Featured

Gingerbread Pancakes with Molasses Spiked Maple Syrup!

These pancakes that taste like you are eating gingerbread cookies for breakfast! So magicial and delicious! They’re light, soft, fluffy with a pleasant boldness. Nicely spiced without being overwhelming. If you’re sensitive to these bold flavors like I am, tone them down a bit by adding less than the recipe calls for, and spike the molasses to your taste!

You’ll Need: 

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

4 tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon instant espresso ( optional)

Pinch salt, optional and to taste

1 -2 cups buttermilk the more liquid, the thinner the pancake

3 large eggs

2 tablespoons light, medium, or dark molasses ( avoid blackstrap )

3 tablespoons melted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 recipe Molasses Maple Syrup ( see below ) 

Here’s How: 

In a large mixing bowl, add the dry ingredients, and whisk to combine – make a well in the center, set aside.

In a large bowl, add the wet ingredients and whisk to combine.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring until combined. The batter will be fairly thick; add more liquid if you prefer a thinner pancake.

Preheat a skillet over medium heat and spray with cooking spray (or use melted butter if you prefer).

Using a 2 ounce ice cream scoop ( sprayed with cooking spray for easy release) , scoop batter onto warm, prepared skillet.

Cook for about 2 1/2 to 3 minutes until bubbles form on the edges. Take a peek at the underside with a spatula, and when golden, flip.

Control heat to medium-low and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes, or until cooked through. Repeat the process with the remaining batter, adding more cooking oil to the skillet as needed, be sure to wipe any black residue with a paper towel as needed. The molasses will burn quickly, so be sure to control the temeratures.

Serve immediately, garnished with fresh winter fruit and drizzle with syrup!

Ginger Molasses Maple Syrup

You’ll Need: 

1 cup maple syrup

 2-3 tablespoons light, medium, or dark molasses, or to taste

1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, to taste

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Here’s How:

Combine all syrup ingredients in a small bowl or serving pitcher and whisk until smooth. Warm syrup and drizzle over pancakes. 

To keep pancakes warm for up to an hour, transfer them to a lined baking sheet and place in a preheated 200’F Degree oven with a cup of hot water to keep warm and moist.

Featured

Fresh Summer Tomato Tartlet on Puff Pastry

I love this summer tart with baked heirloom tomatoes, but I also love the dough baked separately and topped with fresh tomatoes. I decided to make a variation at the bottom of the post so you can make them both ways and decide which is your favorite! I can’t decide.

For a Baked Tomato Tart

You’ll Need

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed

1 garlic clove, finely grated

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for serving

1 lemon, zested

1 cup is torn basil leaves

2 springs frsh thyme, leaves picked

1 pound ripe heirloom tomatoes (about 2-3 medium), sliced ¼ inch thick, patted dry 

1 cup fresh Ricotta Cheese

1/2 cup various color cherry tomatoes, washed and cut in half

Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

Crème fraîche and fresh thyme for garnish ( optional )

Chef Gigi’s Baked Tomato and Ricotta Tart on Puff Pastry with black olives and cherry tomatos
Here’s How

Preheat oven to 400’F. Roll out puff pastry on a sheet onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, smoothing out creases. Cut in half lengthwise or into quarters. Poke the pastry with a fork, leaving a 1/2-1 inch border around the edges.

Combine garlic and half the olive oil in a small bowl and brush dough with garlic oil, staying within the border. Spread ricotta cheese evenly and top with lemon zest, salt and pepper. Arrange tomato slices in a single layer over Riccota, then scatter basil over the top. Arrange small cherry tomatoes in areas where the dough is showing; it’s also ok to overlap. Sprinkle with lots of salt and a few grinds of pepper, then drizzle with the additional oil.

Bake tart until edges of the pastry are browned, puffed, and crisp, 20–30 minutes. Let tart cool 10 minutes before cutting into 8 pieces. Drizzle with more oil and top each with a dollop of crème fraîche and fresh thyme.

Non Baked Variation:

Bake puff pastry without toppings. Allow cooling.

While baking, whip lemon zest and some fresh thyme into Crème fraîche or into a cup of Ricotta cheese, spread evenly over cooled puff pastry, leaving a 1-inch border around the edge.

Top with 1/4 inch sliced fresh tomatoes, add halved colorful cherry tomatos, fresh basil, and drizzle with garlic oil or a rich balsomic glaze.

Sprinkle with Maldon or Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.

Serve immediately.

Featured

Charred Beef Tip with Chinese Five Spice and Grilled Cara Cara Oranges

Chinese five-spice is pungent and encompasses all five tastes—sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami—and uses five different spices. This dynamic Asian seasoning is a mixture of star anise, cloves, Chinese cinnamon, Szechuan peppercorns, and fennel seeds. It’s easy to make at home, but it’s ok to purchase it premade too. I usually pair it with additional sweet ingredients because it is so powerful.

You’ll Need: 

2 pounds beef tri-tip, trimmed

1 small yellow onion, quartered 

2 cups low sodium soy sauce

1/4 cup toasted sesame oil

4 tablespoons packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons honey

4 Cara Cara oranges, 2 zested and juiced

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1/4-1/2 cup pineapple juice

2-inch knob of fresh ginger, peeled and grated

4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1 heaping tablespoon of Sambal Garlic-Chili Paste

1/4 bunch of cilantro, stems removed (set a few leaves aside for garnish)

Kosher Salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Set aside.

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

1/2 – 1 teaspoon ground Chinese five-spice 

2 heaping tablespoons of cornstarch 

4 to 6 green onions, chopped thin on a diagonal for garnish

Sesame seeds, for garnish

Gigi's Chinese five spice ingredients

Here’s How: 

Before you begin, trim the beef of any excess fat. Season the beef on both sides with Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Set aside.

In the bowl of your food processor, combine the remaining ingredients, except 2 of the oranges, the zest, green onions, sesame seeds. Blitz until liquid. 

Place beef tri-tip in a resealable container or zip lock and coat well with 1/2 the liquid marinade. Refrigerate for a minimum of 8-12 hours. Add zest to the remaining liquid, store in a sealed jar until grill time. 

Preheat grill. Clean and oil the grill grates. Heat the remaining sauce until thickened, keeping a close eye on it to ensure no burning. The sugars in the recipe will torch fast. Strain and return to the stove. 

Remove beef from marinade, and be sure to discard any of this remaining liquid.

Grill the tri-tip over direct medium heat, occasionally flipping for about 25 to 45 minutes, depending on the weight of the cut and your preferred internal temperature. For the last ten minutes of grill time, move the tri-tip to indirect heat and begin basting with a portion of the sauce you have on the stove until the tri-tip is entirely glazed, charred, and sticky. 

Slice the remaining oranges in half and place cut-side down on the hot oiled grill grates. Cook oranges for about 3-5 minutes until they become somewhat charred, then remove the oranges and set them aside.

When the beef is ready, remove it from the grill and allow it to rest for about 8-10 minutes. Be sure to carve across the grain, place on a serving platter, drizzle with remaining sauce, sprinkle with sesame seeds, cilantro leaves, green onions and grilled Cara Cara oranges. .

Serve with steamed white rice.

Note: If you would like the sauce a bit sweeter, add another tablespoon or two of sugar to the remaining sauce and continue to simmer until the sugar has melted. A bit spicier, add a bit more Chinese chili paste a bit more bold and fragrent, add additional five-spice. 

The mixture should be able to coat the back of a spoon. If not, make a slurry 2:1 cornstarch and liquid – stir into the sauce. Carefully heat to a quick boil to activate thickening. If you have clumps, strain the sauce through a fine sieve- no big deal. Remove from heat and serve on the side or pour over top of sliced tri-tip. It’s that simple!

Featured

Korean BBQ Pork Ribs, Mapo Style with Grilled Asian Pears

Mapo-gu in Seoul, Korea, is known for its hip vibe with quirky boutiques and late-night restaurants serving Korean BBQ with beer. Relaxed rooftop bars overlook Hongik Park’s hangout, while jazz bars and live music venues in the area have an offbeat feel. Mapo is also a popular spicey Chinese dish made with tofu and braised in a spicy chili bean paste-based sauce. It originated from the Sichuan province known to have cuisine with striking bold flavors — full of spice. Mapo tofu is also a popular menu item at Chinese restaurants in Korea! I love Korean BBQ and think this is a perfect combination of balancing the sweet BBQ of Korea and the bold spiciness from my other favorite cuisine -China’s Sichuan province.

You’ll Need :

For the Ribs

2 racks pork ribs 

Salt and pepper

8 scallions, cut in 1-inch diagonal pieces

Sesame seeds

Fresh cilantro for garnish (optional)

Mapo style marinade recipe (see below) 

For The Mapo Style Marinade

3/4 cup Korean red pepper paste (gochujang)

1 to 3 teaspoons Korean red chili pepper flakes (gochugaru)

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1/4 cup beef or chicken stock

1/4 cup rice wine or water

2 tablespoons sesame oil

4 tablespoons honey

2-3 tablespoons packed brown sugar 

8-10 cloves of garlic, peeled and root removed

2-3 inch knob of fresh ginger, peeled and grated

1 medium white onion, root removed, peeled, and quartered

1 medium Asian pear peeled, cored, and cubed

Salt and fresh ground black pepper

3 tablespoons corn or potato starch 

Here’s How:

Usually, ribs come vacuum-packed and can be sitting in liquid that you want to wash away. Run under cold water, pat dry, then peel off the shiny, white piece of membrane that sits on top of the bones. Cut each slab into two parts for more manageable handling. Salt and pepper generously on both sides, cover, and set aside.

In the bowl of your food processor, combine all the ingredients for the marinade. Blitz until liquified and fragrant. Remove to a medium-sized saucepan and slowly bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and allow to cool—reserve 1 cup of the marinade in a sealed container for finishing at the grill. Cover and place it in the cooler. 

Coat the ribs generously with the remaining marinade, rest covered in the cooler for a minimum of eight to twenty-four hours, turning them over mid-way. If you have access to a vacuum sealer, this is a perfect time to use it. 

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 325’F degrees. Remove the ribs from the marinade and discard any leftover liquid. Place ribs on a lined high-sided baking sheet and cover with foil. Cook the ribs for about 90-120 minutes, turning over midway. Remove the foil tenting for the last 10 minutes of bake time. Once the foil tent is removed, this is your cue to fire up the outdoor grill, clean oil up to its rack. 

Remove the ribs from the oven, transfer them to the preheated grill, and continue cooking over direct heat for about 8-10 minutes or until the ribs are slightly sticky, caramelized, and charred. Continue to turn and baste both sides with the reserved jarred marinade during the last 10 minutes of grilling. Slightly oil the pear halves and on the hot side of the grill for the last 3-5 minutes before completing the ribs. 

Remove the ribs from the grill, sprinkle with sesame seeds, sliced green onions, and cilantro. Cut the grilled pears into wedges and serve warm with the ribs.

Note: Never reuse the marinade once it has been sitting with raw meat; if there is any leftover, discard it. 

Featured

Crispy Pan Fried Snapper with Strawberry Tomato Salsa

This recipe is interchangeable with any of your preferred fish proteins, including shellfish-like scallops! I occasionally add cubed granny smith apples if I’m roasting salmon steaks; the tartness of the apple cuts through some of the fat in the salmon for me. I also introduce lots of lime wedges when I pan-fry a crispy battered white fish—whatever method of cooking is your fav, be sure to top off with this tasty summertime salsa. Try the recipe below I made for red snapper; it’s delicious! 

You’ll Need:

4- 6 oz pieces firm Snapper

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, divided

Sea salt and fresh ground pepper

1 medium green apple, cored and diced (optional)

1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered

1 cup fresh strawberries, hulled and diced

1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, torn right before use

2-3 tablespoons neutral-tasting extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon knob of butter, cold

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

2 limes, cut in wedges

Here’s How:

Cut and combine the berries, tomatoes, and apples if you use them into a small bowl, tear in the parsley, and add salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle a little olive oil, add rice vinegar. Toss. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. Set aside.

Make three small slices into the skin side of each filet to prevent it from curling up while cooking. Salt and pepper the fish front and back. 

In a large skillet, over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil and a knob of butter until melted. Add the fish filets skin side down and cook until the fish is crispy. Depending on the size of your filet, this should only take about 6-8 minutes. Gently flip the fish and cook until the flesh is opaque for an additional 2-3 minutes. 

Remove from the pan and tap tap on a paper towel to remove any excess cooking oil. 

Serve warm topped with strawberry salsa and lots of lime wedges! 

Makes about 4 servings

Featured

Kumamoto Oysters with Watermelon Granita, Cucumber and Serrano Chili Paper 

Back in the day, when I was shlepping jobs to get through culinary school, I was an Oyster Shucker in a fancy seafood restaurant. I always slurped down a few of my own at the end of the night. So many varieties, but my favorite remains the petite Kumamoto oyster, and now I am sharing my favorite way to enjoy them. Nothing like a fresh, sweet, succulent oyster topped with my fresh cucumber; melon granita.

To make your life easier, prepare the melon granita ahead of time— and store it in the freezer for up to one week. This recipe is a delicious variation on a classic mignonette.

Kumamoto Oysters are not only delicious, but because of their deep-cupped shells, they are great for holding delicious sauces and toppings, plus they are classic for their petite meats accompanied by a very mild brine perfect for a first-timer! Kumomoto Oysters have a distinctly sweet flavor with a lovely honeydew finish. One of my favorites !

Gigi Shucking Kumomoto Oysters

You’ll Need:

8 ounces of sweet watermelon, cantaloupe or honey dew. Washed, peeled and cut into small dice

10-12 ounces of watermelon (for the granita)

1/2 fresh lemon, zested and juiced

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1-2 dozen fresh Kumamoto oysters, scrubbed well

1 english cucumber, peeled de-seeded and cut into small dice- about the same size as the melon

1 spring fresh baby thyme leaves

1 fingerling lime,

Fresh edible flowers

1 Serrano chili, cut paper thin

Crushed ice

Here’s How :

In the bowl of your food processor puree the 10-12 ounces of melon until smooth. Strain mixture through a fine sieve into a 5-by-9-inch  non-reactive small shallow glass pan. Discarding any solids. Stir in lemon juice, and zest add a pinch of salt. Taste, and adjust seasoning with additional salt if necessary. Cover and freeze until firm, a minimum of 3 hours, scraping with a fork every hour.

When completely frozen, scrape it again until fluffy. Set aside in the freezer while shucking oysters. Once oysters are cleaned and shucked and arrange on a bed of crushed ice, or rock salt and fresh sea grass for garnish.

Remove watermelon granita from the freezer and top each oyster with about 1 teaspoon each, making sure to place on the narrow end of the oyster shell. Top with diced cucumbers, a fresh baby thyme leaf, and a few beads from the fingerling lime. Complete by topping off with a paper thin slice of serrano chili.

Serve immediatly with Ice Cold Vodka shots, petals of edible flowers and micro-green to complete.

Featured

Refreshing Lavender Lemonade with Butterfly Pea Flower

While all types of lavender are edible yet English and Provence varieties are widely for cuisine. If you use fresh garden buds, make sure they are free from pesticides. I’ve added organic dried butterfly pea flowers for the subtle violet color. The flower buds are steeped with sugar and hot water to make a rich blue-colored sugar syrup. The color-changing effect begins when the acidity from the lemon is introduced, the blue infusion becomes violet, and eventually, magenta as more lemon is introduced. If you can’t find Butterfly Pea Buds, try using organic Blue Spirulina powder.

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Butterfly-pea flower tea, commonly known as Blue Tea, is a caffine free herbal tea, or tisane, a beverage made from a decoction or infusion of the flower petals or even whole flower of the Clitoria ternatea plant and derived from a common plant to most South East Asian countries. 

Butterfly pea flower tea has been brewed for centuries but only recently been introduced to tea drinkers outside the indigenous area. Butterfly pea flower tea gains its distinctive tint from the deep blue color of the petals that have made the plant a popular dye for centuries. One aspect of the tea is that the liquid changes color based on the pH level of the substance added to it; for instance, adding lemon juice to the tea will turn it purple.

Clitoria flowers or blue tea flowers are used for their supposed medicinal properties in Ayurveda.

You’ll Need: 

About 20 sprigs of freshly picked and rinsed lavender bud flowers or 2 tablespoons of dried culinary lavender flowers

3 cups white, granulated sugar or Monk fruit

3 cups water

1 – 2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice

1-gallon ice-cold water

lots of ice

1/2 – 3/4 cup Organic Butterfly Pea buds 

Here’s How : 

In a small saucepan, bring 3 cups of water to a boil. In the meantime, trim the lavender flowers from the stems and place them in a medium-sized heat-proof bowl. Add the sugar and gently rub the lavender buds into the sugar until fragrant and well distributed.

Pour the boiling water over the lavender sugar and stir with a spoon until the sugar has melted. Add Butterfly Pea Flower buds. Cover and infuse for a minimum of 60 minutes. 

Fine strain the lavender-infused syrup into a serving carafe or pitcher, reserving 1 cup to adjust sweetness later. Chill.

Stir in the lemon juice and the additional ice water. You will begin to see the acidity of the lemon react to the Butterfly Pea Flower, and the color will change from a beautiful blue to a lovely lavender. The more acid you infuse, the more you will see a profound change in color.

Taste and adjust with the reserved syrup. Add ice to the serving glasses.

Garnish with sliced lemon and long sprigs of lavender. 

Fun Variation: 

Fill service glasses with ice. Pour the cooled Butterfly Pea and Lavender sugar syrup into each glass, filling about halfway. Follow with a lemon and water mixture over the top, and watch the color change happen! Where the lemon meets the syrup, the color will change from blue to lavender or stir to combine the two colors until pink is achieved throughout!

Makes over a gallon

Featured

Watermelon and Bergamot Orange Coolers

We can trace bergamot’s origins back to Southeast Asia. Currently, thsi sour citrus is grown in many parts of the world, today its prominence comes from the town of Bergamo in southern Italy. This citrus has a soothing scent, spicy taste, and broad range of uses. Research on bergamot oil has uncovered multiple benefits. I adore it so much and can’t get enough of it.

Make a pitcher of these refreshing coolers on mid-summer afternoon for a refreshing Mocktail! Later, turn up the heat by transforming this recipe into an informal cocktail by adding a shot of vodka, rum, or tequila!

You’ll Need:

1 1/2 pounds seedless watermelon, cubed and frozen

3-4 tablespoons fresh limes, zested and juiced

1/4-1/2 cup fresh begamot, zested and juiced, or 8 drops DoTerra, bergamot essential oil

3-4 cups sparkling water

2-3 tablespoons Simple Syrup, or to taste

Watermelon wedges for garnish

Lime wedges, bergamot, or mint leaves for garnish 

Monk fruit ( a natural sugar substitute) for rimming the glass (optional

Ice cubes 

Vodka, Rum or Tequila (optional)

Here’s How:

Wash and cube the melon. Place the cubes in your freezer for a minimum of one hour. 

In your standing blender, combine the citrus juice with the syrup and the iced melon cubes. Blend until smooth. Taste and adjust syrups if you’d like it sweeter.

Assemble coolers by moistening the rims of the glassware by gliding a fruit wedge across the tops of the glasses, then dip the moistened rims into a dish of monk fruit, sugar, or salt if your feeling wild. 

Add the watermelon puree halfway. Top with sparkling water to fill. Stir in Vodka, Rum, or Tequila, and garnish with long straws, watermelon wedges, lime wheels, bergamot, or mint leaves!

Variations:

For a deeper flavor substitute 1 tablespoon of simple syrup for maple syrup.

Featured

Homemade English Muffins

This recipe is so user friendly and satisfying. I like to use buttermilk for a pleasant, sour tang. The use of bread flour is for an incredible chewy bite. The dough will naturally be sticky, In essence, this is a good sign; the mixture contains optimal hydration, which will yield the traditional nooks and crannies that English muffins are known for. Be sure to split open with a fork to reveal your labor. This dough tastes best when you ferment the mixture overnight, but it is not necessary. Toast them on the stovetop then finish them in the oven. So easy to make, you will be amazed. 

You’ll Need:

5 cups unbleached bread flour

3 teaspoons granulated sugar or honey

2 teaspoons salt

2 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast

1/4 water, room temperature

1 1/2 cups buttermilk, room temperature

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

Cornmeal for dusting

Cooking oil

Special Equipment:

Cast Iron Skillet

Scale 

Here’s How:

In a small bowl, add the yeast to the water, stir. Set aside and allow the yeast to begin activation. In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the dry ingredients—flour, sweetener, and salt. Fit with the dough hook and mix on low speed to combine. 

Add the activated yeast, all but 1/4 cup of the buttermilk, and the butter. Mix on medium-low speed until the ingredients form a ball. If there is still loose flour in the bowl, drizzle in some of the remaining 1/4 cup buttermilk. Continue to knead for about 8-10 minutes until the dough looks soft, but still feels tacky and pliable. 

Dust your fingertips with flour, and remove the dough from the bowl and gently form it into a ball. Spray the bottom of your mixing bowl with cooking spray and place the dough back in the mixing bowl. Turn it once to oil, to prevent a crust from forming. Cover lightly with a clean kitchen towel, and allow to rise 90 minutes in a quiet, warm location of your kitchen, or place in the refrigerator and allow the dough to ferment overnight for optimal flavor.

Prepare three sheet pans with non-stick liners and dust two with cornmeal. Set aside. 

Wipe the counter with a damp cloth and release the dough gently from the bowl. Flouring the work surface is not necessary. Divide the dough into equal pieces weighing about 3 ounces each. Gently shape the pieces into small rounds practicing special attention not to deflate.

Transfer the dough balls to the sheet pans dusted with cornmeal, spacing them about 3 inches apart. Mist them lightly with spray oil, sprinkle them loosely with cornmeal, and cover with a clean towel.

Set aside and proof the rounds at room temperature for an additional 90 minutes or until the pieces nearly double in size.

Preheat the oven to 350˚F Degrees with the oven racks distributed evenly. 

Heat a large cast-iron skillet or heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat, drizzle the pan and a wide spatula with cooking oil. 

Uncover the muffin rounds, slide an oiled spatula under rounds, and gently transfer each one to the hot oiled pan, spacing them about an inch apart. Cook undisturbed for about 5 to 8 minutes, or until the bottoms are nicely brown and both sides slightly deflate to the characteristic of an English Muffin. Carefully flip and continue to cook on the other side for 5 to 8 minutes.

Transfer the pan-cooked muffins back to the original sheet tray and immediately place them in the oven. It’s essential not to wait for the remaining rounds to cook; they will deflate further.

Bake in the oven for an additional 7-8 minutes to ensure that the center bakes through. Cool, and cut open with a fork to display the nooks and crannies.

Makes 16

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Chef Gigi’s Kabocha Spiced Rum Cake ! 

Looking for that perfect dessert this Winter? Kobocha is the Japanese word for squash. This  squash has a nutty, earthy flavor with a touch of sweetness. So delicious and versatile ! Kobocha squash can be used in sweet and savory applications.

This Spiced Rum Cake will be the perfect addition to your holiday! 

Kabocha Spiced Rum Cake

You’ll Need:

1 1/2 cups mashed kabocha squash

8 large medjool dates, pitted

3 Tablespoons quality dark rum

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup cane sugar or coconut sugar

3/4 cup buttermilk

2 Tablespoons orange zest

2 Tablespoons fresh orange juice

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon quality vanilla

3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

1 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Pecan Caramel Glaze or Powered Sugar topping ( recipes below)

Here’s How:

Preheat the oven to 350°F Degrees. Prepare a high sided baking sheet prepared with organic olive oil.

Carefully cut the squash in half with a sharp serrated knife, careful not to cut yourself. De-seed. Save the seeds for roasting.

Spritz the top halves of the cut squash with a quick spitz of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Place squash cut-side down onto the stainless steel baking sheet. Place in center rack of preheated warm oven and bake until golden brown and a knife runs easily through the flesh, depending on the size of your squash anyhwre from 30- 45 minutes. Remove from the oven set aside to cool.

While the kobocha squash is in the oven, prepare an 10 inch bundt cake pan generously with non-stick cooking spray.  Set aside on top of a lined cookie sheet and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the pitted dates with 1 tablespoon of the rum. Fill with boiling water and soak the dates to reconstitute, about 15 minutes. Strain the water solution, discard and place dates in your food processor or blender. Process to a smooth paste.

While the dates are processing, whisk together in a small bowl the flour, baking powder, baking soda, all the spices including salt and the pepper. Set aside.

Remove cooled kobocha from its skin by scooping out the cooked flesh with a large spoon. Add the flesh straight to your food processor or blender with the dates and pulse process until completely smooth.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, or in a large bowl, using an electric hand mixer–add the butter and sugar.Beat on high speed until butter is creamed and pale in color and sugar crystals begin to dissolve about 2-3 minutes.

Add purée and mix an additional minute. Add 1 egg at a time beating in between addition until smooth. Add buttermilk and orange juice, vanilla and the remaining rum. Beat well.

Add dry mixture working in two additions, beating until just combine with every addition. Scrape bowl. Stir in the orange zest.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared bundt pan. Smack on the counter a few times to release any air bubbles and level out batter.

Place on the center rack of a preheated 350’F degree oven and bake 45 – 50 minutes, or until a toothpick is placed in the center and comes out clean.

While the cake is cooling, make the pecan glaze or combine the powered sugar topping. Allow cake to cool to room temperature, about 1 hour before applying glaze.

Dust with a 1/4 cup sifted powdered sugar spiked with 1 tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice. Or, pour on the pecan glaze. When pouring glaze make sure it has substantially cooled to a thick but pourable viscosity.

If the glaze is too warm it will run all the way off the cake.

Pecan Caramel Glaze

You’ll Need:

1 cup palm, or your favorote granulated sugar

½ cup whole cream, or your favorite nut milk

2 tablespoons butter

½ cup toasted pecans, roughly chopped

Here’s How:

In a high-sided pan over medium heat melt the sugar.When the sugar melts and begins to turn golden around the edges, reduce the heat to low and begin to stir until all the sugar has completely melted.

Add the butter and cream carefully – the cream will bubble up fast and could boil over. Continue to cook,stirring on low heat until you have a smooth caramel sauce- this may take up to 10 minutes.

Once the glaze is completely sauce like and thick– add the pecans.

Remove from heat. Cool to a thick but pourable consistency.Pour over the top of the bundt cake.

Serves approximately 12 slices. Delicious warm with vanilla bean ice cream!

Be Happy ! 

Featured

Drunken Squash with Forbidden Black Rice and Dried Fruit! 

Black Rice also known as Forbidden Rice

Once Reserved Only for the Noble. 

The health benefits of black rice are so powerful, this ingredient earned its name. Highly prized by noblemen and once forbidden amongst the common in ancient China. 

Black rice, was first introduced to the United States just recently, in 1995. Today it’s gaining popularity. Forbidden black rice is delicious, and has an amazingly chewy bite. It can be purchased at natural grocery stores, specialty markets and through your favorite on-line store. 

You’ll Need:

2-4 golden acorn squash, small sugar pumpkins or your fav squash

2 cups black forbidden rice, thoroughly washed

1 pound ground sausage

3 1/2 cups good quality chicken or vegetable stock

1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more to adjust seasoning 

Fresh ground black pepper, to taste 

1 teaspoon, plus 1/2 tablespoon good quality California olive oil, divided

1 cup celery, small dice

1 yellow onion, cleaned peeled and small diced

1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1/2 teaspoon dried sage 

1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped fine 

Pinch of ground nutmeg

Pinch of ground cloves

1 red bellpepper cored and cut small dice

1/4 cup dried apricots, small dice

1/4 cup golden raisins 

1/4 cup pecans rough chopped

1/4 cup chopped pistachios

1/2 cup Grand Mariner or good quality brandy (optional) 

1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped fine 

Squash seeds, roasted for garnish

 

Here’s How:

Preheat the oven to 375′ F degrees, prepare a high-sided cookie sheet with olive oil and set aside. 

In a small bowl, soak dried apricots and golden raisins in Grand Mariner. Set aside.

Wash and dry the squash and cut the stem to remove. Cut the squash in half horizontally. Careful not to cut yourself. Place the round squash on a folded kitchen towel, to prevent from rolling. With a serrated bread knife-using a sawing motion, cut through the firm flesh. 

On each halve- carefully cut a very straight silver dollar sized piece off the backs of each halve. This will ensure each piece will sit upright at service time. With a spoon, gently scrape interior to remove seeds. Set aside to roast. ( See my seed roasting recipe ) or discard.

Lightly coat the flesh of the squash with some of the olive oil. Season generously with salt and fresh cracked pepper. Sprinkle lightly with ground nutmeg and ground clove.

Place flesh side down on the prepared baking sheet. Put into a pre-heated oven for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the flesh is soft- but stable when pierced with a knife.

Meanwhile, while squash is roasting, prepare the remainder of the recipe by rinsing the black rice thoroughly in a sieve under cold running water. Shake rice until water begins to runs clear, removing much of its starch.

In a medium sized, 6-8 quart sauce pan with fitted lid- bring rice, chicken stock, olive oil, salt, and pepper to a roaring boil – uncovered, over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cover tightly. Continue to cook rice until tender and most of water has been absorbed, about 35 – 40 minutes. Remove from heat, and let stand covered, about 10 minutes undisturbed. After rest period, reveal and fluff with a fork. Black rice is naturally chewy when done. Test for doneness. 

About 15 minutes before the squash and the rice are expected to finish cooking, begin to prepare the stuffing. In a large 10-12 inch skillet over medium heat add 1/2 teaspoon of oil add ground pork, season with salt and pepper and additional 1/4 teaspoon ground sage. Sauté until slightly brown. About 2 minutes. 

Add the diced celery and onion. Continue to sauté an additional 3-4 minutes until celery is cooked through, but still firm to the bite. Add fresh chopped herbs and small diced apples to the pan. Cook for an additional 2 minutes. Remove the from the pan away from any heat, stain liquid off dried fruit and add to the pan. Stir to combine. Return to heat and fold in the cooked rice, and pecans. Cook an additional 1 minute to combine flavors. Add a good pinch of chopped parsley reserving additional for garnish. Stir. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Place cooked squash skin side up in a baking dish. Generously spoon the rice stuffing into the cooked acorn squash so that they are piled high. Cover “tent like” with foil and return to the oven for 5-8 minutes or until heated through. If holding any longer in the oven, add a few tablespoons of chicken stock or water to keep moist. 

Remove from the oven, and finish with finely chopped flat leaf parsley- serve immediately! 

Variations

Remove pork sausage and replace with bacon or omit all together. 

If you want a sweeter flavor sprinkle acorn squash with a pinch of brown sugar or maple syrup and cinnamon before stuffing. 

Makes approximately 4-6 servings depending on size of squash.

Featured

Make Ahead Thanksgiving Gravy!

So… what came first, Turkey or the Gravy? Everyone says you need turkey before the gravy, but that’s not really so- and really, who really cares. The point is you need the gravy first to make your life easier. Why? Because Thanksgiving can be an ordeal if you are short on the clock, unorganized, or really just don’t like to cook. 

Even if you love being in the kitchen, you will still need to prioritize your time. For most cooks, the gravy is the most delicate, time-sensitive – yet over-consuming portion of the Thanksgiving menu. Let’s face it- most home cooks are afraid of digging in with the whisk. I’m here to tell you gravy is… welp, gravy, and I am about to make your hectic-kitchen-life a bit more humble.

Here is my formula for the best tasting do-ahead gravy ever. 

Enjoy your guests this holiday season by taking some of the stress off your plate. It’s about being together anyway, isn’t it? Make the gravy a few days in advance, and don’t sweat the timely stuff ever again! Drink up, you have other things to worry about! 

You’ll Need: 

1 tablespoon good quality olive oil

1 pound bone-in chicken wings

1 large unpeeled onion, root ball removed, cut in quarters

1 large carrot, peeled, cut in large chunks

1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped

A small handful of fresh parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, and 2 large bay leaves

1/2 teaspoon of peppercorns

1 cup dry white wine

8-10 cups of low-sodium chicken broth for added poultry flavor ( you can add water instead)

4-5 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire or fish sauce

Kosher salt, and ground white pepper

Special Equipment :

Cheesecloth 

Here’s How: 

Combine the fresh herbs and peppercorns into a delicate little bouquet and tie up tightly in the cheesecloth. Set aside. 

Heat the olive oil in a large high sided saucepan over medium-high heat. Salt chicken wings and gently place flat side down into the hot oil. Cook wings, occasionally turning until golden brown, about 10–12 minutes. 

Add the onion, carrot, with the celery and cook until everything in the pan is deeply browned, 14–16 minutes. 

Pour in the wine to deglaze the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil and cook until wine is reduced by half, about 3-5 minutes. Add stock and herbs then return to a boil. Immediately reduce heat and slow simmer, occasionally stirring, until liquid is reduced by a third, 35–40 additional minutes.

Remove herb packet and strain the stock through a fine-mesh sieve covered with cheesecloth into a heatproof bowl. You should have about 4 cups. If you don’t, add sufficient stock or water to get you there.

Discard any solids. Keep stock warm while you make your roux.

Heat butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, continually whisking until roux is golden brown about 4 minutes. It will be clumpy like porage at this stage, don’t worry. Start making the gravy by whisking gently and continuously pouring the hot stock into the roux mixture. Be sure to incorporate each addition of liquid thoroughly, making it lump-free before adding any additional fluid. Some cooks use both hands, stirring while pouring, while others turn this into a team-building event. 

Once you have a soup-like consistency, add the remaining stock, stir and bring to a gentle simmer. Whisk often, until gravy is thickened, and reduced to about 3 cups. The sauce should coat the back of a spoon; this will take about 8–10 minutes. 

Conclude by adjusting the seasoning with Worcestershire or fish sauce, taste, and season with salt and white pepper if needed.

Cool, and store in an air-tight glass container. This beautiful Thanksgiving poultry gravy will hold in the cooler for at least 4-5 days. 

Reheat and adjust flavor with salt and pepper. Use a few tablespoons of turkey pan drippings to awaken the poultry flavor. 

Enjoy your guests.

Featured

Green Beans with Brown Buttered Walnuts and Caramelized Shallots

I love to cook green beans, especially Haricots Verts, pronounced { herəkō ˈver } they are delicious and so tender. They are the French variety typically slimmer and longer than the common green bean we see here in America. You can use any fresh green bean for this recipe. 

You’ll Need:

1- 2 pounds fresh haricots verts, root ends trimmed

4-6 ounces unsalted butter or 3-4 teaspoons good quality olive oil

4-6 gloves of garlic, peeled and smashed

6-8  large shallots, cleaned and sliced thin

1/4-1/2 cup good quality chicken, vegetable stock, or white wine 

Salt and fresh ground pepper 

2 springs fresh thyme

Squeeze of fresh lemon juice 

1 cup browned buttered walnuts, see recipe below 

1 orange zested 

Here’s How

Bring a small saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the haricots verts and cook until just tender, about 1 minute. Transfer with a slotted spoon to an ice bath. Drain. Pat dry.

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and sauté until they are browning and nicely caramelized about 5-8 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook an additional minute. 

Add the haricots verts and salt and pepper to taste, and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes, or until just heated through and crisp-tender.

Deglaze the pan very quickly with the chicken stock, add the fresh thyme and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice toss. Add toasted walnuts and toss.

Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper one last time, top with orange zest. Serve warm.

Approximately 4-6 serving


Variations: Add cooked bacon bits, panchetta, lemon zest, almonds or a splash of cream 

 

Browned Butter Walnuts


You’ll Need

1 – pound halved fresh walnuts

1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter

1 teaspoon brown sugar

Salt and fresh ground black pepper

In a large sauté over medium heat melt the butter. Add the sliced almonds and sauté storing constantly until golden and fragrant. About 3- 5 minutes toss in the sugar lst minute toss till melted and remove from heat to a sigle layered sheet pan to cool. 

The walnuts will brown fast in the butter so be sure to remove them from the hot pan and cool quickly, or you will risk over browning.

Dust with salt and pepper while warm. 

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Meet The Delicata Squash

The oblong shaped Delicata – pronounced dehl-ih-CAH-tah- is a fall delicacy. This succulent squash has a beautiful pale yellow skin with green striped markings and often ranges in size from 5 to 9 inches in length to 1 1/2 to 3 inches in diameter.

Unlike most summer squash (which are picked when immature and skins are tender), Delicata Squash have hard, thick skins and only the flesh is eaten. The mysteriously delicious yellow meat is reminiscent of a balanced dating life of a vibrant sweet potato and a sexy butternut squash.

These seasonal beautiful baes and can be roasted or steamed. Combined with butter and fresh herbs, Delicata Squash is good source of vitamins A and C.

Choose squash that have a hard, deep-colored rinds of course-free of blemishes or moldy spots.Tender skin indicates immaturity or poor quality. The hard skin protects the flesh and allows it to store longer than summer squash and keeps the magic inside safe!

Delicata Squash should be stored in a cool, preferably dark, well-ventilated area for up to one month. Wrap cut pieces in plastic and refrigerate up to one business week.

Can be cooked whole or split lengthwise (removing seeds). Pierce whole squash in several places, and bake halved squash hollow side up. Personally, I wash and slice in onion ring sized peices using a round cookie cutter I will remove the seeds and soak them in garlic salted water for an hour – roast the seeds separately. I then proceeded to generously oil a stainless steel sheetpan and rub the squash discs in the oil w a sprinkle of salt and palm sugar- I then blast roast on high heat 425’F for good Caramelization. I flip them halfway through the cooking process re-season- reduce oven to 325’F Degrees and continue roasting until pierced throughout gently with a fork. Remove from the oven and drizzle with maple syrup or honey.

You can also cut in half toast flesh side down and scoop cooked flesh into a bowl mash with butter, honey or maple syrup, a wee bit of cream, some pumpkin pie spices, non dairy nut milk to make the best mashed Delacata you’ve ever tasted!

Garnish with toasted seeds!

Featured

Grilled Steak Tacos with Serrano-Blueberry Salsa

You might think that the beauty of a taco recipe is that you rarely need one. A taco can start with virtually anything delicious, tucked into a warm tortilla, topped with your typical fillings, cilantro, a squeeze of lime, a well-chosen salsa. But it can be delightful to have a lavish taco with some unusually paired elements for that celebratory Taco Tuesday, or just a little something different. 

You’ll Need

1-2-pound flank steak, or your favorite cut of beef

1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin, toasted and ground

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon onion powder 

12 small corn tortillas, lightly toasted on the grill

12 slices of mild Havarti cheese 

Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper 

Red Pickled onions (recipe below

Blueberry Serrano Sauce (recipe below

1 bunch parsley, chopped fine

1 bunch scallions, sliced

2-4 white or red radishes, chopped small dice

Queso Fresco, or your favotite Mexican Farmers Cheese, crumbled

2 limes, washed and cut into wedges

Microgreens for garnish

Here’s How: 

Remove the steak from the cooler and allow it to come close to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

Fire up the outdoor grill to medium-high heat. Season the beef with salt and cracked black pepper on both sides, then set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the dry spices and mix them thoroughly. Rub the spice mixture into the salt and peppered beef on both sides.

Clean and oil the grill. Place the beef across the hot grates and do not move the first 4-5 minutes to achieve a deeply caramelized sear. 

Turn over and continue the grilling process until the desired internal temperature. Rest for about 8-10 minutes before slicing.

While the steak is resting, reduce the heat on the grill and place the tortillas on indirect heat. Spritz with a bit of water and add cheese. Close the grill lid until cheese melts and tortillas are steamed warmed. Set aside keep covered to keep warm and pliable.

Slice the beef, assemble the tacos by placing the meat directly on the melted cheese tortilla, slather the Serrano-blueberry sauce, add toppings of pickled red onions, chopped parsley, sliced radish, and your favorite micro-greens or cilantro to finish.

Chef Gigi's Fire Blueberry and Serrano Chili Sauce
Chef Gigi’s Fire Blueberry and Serrano Chili Sauce

For the Spicey Blueberry-Serano Sauce

You’ll Need:

1 Serrano chili, cleaned and sliced into small dice

3 cups of fresh blueberries, room temperature

1 small yellow onion, large dice

2 cloves fresh garlic, cleaned 

1/2 lemon, zested and juiced 

1 tablespoon good quality maple syrup

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar 

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce 

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin 

1 teaspoon neutral-tasting oil 

Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

Water as needed

Here’s How: 

In a small, high-sided saucepan, heat the oil on low heat. Add the onions and saute until brown and caramelized. About 4- 5 minutes. Add the garlic, and saute for an additional 1-2 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and cook until blueberries become soft about 8-10 minutes. Stir occasionally to avoid scorching, and slowly reduce to a thicker syrup-like consistency. Remove from heat and slightly cool.

Place the blueberry mixture into a standing blender or the bowl of your food processor and blend until the mixture reaches a smooth consistency. Remove and run through a fine sieve. Place sauce into an airtight container and pop into the fridge! For more fire, leave the seeds in the Serrano chili. For even more excitement, replace the Serrano Chili with a Habanero.

For the Pickled Onions 

You’ll Need:

2 large red onions, sliced paper-thin

2 cups apple cider vinegar 

2 tablespoons granulated sugar 

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

10-12 peppercorns 

2-4 clove garlic, peeled and smashed

1 quart-sized Mason jar with a tight-fitting lid for packing

Here’s How:

Add the sliced onions, peppercorns, and garlic to a glass mason jar, and set aside. In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, sugar, salt, and heat, stirring just until the salt and sugar dissolve about 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and add the garlic clove and peppercorns. Gently pour the brine over the onions and allow the liquid to cool. Seal with a tight-fitting lid, and place in the refrigerator for a minimum of 30 minutes before eating. The onions may be stored chilled for up 4 weeks.

How to Assemble the Tacos

To assemble a Taco, spread a tablespoon or more of the Blueberry sauce onto the center of each tortilla, lay one or two pieces of the juicy grilled steak on top of the sauce, top scallions, pickled onions diced radish, and crumbled cheese or your favorite toppings. Fold over to make a taco.

Serve with lime wedges to squeeze directly on the taco filling.

Featured

A Box of Books

A Chef’s Virtual Toolbox.

My latest book, Food Fight for Parents of Picky Eaters (Koehler Press, late 2018 ) is a hands-on guide to understanding and reprogramming how families battle picky eating. It’s loaded with proven tactics to help parents take mealtimes back.

As founder of a professional culinary school for children, author I have coached thousands of children and adults in how to cook (and eat!) better.

Based on over 35 years of professional experience, Food Fight targets picky eaters with the science of flavor and taste mechanisms, teaching parents how to transform nutrient-dense meals into something delicious for their children’s unique and developing palates. 

In addition to behavioral tips and solutions, the book features over 60 innovative and practical recipes, including naturally colored Green Eggs and Ham, smashed-fruit filled Purple Tie-Dye Unicorn Muffins, umami-rich Dinosaur-as Teriyaki Drumettes, and hassle-free Homemade Soft-Serve Ice Cream.

While it’s easy to see picky eating as a phase, moderate-to-severe picky eating often coincides with serious issues like depression and anxiety that may later require intervention. I expose the habits that inadvertently reinforce picky eating and helps parents navigate the challenging landscape by showing them the science behind flavor and awakening them to the culinary magic of umami. Gigi also talk about what kids who are athletes need in their diets.

Some of My Tips you will see Sprinkled Throughout the Book:


If a child develops a preference for a certain flavor at an early age, odds are she will stick to foods with similar flavor profiles.

Our taste buds disappear as we get older. Children have thousands of
additional taste buds, so flavor sensations, especially bitter flavors, can be extremely overwhelming.

Hiding or disguising vegetables in children’s favorite meals has negative consequences, with children later rejecting the food they once enjoyed and becoming suspicious of all home cooked meals.

Bribing backfires in the long run, as it teaches #children to create lists of negative and positive foods, where #healthy #foods are only viewed!

Featured

10 Minutes to Creamy! Chocolate Avocado Mousse! 

Chocolate Mousse has never been healthier or faster! When choosing Avocados, use Haas variety- they tend to have a rich, smooth finish. Make sure to avoid any granulated sweeteners for a creamy mouthfeel.

 

You’ll Need: 

4-5 ripe avocados

3 tablespoons honey, maple syrup, or optional liquid sweetener. ( do not use granulated sweeteners) 

3/4 cup good quality cocoa powder

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Small pinch of Himalayan or your favorite salt

4-5 tablespoons cow or nut milk

Fresh berries for garnish 

Cocoa for dusting 

 

Here’s How:

Split the avocados in half lengthwise and remove the pits. Using a spoon, scoop out the meat and place it in the bowl of your food processor. Add the remaining ingredients, and pulse until smooth—about 1 minute. 

Taste and adjust sweetness. Add additional milk to adjust consistency. 

Place mixture into serving bowls or glassware, and chill until ready to serve. Top with fresh raspberries and a sprinkle of cocoa. 

Makes Approximately 4 servings  

Eat it all up! 

Featured

Flatbread Made Three ways. Grilled, Baked or on the Stove Top

I love making fresh Flatbread, from Fry Bread, Naan, and Pitas. The list goes on. Just about every country has a type of prized flatbread recipe. 

I can’t decide if I like it made better in my cast iron pan on the stovetop, or my pizza stone baked in the oven, or my outdoor grill, which gives significant additional flavor. You decide. Regardless of how you make it — the key to making delicious flatbreads is keeping the dough wet, soft, and spongy throughout the mixing and kneading process. Unlike making any other bread type products– if you begin with a damp and sticky sponge and progress slowly adding flour, you will have beautiful results.

You’ll Need

1 (.25 ounce) package rapid-acting dry yeast

1 cup warm water 90 to 100’F

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 Tablespoons good quality olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed

1 additional teaspoon olive oil, divided or good quality cooking oil spray

Here’s How

Place the yeast into the work bowl of your stand mixer and add 1 cup warm water. Make a slurry. Add 1 cup of the flour. Whisk together with a hand whisk and let stand 15 to 20 minutes. Wait for the mixture to create air bubbles and form a loose looking foamy starter sponge. The mixture will resemble wet like a slurry, and nothing like you would expect to begin a bread dough. Your baking instincts will tell you to add additional flour- but resist the urge.

Once the dough is spongey and full of foam and bubbles, add 2 Tablespoons olive oil, and the salt. Stir, and second addition of flour in small increments string in between each addition. The dough should continue to look spongy and sticky. With the kneading attachment, combine at low speed until ingredients mix well, but remember to keep the starter dough slightly sticky.

If the dough is sticking to the sides of the bowl and not mix into a ball, add a little additional flour–a little at a time, not to exceed a 1/4 cup.

Start to time your kneading about to 5-6 minutes on very low speed until the dough springs back to the touch, and is very soft.

Remove the dough to a work surface and form into a large ball.

Wipe inside of the bowl with 1/4 teaspoon of the additional olive oil, or a quick spray. Place dough ball back into the mixing bowl and give it a light coating of oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and allow the dough to rest until it has doubled in volume—approximately 2 hours.

After the dough has doubled in size, remove from the bowl and place it onto a floured work surface. Gently shape about 1-inch thick log. Use kitchen scissors or a knife- cut dough into eight pieces.

Form each piece into a smaller round ball, carefully pulling dough from the top center of each piece, tearing down and tucking under to form a ball. 

Do not work the dough any more than necessary. Place each ball on a gently on a silicon mat or parchment or plastic-lined baking sheet and allow to rest covered for an additional 30 minutes until they have doubled in size.

Once the dough has completed its second rising- dust a clean work surface with a small amount of flour and top of the balls and your hands with a little meal, gently pat dough ball flat with your fingers, forming a flat, round discs 1/4 inch thick and using a rolling pin form a 6-inch disc.

Rest an additional 5- 8 minutes. Then continue to your preferred method of baking.

 

On the Stove:

Lightly coat a large cast-iron skillet with remaining olive oil or spray and place over medium-high heat. Make sure the pan is to temperature before adding the dough disc.

Lay flattened discs into a hot skillet and cook until bread begins to puff up, and the bottom is browning well about 3-4 minutes. Some might not puff, don’t worry; they will still be wide enough to cut open for filling. Turn the pita over and cook two an additional 2-3 minutes until browned and puffy. They will naturally deflate, causing the center to be hallowed enough to fill as pitas.

 

In the Oven: 

Place a large pizza stone on the lower oven rack, preheat the oven, and the gravel to 500 F. Degrees Place two bread discs at a time on the hot pizza stone and bake for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the bread puffs up like a balloon and is pale golden. Observe; they will bake quickly.

When browned and puffy, remove the bread from the oven and place it on a rack to cool for about 5 minutes; they will naturally deflate, leaving a pocket in the center.

Stack pitas on a wire rack to cool. Enjoy Pitas as is, or stuff with your favorite fillings. I love the oven method because my pitas don’t get too many brown spots, and they are soft inside and out.

 

On the Grill: 

When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread coals evenly over the charcoal grate. Clean and oil the cooking grate. Let the charcoal sit until it drops in temperature to medium heat.

Right before placing the dough on the grill, give each disc a few veils of mist of water from a spray bottle on both sides. Place the dough on an oiled grill and cook until it starts to bubble about 1 minute. Flip the dough and cook until it puffs and is cooked through, but not browned, about 2 minutes more. Remove from the grill and let cool. Reheat quickly on the grill before serving. You can also use a gas grill using indirect heat. Keep pitas warm until service.

I love cooking Pitas on the grill because they inherit a mild smokey flavor. 

Serve with skewered grilled meats, Tahini, my buttered Babaganoush recipe, or fresh Falafel with Tzatziki and goes well with any Eastern Indian dishes.

Featured

30 Minute Creamy Homemade Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons!


You’ll Need:


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large yellow onion, sliced

1 large carrot, peeled and chopped in 1/2 inch pieces 

1-2 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves

1/2 cup fresh flat leaf Italian parsley leaves 

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 (28 oz ) cans good quality peeled and chopped organic tomatoes

2 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock) 

1/2 cup heavy cream, plain Greek yogurt or your favorite nut milk

10-12 fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped 

Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper 

Grilled cheese cut into croutons 

For the grilled cheese

8 slices of your favorite bread, crusts removed 

8-12 Tablespoons softened butter 

8 slices of sharp Tillimock cheddar cheese for grilled cheese 

Here’s How
:
In a heavy bottomed 6-8 quart stockpot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. 

Add the onions and carrots. Sauté for 3-5 minutes until onions are beginning to turn golden brown and caramelized. 

Add the garlic, oregano and fresh chopped parsley and cook an additional 1 -2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes with their juice and the chicken stock. Bring to a low simmer. Cook uncovered, for 12 -15 minutes.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add fresh basil to last minute of cook time. 

While soup is cooking make grilled cheese sammies. Cut into croutons, set aside. 

Using an immersion blender or carefully transfer soup to a blender to puree soup. 

Return to heat add cream. Re-adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Do it boil after adding cream. 

Serve piping hot garnished with grilled cheese croutons. 

Not-So-Traditional Bulgarian Banitsia

Banitsa is a famous cheese, yogurt, and egg pie. Historically renowned dish of Balkan cuisine and typically served for special events. I can’t get enough of it. Based on my geographical location and ingredients, this recipe still has enormous flavor; the sharp feta cheese with the richness of the eggs and yogurt is a perfect trifecta, but the crunch of paper-thin baked dough drives it home.

Bulgarian Banitsia is traditionally prepared with homemade phyllo sheets, a delicious Bulgarian brined cheese called Sirene, fresh Bulgarian yogurt and vegetable oil. If you source Bulgarian products, I recommend using them for the most authentic experience. Feta and Greek yogurt are the closest and widely used substitutions, they work well, so dont be too worried if you can’t find traditional ingredients.

I love the result of filling and rolling the dough up into loose cylinders so much; I make all sorts of crazy-variations. Sometimes I use sundried tomatoes, cream cheese, chopped scallions, then sprinkle the top with everything bagel spice. Occasionally, I will create a sweet dessert using almond paste mixed with eggs and a drizzle of orange flower water and honey, then top off with powdered sugar. 

Sunday Brunch drool-worthy! 

Thawed Ready Made Dough Leaves, Fillo, Phyllo Dough
Thawed Ready Made Phyllo Dough Leaves

You’ll Need:

15-20 sheets Phyllo dough, thawed

8 ounces Greek yogurt, plain  

3 eggs, beaten

2 tablepoons unsalted butter, melted 

1 teaspoon fresh baking soda

10-12 ounces internationally sourced feta cheese, crumbled 

Fresh ground pepper

Non-stick cooking spray

1 tablespoons of unsalted butter, softened

Parsley, chopped fine for garnish or your favorite herbs

Here’s How:

Preheat your oven to 350’F degrees. Lightly grease a springform pan with non-stick cooking spray, or use any baking vessel you have. Don’t shy away from your 9×13 rectangular casserole dish either- it doesn’t need to be round. 

Remove the dough from the package and gently unroll it onto a clean working surface. Cover with a lightly dampened, clean kitchen towel so the dough will not dry out too quickly while you’re working. 

Crack the eggs into a cereal bowl and lightly whisk them with a fork. Set aside.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk the yogurt with the egg mixture, drizzle in the melted butter, add fresh ground pepper and baking soda. 

Working with 2 sheets for each roll, standing in front of the long side of the rectangular-shaped dough, sprinkle about 3-4 tablepoons of the yogurt-egg mixture onto the pastry sheets, top with a handful of cheese sprinkled on top of the egg mixture. Carefully rollthe sheets of the dough away from you to form a loose cylinder. The dough may have some tears, but that’s okay. Just continue creating a long cylinder shape.

Place the first roll into the center of the pan wrapped in a coil. Repeat this step with the remaining pastry sheets until you fill the baking vessel.

Once complete, lightly brush the top with some of the remaining yogurt and egg mixture and dot with the softened butter. Bake approximately 25-30 minutes until the pie is golden brown. 

Cool slightly before serving, and complete the meal with a delicate toss salad comprised of tender baby-green tossed with a lemon vinegarette.

Note: If you run out of egg filling at completion, crack an additional egg, whisk with a teaspoon of water, and lightly brush the egg wash across the top of the pie before baking, prompting a beautiful shiny and evenly browned crust.

Be sure not to use too much filling or the dough will loose its crunch.

The Difference Between Buckles, Cobblers, Crisps, Grunts, and Slumps, and More!

Finally, summer fruits are here! The beginning of the warm weather season, signaling a good time to inventory and restock your pantry with fresh spices and your favorite extracts to complement fresh fruit at peak flavor. After locked down for the past year, we all need a little bit of the outdoors. I love to enjoy seasonal hand fruit, but I also long for those bubbling, baked sweet syrupy fruit-packed baked goods with crunchy tops. 

Let’s get into it. Which to make? Buckles, Crisps, Cobblers, Grunts, or Slump? And, without confusing you even further, there is also a Sonker, a Betty, and a Pandowdy. Oh, and one more thing, these are all interchangeable with the seasons. 

So, what are they, and what are their differences? 

They all feature all the charisma of pie, minus the hurdles that come with constructing one. Rather than crossing your fingers with a pie crust, you place everything in a dependable casserole dish. I like to think of all of them as deconstructed pies. 

The Buckle’s claim to fame has been said to bridge the gap between crumbles and coffeecakes. Buckles are very moist cake batters made with fruit mixed and poked in and then generously topped with streusel. (A delicious crumbly topping of flour, butter, and sugar.) Some modern recipes add spices and chopped nutmeats to their streusel. Yum! Buckles get their name from their topping’s buckled appearance. Sometimes they’re called crisps, which is crazy, and it adds to the blur. 

GruntsAKA slumps, are baked or sometimes stewed fruits topped with a rolled biscuit dough. Like cobblers, the technique for completing a grunt is much more systematic than dropping or spooning it over fruit, like a pie crust topping. Honestly, it’s just a bit more informally arranged with biscuit dough and clarifying; it’s a topping made with a rolled-out slab of biscuit dough, not pie crust. 

Crisps and cobblers are the most notable members of the baked fruit family. They also can have a variety of filling combinations. Both envelope baked fruit with some sort of wild, free-form carb topping. Their names differ based on what type of topping is applied and the apparent visual composition of the dish. 

Crisps get an oat, or flour, butter, sugar, and optional nut meat-type mixture sprinkled on, then baked. My quick and dirty dessert if I need one. The fruit cooks into a delicious underlying compote during oven time, and its syrup bubbles up like a slow drizzling volcano through a few areas in the crumble topping. Topped with cold Vanilla Ice Cream, it’s almost better than an entire night’s sleep.

The Cobbler’s name comes from its sometimes cobbled-looking texture, developing from the spooning or dropping the biscuit or batter atop the fruit filling rather than spreading or rolled out dough topping. A good indicator of a Cobbler is the visual structure-Just look for notable gaps between the crust.

And to confuse you a little further, I’m just gonna throw in a Sonkers. Ha! Don’t worry, it’s typically geographical. This delectable hails from Surry County, North Carolina, and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Produces more of a syrupy texture—than a conventional cobbler. The Sonker is typically paired with a vanilla cream sauce locals call “dip,” and it is generously coated over the finished dish.

Did I mention there’s also a Slump? Yep, this sweetened fruit-cooked dessert is usually topped with dollops of dough and cooked on the stovetop, not the oven. The individual serving sort of slumps on the plate in a not-too-recognizable design, consequently the name and served with heavy cream. 

Oh, and don’t forget about a Betty! A baked pudding, so to speak. Betties are succulent: alternating layers of sugar, spiced fruit, and buttered bread crumbs with a bit of fruit juice to moisten the whole shebang. I’m drooling typing this – then Betty is baked until brown and crispy on top. I like to throw a little booze in my Betties.

All of these should not be confused with a Pandowdy, but they often are. A Pandowdy is sliced apples or other fruits tossed with cinnamon, nutmeg, a little clove, dotted with and butter, sweetened with molasses or brown sugar. The topping is a biscuit-like dough, rolled out and placed on top like a payer of pie crust and baked. The difference is, halfway through the baking time, the oven is opened, and the crust is cracked! Yes, you hear me right. The baker proceeds to press the half-baked biscuit dough into the melange of bubbling sweet syrup. This technique is called “dowdying.” Pandowdies are served straight from the oven drizzled with warm with heavy cream. Perfect for date night. Wink… wink…

I just can’t, I can’t go on. I’m going to pass out from the thoughts of these desserts. Stay close by, I’ll be posting a few of my favorite cobbler and crisps recipes soon, just like the one below.

Oh, and make sure to try them, and let me know which is your pick! I have a feeling the upcoming summer will be abundant in all good things! 

Best,

Gigi 

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