Put your winter woes aside, friends. Spring is arriving in slow trickles, whispers, pops and things that go whooooosh. The sun is borderline blinding me as it streams down onto my desk and I cannot be bothered to draw that shade. We’ve waited too long. The grass is shifting from yellow-green-brown muck to actual fresh, emerald-hued blades (that rustle in the wind! So great.). There’s a mighty anticipation of what is surely wonderful–it’s just around the corner, the most minuscule shred of time longer.
Still, there’s nothing definitively “spring” available at the markets currently. It will be a while before the ground fully thaws and turns those seeds and roots into something nourishing and delicious (looking at you asparagus, breakfast radishes, wild leeks and peas). Until then, some more cool-weather items and sprouted goods will appease my craving for fresh, totally crisp, high-vibe things. Are you all kind of feeling this now too? The need for crunchy, fresh, higher-water-content kind of foods? I’ve been wanting giant salads and green drinks all the time. I think my body is ready for a seasonal warm up, so I’ve been giving myself what I need to move on to the next seasonal moment. Plenty of vegetables, fresh juices, herbal tea and So. Much. Water.
One of the local grocers always has a wonderful selection of fresh sprouts. There’s daikon radish, various herbs, pea shoots, wheatgrass and my favourite: sunflower sprouts. I picked up a pot of them for a radicchio salad with some cider-pickled beets I had made and a bit of sprouted wild rice. I decided at the last second to make these into more of a portable salad thing with a sweet, chive-flecked vinaigrette to take the bitter edge off of the radicchio wrap. They ended up being exactly what I wanted. The sprouted rice is chewy, the beets are still crisp and nicely acidic, sprouts for freshness and hemp seeds for nuttiness. If you enjoy cheese, a happy sprinkling of sheep’s milk feta would be quite pleasant I think.
I offer instructions for pickling the beets in the refrigerator style here. I love doing this with winter vegetables and it couldn’t be easier to rig up. Equal parts water and vinegar of your choice, spices, herbs, little salt and sweetening, all heated up. Pour it on top of vegetables packed in a jar, put the lid on and leave it in the fridge for 5-7 days. Super low maintenance and plenty of crunchy, tangy things for salads and snacks throughout the week. Sprouting the wild rice is similarly low key. Just place the rice in a jar, cover it with plenty of water and put a lid on it. Change the water twice a day for 2-3 days until you start seeing the white of the rice coming out and some curling up in the grains. Delightfully chewy complex carbohydrates are now at your disposal (back in the high life again, guys). If you can’t wait a couple days to sprout it, you could always stir in some cooked wild rice on the more al denté side. The chew-factor is so important.
I would love to know how you all ease into the warmer weather as it slowly seeps in. Do you cook up and eat anything special? Start going to yoga more? Do you obsessively seek out green things? Are you contemplating a juice fast/feast? (I feel like everyone around me is) Do you listen to awesome throwback 80s-style jams? I’m so curious about all of yous :)
Oh and! A lovely gal I know has started a thoroughly rad book blog called Algonquin Side Table. It’s wonderful for decidedly casual readers like myself because Rebecca’s voice is so approachable. This week, she asked me to take part in a bit of a bookshelf interview, all pertaining to cookbooks and works on food! If you’d like to sneak a look at my bookshelves and take in some of my favourites you can check it out here.
sprout + crunch radicchio cups w/ honey chive vinaigrette and avocado recipe
serves: makes 8-12 cups
notes: If you don’t love the bitter quality of radicchio, you could sub a head of boston/butter lettuce in.
cider-pickled beets ingredients:
1 medium golden beet, peeled
1 bay leaf
1 white from a green onion (I only used this because I had a few)
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
1 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp raw honey or agave nectar
honey chive vinaigrette ingredients:
2 tbsp white balsamic or wine vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp raw honey or agave nectar
salt + pepper
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped chives + extra for garnish
radicchio cups ingredients:
1 large head of radicchio, core removed
1 heaped cup of sprouted or cooked wild rice
3/4 cup chopped cider-pickled beets
big handful sunflower sprouts
1/4 cup hulled hemp seeds
1 batch honey chive vinaigrette
1/2 ripe avocado, peeled + pitted
salt + pepper
Make the cider-pickled beets: cut the beet in half lengthwise and then cut each half into thin slices. Pack them into a clean 2-cup+ capacity jar, leaving about a 1/2 inch of space at the top. Tuck the bay leaf, black peppercorns and green onion bulb into the jar too. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the apple cider vinegar, water, salt + agave/honey. Bring it to a boil and pour the mixture into the jar with the beets until all of the slices are covered. Put a lid on the jar, place it in the fridge and let it do its thing for 5-7 days.
Once you’ve removed the core from the radicchio, carefully pull off whole leaves. Once you have 8-12 or so, wrap them in damp paper towel until you’re ready to fill them.
Make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk together the white wine vinegar, dijon mustard, honey/agave, salt and pepper until combined. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while you whisk the vinaigrette together. Add the chives and whisk once more. Check for seasoning and set aside.
Make the filling: In a medium bowl, combine the sprouted wild rice, chopped pickled beets, sunflower sprouts, hemp seeds, all of the honey-chive vinaigrette, salt and pepper. Toss until everything is evenly mixed.
Place the radicchio leaves on a platter and spoon the wild rice + beet mixture into the cups. Dice the avocado and garnish the cups with it. Sprinkle some extra chopped chives on top and serve.
Saturday or Sunday lunch/brunch has historically been my least favourite shift to work in terms of service. It’s just way busy and if you try to have a shred of a social life on the weekend like a normal human being, you’re paying for it in some way as the day wears on. I’ve been parked behind a giant espresso machine for solid blocks of time hammering out lattes for fancy ladies. The day is a blur of flipping those tables over and over until the clock strikes 3. There are children and there are messes of ketchup. There are total, self-entitled douchebags that need coffee. Clatters, clangs, beeps, change clinks, sizzles + shouts. The fullest hours imaginable.
A couple years ago, I found myself on such a day catching a moment behind a vitrine all filled to the brim with pâté, pickles, cheeses and marinated items; my elbow supporting my chin and heavy gaze. Other hand firmly planted in the pocket of my faded navy blue apron. My boss came up behind me so silently and leaned up on the case as I did, looking out at the scene. After I made some throwaway comment on how crazy it had been all morning, he said something so great. He gestured out to the dining room and remarked “Isn’t it wonderful to look out and see everyone smiling and to get a sense that they’re all laughing together?” And it was actually nice. It made me feel better about my lack of sleep, not being able to have a leisurely read + eat with my man, about those DB’s I mentioned earlier… I felt less like I was swept up in service and more like I was performing a necessary service for my community. I was part of the assembly that facilitated a weekly coming-together over something good to eat. Huge. People look forward to that time all week. Work became privilege.
Side note: I work in a fine establishment that only opens for dinners now, so this has become less of a thing. But! I appreciate languid breakfasts in and out of the home all the more now–for the happy chorus in a crowded dining room or the one, singular laugh of my handsome man. All of it a still new-feeling luxury for me.
So for those happy/lazy times at home, you would probably find me fixing up something like this. The quinoa in these provides crunchy textural contrast. It isn’t thrown in because of random “for your health!” kind of aspirations. They give the cakes heft and much visual interest. I toast it in cinnamon flecked coconut oil for lots of fragrance and use plenty of vanilla to warm up the largely almond meal-based batter. Cacao nibs give a wine-y chocolaty crunch and the bananas get sweet and caramelized on top of the cakes. A dollop of tangy yogurt and plenty of maple syrup finishes them off. Something wonderful to see us through to the end of winter, over some good reads and a pot of tea.
coconut, almond + quinoa breakfast cakes recipe
Inspired by True Food.
notes: I blend everything except the spelt flour, salt, sugar and leavening agents to really smooth out the almond flour. That’s an optional step. Also, making the quinoa up the night before would cut down on prep time considerably if you’re planning on maximal chill times on a Sunday or some such thing. If you eat eggs, you could certainly add a whisked one to the batter for some extra leavening power.
2 1/2 tbsp melted extra virgin coconut oil, divided + extra for the pan
pinch of cinnamon
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 cup milk of your choice (I used light coconut milk)
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 cup whole spelt flour (or GF all purpose)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp coconut palm sugar (or demerara, evaporated cane etc)
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1 1/2 cups almond meal
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 bananas, sliced + divided
2 tbsp cacao nibs + extra
yogurt of your choosing (coconut, sheep, cow etc)
Cook the quinoa: in a small saucepan over medium heat, drop a 1/2 tbsp of the coconut oil. Once it’s fragrant add the pinch of cinnamon. Stir that around until it smells way good. Add the rinsed and drained quinoa and a pinch of salt. Stir it around in the oil a bit to toast. Add a scant cup of water to the pan. Bring the quinoa to a boil and simmer for about 15 minutes. You want the quinoa to be cooked, but kind of crunchy too. Drain off excess liquid and cool quinoa completely.
Add the lemon juice to the milk and set aside for 5 minutes to curdle/lump up.
In a medium bowl, combine the spelt flour, baking powder, baking soda, coconut sugar and sea salt. Stir to combine. Combine the almond meal, vanilla extract, remaining coconut oil and curdled milk in the blender. Flip it to high and blend until the mixture is very smooth, about a minute. Scrape this mixture into the bowl with the spelt flour etc. Gently fold it all together with a spatula until just combined. Add the cooled quinoa and fold it in until it’s evenly mixed.
Heat a large sauté pan or griddle over medium. Brush with melted coconut oil. Drop 1/4-1/3 cups of batter onto the pan. Spread the batter out a bit with a spatula or the bottom of the measuring cup. Press banana slices onto the top of the cakes and sprinkle with cacao nibs. Once bubbles start to form on top and the bottom is golden, flip them over. Continue to cook until bottom side is golden/dry. Repeat with remaining batter, keeping cooked cakes warm as you go along.
Serve pancakes with extra sliced bananas + cacao nibs, maple syrup and yogurt dolloped on top.
You’ll have to forgive me for paraphrasing on this one. I remember reading this passage when we were away, on the beach in the glorious sun, a few months ago. I can’t for the life of me remember where I first took those words in. I’ve flipped through all of the sand-filled books and print publications that I toted along and simply cannot spot it. Some serious googling or more page flipping wouldn’t be too hard, but my eyes have been watering up and un-focusing involuntarily with some frequency lately. It might be time to step away from any and all screens for the day and spend less time focusing on tiny things. The vibrance of this thrown-together dish (with some outstanding local + hydroponic eggplant), against a grey mid-March backdrop, had me thinking of that lost passage. So here we are.
There is a woman in the back of a cab, somewhere in India. From memory, she is most definitely North American. She is travelling through the country in a way that suggests leisure, waiting for inspiration while cultural immersion takes place and seeming “otherness” surrounds. She notices prayer flags of every hue and condition flying from pointed rooftops, hanging off of farm gates, tangled in the streets, strewn over doorways of run-down homes, whipping in the wind on the tops of mountains and trees. They’re everywhere. She asks her cab driver about the flags, why the everywhere-locales, why the variety in appearance. His response is calm and straightforward, without a trace of glorification or pomp: God loves colour.
crispy eggplant + harissa flatbread recipe
notes: I followed a harissa recipe from Food 52 pretty much to the letter (I left out the all spice + nutmeg) and was rather pleased with the results. I do use it sparingly since this Tunisian spice paste is quite fiery. If you make the whole recipe, there’s lots of other things you can do with it. Add a dab to a simple vinaigrette, use it as a marinade for proteins, mash it into some cooked sweet potatoes with a dollop of yogurt, drizzle it onto your avocado toast–many possibilities.
scant 1 lb whole grain pizza dough (I purchased a really great locally made one, but I have a recipe here too)
1/4 cup of harissa (I used this recipe from Food 52)
1 small eggplant
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 tbsp raw honey or agave nectar
4 cups baby arugula
big handful of mint leaves
big handful of flat parsley leaves
squeeze of lemon juice
salt + pepper
1 tbsp dukkah spice (optional)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Rip a piece of parchment big enough to fit the sheet pan you want to use. Lay it on the counter and begin rolling out your dough on top of it. Aim for a 10-11 inch circle, about 1/3 inch thick. Transfer the dough and parchment to your sheet pan. Apply the harissa to the dough evenly.
Trim the ends off of the eggplant and slice it into thin rounds. Arrange the rounds on the dough.
Peel and trim the shallot. Slice it as thin as you can. Scatter slices on top of the eggplant.
Drizzly the top with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Slide the sheet into the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until the bottom seems brown and crisp and the eggplant has shrivelled up a bit.
While the flatbread is baking, place the arugula into a medium bowl. Roughly chop the mint and parsley and add to the bowl as well. Drizzle the remaining olive oil onto the greens, add the squeeze of lemon, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine.
Once the flatbread is removed, drizzle with the honey or agave nectar. Cut flatbread into slices. Scatter the greens and herbs on top of the slices and sprinkle dukkah spice all over the greens. Serve warm or at room temperature.
These sweet little cakes are full blown TREAT. YO. SELF. territory. They take a bit of time, the ingredients are decidedly luxe, they’re individual, there’s a fresh coconut and some dehydrating involved (although I’m super-confident that you could bake the batter in an oven at low temperature)… You have to dredge up the will and gumption to make raw food, high-vibe magic happen here. It was my birthday this week and dang if I wasn’t gonna make something delicious that made me feel so good. Also, tea + cake is one of my most loved breakfast combinations ever, so there’s that to consider.
We had a cozy weekend in the city to celebrate another year of being right here with lots of tasty eats + drinks. February tends to be kind of blah across the board, but there have been glimmers and sparks of great things to come to keep our lives a little more vibrant. I’m excited for it all, big and little.
And these cakes! I’m generally crushing on individual desserts at all times, so I went in that direction here. I enjoyed an earl grey and chocolate milkshake as part of a dessert trio at a tiny restaurant a long time ago that has sadly closed its doors since. The combination certainly latched itself onto my memory. I just had to find a most fitting dessert and well, here we are. My morning beverage of choice all fancied up with plenty of chocolate. Good life.
The cake portion is comprised of walnuts, very fine almond meal, maple syrup, vanilla + raw cacao. I dehydrated the cake (in my incredibly budget, entry-level dehydrator from the local hardware store) and was so pleased with the results. Exactly like a rich and dense brownie and heavy with deep chocolate flavour. I imagine the cake could be made in the oven as well. Put the temperature as low as you can and keep an eye on it to see how quickly it dries out. The mousse is all cashews and fresh coconut meat with strong earl grey tea, vanilla, more cacao and extra virgin coconut oil. It was my first time working with a fresh, young coconut so I was rather anxious to lay a knife into the thing and go wild. When I pried its natural lid off, I saw some pretty pink flesh inside and freaked out a bit. A little googling revealed that the pigmentation was a sign of extreme young-ness in the fruit (and good luck apparently!). All sighs of relief and lots of tasty, mega-hydrating coconut water to drink. The mousse turned out so rich and airy with subtle citrus + floral notes from the tea.
In terms of serving it up: I don’t need to tell you that cake + ice cream is a birthday staple, so there’s that. I also put a little bit of nature’s sprinkles on top in the form of pomegranate seeds. They served as a wonderfully tart respite from all of the heavy richness going on. While they’re still somewhat plentiful, I would highly recommend it.
Partyin’ down over here and all of my big hugs, friends :)
raw chocolate cake + earl grey chocolate mousse
barely adapted from Sarma Melngailis’s recipe in Living Raw Food
serves: 4 – 6, depending on how you cut the cake
notes: I sifted the almond flour to get it super fine. This is really important in terms of the cake’s texture. I would recommend purchasing a finer ground almond meal/flour if it’s available. Also, here’s a video (link) to help you with cracking open a young coconut! I would recommend NOT using a super-cherished knife for this, just go for a sharp one with some good heft, an old beater of sorts.
raw chocolate cake:
1 cup raw walnut pieces, soaked 2 hours or longer + strained
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup filtered water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup raw cacao powder (or cocoa powder is fine too), sifted
1.5 cups very fine almond flour
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
earl grey chocolate mousse:
1 1/4 cups raw cashews, soaked 2 hours or more
1/4-1/3 cup young coconut meat (this is what I yielded from 1 coconut)
2 tbsp raw cacao powder (or cocoa powder)
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of fine sea salt
1/2 cup maple syrup
heaped 3/4 cup strong-brewed earl grey tea (or water!)
3/4 cup liquid extra virgin coconut oil
1.5 tbsp melted extra virgin coconut oil
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp raw cacao powder
splash of vanilla extract
pomegranate seeds/other fruit of choice
vanilla ice cream of choice (I like Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss)
Make the cake: combine the soaked walnuts, maple syrup, water and vanilla extract in the pitcher of a blender. Gradually bring the blender speed to high and blend until walnuts are fully liquified/incorporated into the liquid. Set aside. In a large bowl, stir together the sifted cacao powder, fine almond flour and sea salt. Add the maple and walnut mixture to the bowl. Stir with a spatula until fully combined. Spread the batter onto a parchment lined dehydrator tray (an offset spatula is very helpful here). It should be about 1/2 inch thickness. Smooth out the top as much as you can.
Dehydrate the cake at 115 degrees F for around 24 hours. You want the cake to be firm and dry on the top. The parchment should peel away with little effort. Wrap the cake in cling film and set aside in the refrigerator until ready to use. I had mine wrapped and stowed away for 2 whole days and it was fine.
Make the mousse: combine the cashews, coconut meat, cacao powder, vanilla extract, sea salt, maple syrup and earl grey tea in the pitcher of a blender. Gradually bring the speed of the blender to high. Blend until cashews are thoroughly puréed and the mix is homogenous. With the motor of the blender on low, remove the lid and slowly pour in the melted coconut oil. This step emulsifies the filling like a salad dressing and evenly distributes the oil. Once you’ve poured it all in and the mix is homogenous, turn the blender off and scrape the mousse into a medium bowl. Cover the bowl with saran, pressing it onto the top to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
Assemble: cut 12 rounds out of the sheet of cake. I used a 1.5 inch round cookie cutter, but you could also just cut out some squares with a sharp knife. Line a small baking sheet with parchment and place 4 of the rounds onto the sheet with a bit of space around each. Spoon a fat dollop of the chocolate mousse on top of each round. Place the sheet pan in the freezer for 10 minutes. Remove the sheet pan and place another cake round and dollop of mousse on each. Place the tray in the freezer for another 10 minutes, remove it and place the final cake round on each mini cake. Store cakes in the freezer, covered in cling film, until ready to serve.
Make the chocolate sauce: whisk together all of the ingredients right before service.
To serve: put one of the cakes on each plate. Top with a spoonful of chocolate sauce, pomegranate seeds + serve a scoop of ice cream on the side.