Miz Chef

Food Is Sexy—Therefore, I Cook


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PB&J Cake, aka Space Cake

IMG_5052You might be wondering why I’ve given this cake the alternate name of Space Cake. Or maybe you’re not, but I’m going to tell you anyway.

I went into my local kosher market to pick up a few specific things (it’s the only place I know of that carries my favorite hummus). As I do in any market, I started looking around to see if there was anything new and/or unusual, anything I haven’t tried before. And I was rewarded for my efforts.IMG_5025

I found a bottle of peanut butter powder. Yes, that’s correct. Peanut butter that has been dehydrated and turned into powder. Curiosity overcame me and, of course, I had to buy it. To use it, you mix the powder with water until it’s a paste. When I did that, I have to say that it looked, smelled, and tasted like peanut butter.

Space food.

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Gluten-Free Buttermilk Coconut-Almond Cake

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In the world of gluten-free baking, things can get complicated. Without wheat flour, you need the right combination of ingredients to create a a cake that is light and flavorful, that has good texture and pleasant mouthfeel. A gluten-free cake can very easily be heavy, dense, bland, gritty, flat, and, at its worst, taste like sawdust.

But when the ingredients come together well, you have something that rivals traditional wheat-flour cake. It won’t taste exactly the same, but it’s just as good.

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Blue Corn Muffins

 

IMG_4771For some reason, I got it into my head that I wanted to make blue corn muffins, and what follows is my recipe.

But first, let’s talk about corn. Corn is, unfortunately, one of the most genetically modified crops in the United States. Unless you buy corn that is specifically labeled organic, you can be absolutely certain that the corn you just purchased has been genetically modified. And it isn’t just the corn that you eat, it is also the corn that is fed to the animals that you eat, and that means animal products as well—i.e., eggs, cheese, yogurt, etc.IMG_4718

Organic products aren’t cheap, though. Some people who are health conscious but can’t afford to go totally organic have a list of products that, if nothing else, they always buy organic. If you are one of those people, keep corn on that list.

Organic blue cornmeal is available (Arrowhead Mills has it and can be found in Whole Foods, other natural food markets, and sometimes well-stocked supermarkets). However, I wasn’t able to get my hands on organic blue corn meal in time to make the muffins when I wanted to make them. So, I made the conscious decision to use blue corn meal that I picked up at a Latin supermarket near where I work. Having said that, I urge you to use organic corn—in all its forms—whenever possible.IMG_4720

Now, onto the recipe. Blue corn meal makes for a beautiful purple batter, but the final product isn’t as vibrant. It’s usually a light lavender color. I’m not quite sure why mine came out so much darker than the average blue corn muffin—I suspect that my ratio of cornmeal to all-purpose flour was too high. Nevertheless, I decided that I like them and am keeping the recipe as is—at least for now. I like to add corn to the batter for an extra bit of texture, but you can omit it if you like.

Next time, I’m going to do a gluten-free version. Enjoy!

Blue Corn Muffins

Makes 12 muffins.

1½ cups blue cornmeal
½ cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup grapeseed (or other) oil
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
2 medium eggs
1 cup corn

Preheat oven to 425°F. Grease the cups of a medium 12-cup muffin tin, or line them with paper cupcake wrappers.

In large bowl, mix all the ingredients, except the corn, with spoon or rubber spatula just until mixed.IMG_4742IMG_4750Fold in the corn, if you’re using it.IMG_4751Fill the muffin cups equally. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Place the tin on a rack and let cool. If you try to remove them immediately, they’ll crumble. If you have to, run the tip of a knife around the edges to loosen them.IMG_4759Turn them out onto the rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.IMG_4762Enjoy with butter and jam.

 


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Almond-Lucuma Cake

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Photo: Akramm via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Akramm via Wikimedia Commons

If you haven’t heard of lucuma, it’s because it’s a fruit indigenous to Peru, Chile, and Ecuador that hasn’t really had much play outside of its native region, especially since it only thrives in subtropical climates. It has a dark green skin, and a pit (sometimes two) that look like avocado pits. Its yellow flesh is dry and often compared to hard-boiled egg yolk, and its mild flavor has been likened to maple syrup, caramel, and sweet potatoes.

Indigenous Andean peoples used lucuma not just as food but medicinally as well. The Incas believed it to be a symbol of fertility and creation and it was dubbed “Gold of the Incas.” Modern studies of lucuma show that the fruit contains beta carotene, iron, zinc, vitamin B3, calcium, and protein. It aids in warding off heart disease and hypertension, maintaining skin health and blood sugar levels (and it is hoped that it will help people with diabetes), and supporting healthy digestion.lucuma[1]
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Gluten-Free Lemon-Poppy Berry-Topped Cake

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On this deep-in-winter February day, I’d like to offer a recipe for a gluten-free cake that is really easy to make and very versatile. The batter doesn’t rise much, which makes it a great vehicle for all kinds of toppings.

I like it because it’s not overly sweet and it can be paired with lots of different things. Instead of berries, you can top it with lemon curd or orange marmalade, or buttercream frosting. You can put the batter into 4 small loaf pans for individual desserts. You can also substitute the lemon zest and juice with orange or other citrus. And with the exception of 1 egg, it’s also dairy free, so for those of you who are lactose intolerant, it’s a great choice.

Enjoy!

Gluten-Free Lemon-Poppy Berry-Topped Cake

Makes 1 8-inch cake.¼ cup sorghum flour

¼ cup chickpea flour
2 tablespoons tapioca flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch sea salt
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 large egg
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons maple crystals or coconut sugar
¼ cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 cups fresh berries
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch cake springform pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, zest, and poppy seed.

In another medium bowl, whisk egg, sugar, yogurt, oil, and lemon juice. Fold in dry ingredients, just until all ingredients are moistened.

Bake about 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool 5 minutes. Remove ring. Invert onto a plate, remove pan plate, then invert again back onto rack. Let cool completely.

Transfer to a plate. Decorate with berries and dust with confectioners’ sugar, if desired. (The best way to do this is to put sugar in a fine mesh sieve set over a bowl. Then shake the sieve gently over the cake.)

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Avocado Pineapple Cake

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This weekend was my mother’s birthday. She just turned 81. She’s very spry for her age and still sharp in mind, and I’m thankful every day for that.

She’s also set in her ways. She likes what she likes, and doesn’t like what she doesn’t. She’s never liked going out to restaurants much, since, in her opinion, restaurant food lacks in many departments. The one and only time she was ever really excited to go to a restaurant was when my brother and I took my parents to Felidia, Lidia Bastianich’s place in Manhattan. She’s a huge fan of Lidia and just being in her world was a thrill for Mom. (One of my regrets is not getting a picture with Lidia when I met her at the James Beard House when I was interning there. She treasures the picture of me with Jacques Pepin and I think one of me with Lidia would have made her swoon.)

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Italian Vegetable Crackers

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Want to do something different for that  Christmas party? Why don’t you try making your own crackers? They’re really not that difficult.

Crackers have been around for thousands of years—the ancient Romans made them! The word “cracker” comes from the Medieval word craken, meaning “to resound,” which describes the sound they made when broken.

Italians love to put vegetables in everything, and crackers are no exception. These crackers are a nice blend of herbs and fresh greens. Fava beans, in particular, are very popular in Italy and this recipes utilizes fava bean flour. Not only does it eliminate at least a little bit of the white flour, but it lends the crackers a more complex, vaguely nutty flavor.

Put these out with cheese, dips, salsa, or even guacamole. But they’re tasty enough to enjoy on their own.

Enjoy!

Italian Vegetable Crackers

Makes approximately 7 dozen crackers.

½ cup chopped greens (spinach, kale, chard, etc.)
¼ cup +2 teaspoons olive oil
½ cup fava bean flour (or chick pea flour)
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground rosemary
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground fennel seed
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup parmesan cheese
Hawaiian sea salt or other finishing salt (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Place greens and 1 teaspoon oil in a food processor and process until very finely chopped. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, rosemary, oregano, paprika, garlic powder,  kosher salt, fennel seed, pepper, and parmesan. IMG_4165

Add ¼ cup oil and mix until a dough forms. If necessary, add water, a little at a time, until all ingredients come together.IMG_4166IMG_4167

Place a piece of parchment paper down on a clean surface. Place  dough on the parchment and roll out as thinly as possible. IMG_4169

Cut off the edges to make straight lines. With a ruler, score 1 inch rows down and then across. IMG_4171

Brush top with remaining oil; sprinkle with finishing salt, if desired.IMG_4174

Bake until firm and lightly browned, about 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes. Then move parchment to a cooling rack. Separate crackers and let cool completely.

Store in a tin.

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