Lavender, mint, beet powder cupcakes with kefir frosting

 

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I recently read that cupcakes are still in, and I thought it was a crazy thing to read because cake in any form should always just be, cake is beyond “in”, cake is it’s own world, it’s own entity and to say any form of cake, whether in pound, round, square, small, cup, or otherwise is in or out is to degrade the thing that is cake. So, I’m posting this recipe, but not in response to the thing I read, because I don’t want to acknowledge cake speculation and trending, but just because these cupcakes are important to me. They are important to me because they are pretty and easy and absurdly delicious in all the right ways.

These cupcakes are quick and a totally successful first use of my beet powder. The lavender and mint combination is perfection I think, I mean just being able to smell mint and lavender before biting into a cupcake makes everything feel more okay. I first made them without mint and without beetroot, but the incorporation of these two ingredients made them both incomparably tastier and prettier. Oh, and the kefir! It just so slightly offsets the sweetness, and adds dimension and complexity, the way kefir should.

Cupcakes:

1/2 cup coconut oil melted
6 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
4 Tbsp plain whole milk kefir
2/3 cup coconut palm sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup coconut flour

Oven 350
1. Whisk coconut oil, eggs, vanilla, kefir, sugar and salt together in a medium bowl
2. Mix coconut flour and baking powder, then whisk into the egg-sugar mix
3. Line a cupcake tray, and bake for around 15 minutes.
4. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Frosting:
1-2 tsp lavender buds
3-4 tbsp kefir
1 Tbsp beet powder
1-1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (add more/less as needed)
Mint leaves

1. Whisk together the lavender buds and kefir; place in the fridge while the cupcakes cool.
2. Add the beet powder and powdered sugar. Adjust the consistency by adding more powdered sugar or more kefir.
3. Frost the cooled cupcakes, garnish with mint.

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Vietnamese Hoi An Pancakes with Wild Shrimp, Squash Blossoms, Maitake + Nuoc Cham

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These Vietnamese pancakes are perfect for the grill. You gather the ingredients you need, bring them outside, and with such a hot grill the pancakes get crispy, and the inside ingredients stay hot. You could sub out the shrimp and just use vegetables, or add something like pastured pork belly. These were filling, but light, easy and satisfying. The nuoc cham sauce is pretty much essential as it offsets and balances the savory pancakes.

Hoi An Pancakes with Wild Shrimp, Maitake, Squash Blossoms, Green Onion + Nuoc Cham
(Adapted from Bon Appetit)
Pancakes
1 cup brown rice flour
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 cups water
1 egg

Filling
1 lb wild shrimp, peeled
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 big handful maitake mushrooms, roughly chopped
10-15 squash blossoms
2 cups or so mung bean sprouts
2 cups snap peas, chopped
salt & pepper

Nuoc Cham (vietnamese dipping sauce)
1 thai pepper, or red jalapeno, finely diced
2 garlic cloved, minced
1 inch fresh ginger, minced
Juice from 3 limes
1/4 cup fish sauce (Red Boat)
2 tsp coconut palm sugar

Fresh Herbs: Mint, basil, cilantro

Method: Mix the ingredients for the pancakes, except for the egg, and let it sit for 1 hour so the rice rehydrates. During this time combine all of the ingredients for the nuoc cham and set aside.
After an hour, whisk an egg into the pancake batter and turn on the grill.
In a medium size cast iron, season the shrimp with salt, pepper & oil. In another cast iron, add the mushrooms and peas, again seasoning with salt, pepper & oil.
Cook the shrimp & veggies covered on the grill over high heat for 5-8 minutes. Add the squash blossoms to the veggie mix and cook until wilted. Transfer the shrimp to the veggie cast iron and add a bit more oil to the already hot skillet. Ladle about 1/2 cup of the batter into the skillet, and, using an oven mit, move the skillet in a circle so the batter spreads out and covers the pan. Close the lid of the grill and cook the batter in the pan until crisp-about 5 minutes or so.
Add a few shrimp, a big spoonful of the veggies and handful of green onion & mung beans on one side of the pancake. Cover again, cook until hot and extra crisp, then use a spatula to fold over one half of the pancake.
Serve with the nuoc cham & fresh herbs.

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Korean Stir Fry with Sirloin, Eggplant, Soba + Chile Sauce

IMG_2376 IMG_2372 IMG_2393 IMG_2389During these last sweetest days of summer/fall I’ve primarily cooked on the barbecue on my favorite skillet. Its a giant cast iron griddle that gets super hot and when I cook outside the house stays cleaner and free of cooking odors. I just don’t like noodle dishes when the noodles aren’t boiled then charred over fire, its such a better texture and flavor. Cooking over the grill for the charring is second only to over fire. This dish by the way is simple and pretty quick and fulfilling. It’s a bit sweet and spicy and each bite is a different kind of happy surprise.

Korean Stir Fry with Sirloin, Eggplant, Soba + Chile Sauce

Sauce:
3/4 cup tamari
1/4 cup coconut palm sugar
2 tbsp chile sauce (recipe below)
1 1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 inches fresh ginger, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp sesame oil

Whisk all of the ingredients together in a small bowl.

Chile Sauce (adapted from Bon Appetit)
6 jalapeno peppers
3 peeled garlic cloves
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
sea salt

Cook the jalapeno peppers and garlic in a boiling salted saucepan for about 2 minutes. Blend chiles, garlic and red wine vinegar, season with salt and let cool. You will have extra to use on other meals and as a topping. By the way, this sauce is HOT.

Stir Fry
1 lb grass fed top sirloin, cut into very thin strips
2 medium Japanese eggplants, chopped
2 carrots, julienned
1 bell pepper, julienned
1 cup mushrooms, I used chanterelle, shitakes work great too, sliced
Bunch of cilantro
3 tbsp sesame seeds
Soba noodles-2 of the small bunches within the packages

First, make the chile sauce, then make the stir fry sauce, you can make this in advance. Spoon about 1/2 cup of the sauce over the sirloin and marinate as the steak comes to room temperature.
Next, get the vegetables chopped. Its easier to have these all ready to go.
Cook the soba noodles in boiling water for four minutes, then rinse in cold water.
While the water boils turn the grill to high and place a large skillet on the grill-you can also do this on stove top in a wok.
Add the eggplant to the grill skillet, and drizzle with a little olive oil. Cook until softened and starting to get some color, about 10 minutes, then add the carrot, pepper and mushrooms. Pour 1/4 cup or so of the sauce on the veggies and cook for another 5-10 minutes.
Next, add the noodles to the wok/skillet. Mix in with the vegetables, again adding more of the stir fry sauce. Cover and allow to cook until the noodles start to crisp.
After crisping and stirring the noodles a few times, clear a space on your pan and add the meat. Cook it over high heat so it sears and if you need to, cook it in batches. It should take very little time, maybe a minute or two on each side to cook, when its done, stir everything together.
To finish, spread a nice big handful of cilantro leaves on top, sprinkle the sesame seeds on and a drizzle of sesame oil. Serve with the hot chile sauce, and extra cilantro.

Lemongrass Vietnamese Pork Chops with Spicy Maple-Ginger Roasted Acorn Squash, Leek, Beets + Thyme

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Welcome to the quintessential fall meal. Roasted squash, beautiful beets, rich and savory pork chops, fresh rain outside, snow up high, boots and sweaters and fires and hot tea. This time of year is so special. We visited the farmers market in Nevada City yesterday and found the market full of goodies, including peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, tons of strawberries. It was so lovely, sunny and warm, and then on the way back home the temperature dropped 30 degrees and snow fell. We cleaned up the garden today too, dug up many pounds of potatoes, hung herbs to dry, gave the turkeys and chickens tomatoes and lettuce the frost ruined. It feels good to bundle up and enjoy the act of roasting falls best vegetables.

Lemongrass Vietnamese Pork Chops with Spicy Maple-Ginger Roasted Acorn Squash, Leek, Beets + Thyme

2 pork chops (or more)

Marinade:
2 cloves garlic
1/2 small white onion or shallot
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp tamari
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 inches lemongrass stalk, cut into small pieces
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp pomegranate jelly

Process all ingredients together in a food processor until sauce reaches a smooth texture. Coat the pork chops on both sides and allow to marinate for at least an hour in the fridge.

Roasted Vegetables
1 acorn squash, sliced vertical with seeds removed
1 chioga beet, cut in half, then sliced
1 red beet, cut in half, then sliced
1/2 leek, cut in half, sliced
1/2 lb green beans
1/2 white onion/shallot sliced
3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
2 inches ginger, peeled and chopped
1 handful fresh thyme
Arugula for serving
Seeds from 1/2 pomegranate for serving

Heat oven to 425.
In a small saucepan, combine butter, olive oil, maple syrup, cayenne, salt, and ginger and mix on medium heat just until the butter is melted. Pour the mix over the acorn squash, or dip the squash in the mix, then spread on a baking sheet and roast for 35-45 minute, flipping once or twice until browned.
Place the beets, green beans, onion, and leeks on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and place in the oven after the squash have been roasting for about 20 minutes.
During the last 8 or so minutes of browning, add half of the fresh thyme to the beet vegetable mix, and roast until everything is fragrant and caramelized.

Cook the pork chops during the last 10 minutes of vegetable roasting. Heat a skillet to high. Add 1 tbsp of butter, then add the pork chops. Cook and blacken on each side for about three minutes. When both sides are done, add the remaining marinade and reduce it with the pork chops for another 5-8 minutes.

Serve the acorn squash, roasted vegetables, and pork chops on a bed of arugula, drizzle everything with the reduced marinade, sprinkle on pomegranate seeds and add the remaining fresh thyme.

Grilled Top Sirloin with with Roasted Greens, Shishito Peppers, Fingerling Potatoes + Chimichurri

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For the last few weeks I’ve been primarily cooking over an outdoor fire in Maine. There’s no fire danger there so we grilled whole lobsters, fish, summer squash, oysters, mussels, greens, etc. Cooking over fire is my favorite kind of cooking, it is kind of an extreme event, intense, damn hot, a bit dangerous and the results are so smoky, charred and delicious. Anyway, I came home to my garden just taking off. Everything was quadrupled in size, the sunflowers ten feet tall, lemon balm bushy and bright green, potatoes, kale and parsley all lush and ready to harvest. So, in an effort to recreate cooking over a fire (we can’t have open fire here) I cooked the whole meal on the grill. I’m not sure why I haven’t done this all summer, but it keeps the house cooler and delivers far tastier food. This meal was a pop of green, spicy and fresh and melt in your mouth good.

Grilled Top Sirloin with with Roasted Greens, Shishito Peppers, Fingerling Potatoes + Chimichurri

Chimichurri
2 cups or 1 big bunch fresh parsley
1/2 cup fresh oregano
2 tbsp lemon juice
4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp red pepper flakes-or more for extra spice
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground red pepper

Combine ingredients and blend until almost smooth, or food process, or you can chop everything very finely and mix. Squeeze a bit of extra lemon juice on top of the finished chimichurri.

Top Sirloin + Veggies
2 lb grass-fed beef top sirloin seasoned with salt+pepper, olive oil, a drizzle of balsamic–at room temperature
10 or so fingerling potatoes, halved
Big bunch of kale, roughly chopped
1 bunch fresh sage
1 lb shishito peppers
2 heads romaine lettuce
salt + pepper
Lemon juice
Olive oil + butter

Heat your grill to high. Place the potatoes in a small skillet, sprinkle with oil, salt+pepper, place the kale in another skillet, sprinkling with lemon juice, oil, salt+pepper. Put the skillets on the grill, close the top and cook for a few minutes, opening occasionally to stir. Turn the heat down a bit and continue to cook with the grill lid down. After about 5-8 minutes add the fresh sage to the potato skillet.
When the potatoes + kale have started to crisp, place the kale in the same skillet with the potatoes and add a tablespoon of butter to the now empty skillet. Throw the shishito peppers in, season with lemon, salt+pepper.
Let everything cook down until nicely browned + blackened.
Place the romaine directly on the grill and cook for a few minutes on each side, until just softened and charred.
Make room for the steak and place it on the grill at high heat, cooking for about 3-5 minutes on each side depending how thick the cut is. Make sure to grill the fatty part of the sirloin as well.
Finally, serve everything together, spooning chimichurri on each component, and sprinkling with fresh parsley + oregano.

Salted Chocolate Espresso Cookies

20150314_095044-001These cookies are super thin and crispy and have a nice little kick from the espresso. We had a few in the early afternoon and they are a much more mild option than a cup of coffee for a little extra boost. They are mostly chocolatey, buttery and a little salty, and store well in the freezer. Serve with vanilla ice cream or make ice cream sandwiches with them for a special dessert.

Salted Chocolate Espresso Cookies

8 oz. semisweet chocolate
6 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons espresso
1/3 cup coconut palm sugar
1/3 cup white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Flaky salt, like Maldon

Oven 350
1. Melt the chocolate, butter and espresso over a double broiler.
2. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.
3. In another bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar and vanilla.
4. Add the chocolate espresso mix into the egg mixture and combine thoroughly, then add the flour mix until just combined.
5. Refrigerate the mix for a few hours or overnight.
6. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and scoop spoonfuls of the cookie mix onto the paper, bake for about 10 minutes, or until flattened. Sprinkle with Maldon and allow to cool. Use a spatula to get the cookies off the parchment paper. Serve warm, or store in the freezer.
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