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Tuesday
Oct022012

SPICED LENTIL SOUP WITH COCONUT MILK

It is not fall in my pocket of the world. Summer is still lingering with warm ocean water, people in shorts and tank dresses and tomatoes at the farm stand. Sure there are pumpkins at the market and the sun sets earlier but those are the only telling signs the season is changing. The weather makes me crave salad and fruit, but a big pot of soup intrigued me for some emotional reason. I feel a bit drained lately, and there is something about soup that is comforting. Just a bowl and spoon. No stabbing bits of lettuce or cutting with a knife. Just simple eating. The kitchen is a place of solace for me - a place to be creative, to give, to appreciate small things, to refresh or to be pointed towards something in myself that I haven't taken the time to recognize. And in this case, that awareness came from wanting to make a pot of warm soup on a 97' day. I knew when I saw this soup on The Travelers Lunchbox that I would make it and like it. At first taste, it seemed all the spices didn't marry, but after a bit of sitting in its own goodness, my mouth was filled with warmth, spice, a bit of heat and lentils just tender to the tooth. I garnished it with some toasted coconut because I'm a sucker for a nice garnish, but this is certainly optional. The recipe makes a good portion of soup, which is not inconvenient because it is actually better the next day. So, maybe you're wearing a sweater or maybe you're still in shorts, but soup is never a bad idea.

SPICED LENTIL SOUP WITH COCONUT MILK // Serves 6

Recipe adapted from The Travelers Lunchbox who adapted it from Once Upon a Tart

The recipe calls for green lentils. I used a mixture because I have a large amount of them and they worked just fine. Split or red lentils will likely get too mushy here. I used 4 cups broth because I like my soups on the stewy side, if you prefer more broth to you soup, add another cup or two when cooking the lentils.

1 1/2 cup lentils, rinsed (green suggested)

4 cups low sodium vegetable broth

1 1/2 tsp. tumeric OR curry powder

2 tsp. dried thyme or 1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves

1 Tbsp. coconut oil

1 large yellow onion, diced

2 stalks lemongrass, outer layer removed, lower portion finely minced

1 tsp. sea salt, plus more to taste

1/2 tsp. cardamom

1/2 tsp. cinnamon pinch of red pepper flakes to taste

pinch of fresh grated nutmeg

1 1/4 cup coconut milk (use full fat, just believe me)

3 Tbsp. lemon, lime or orange juice

a few handfuls of swiss chard, spinach or kale

1 cup flake coconut, toasted (optional)

chopped cilantro, for garnish (optional)

Add the rinsed lentils, broth, thyme and tumeric or curry powder to a large pot. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes.

While the lentils cook, heat the coconut oil in a pan. Add the onion and saute until just browned. Add the lemongrass, salt, cardamom, cinnamon, pinch of red pepper flakes and some fresh ground nutmeg and saute another minute. Add the onion mixture to the lentils and stir, keeping the heat on a low simmer.

Add the coconut milk and greens and simmer another five minutes, stirring occasionally until just wilted. Taste for salt and spice and add as you prefer. Finish with the citrus juice and serve warm with toasted coconut flakes and cilantro on top.

Thursday
Sep272012

SEATTLE AGAIN.

Tightly rolling clothes to snuggle into carry on luggage. Packing snacks. Watering the plants one more time, and tidying up for the simple pleasure of coming home to a clean house. The anticipation of going away builds by way of lists and errands - trying to make life out of a suitcase as easy as it can be. I'm always fascinated by airports and all the people going places (where are all of you going?). There are nuances of the actual traveling that are charming in their way, which is why I think both the heading out, being away and coming home are all so special. While packing up, I'm anxious for a change of pace. Trying new food, long strolls down new streets with my favorite person, and someone else making my bed, but am also challenged by living outside of my daily comforts and routines. Said routines are lively these days, but they are still routines, and I am happy in that.

Included in this entry are a few images Hugh captured (via iPhone and Fuji X100) while we were visiting Seattle. We had some really great food, I met some truly lovely readers at a couple book related events, spent time with dear friends, and reveled in the excuse to sit in coffee shops and read without feeling the self-imposed guilt of "being productive." Away. Home. The cycle keeps me feeling alive. 

Favorite Seattle spots: Analog Coffee, Milstead Coffee, Essex, Paseo Carribean, Revel, Walrus and the Carpenter, Sitka and Spruce (holy heavens, this beet dish, I will try and replicate because I'm still thinking about it), The Book Larder and Ashley Rodriguez's cookies.

Thursday
Sep202012

ALMOND DATE TRUFFLES

We're heading out of town early tomorrow. Hugh has some work in San Francisco, I'm going to Portland with my mom and sister for a book signing and then we're meeting in Seattle for a few more days for another book event (if you live near either place, I hope to see you!). I've visited both cities before, and I adore them for how different they are from home. So many places to eat, more trees, independent coffee shops and new faces. I wanted to throw something together quick to pack as a snack for the flight, even though neither are long. A two hour flight is still a 4-5ish hour process of getting from A to B and that's long enough to need some sustenance. I may have a subconscious fear of starving to death, because I always have a snack in my car and my purse, even on the days I'm not going far from home. Without fail, every time we leave for a flight and Hugh sees my purse filled with fruit, trail mix and snacks "Sara, they have food there," but would you guess who eats most of my loot? 

These date truffles are dense little nuggets that give you a bit of energy and also cure a sweet tooth. The sweet dates compliment the rich cocoa powder and the crunchy almonds give just enough crunch to make you feel like you're having a real special treat. I do prefer them cold, but regardless they are great for road trips, plane flights or kids lunches etc. They're so quick and easy you don't exactly need a reason to make them. 

Excuse the brevity. We'll be back with the last of the summer produce I'm gripping onto after the trip. Happy weekend. 

ALMOND DATE TRUFFLES // Makes 18 

I'm not sure who to give the credit for this idea - there are versions all over the internet for these vegan/gluten free treats. Below are my measurements but cheers to the mystery person who invented this combo. 

Some dates can be super dry and hard, but for this recipe, you want to try to get your hands on some that are plump and slightly glossy, with no crystalized sugar on the surface. I get really have good luck at Costco or Trader Joes. You can taste the good quality cocoa here, so while a bit pricier, I like Scharffen Berger or Valrhona.

  • 20 Medjool dates, seeded and halved
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup creamy almond butter
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp. natural cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup toasted almonds, well chopped

Put the dates and vanilla in a food processor and run until a chunky paste forms. Add the almond butter and pulse a few more times. Add the coconut, cocoa powder, salt and cinnamon and pulse a few more times. The mixture should be a tad crumbly, but press between your fingers and stick together. If it seems too wet to hold in a ball, add more coconut, if too dry, add a touch more almond butter or a spash of water. 

Roll a heaping Tbsp. of the mixture between your palms to form a ball. Repeat with remaining mixture. Put your chopped almonds on a plate and roll each truffle in the almonds (apply a bit of pressure to get them to adhere). Place the plate in the fridge to chill for at least an hour. Truffles will keep covered in the fridge for a couple weeks. 

Wednesday
Sep122012

BROWN BUTTER ESPRESSO CHIP MUFFINS

While on a phone interview yesterday morning, a woman asked me if my cooking style has changed since I started the site 3+ years ago. First off, I am not a quick draw on those types of questions. I fill silence with a few "ums" and "well..." but it doesn't buy me the time I need to give an adequate answer. I said that I've taken into account what readers seem to respond to, where they comment the most (which I really appreciate), and I try to keep simplicity in mind as that always seems to be the overall theme of popular posts. People like simple - I get that. I like simple too.

I later thought about her questions and the passage of time in this space, and I realize that my cooking here has only changed as my life has changed first. A response to the different chapters of our story - my food somehow emotionally connected to other things going on. In posts of years past, I had mentioned a number of times how I did not like baking. I don't care much for precision or seeing the amount of butter in my cookies (I like to eat it, but maybe I don't want to see it). I would bake because I was building variety here and I wanted to learn, but it was motivated by an obligation of sorts. Those were days where I lived alone in a studio apartment and I mostly cooked for myself. Hugh and I worked on blog posts in my parents' kitchen on days off from work and the last thing my devil of a sweet tooth needed was a bunch of baked goods around. But after a wedding, a full apartment kitchen, and a stand mixer of my own, I now bake pretty frequently. My will power isn't any stronger, but I show love with food. It's a communication tool for me, and if you know anything about love languages this may make more sense and seem a little less eccentric. I bake because it's a way of care taking, it isn't for me, and I didn't really notice it until that lady asked me that question.

Hugh is a sweet-in-the-morning-with-his-coffee guy so I experiment with breakfast goodies (we don't even eat bananas, I just keep them around to go bad so I can make tasty banana bread. I really have gone to the dark side huh?). I tried these muffins for a little something different, as coffee seems to be the way to my husbands heart. The crumb is pretty light, the sweetness is subtle and we've already gone through half of them before a breakfast has passed so I will assume that means they're alright.

BROWN BUTTER ESPRESSO CHIP MUFFINS // Makes 8-10

Inspiration from Cannelle et Vanille and La Tartine Gourmand

These could easily be made gluten free with one quick change - just substitute GF all purpose flour or rice flour for the spelt. Spelt is wheat free, but not gluten free. I would suppose this would also come out well in a smaller sized loaf pan, but I can't attest to this from experience. Let me know if you try it.



  • 1/2 cup/ 8 Tbsp. unsalted butter or coconut oil

  • 2 eggs

  • 1/3 cup plain whole milk yogurt or applesauce

  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

  • 2/3 cup packed muscavado sugar (or light brown sugar)

  • 3/4 cup, spelt flour

  • 1/3 cup oat flour (just grind up some rolled oats)

  • 1 cup almond flour/meal

  • 1 tsp. baking powder

  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda

  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt

  • 2 tsp. cinnamon

  • 1 Tbsp. espresso or finely ground coffee

  • 3 oz. dark chocolate, chopped

  • // streusel //

  • 1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats

  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter or coconut oil

  • 1/4 cup turbinado sugar

  • pinch of salt


Preheat oven to 350'. Grease a standard muffin tin or fill with paper liners.

Melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally until the solids turn a light brown color, it's a nice shade of amber and it starts to smell nutty. About 10 minutes. Remove from the heat to cool. If using coconut oil, skip this step.

Whisk the eggs, yogurt or applesauce and vanilla together. Once the brown butter is slightly cooled, whisk that in as well. Go ahead, put your nose in there, that smell is all sorts of amazing. In another large mixing bowl, stir the muscavado, spelt flour, oat flour, almond meal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, espresso together to combine. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir to mix. Stir in the chopped chocolate but do not overmix.

In another small bowl, for streusel, combine the oats, butter, turbinado and pinch of salt. Press it together with your fingers to mash everything together.

Scoop the batter into the tins about 3/4 full. You will get somewhere between 8 to 10 depending on how you fill them. Sprinkle a bit of streusel on top of each muffin. Bake on the middle rack for 20 minutes or until centers are just cooked through. Remove to cool.

Wednesday
Sep052012

COFFEE . A CHEMEX METHOD

Hey there. This is Hugh. Please proceed accordingly...

About a year ago we did a post about how we brew French Press coffee. Unfortunately, in the inexplicable way of the internets, that post no longer exists. You can still find the video over here, but the bits of information found in the post are no longer with us. That being said, I'll recap a few of the pertinent points in this entry, but the good (no, great) news is that in just a few weeks, there will be a new and incredible coffee resource available. We are lucky enough to have some wonderful friends at 10 Speed Press, one of whom sent us an advance copy of the forthcoming Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee book (Thanks Ali!) by James & Caitlin Freeman, and Tara Dugan, and oh man, is it something. If you take your coffee seriously, you need this book (and if you don't take your coffee seriously, you need this book).

I've been earneslty experimenting with a few different brewing methods for about 3 years nows, and it's only been in the last couple weeks, since diving into this book, that I've been consistently happy with the cups I've been brewing. Our coffee up to this point has been pretty good, occasionally really good, but until recently I often couldn't understand why that distinction was presenting itself. Now I do. I think that this largely comes from the holistic view of the coffee process that I've been introduced to in the pages of this book. James and Caitlin have given me a better idea of how and why coffee is grown, why the art of roasting is truly an art, how to better understand and adapt my brewing methods, and quite a bit more. I could go on and on about the book, but seriously, you should really just preorder a copy. Your coffe will never be the same.

Ok. So. The Chemex.

Pour over is Sara and my standard, day to day brewing method. It's a simple, honest process. Approachable enough that even if you've never manually brewed coffee before you can end up with a solid cup your very first try and it's elegant enough that you can spend every morning for the next few years perfecting the execution. Simplicity. Elegance. Perfectly paired ingredients.

What you'll need for this particular method:

  • Cool, filtered water
  • Well and freshly roasted coffee beans (try Blue Bottle, Stumptown, Sightglass)
  • A decent grinder - important to ensure consistent particle size (we use a Capresso Infinity)
  • A Chemex & oxigen cleansed filters
  • A swan-neck kettle - you don't need one, but using one will allow you much more control and precision while pouring (we use a Hario Bouno)
  • An instant read, digital thermometer
  • A gram scale
  • A timer
  • Scissors

The Method (I get kind of wordy, here, sorry, but for those of you who care, hopefully there's something new in here for you. For those of you who don't, the video hits the basics). You'll often find that brewing instructions give all measurements in gram weight, this is for a number of reasons, but most importantly, it allows for consistency and easily defined ratios. This method calls for a 1:10 ratio of coffee grounds to water, so you'll be using 30 grams of coffee beans to yeild 300 grams of brewed coffee (about 10 fluid ounces).

Fill your kettle with approximately 700 grams of water. You'll be using a portion of it to rinse the filter, and part of the water will be absorbed by and remain in the filter and coffee grounds at the end of the process, so you'll need the extra. Start your water (we use a Capresso electric kettle as it brings the water to boil quicker).

Prep the filter. I like to round off the top of the square Chemex filters so that they match the profile of the Chemex itself. This allows me to position the spout of the kettle as close to the ground as possible which makes controling the pour considerably easier. Open the filter and place it inside the Chemex, with the three-walled side of the filter centered over the pouring groove in the Chemex.

Once the water is up to a boil, rinse the filter. Chemex filters have quite a bit of paper mass, so thoroughly rinsing before you brew in them helps wash away the otherwise papery taste they can impart. If you fully remove the filter at this point, you'll have a dickens of a time getting it reseated correctly, so just peel back part the filter and empty the water.

Measure 30 grams of beans then grind. This part takes some experimenting. The basic idea is that a finer grind results in more surface area which results in more extraction. If the water pours through quickly and you get a weak, tasteless cup, you'll want a finer grind; if the water stalls and you find a bitter, over extracted cup, grind a bit courser. For ballpark purposes, in our grinder, the finest being a 1 and the coursest being a 10, I grind at about a 2.5 for Chemex. All grinders are different though, so experiment until you get it dialed.

Add the grounds to the filter then gently groom them until you have a level surface. Try not to compact any part of the grind bed while doing this. Set the whole assembly on the scale and tare.

Prebrew. With the water at 200° (up to 205° for a fresh, light roast, and as low as 190° for a darker roast) add just a small portion of the water to the grounds, about 60 grams in this case, as coffee will hold about twice it's weight in water. You want to add as little as possible while fully saturating the grounds.

Allow the prebrew about 45 seconds (as little as 30 seconds for super fresh beans and up to a minute for a less recent roast), then gently begin to add water in small, concentric circles, in the middle of the grounds, being sure to keep the flow of water away from the sides. As the water level begins to "swell," pause for just a few seconds until the it drains back to the original level of the prebrew. Continue doing this, slowly adding water, while maintaining the same approximate level, until the scale tips 400g, which should take place at about 3:00 on your timer. Again, about 100g of this water will remain in the grounds/filter.

Just before the last of the water dissapears into the grounds, remove and discard the filter (around 3:30).

Pour. Enjoy. Hopefully with cookies.