Heirloom Apple Salad

The sort of hearty apple salad I love. It has heirloom apples, shaved celery, and toasted nuts of your choosing. The dressing is creamy and spiked with rosemary, garlic and champagne vinegar.

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If you’re looking for a simple apple salad, you’re in the right place. There’s a reasonable chance that you have the ingredients needed to make it sprinkled around your kitchen – on counter tops, or in the crisper. And if not, there are lots of ways to make substitutes. It’s hearty and substantial, colorful and crunchy – made with heirloom apples, shaved celery, and toasted nuts of your choosing. The dressing is crème fraîche (or sour cream) spiked with rosemary, garlic and champagne vinegar. 
Heirloom Apple Salad

Apple Salads – All About the Crunch

This salad is big on crunch. And that alone is likely the reason it has become a fall favorite. There’s crunch from crisp apples, celery, and nuts. Pair that with the creaminess in the dressing? It’s a nice contrast. My main tip? Seek out crisp apples with good flavor. And pass on mealy apples.
Heirloom Apple Salad

Substitutions

Think of this recipe as more of a sketch than anything else. I used arugula because it’s what I had on hand, but the baby gems at the market looked great and would have been a nice substitute. Same goes for the nuts. Toast whatever you have on hand – pine nuts, almonds, or walnuts. And on the dressing front, crème fraîche brings a beautiful luxe texture into the mix, but  you can certainly use sour cream or even yogurt, and whatever good-tasting white wine vinegar you like.
Slicing Apples for Apple Salad

Slicing the Apples

Another variable you can experiment is the cut of the apple. You can see my preferred slices up above. They thick enough to retain some snap, and bite-sized. I like them sliced this way so you can get a bit of everything on a fork – some arugula, apple, nuts, etc. But if you really love apples, add more and slice them thicker. I also have it in my notes to do an apple salsa of sorts – with everything chopped smaller & a few serrano chiles chopped and added to the mix. For use on winter panini, and the like.
Bowl of Apple Salad in the Kitchen

The Dressing

The dressing is great on all sorts of things. Not just apple salad. It’s decadent drizzled over roasted potatoes (or sweet potatoes!), as a finishing kiss for mushrooms, or as a slather on panini. I also love it drizzled over oven-roasted broccoli, or a medley of sheet-pan baked vegetables.Heirloom Apple Salad

Your Apple Salad Ideas

Over the years you’ve left some great suggestions and variations in the comments. I’m going to highlight a few and also encourage you to let us know of any riffs on the recipe you enjoy in the future!

  • Amanda says, ” I grated a half a celery root into the salad as well, which boosted the yummy celery flavor and added another texture. So good!”
  • Chase brilliantly swapped in pears, “I have made this salad 8 times in the last 10 days!!!! An instant favorite! Hazelnuts were the nut of choice and a pear/apple mix with some added Rosemary crostini crumbled in gives it a great crunch!!!”
  • Dana turned it into more of a main dish, “I added some cooked and cooled wheat berries to this salad and it was divine! Nutty crunch and great nutrition to bulk it up for a main course dinner.”
  • Kara introduced a few ingredients, ““Hallelujah!” is what I thought when I bit into this salad today for lunch! I substituted baby broccoli for the celery, used walnuts, and some sliced Parmesan.”

Have fun and poke around for more salad recipes, or more fall recipe inspiration. I love this Genius Kale Salad, this Shaved Fennel Salad from Super Natural Every Day, this pure Cilantro Salad for the cilantro fans out there, and for more of a main, this Hazelnut & Chard Ravioli Salad is always a go-to.

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Grillable Tofu Burgers

Seasoned with a good amount of cumin, cayenne and mustard, these are hearty, filling, easy to make, dump-everything-in-the-food processor grillable tofu burgers.

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Wayne calls this the “1996 Veggie Burger.” It’s basically an old-school hippie burger. I love them for a few reasons. First, they’re grill-able. Second, they’re made from ingredients I understand – organic tofu, seeds, nuts, eggs, spices, and breadcrumbs. And third, they’re endlessly adaptable by switching up the spices & your burger toppings.
A Grillable Tofu Burger Recipe

The Recipe

On the cooking front, I’ve been cleaning out some drawers. Primarily going through old magazine clippings (which is part of the reason I’ve been featuring more magazine inspired recipes than usual). I’ve been finding lots of gems, and these tofu burgers jumped out at me. I’ve adapted them from a reader contributed recipe that ran in the October 2004 issue of Sunset Magazine. The recipe was sent to Sunset by Jeremy Wolf of San Francisco, and I enjoyed them so much! They were impossibly easy to make, relying on the “throw everything in the food processor” technique, and called for a quirky mix of ingredients ranging from tofu, seeds, and nuts, to mustard, cumin, and mushrooms. In the years since, I’ve done a lot of variations, and I’ll talk through a few of them below.

I will say, I suspect you’ll be tempted to tweak the seasonings, and you should! But here’s my advice. Don’t skimp on the cumin or mustard, you need some assertive flavors to kick in – keep in mind you’re dealing with ground tofu and eggs as a burger base. Whatever you do think bold!

Ingredients in Food Processor for Tofu Burgers

Tofu Burgers – How To Cook Them

One of the great things about these is you can cook them a number of ways. You can use a skillet, you can grill them, or you can bake them. The main thing you need to do is blend the mixture to a smooth-ish consistency. Then firmly shape and press the mixture into firm patties. I call for the firmest tofu you can find (extra-firm), but each tofu brand has a different quantity of water in it. If your mixture is too wet, simply blend in more breadcrumbs 1/4 cup at a time, and go from there. The mixture also firms up as it sits, so keep that in mind. You can let it rest for 10 minutes or so before shaping if you have the time.
A Grillable Tofu Burger Recipe

Tofu Burger Variations

A number of people have attempted to make these without the egg. I haven’t tested that version yet, but here’s are a few notes from the comments. From Lisa,”For the vegan, I reserved part of the batch before adding eggs, and put in a tablespoon of almond butter as a binder, plus a little extra breadcrumbs.” Jacqui says,”…although I was out of eggs, so I used 2 T of chia seeds mixed with 6 T of water as a replacement. Worked great!”

For a gluten-free option Lisa commented with this brilliance, “I make something similar to these and use masa harina instead of breadcrumbs for a gluten-free option… it definitely gives it a “southwestern” twist, and is SO delicious.”

Cooking Tips

If you’re nervous about the patties falling through grill grates, Judith says,”…my husband was in charge of the grill, started out on aluminum foil, we thought they might fall through the grates, he ended up putting them right on the grates (they firmed up while cooking on the foil for a bit) and they were wonderful!”

Enjoy!!

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Steaming Vegetables

A reminder of what a great cooking technique steaming vegetables is. Fast and flexible for the win.

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Steaming vegetables is an underutilized cooking technique in my kitchen. After my last trip to Japan, I pledged to remedy the issue. This simple, direct method of cooking is one of the reasons I love eating in Japan. I mean, let’s be honest, I probably like steamed vegetables more than most, but I enjoy them exponentially more there. Somehow, many of the things I love about traveling there are summed up in this simple preparation.
Steaming Vegetables - assortment of colorful vegetables
I’d often receive a sampling of seasonal produce as part of a combination lunch. The vegetables arrived at the table beautifully arranged in the bamboo basket they were steamed in. I’d work my way through a rainbow of vibrant, tender potatoes, squash, mushrooms, broccoli rabe, and the like, sometimes adding a pinch of zesty shichimi togarashi, but more often than not, a casual toss of a few grains of salt would be all. Each meal was a vibrant, satisfying reminder of just how good vegetables can be when prepared simply with care and intent. Their natural flavors coming through direct and perfect.

Break out the Steamer!

After this past trip, my inexpensive, tri-level bamboo steamer was promptly dusted upon my arrival home, and put into proper rotation. The thing that never ceases to surprise me is the speed even the most hearty chunks of root vegetables or squash become tender – ten minutes, often less.Bamboo Steamer

Choosing a Steamer

Bamboo steamers are easy to come by, and relatively inexpensive. Go this route if you aren’t sure how often you’ll use your steamer. The one downside is they take up a good amount of storage space, not much more than a big pot, but still. These steamers are available in a range of diameters, and are made of interlocking trays intended for stacking on atop of the other. Placed above simmering water, the steam from the water rises through the trays and cooks the food. It’s a simple premise that works astoundingly well. I use three trays, but you can certainly go up or down a level.
Steaming Vegetables in Bamboo Steamer
I eventually graduated to a ceramic steamer, and also picked up this Mushi Nabe, donabe steamer. Both are nice because you can make a broth or curry in the base, and then use steam the ingredients up above at the same time. Any of the steamers make a nice jump from cooking to table. If you want to expand beyond steaming vegetables, you can also steam everything from dumplings and tofu to eggs, tamales and certain rices.

Colorful Vegetables in a Bamboo Steamer Basket

Some Tips on Steaming Vegetables:

  • While steaming with water is most common, I’ve also played around using miso broth, vegetable broth, vegetable dashi, or tea in place of water. Each imparts a different scent and flavor to the vegetables. More times than not though, I use water.
  • Arrange your slowest cooking vegetables in the bottom basket, working up to the quickest. Another time saver is to get your densest, slowest cooking vegetables started in in the bottom tray, while you prep the quicker cooking vegetables for the mid and top baskets. Place the lid on whatever basket is on top at the time.
  • Some people line their steamers with cabbage leaves or parchment. I don’t bother, placing the vegetables directly on the steamer instead. I like how it seems to keep the steam circulating. A quick scrub with hot water and the rough side of a sponge makes clean-up simple.
  • When using the bamboo steamer, you can use a wok (steamer sits above the simmering water) or wide skillet (I set the steamer directly in a shallow skillet of simmering water)…A wok is more traditional, and easier on your steamer, but both techniques work well.

Plate of Assorted Vegetables to be Steamed

So, less of a recipe, and more of a reminder today of how good the most basic preparations can be. A few years after I initially posted this, I did another deeper dive into Using your Underutilized Steamer. Have fun! -h

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Pumpkin and Rice Soup

Silky textured and vibrant, the pumpkin soup I made as soon after 40 hours of travel back from India. It has a herby rosemary butter drizzle and lemon ginger pulp, and completely hits the spot.

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The provisions were scarce when we got back from India the other night – my first winter squash of the year still on the counter, brown rice in the freezer, a bit of sad looking ginger on the windowsill, random nuts and seeds in the cupboard, herbs still going strong in the planter boxes out back, and a three week old knob of butter. That was pretty much it. But I felt exhausted after getting off the plane, and after forty hours of travel from door to door, I was determined cook at home. This simple soup was the first thing I made. It was silky textured, vibrant in color, and after a quick trip to the corner store in the morning for a bit of yogurt and a lemon – the lunchtime leftovers were even better. Particularly because of a finishing touch of a rosemary herby butter drizzle and lemon ginger pulp. I hope you find it as restorative as I did. Also! I wanted to tack some photos of one of my favorite experiences from India onto this post – the day Wayne and I had our photos taken on the street in Jaipur.

Pumpkin and Rice Soup Recipe

I’d read about this man, Tikam Chand. He has been taking pictures in the Old City of Jaipur using his grandfather’s camera for decades. And, upon arriving in Jaipur, we set out to find him. No luck, at first. But a couple of days passed, and finally, at a moment we weren’t looking, Wayne spotted a guy with an old camera on the sidewalk. We pulled over, hopped out, and it wasn’t ten seconds before we were in front of the camera. Sixty seconds and five frames had been snapped. Sit here, look here, you two together, and so forth. I was thinking it was very much like getting a dental x-ray. Much more fun, but still – all business. And it wasn’t Tikam with the camera, it was Surrender. I’m still not entirely clear on whether the two photographers share the camera, or if they’re related.

Pumpkin and Rice Soup RecipePumpkin and Rice Soup Recipe

So, you have your picture taken, and that’s when things start getting incredible. The processing is done right there on the street, and is finished in just a few minutes. A box in the back of the camera functions as the darkroom, negatives made from small sheets of hand-torn photo paper are slapped on a piece of wood, and shot again to make the positives. There’s a bucket for rinsing. Your completed pictures (and negatives if you splurge for them) are unceremoniously wrapped in a zig-zag folded sheet of the daily newspaper. It all goes down fast, and somewhat hilariously. For those of you who are interested in the specifics of how this works, I found this (Jonas also has some amazing Jaipur photos).

Pumpkin and Rice Soup Recipe

The head-to-toe shot of us up above might be my favorite shot ever of the two of us together.

Pumpkin and Rice Soup Recipe

An out of focus shot of the camera from the front. All eyes on Krishna. There’s no shutter, so to expose the frame, the red foil lens cap is moved to the side for a second or so. Part of what I loved about the whole experience was how unfussy, and non-technical it was. This guy had a good lens on a box set on a tripod that looked like a few sticks of driftwood bound together. And his photos are beautiful in a way you’ll never get with a new camera. Completely inspiring. 

Pumpkin and Rice Soup Recipe
Anyway! I have much more to share with you, in the meantime enjoy the soup. Trick it out with the good toppings, and I’m almost positive it’ll become a staple for you this fall/winter – or, at least, I hope so. xo -hPumpkin and Rice Soup Recipe

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Homemade Bouillon

You can absolutely make homemade bouillon. Use it in all sorts of soups, stews, and noodle bowls. It’s so much better than any canned broth I’ve tasted.

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You can absolutely make homemade bouillon. And I know you can thanks to Pam Corbin. Pam wrote the lovely River Cottage Preserves Handbook.* In the very back of this exquisite little book, long past the rhubarb relish, and well beyond the piccalilli and winter fruit compote, she proposes a simple idea: make your own bouillon. I’m not sure why this never occurred to me, but until I reached page 207, it hadn’t. She outlines a list of ingredients that are pureed into a concentrated paste of vegetables and herbs, preserved with salt. I’ve been cooking with a version of it all week, and it is infinitely better than any canned vegetable stock I’ve tasted. And the best part about it? You can build on the general idea and tweak it based on what is in season and my own personal preferences – which is what I did.
Homemade Bouillon

What is Bouillon?

Technically, a bouillon cube is a dehydrated cube or powder used to create an instant vegetable stock. Pam calls her version “souper mix”….but you use it in a way similar to bouillon cubes. It is used to make quick, flavorful broth. For example, when cooking soups, risottos, curries, whatever really. Homemade Bouillon

A Few Tips

The main thing? Keep in mind bouillon is quite salty and very concentrated. I mention in the recipe I’ve been using 1 teaspoon per 1 cup of water/liquid to start. You can adjust from there based on what you’re making and personal preference. And as far as variations go, this first batch was made primarily with ingredients from my refrigerator, but I’m really excited to try other versions using different herbs and ratios of the base ingredients. In fact, if you have any suggestions or ideas give a shout in the comments – I’d love to hear them!

More Bouillon Variations

A number of your variations caught my attention, so I thought I’d highlight a couple here. Love these!

  • Karen “tried a variation with local ingredients: carrot, long onion (like a leek), daikon radish, japanese wild parsley, salt, and 7 pepper blend. added a bit of soy sauce for more salt and flavor, too. then i used it to make red lentil soup. WOW! the soup never tasted so good!!!”
  • Dominican Foodie liked the texture of the version she made noting, “I made a couple of changes to your recipe. I doubled the ingredients (except salt and tomatoes) Added extra garlic and white onions, juiced the first half (set aside), tossed the second half in olive oil and roasted for two hours, then tossed everything into a large deep pot, added bay leaves and simmered until liquid was reduced by half. Took out bay leaves, stuck an immersion blender in the pot and smoothed everything out into a paste. Perfection!”

*The U.S. edition of the River Cottage Preserves Handbook is now available.

There is a whole directory of great soup recipes where you can put your bouillon to use!

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Easy Little Bread

The simple, easy little bread you should make right this minute – yeast-based, farm-style, made from rolled oats and a blend of all-purpose and whole wheat flours.

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I’m eating a slice of butter-slathered homemade bread. And quite frankly, it might be the least interesting looking bread you’ve ever set eyes on. That said, at this particular moment, there isn’t anything on this earth that would taste better. I’m convinced of it. It reminds me of the bread my dad would sometimes bake for us as kids. A dead simple yeast bread recipe made from ingredients I can nearly guarantee you have on hand. My dad’s bread was made using all-purpose white flour, whereas this bread is made with a white, wheat, rolled oat blend. I’ve baked it three times this week, after I came across the recipe for it in a beautiful, heartfelt cookbook by Natalie Oldfield.Easy Little Bread Recipe
I snapped a few shots of the book to give you a sense of it. See below. Super cute, right? I love the grids of vintage family pictures, and the soft color palette of the recipe pages. It’s a collection recipes inspired by the notebooks of Dulcie May Booker, written by her granddaughter Natalie. It was published in New Zealand, then Australia and the UK. I stumbled on my copy of it the other day at Omnivore Books here in SF, although I don’t think it’s been published in the U.S. yet.
Easy Little Bread Recipe

The recipes are classic and no-fuss. The kind that can and (clearly) have been whipped up a hundred times over – scones, fruit pies, chocolate cake, lemon bars, shortbread, and a selection of savory dishes as well.

Easy Little Bread Recipe

So, to all of you who still shy away from yeast-based recipes – you’ve got to try this one. You can have the dough in the pan in 5-10 minutes. It sits around for 30 minutes while I’m in the shower, then straight into the oven. Thank you Gran & Natalie. It’s a beautiful book.

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Zucchini Bread

If you’re looking for a go-to zucchini bread recipe, give this a shot. The recipe delivers a single beautiful loaf of walnut studded zucchini bread. Moist, just sweet enough and loaded with toasted walnuts inside and out, it has a sweet nut-crusted top, requires one pan and is a rustic stunner.

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This recipe makes a single beautiful loaf of walnut studded zucchini bread. And a sizable one at that. For years I would load my zucchini bread batter with all manner of zest, spice, and whatnot. But that’s not how I roll anymore. Over the years I began to prefer this pared-down and more minimalist version. Moist, just sweet enough and loaded with toasted walnuts inside and out, it has a sweet nut-crusted top, requires just one pan and is a rustic stunner. If you’re looking for a go-to zucchini bread recipe, give this a shot.
Zucchini Bread Recipe

A Few Zucchini Bread Tips

Pre-grate & Freeze Excess Zucchini: When you have more zucchini than you know what to do with, grate it and divide 2 1/2 cup portions into freezer bags. Thaw and use with this recipe later in the year.

Too Much: If you’ve baked more zucchini bread than you can eat, slice it, divide with parchment paper, and freeze in baggies. When you’re ready for it, thaw and toast (or toast in a pan with a bit of butter).

Accurate Baking Time: A cake tester is important here. This is a big loaf and you want to make sure the interior is cooked though. If cake batter is visible on your tester keep baking in 7-10 minute increments. 

Yellow Summer Squash Are OK Too! You can basically use any summer squash you like here. Classic green-skinned zucchini are most typical, but you can also use eight-ball squash, patty pan, crooked neck squash, etc. I like to leave the skins on all of them for the color-flecks they lend to the batter. One thing to keep an eye out for is any squash that has developed seeds. Just scoop those out prior too grating.
Zucchini Bread Recipe

Variations

My Special Zucchini Bread: This is the more maximalist version of zucchini bread I’ve featured here since 2008. To the batter add: the zest of 2 lemons, 1/4 cup poppy seeds, 1/3 cup finely chopped crystalized ginger, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1 tablespoon favorite curry powder. So fragrant!

All the Zests Zucchini Bread: Add the zest of 3 limes, 2 oranges, and 3 lemons. Consider swapping almond extract for the vanilla extract.

Basil & Lemon Zucchini Bread: Add 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil and zest of two lemons to the we ingredients. You can use Italian or lemon basil.

Zucchini Oat Bread: An idea I haven’t tested yet, but want to mention it in case someone wants to give it a try. Swap 1/3 cup of the flour for old-fashioned oats.

Raz el Hanout Zucchini Bread: I’ve baked a delicious version using a Raz el Hanout spice blend, highly recommended! Just add 1 tablespoon of Raz el Hanout to your dry ingredients.

Zucchini Bread Muffins: Yes, you can make muffins! Fill lined muffin tins 2/3 full – 3/4 if you’re living on the edge! And bake until golden and cooked through.
Zucchini Bread Recipe

More Zucchini Ideas

If you have a garden that is anything like ours, it’s putting off an incredible number of zucchini right now. Take a look at these zucchini recipes. I’ve been trying to come up with more recipes that put a real dent in the zucchini supply. So far, this Pasta with Smashed Zucchini Cream is a favorite, and this Grilled Zucchini & Bread Salad is perfect for summer & using up extra sourdough at the end of the week. And we love this Simple Sauteed Zucchini, especially with a little side action of this favorite pesto.
Zucchini Bread Recipe
Enjoy! And please leave notes in the comments if you have other variations you like.

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Simple Farro & Bean Soup

The sort of hearty, timeless, comforting soup that helps in times like these. The foundation ingredients are flexible and straight from the pantry – grains, canned tomatoes, beans. There’s chopping to do, which keeps the hands busy and mind focused. And if you have a lot of produce that needs to be used, a soup like this is perfect – eat some, freeze some.

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I’m updating this soup from the archives (2010)  because it’s the sort of hearty, timeless, comforting soup that helps in times like these. I made it this afternoon and feel a bit better because of it. There’s chopping to do, which keeps the hands busy and mind focused. The foundation ingredients are flexible and straight from the pantry – grains, canned tomatoes, beans. And if you have a lot of produce that needs to be used, a soup like this is perfect – eat some, freeze some.
Simple Farro & Bean Soup

I want to keep my original post here because it reminds me of how I felt cooking it for them ten years ago. // (February 23, 2010) I spent the night at my mom and dad’s house last week. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but they live an hour south of San Francisco in Los Gatos. It’s nice cooking in their kitchen this time of year because the view from the sink is quite beautiful. The hills surrounding their house are an electric shade of green and the old craggy-skinned oak trees are covered in moss and lichen. They say coyotes have been out recently, but when I was growing up it was mainly deer, skunk, and raccoon, (and the occasional rattle snake). I made a big pot of farro and bean stew for them – simple, hearty, and straightforward. They both went back for seconds, and I took that as a good sign.
Simple Farro & Bean Soup
The recipe below ended up being quite a departure from the recipe I photocopied, folded, and slipped into my overnight bag – regardless, I wanted to mention the book the inspiration came from – La Cucina: The Regional Cooking of Italy. I’ve been reading through it at night. It’s the culmination of the work of the Accademia Italiana della Cucina. It is an organization of thousands of members who would visit villages, towns, and farms all across Italy to document cooking techniques and ingredients – in order to preserve the culinary heritage of their country. The resulting volume is 930+ pages huge. The farro soup section has five or six recipes.
Simple Farro & Bean Soup

Over the years I’m made tweaks and variations to this soup, and topped it with any number of things. Here are a couple of favorites.

Harissa & feta: We ate the soup drizzled with harissa/olive oil and a good amount of feta cheese. Highly recommended for those of you sitting on harissa. Whisk together a ratio  about 1/3 harissa paste to 2/3 olive oil. Drizzle over the top of the soup.

Cilantro-garlic: Pictured here drizzled with a cilantro-garlic olive oil. Puree the leaves and stems of a bunch of cilantro with 2-3 cloves of garlic, a pinch of salt, and olive oil to cover.

Simple Farro & Bean Soup
A version with heirloom beans, Savoy cabbage, and kale.

Your Bean Strategy

You have a lot of latitude here. I’ve done versions of this soup with dried beans, and canned beans. I’ve used I used Sangre de Toro beans, Rosa de Castilla , cannellini beans, and (as you see pictured here) canned chickpeas. I used Sangre de Toro beans the first time around. The second time I used Rosa de Castilla. Both were good (the pot liquor from the Sangre de Toro was intense in a good way), but the Rosa de Castilla were great – they held their shape, then melted in your mouth. Red beans are traditionally used. Canned chickpeas work wonderfully too. They’re all delicious, use what you think you might like, or what you have on hand. And remember, if you use dried beans, great! Save the bean broth and use it in combination with the water called for in the recipe for a wonderful, fully-bodied broth.

Simple Farro & Bean Soup

A Creamy Soup with No Cream

One last variation you can explore if you like. If you mash a cup of your cooked beans before adding them to the soup it results in a “creamier” broth. I skipped that step in the recipe below, opted for a more clear broth (as you can see above), but keep the idea in your back pocket.

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An Incredible No Bake Chocolate Cake

The easiest chocolate cake you’ll ever make. And it’s always a huge hit. It’s the sort of easy dessert perfect for summer, and entertaining, because you don’t need to heat your oven.

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I suspect this will be the easiest chocolate cake you’ll ever make. And it’s always a huge hit. It’s the sort of easy dessert that is perfect for summer (and entertaining!) because you don’t need to heat your oven. I think of it as a no bake chocolate cake, you wouldn’t be far off calling it a slice-able truffle. Or, imagine an espresso-spiked, velvety, chocolate mousse you were able to cut into beautiful wedges. Sounds incredible, right? If you have ten minutes,  some dark chocolate, cream, and something to infuse the cream with, you’re in business. I also have some non-dairy variations as well.

The Ultimate No Bake Chocolate Cake

When this Sort of Chocolate Cake is Perfect

This is the sort of thing I’ll throw together if we’re having friends over for dinner and I run out of steam on the dessert front. It’s less trouble to make than it is to go out and buy something. A small slice really goes the distance. It’s intense, it’s hardcore chocolate. Paired with a touch of whipped cream (or whipped coconut cream) it’s a total crowd-pleaser. I infused the cream used in the cake with espresso adn allspice in this version, but you could play it straight. Or take it in any direction you’re inclined – there are dozens of great suggestions in the comments.

The Ultimate No Bake Chocolate Cake

Choosing the Right Pan

This is a small but mighty chocolate cake. The choice of pan warrants a mention. You end up with with ~ two cups of batter, and for the most part you can pour that into any small-ish, parchment-lined cake pan you like. The parchment is important if you ever want to get the cake out of the pan. For this cake, I used a little loaf pan I like, but I’ve done this in small spring-form pans, and on occasion little tart pans. Just keep in mind, a bigger pan will mean a thinner slice. A small loaf pan like this yields a deeper slice, and so on. It’s hard to screw up – I mean, it’s a slice-able truffle cake. In the lead photo I’ve used a 6-inch springform pan. In the shot below, I’ve used a small loaf pan.

In a pinch – a number of you have mentioned that you simply pour the chocolate mixture into individual muffin tins, or dessert cups, allow it to set, and served this way. Brilliant! Less cake like, but I suspect no one will complain.

The Ultimate No Bake Chocolate Cake

Variations

If you want to avoid heavy cream, there are a number of substitutions that work well. I love using cashew cream in place of the heavy cream called for in the recipe. Make cashew cream by combining 1 part cashew nuts + 1 part water and process in a high speed blender until silky smooth. No need to strain. Coconut milk also works nicely as a substitution.

The Ultimate No Bake Chocolate Cake

Choosing the Right Chocolate

Because this cake is all about the chocolate, you don’t want to skimp on quality. I’ve been using Guittard Organic 74% Bittersweet Chocolate Wafers for this cake. It works beautifully. I often use it straight, meaning, without the added espresso or allspice noted in the recipe. So it’s just the beautiful chocolate notes coming through. San Francisco family-run chocolate represent! But, any good chocolate between 70% – 80% will work.

The Ultimate No Bake Chocolate Cake

Finishing Touches

I like to bring a bit of extra flavor (and some pretty) with a dusting of cocoa powder, a few dried rose petals, and a sprinkling of cacao nibs. Others like to finish things of with a few berries. Generally speaking, if it pairs nicely with chocolate, go for it. A few toasted nuts, or crumbled cookies wouldn’t be unwelcome.

No Bake Chocolate Cake

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Seeded Pumpkin and Feta Muffins

Savory muffins packed with spinach, feta and Parmesan cheeses, black pepper, mustard, and sunflower seeds. Adapted from a recipe in a lovely little self-published Australian cookbook, Martha Goes Green.

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I originally highlighted this recipe in 2010, and revisited it last week. So good! You all know by now, I love self-published cookbooks. Particularly ones with a strong point of view, thoughtful design, and inspired recipes. In that spirit, I have a gem to share with you this afternoon. It is a light-hearted little cookbook titled Martha Goes Green, created by a media-savvy trio of friends in Melbourne, Australia. The book includes a recipe for these sunflower seed and spinach-flecked pumpkin feta muffins. Savory muffin fans, you know who you are, these don’t disappoint.Pumpkin and Feta Muffins with Sunflower Seeds
When I spent a month traveling around New Zealand a few years back, it became clear that New Zealand is the land of the A+ muffin. Scones too, but muffins in particular. There were lots of savory versions to choose from, but my favorites always had winter squash in them. If this book is any indication, I suspect Australia might be similar. Anyhow, these muffins are exactly the sort of thing I crave and remember from that trip. I love the kick of black pepper here, and the blend of cheese. It’s not quite pumpkin season here, so I substituted butternut squash. But really, just about any winter squash will do.

Pumpkin and Feta Muffins with Sunflower Seeds
As far as the specs of the book go, Martha Goes Green is a collection of about fifty vegetarian recipes. It is just shy of 100 pages, spiral-bound and printed on recycled paper using vegetable based inks. Nearly all of the recipes have been photographed, and the book is punctuated with adorable illustrations by Jessica Honey. The recipes have an accessible, achievable vibe to them and I have the vegetarian pho, satay curry, stir fried noodles, and lentil mushroom moussaka earmarked to try next. The book doesn’t seem to be available anymore (it has been over a decade), but you can still check in on some of the recipes here and here on Rosie’s site
Pumpkin and Feta Muffins with Sunflower Seeds

Other things to know about these muffins from people who have baked them over the years:

Michele says, “I froze a bunch, so wanted to let you all know they freeze well. And, while this is probably obvious, they need to be stored in the fridge. I forgot they weren’t “regular muffins” and just left them in a container on the counter and the cheese went bad.” Julia noted, “I only had fresh dill instead of the parsley and asiago in place of the parmesan. Was still really tasty.” There are a bunch of other ingredient swap suggestions in the comments along with people reporting back on gluten-free and vegan versions!

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