sesame seeds for color and additional crunch.

For the white bean salad: In a large skillet, add the olive oil and heat on medium. Sauté the garlic for 2-3 minutes until the garlic slightly browns, and then add the shallots and thyme, and cook for another 1-2 minutes until the onions are slightly translucent. Add the beans and cook for another 5-7 minutes. Serve hot, seasoned with salt/pepper, or at room temperature — either way, the beans are delicious!

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sweet potato soup with coriander, chipotle, and a side of circus

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Everyone wants the circus act in 140 characters or less. You balance the beach ball on your head, cough up fire, and the applause is thunderous. You shimmy and shake and the crowd indulges their minor digressions, too. You’re envied, obsessed over, and given neat little platitudes whose meaning is small enough to fit on fortune cookies. Everyone’s got the shakes: they switch channels when they see displaced Syrians in tents or women holding up pictures of their loved ones still trapped under all that earth in Bangladesh. Instead, they self-medicate on gossip magazines and indoor sports that “allow you to get deeper,” but ticket collectors neglect to tell them that the floor is bottomless. The deep is whether these pants are a size 6 or if they’re a size 2. There’s already so much drama in my life, they mumble. The deep is wondering if they’re witty enough to keep up with the live-tweeting of television shows that all the “popular” bloggers do. The deep is that book that is moderately sad, but it’s a safe sad, a sad that only goes on for a few pages and then there’s the promise of idyll, that magical ending we all desire. The deep is telling other people they’re so brave, but failing to return their phone calls because they just can’t deal. The motley lot shuffle past and preach concern, but their ferocious blinking and marathon eating suggests yours is a deep for which they’re not properly equipped.

You are drowning and everyone takes pictures with their expensive phones of the water. They just want to hold you close, pat your back, and be on their way. They’ve done their charity; they’ve nodded in the right moments, but perhaps that water should be Lo-Fi or Mayfair?

And then you’re left with the empty peanut shells that cut your hands and feet, empty popcorn bags greasy with fingerprints, and a bill divided in two.

They skitter like frightened mice when you say the words, I am afraid. They muffle you quiet with pretty words like, “You’re so strong! You’ll always find your way!” Because they need a strong Felicia, their mentor, their comic relief, their guidance counselor, their human Rolodex. How would the world press on otherwise? We need our circus intact. We need the show to go on.

All these years you give, and this is the kind you’re likely to get.

It makes you tired, shut in, desperate for blooms and hot soup. It creates a need to press the mute button on the world and everyone in it. So there’s soup, oceans of it.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe adapted from Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Good. I’m GOOP’ing her book so you don’t have to.
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil*
1 large red onion, finely diced (about 1 1/2 cups)**
2 garlic cloves – minced
5 springs of cilantro, leaves reserved for garnish***
3/4 teaspoon cumin
Course sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons chipotle in adobo
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced (about 6 cups)
6 cups (1 qt) vegetable stock

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DIRECTIONS
Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, cilantro sprigs, cumin, and a heavy pinch of salt and cook, stirring now and then, until softened but not browned, 10 minutes. While the soup base is cooking, I used this time to peel and chop the sweet potatoes. Add the chipotle and the sweet potatoes and stir to combine. Add the vegetable stock to the pot and turn up the heat. Once the soup comes to a boil, lower the heat and simmer until the sweet potatoes are very soft, about 30 minutes. Remove and discard the cilantro. Carefully puree the soup in a powerful blender. I’ve an immersion blender, which is honestly the best gadget investment I’ve made for the kitchen. I’ve had it for years and I can still get a delicious puree. If you want a really refined, smooth texture, you can pass the pureed soup through a fine-mesh strainer. Garnish each bowl with a few of the reserved cilantro leaves.

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Notes in the Margins
Overall, the soup was pretty extraordinary. A bit spicy for my taste, as I chopped up a whole chipotle and added it with the adobe sauce for measurement. However, if you love spicy this is definitely for you. If you don’t, use 1/2 a pepper and some of the sauce it’s steeped in and the soup will be perfection. What I love about this soup is the consistency. You get the velvet, creaminess that is indicative of most cream (or white potato) based soups, but without the dairy, fat and wasteful calories. And no, I’m not counting calories as I had a huge rosemary roll slathered with Irish butter to accompany my small bowl of soup. Just executing some carb strat, guys.

*Gwyneth is truly high if she thinks that onions and garlic won’t brown on medium heat with two tablespoons of olive oil over a period of ten minutes. I added another 1/2 tbsp into the mix and kicked the heat down to medium/low after five minutes, and all was well with the world. You may want to go safe and add 3 tbsp. This soup is enough for four.

**I abhor red onions in a way that you can’t understand. Instead, I used a small yellow onion and it did the job just fine.

***If your hatred of coriander (translation: cilantro), it’s cool, I won’t judge. You can definitely use basil or sage. Think of the sort of herbs you’d add with squash, as you’re getting a similar sort of flavor play here.

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goop’ing it so you don’t have to: millet falafel + carrot salad

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My beloved Winona has made some unfortunate choices. There was the Adam Sandler movie we’ll say we talked about, but won’t. In The Informers, she played a bird so fraile, her every movement made the needle on the record player jump. You ached for her because she was WINONA RYDER playing a slutbag whore in an adaptation of Brett Easton Ellis’ worst book. I actually wanted her to die in Autumn in New York just so the movie could end, because it was a little creepy that I was the only one in the movie theater for the eight o’clock show. Her shoplifting scandal? A few years too early for the Kim Kardashian-famous-for-nothing set, but I still bought the t-shirt. Shook my fists, stomped my feet. All for naught, sadly, because deep down I knew she stole those clothes.

Naturally, I blamed Gwyneth Paltrow — the lithe blonde who couldn’t string a cogent sentence together, much less get into college, even with Steven Spielberg’s help — for all of it. It’s imperative to get close to one’s enemies, so I watched all of her films (even Shallow Hall), and kicked a chair over when she won the Oscar for a movie named after an author she’s probably never read. Don’t get me wrong — watching her movies hasn’t been a complete exercise in futility — for every Shallow Hall and Great Expectations (whatever, you just liked the wardrobe and romance of it all), there was Hard Eight and Flesh and Bone. She’s given some vulnerable performances amidst the ingenue roles. Remember when she dated the ketchup king? I do, because I knew a friend of his that confirmed she was an entitled head-case, but now I’m being a petty asshole, so we’ll just move right along.

With the arrival of GOOP, I knew her day of reckoning was upon us. Who would take a woman hocking $900 cashmere throws and $52,000 “aspirational wardrobes” seriously? Apparently, America did. Millions of kewpie dolls went macrobiotic and purchased $500 beaded bracelets, which one could easily make for $5.99. Many wanted the whitewashed life of clean, freckled faces and Jennifer Meyer necklaces. Naturally, I screamed into pillows and prayed for the day when Winona would come like a plague of swallows, and launch a zine that would celebrate the fine art of cheeseburger-eating, Roth-reading and chain-smoking (note: I do not support smoking).

No such luck.

When I say that I’ve been a fan of Winona Ryder since high school, a time when she waxed poetic on Salinger and red lipstick, believe it with all of your heart. From her strange, cultish literary upbringing, to her bizarre films, she was an idol for losers in Long Island. Winona read the books I read. Winona had the corpse-like pallor of which everyone in my high school loved to ridicule.

Brief digression: What I wouldn’t give for a Where Are They Now? about all the rat bastards who tormented me during those forgettable years at Valley Stream South High School.

As you can imagine, I’ve been praying for Winona Ryder’s triumphant return (rosary beads, candles, the whole nine) for years. When I read her latest interview in Interview, I spent the greater part of one evening trying to track down last month’s issue (again, no such luck). Clearly, Winona is classy and will only ridicule GOOP from the confines of her Williamsburg apartment. Surely, Winona will forgive the fact that while I often want to pummel Paltrow, I quite like her cookbook.

THE STRUGGLE.

I’ve a friend coming around tomorrow, and she’s got a gluten allergy. After combing the usual sites and suspects, I discovered the BIG GOOP’ers Millet Falafel recipe. Since I’m allergic to avocado and had a pile of carrots to use up, I decided to nix the relish and go full-on with a carrot salad. Per usual, the goddamn-this-is-delicious commentary ensued, and I even thought the recipe would be better all mashed up, fried and tossed with arugula. I plan to play around with it over the next few weeks, because, quite frankly, if I go through another collapsed ball in the pan, I’m kicking someone. Possibly Gwynnie.

INGREDIENTS: Millet Falafel recipe adapted from Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Good (with adjustments and clarifications); Carrot Salad recipe adapted from La Tartine Gourmande (modified slightly).
For the falafel
1/2 cup raw millet, rinsed
1/2 cup cooked chickpeas (or Garbanzo beans), crushed with a potato masher or using the tines of a fork
4 scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 lemon
3 1/2 tbsp olive oil, divided (2 tbsp for the falafel, the remainder for the pan)
Coarse sea salt

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For the carrot salad
4 large carrots, peeled
1 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 tbsp scallions, chopped

For the carrot salad vinaigrette:
sea salt + pepper
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS
For the carrot salad: Grate the carrots and place in large bowl with the parsley and scallions. Since I’m lazy and loathe to grate anything, I bought grated carrots 1 1/2-2 cups worth, and added them to a bowl. In a separate smaller bowl, combine the vinaigrette ingredients in the order listed, whisk together and pour over the carrots. The salad can be refrigerated or served at room temperature.

For the falafel (I made this sans garnish. If you want the whole shebang, GOOP IT.)
Combine the millet with 1½ cups of water and a big pinch of a salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover the pot, and cook until the millet is very soft and all the liquid has been absorbed, 25 minutes.

Stir the chickpeas, scallions, and parsley into the cooked millet. Using a grater, zest the lemon and stir the zest into the millet mixture along with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Using a potato masher, crush the mixture until it holds together a bit.

Preheat the oven to 250ºF and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Set a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and coat the bottom with a slick of olive oil (1 1/2 tbsp). Drop large tablespoonfuls of the millet mixture into the pan with a bit of space between each spoonful. Press each tablespoonful down with the back of a spatula to form a sort of thick pancake (no need to go crazy shaping these, they should be nice and rustic). Cook until browned and crisp, about 3 minutes per side. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO FLIP UNTIL AFTER THREE MINUTES. I experienced a wretched ball collapse, which sent me into hysterics. Set the cooked falafel on the prepared baking sheet and put them in the warm oven while you cook the rest of the millet mixture, adding more olive oil to the skillet if necessary.

Cut your zested lemon into wedges, squeeze a bit of juice over each falafel, and sprinkle each with a tiny pinch of coarse salt. Serve immediately.

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vegan, virtuous + delightful: cafe pinson, paris

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As you can imagine, I blame Gwyneth Paltrow for most things: the existence of $800 orange shorts, wooden bracelets that cost nearly a third of my rent, and an overall obsession with everything-free cooking and baking. In Gwyneth’s rarified world, we’re running through blades of grass, pulling stalks as we go, and our dinner is foraged on our very expensive (read: private to you plebeians) land. However, I can’t deny the fact that the recipes I tested before my European sojourn were the real thing. That, coupled with my doctor’s voice in my head (less refined flour! less sugar!), had me searching for a more virtuous shop in Paris. Does such shop exist?

My friends, it does. Enter Cafe Pinson.

There was a moment when I felt transplanted back to Brooklyn. A maniacal obsession with coffee, a shaggy-haired barista, and accessible WIFI were all signs of Williamsburg, except for the fact that everyone speaks French. A light, airy atmosphere in the Northern Marais district (home to a lot of virtuous and on-trend spots, I’ve learned), Pinson serves up organic + vegetarian cuisine, with a mostly vegan lunch menu. Scores of my friends swear by its lunch fare, which is inventive and tasty, but on one particular morning, I settled into a sunken chair and sipped on my almond-milk cappuccino (rare, even in New York!), freshly-squeezed juice, and a rather moist and yummy banana loaf. Not only was my breakfast delicious, the atmosphere was welcoming, quiet and the place you’d want to go if you were seeking a little quiet.

In retrospect, maybe I should’ve rolled in and opted for a lentil salad, etc, instead of a loaf, considering my attempt at a carb-free day. No such luck.

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ugly as sin, yet so, so good: buckwheat banana pancakes

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Arriving at each new city, the traveler finds again a past of his that he did not know he had: the foreignness of what you no longer are or no longer possess lies in wait for you in foreign, unpossessed places. ― Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

This morning I woke jubilant, anxious. Tomorrow I leave for a three-week European holiday. From Rome to Florence to Siena to Luca to Paris to Bordeaux to Biarritz to wherever the day takes me, I know I’ll return from this trip changed in some way. For the past few months I feel as if I’ve been smothered by the largeness of things. Boxed into a disturbance in one place, where the shapes that ghost my days are monstrous, chattering incessantly. There’s a whisper I’ve only now been able to shake, and in a city so large how is it impossible to feel so small? — the irony of which certainly does not escape me.

This holiday could not have come at a more opportune time, as I need to feel unsettled, off-kilter. I need to get lost in order to find myself again. My first week is a little manic because I’m itinerant: plane to plane to plane to city to unknown bed to dinner to lunch to train to hotel to unpack. I complain about it, but part of me knows this is perhaps what I need to do to shake the remnants of the last few months out of me. To come home, eyes-wide, belly full, heart open. To come home with more than what I left.

But not yet… First, I’ll spend some time tinkering in the kitchen, wearing down the jacket and pages of Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook (realize that every time I type this something inside me curls and dies). Today I made her buckwheat banana pancakes, and believe me when I say these cakes have a face only a mother could love. They’re brown, bordering on grey, with bits of banana poking through, but to say these are delicious and hearty and filling would be an understatement. I love the weightiness of the buckwheat juxtaposed with the creamy banana, made luscious with the golden amber syrup. These cakes are surprisingly light, and I felt satiated without feeling sick. Plus, these are packed with so much goodness, you won’t feel horrible having pancakes for breakfast.

INGREDIENTS: Adapted from Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Good, with modifications
1 1/4 cups almond milk
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp grape seed oil
1 tbsp maple syrup, plus more for serving
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup white spelt flour (substitute rice flour to make pancakes completely gluten-free)
1/2 tsp salt
2 small bananas (or one large), thinly sliced
1-2 tbsp coconut oil

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DIRECTIONS
Mix all the wet ingredients together in a small bowl. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a slightly bigger bowl. Add the wet to the dry and stir just enough to combine – be careful not to over-mix (that’s how you get tough pancakes).

Heat a large nonstick skillet or griddle over medium-high heat and add a tablespoon of butter. Ladle as many pancakes as possible onto your griddle. Place a few slices of banana on top of each pancake. Cook for about a minute and a half on the first side or until the surface is covered with small bubbles and the underside is nicely browned. Flip and cook for about a minute on the second side. Repeat the process until you run out of batter, adding in the remaining tablespoon of coconut oil between batches. I ADORE coconut oil with this as it lends a delicious sweet flavor to the cakes. Serve stacked high with plenty of maple syrup.

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risotto with greens + a decadent chocolate cake — it’s all virtuous!

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The hardest part of telling people about the goodness in Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook is getting past the hot mess that is Gwyneth Paltrow and that rarified world of which she believes to be our reality. In Gwyneth’s world, we’re sporting $850 leather shorts, charring paper-thin pizzas in our outdoor ovens, and frolicking through reeds of grass whilst munching on Amagansett apples. Part of me hopes that Winona Ryder will resurface from her stupor and launch the anti-GOOP, a noir-hued website where a chain-smoking, cheeseburger-eating life is as good as it gets. However, this idyll is very much a Waiting for Godot situation, and I’ve admitted, albeit grudgingly, that Paltrow’s book is quite good. My friend Hitha has decided to ignore Paltrow and instead give credit to Paltrow’s co-writer, Julia Turshen.

I very much like this strategy.

To say that Hitha and I adore food is an understatement. Devoted followers of the gospel that is Michael Pollan, ardent believers in the notion that our body is the home in which we want to live rather than the apartment we’re renting, my sweet friend and I often get together and spend days cooking, eating, and photographing our food. You’ll find us standing on top of chairs, adjusting plates, contemplating linens and trying to find that shot, and I’m humbled to have found such a kindred spirit. So on a day that whispers spring, we decided to give a bunch of Gwynnie’s recipes a go.

On the menu? A virtuous verdant risotto, a kale salad dressed with seasoned turkey bacon (I hope my Twitter friend Michael isn’t reading this!), and a decadent two-layer chocolate cake with “buttercream.” Hitha made the killer risotto and salad, while I focused on dessert, and I have to say that we did a pretty fox job! We marveled over the rich, satiny texture of the risotto (sans cheese!) and the buttercream that had no dairy or butter, yet tasted very much like the real deal. Here’s to eating mindfully and a meal that left us satiated.

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Risotto with Greens: Adapted from It’s All Good, with modifications
INGREDIENTS + DIRECTIONS
1 quart vegetable stock
1 lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, finely diced (about 3/4 cup)
1 leek, white and light green parts only, throughly washed and finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
leaves from 6 sprigs of thyme
coarse sea salt
1 cup Arborio rice
2 cups baby spinach (we didn’t have this on hand, but will definitely add this next time)
1/4 cup chopped basil
Freshly ground black pepper

Warm the vegetable stock in a small pot and set it on the back burner over low heat. Using a Microplane grater or a zester, zest the lemon and set the zest aside. Cut the lemon in half, juice it and set the juice aside.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large, heavy pot set over high heat. Add the onion and leek, turn the heat down to medium, and cook until the vegetables just begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme along with a big pinch of salt and cook until all the aromatics are, well, aromatic, another 2 minutes.

Turn the heat to high, add the rice and the reserved lemon juice and stir to combine all the ingredients. Cook until the lemon juice is just evaporated and then stir in a ladleful of the warm stock. Continue to stir the risotto until the stock is absorbed, then stir in another ladleful of stock.

Continue in this manner until the rice is cooked through and you’ve used all your stock, about 20 minutes. At this point your arm should feel as if it’s going to fall off and the rice should be luxuriously creamy and rich.

Stir in the reserved lemon zest, the greens (these will cook with the risotto’s residual heat), the basil and a few healthy grinds of pepper. Serve immediately.

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Kale Salad with Gwyneth’s “Momo’s Special Turkey Bacon”
INGREDIENTS + DIRECTIONS
6 cups of mixed kale leaves, chopped
1 cup shredded carrots
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt/pepper
8 oz pack of turkey bacon (8 slices)
2 tbsp yellow mustard
2 tbsp maple syrup

Mix the greens with the carrots and toss in the olive oil, salt + pepper to taste. Set aside.

Pre-heat the broiler (or oven to 450F). Lay the bacon on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Whisk together the mustard and the syrup. Using a pastry brush (or spoon), “paint” half of it on the slices. Broil for one minute, then turn it and coat the other side of each slice with the remaining mixture. Broil for another 1-2 minutes, or until crispy. Break up the bacon into chunks and toss into the salad.

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Chocolate Cake + Darleen’s Healthy Buttercream
INGREDIENTS + DIRECTIONS
For the Cake: Click here for the recipe. Instead of using a cupcake/muffin tin, grease two nine-inch cake pans. Bake for 18 minutes at 350F (the recipe calls for 20, but I thought the cake too done. I’d start checking after 15 minutes), and allow to completely cool for 20 minutes before icing with the buttercream. I like to layer some cream in the middle and on top. Since I like my cakes to be a little rough around the edges, I tend to not go in for the luxe side-sweep, allowing for you to see the contrast of cake and cream from all sides. A woman loves a little crumble on her plate.

One thing Hitha + I noticed that we should bring to your attention. This cake dough is incredibly delicate. I thought this was a result of my flubbed measurements in yesterday’s cupcakes, but since you don’t have egg as the binding agent, the cake will fall apart pretty easily, so handle with care.

Another point to make, the recipe notes that one could use 8 and 9 inch pans interchangeably without denoting the change in cooking times, which is a MAJOR MISS. The density is a marked difference, and I would venture that I’d need 20 minutes for an 8inch pan (as you have a denser cake) and 15-18 minutes for the 9 inch. Although I love the book, I’m starting to see minor errors that can affect the dishes. Not critical for cooking, but tantamount for baking.

For the Buttercream
2 cups Spectrum organic shortening (room temperature). This is a non-hydrogenated palm oil, available at speciality and health food stores, as well as Whole Foods.
1 cup tapioca starch (or tapioca flour, which is the same thing)
1 cup agave nectar (or Grade A light maple syrup)
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract

Place all the ingredients in the bowl of an electric (or stand) mixer and beat with the whisk attachment until light and fluffy. The frosting can be refrigerated for up to one month, but bring it back to room temperature and rewhip before using.

While this whipped cream doesn’t taste exactly like the buttercream to which we’ve been accustomed, my knee-jerk reaction was that it resembled whipped marshmallow or marshmallow fluff. The texture is spot-on and the taste light and sweet. Hitha brought her hubby over and this was definitely a crowd favorite.

guilt-free + delicious chocolate almond cupcakes (true story)

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A few weeks ago I had a rather heated conversation with my doctor. Our relationship has always been fraught with drama on the level of theatre or absurdity (usually both), for I’m always convinced that I’ve fallen victim to one affliction or another. When I learned I had a Vitamin D deficiency last summer, I spent weeks on the Internet trying to diagnose myself with an ailment that I was certain my doctor had obscured from me. Chalk it up to a childhood sans health insurance, where hospital visits were epic affairs replete with late movies and hours fidgeting in a waiting room. Back in the day you didn’t see a doctor unless you were on the verge of death, and even then you considered your options.

But back to the conversation at hand. My doctor phoned me with the results of my blood work. I asked, Am I dying? To which my doctor replied, No, but… Naturally, I shrieked because one did not allow for coordinating conjunctions on such occasions. And while my doctor assured me I was fine, just fine, he did notice that I had an abnormal spike in my sugar levels, and upon further investigation, I have a gene that predisposes me to diabetes.

Believe me when I say I was flummoxed. I don’t eat processed or packaged food; I avoid the middle aisles of supermarkets. I EAT KALE! But it didn’t matter because I’m a baker who uses cane sugar. I am a woman who loves carbs. Genetics are genetics. After a few seconds of dramatics, I calmed down and focused on solutions.

Since that conversation, I’ve been the business of sugar reduction. Never have I fallen prey to dramatic dietary changes, but I have made some modifications to my diet. Instead of daily pasta dinner (yes, I know, I know), I have whole wheat pasta three times a week. Instead of bagels and toast, I blitz up a morning protein smoothie that tastes very much like a milkshake.

However, baking proves to be a bit of a challenge. I need to get real with you guys and say there is no true substitute for what sugar, butter and white flour can deliver in a cake, cupcake or loaf. We can make all the modifications under the proverbial sun, but the classics are mainstays for a reason. Yet, I need to get real with myself and admit that the mainstays, while not harmful now, will be in ten years time.

Enter the wretched Gwyneth Paltrow cookbook. Those who know me know that I’ve been going through the tortures of the damned because I have a love/hate relationship with the pedigreed-actress-cum-faux-Martha-Stewart, but her new cookbook is pretty strong, offering smart, virtuous recipes that are free of white flour + sugar.

After I swooned over the banana “ice cream,” I thought I’d try fixing her chocolate almond cupcakes. While they don’t taste like Reece’s Pieces (bless your heart, Gwyneth), they are quite good. These are not your average cupcakes with their airy, feather-light cake consistency, rather they’re fudgy, bordering on a brownie-like texture, and the tops have a lovely crunch to them. My only gripe is that the recipe didn’t convey that the batter makes 18 cupcakes instead of the standard 12 (I found this out researching the recipe online), so some of my cupcakes fell apart after the cooling process.

However, that didn’t stop me from eating one and playing with my kitty.

I invite you to give these cupcakes a go, and I’ll be posting more recipes from the book in an effort to play around with new flours and sweeteners (brown rice syrup is a new, delightful find), sharing my journey along the way.

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INGREDIENTS: Recipe adapted from Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Good, modified slightly
Makes about 18 cupcakes

300g (2 cups) white spelt flour (if you can tolerate a little gluten) or all-purpose gluten-free flour (if it doesn’t include it in the gluten-free flour, add 1 teaspoon xanthan gum)
100g (1 cup) high-quality cocoa powder
1½ tbsp baking powder
pinch of sea salt
4oz (½ cup) grapeseed oil or Vegenaise
8oz (1 cup) good-quality maple syrup, plus an additional 4 tablespoons
4oz (½ cup) brown rice syrup
4oz (½ cup) strong brewed coffee (cooled)
4oz (½ cup) almond milk
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
4 tbsp roasted almond butter

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DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/350F/gas 4. Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners and another tin just with 6 liners. Set it aside.

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Sift the flour, cocoa and baking powders and salt together in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the vegetable oil or Vegenaise, 1 cup of the maple syrup, the brown rice syrup, coffee, almond milk and vanilla. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ones, being careful not to over-beat (that’s how you end up with tough cupcakes!). While I’m usually pretty delicate with the dough, I was able to add all of the wet ingredients at once and stir until the flour mixture fully absorbed the we mixture.

Meanwhile, whisk together the almond butter and the remaining 4 tbsp of maple syrup and set it aside.

Fill each muffin cup halfway with the basic batter. Evenly divide the almond butter-maple syrup mixture among the muffin cups and top with the remaining batter. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Let cool completely before serving.

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