Cardoon Moroccan Stew (Vegan!)

Cardoon Moroccan Stew.jpgCardoons, or Cardoni, are one of those things that you’ve probably passed by in someone’s garden or a city park, not realizing that a delectable treat was just at your fingertips (if you’re willing to brave the prickly leaves, peel away the fibrous strings, chop them, and boil them for thirty minutes before you even get close to eating them). But bare with me, because they’re worth the work.Cardoons.jpg

If you don’t believe me, trust the millions of Mediterraneans who have enjoyed this vegetable for thousands of years, Imagine a meaty, juicy stem that tastes like artichoke. See? I told you they’re worth it.Cardoon Moroccan Stewjpg

I first discovered cardoons two years ago while working on a small family farm in a remote village of Spain. The farmer’s mother, who lived down the road, marched over at least every other day in her black shawl and wool skirt at a pace that was shocking for her 80+ hard-lived years. I usually found her collecting eggs to take back home to make a tortilla de patata for her husband. But one day I spotted her cutting away giant stalks from a large prickly plant that I had assumed was some sort of annoying weed or a lazy artichoke plant that didn’t produce artichokes (they are, in fact, a type of thistle related to the artichoke). I walked over and asked her what it was. “Cardo, niña,” she said. And then she started to explain how she cooks it, all whilst hacking away at the plant and tossing the stalks in a pile on the earth with more energy than I had felt all morning at my easy task of collecting asparagus. “No te preocupes, yo te lo traigo. Ya veras.” Not surprisingly, she promised to bring me some later to try. Typical hospitable Spaniard.

Farm in Spain.jpeg

Dusk on the farm in Spain

Later that day she delivered on her promise and brought me my first pot of cardoons. Those giant, intimidating stalks with their prickles and fibers were transformed into tender morsels that had soaked up the flavor of the olive oil and garlic she sauteed them with. I reacted with such love and appreciation for her dish that she invited me over for lunch the following Sunday, where I got to enjoy more of her good cooking. When my time at the farm came to a close a few weeks later, I spent my last evening chatting with her in her kitchen.

Leaving the farm

Leaving the farm

Once I knew that cardoons existed, I started seeing them around town, in stores and in the ground. Berkeley Bowl has cardoons in Spring, and the workers in the produce department have lots of great tips on how to prepare them. It was chatting with one of them that gave me the idea to introduce more of of the Moroccan spices that so remind me of Spain, and to serve it on couscous, as I do in this recipe. But if you don’t want to bother with all that, you can try the cardoons “Esperanza style” with a drizzle of good Spanish olive oil and sauteed garlic. Either way, I think it’s impossible not to love them.Cardoon Moroccan Stew.jpg

Cardoon Moroccan Stew (Vegan!)

Caroon Moroccan Stew.jpg

  • 1 lemon
  • 1 bunch cardoons
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 2 Tablespoons minced ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Fresh cracked pepper
  • 1 pound red potatoes cut into bite-sized cubes
  • 1 pound tomatoes, chopped
  • ⅔ cup assorted olives, pitted
  • ⅔ cup chopped cilantro
  • ⅔ cup chopped parsley

Fill a pot with cold water and squeeze the lemon juice into it. Bring to a boil while you prepare the cardoons. Cut the base off the bunch of cardoons and discard. Cut the tops containing any large leaves off each stalk and discard. Now working with each stalk one-by-one, use a paring knife to peel away the long edges of the stalk to remove any remaining small leaves or prickles. Then peel away the strings and thin silvery skin along the length of the stalk (similar to de-stringing celery) using a paring knife, or scrape them off using a sharp flat-edged knife on its side. Once the entire stalk has been cleaned, chop it into 2-inch pieces and place them in the pot of lemon water so they don’t discolor. Boil for thirty minutes and drain.

Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven or flat-bottomed skillet over medium-low heat. Add the sliced onion and saute for 5-10 minutes until the onion is softened and begins to caramelize. Meanwhile, pound the saffron, ginger, turmeric, garlic, and brown sugar in a mortar and pestle until it forms a paste. Add to the onions and saute for an additional 2 minutes to release the flavors. Add the drained cardoon pieces, water, wine, salt and pepper, potatoes, tomatoes and olives and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the potatoes and cardoons are tender.

Serve garnished with cilantro and parsley over a bed of couscous.

Buddha’s Hand Scones and Marmalade

My Berkeley Bowl_Buddha's Hand Scones.jpgJanuary is a great time for citrus, but the My Berkeley Bowl challenge means you won’t find any navel oranges on this blog. Nope, this blog necessitates something extraordinary. And I assure you, you won’t find a citrus fruit more extraordinary than Buddha’s Hand.My Berkeley Bowl_Buddha's Hand Scones.jpgIt’s not hard to guess how this fruit got its name. The long, delicate “fingers” evoke images of a young buddha with his hands in prayer like a blooming lotus. While this is the common interpretation, I think it looks like a radioactive squid, but “squid citrus” doesn’t sound quite as poetic.My Berkeley Bowl_Buddha's Hand Scones.jpgIn addition to it’s weirdly animate shape, Buddha’s Hand has another unique feature: an intoxicating floral aroma. It really doesn’t have any juice or flesh inside —  all its value is in its aromatic rind. For this reason, Buddha’s Hand is commonly displayed in homes and temples in Japan and China as a natural air freshener, and because it symbolizes happiness and good fortune. It reminds me of the perfumy scent of azahar (orange-blossom water), which the spanish love to add to baked treats like muffins, breads, and french toast. I guess that’s what got my wheels turning and taste-buds buzzing for this recipe: Buddha’s Hand Scones.My Berkeley Bowl_Buddha's Hand Scones.jpgNow, I don’t want to get roped into a philosophical debate about scones. There are already plenty of people engaging in passionate arguments about all aspects of scones, including how to pronounce it, if they should be round or triangular, if they should use butter or not, and even if the cream or the jam should be put on first (FYI, 57% say jam first). If you are one of those people and have your stronger-than-oak opinion about how a scone should be, I encourage you to just add the Buddha’s Hand to your recipe so that you’re sure to have the type of scone you like — buttery or dry, fluffy or dense, flaky or crumbly. My recipe is for a slightly crispy scone that is moist on the inside. (I don’t even know where my basic scone recipe came from, as figuring that out would be like figuring out where my chocolate chip cookie recipe came from.)My Berkeley Bowl_Buddha's Hand Scones.jpgBecause one Buddha’s Hand has so much rind, it was really more than I needed for scones. I decided to use the rest of it to make some marmalade, which went quite nicely with the scones. Marmalade is not for everyone, as it does have that slightly bitter “kick.” But I find marmalade to be the perfect way to dress up things like scones, cheese, or other treats that you don’t want to overpower with sweetness.My Berkeley Bowl_Buddha's Hand Scones.jpgOn this atypically rainy afternoon, I pretended like I was in the Cotswolds with my scone, jam, and hot tea. The Buddha’s Hand bits give the scone a hint of floral citrus without being overly sweet (if you do like sweet scones, I imagine you could candy the citrus bits first, but then it wouldn’t be a throw-it-together recipe like this one). Scones aren’t exactly a health food, so I made sure I enjoyed every last crumb to the sound of the rain pattering on my skylight.My Berkeley Bowl_Buddha's Hand Scone.jpg

Buddha's Hand Scones

  • Servings: 10
  • Time: 25 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

My Berkeley Bowl_Buddha's Hand Scone.jpg

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, frozen
  • 3/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons cold buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped Buddha’s Hand
  • 1 Tablespoon demerara sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar in a large bowl. Grate the frozen butter into the dry ingredients using the large holes of a cheese grater and lightly work the butter into the dry ingredients with a fork or pastry cutter until it resembles a coarse meal.

Add 3/4 cup buttermilk and the chopped Buddha’s Hand to the flour mixture and stir until it is just moistened and can be formed into a ball. Place the dough ball on a lightly floured surface and form it into an 8″ circle using your hands. Use a sharp knife dipped in flour to cut the circle into 10 wedges.

Place the wedges at least 1″ apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush each wedge with the remaining buttermilk and sprinkle with the demerara sugar. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the scones are golden. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly on a wire rack before serving.

Buddha's Hand Marmalade

  • Servings: Two 8-oz jars
  • Time: 1 hour 30 mins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

My Berkeley Bowl_Buddha's Hand Marmalade.jpg

  • 1 Buddha’s Hand, finely chopped
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 cups water
  • Juice from 1 lemon

My Berkeley Bowl_Buddha's Hand Marmalade.jpg*For instructions on how to sterilize jars and preserve your marmalade for shelf-stable storage, see this recipe by Alton Brown. Otherwise, marmalade will keep covered in the fridge for about a month.

Place all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer on low for about 1 hour or until the volume has been reduced by half. Then increase heat and bring to a bubbling boil until the temperature on a candy thermometer reaches 220 degrees fahrenheit. Pour into jars and let cool before serving.

 

Roasted Leeks with Blood Oranges

MyBerkeleyBowl_Roasted Leeks Blood Oranges.jpegThis week’s recipe is one that I developed for an article I wrote for Bay Area News Group, just released this morning. Given the Roasted Leeks Blood Oranges.jpeg“mainstreamedness” of the readership, I had to keep things a bit more tame to be accessible to a wider audience, while still giving the recipes an “exotic” spin to stay true to the My Berkeley Bowl theme. This recipe must be my favorite of the four new ones I developed for the article, because I’ve made it five times in the past month.

While neither leeks nor blood oranges are blow-you-out-of-the-water exotic, I figure that since blood oranges are not readily available at most “normal” grocery stores, they fall on the exotic side of the line. And leeks — well, most people that have used leeks have only sliced them up as a muted ingredient playing a minor role in the background of soups or casseroles, like an extra in a movie. So in that sense, I think this recipe is super exotic because leeks are the star of the show for once.MyBerkeleyBowl_Roasted Leeks Blood Oranges.jpeg
 I remember the first time I took a bite of protagonistic leeks like a girl remembers her first kiss. It was a cold, rainy day of February in Northern Spain and my mom, husband and I were on a road trip. We ordered a roasted leek salad in a nondescript bar filled with old spanish men sipping beer and escaping the rain. (Spoiler alert: when you order whatever dish is carelessly scrawled across the chalkboard hanging over a dingy locals’ bar on a quiet street in a Spanish town, Spain always delivers.) This salad came out topped with caramelized leeks as thick as rolling pins, and when I bit into them, I was blown away by how velvety, delicate, and exquisitely flavorful they were when prepared that way. My mom immediately shouted “otra!” to the waiter, knowing that we’d need at least one more salad if she actually wanted to get any (she couldn’t out-fork Mike and I when it was that good).MyBerkeleyBowl_Roasted Leeks Blood Oranges.jpeg
 That salad we had in Northern Spain was the inspiration for this dish, in which I braise leeks with wine and thyme until they are just as velvety and rich as the ones I had that rainy day in February. The sections of blood oranges add the brightness and color that make this dish all the more memorable. It makes a beautiful and unique side dish for a dinner party, or if you love leeks as much as I do, you can enjoy it on its own as a light dinner like Mike and I have been doing.MyBerkeleyBowl_Roasted Leeks Blood Oranges.jpeg
 As a side note, I discovered in my research that blood oranges are actually a result of a natural mutation! How splendidly wonderful is nature?!? Apparently, the Italian dude that first peeled one of his oranges thinking it was just a regular old orange-colored orange was so shocked to see the deep red color that he shouted “tarocco!” meaning “fake” or “phoney” in Italian, and is now the name of one of the three main varieties of blood oranges (along with Moro and Sanguinella). How rare is it now in day to find that something so beautiful and unique is made that way naturally, not by some gimmick or trick? MyBerkeleyBowl_Roasted Leeks Blood Oranges.jpegFortunately, this whole dish is free of gimmicks — just 100% natural, delicious, beautiful goodness. I hope you enjoy this first recipe of 2016.

Roasted Leeks with Blood Oranges

  • Servings: 4 as starter or side dish
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
MyBerkeleyBowl_Roasted Leeks Blood Oranges.jpeg

  • 6 leeks, roots and dark green tops removed
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 blood oranges

Dressing:

  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Sherry vinegar
  • Black pepper and a pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove the tougher, outermost layers of the leeks and discard. Slice them in half lengthwise and run under cold water to remove all the grit, ensuring to rinse between the layers. Place the leeks in a single layer in a 9×13″ roasting pan, cut side down. Drizzle with the olive oil, wine, and vegetable stock (the liquid should come about halfway up the leeks), and snip the thyme sprigs over the top. Roast for 35-45 minutes, flipping the leeks over halfway through, until they are tender and lightly browned. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Arrange the leeks on a serving platter. Cut the rind off the blood oranges, slice into sections, and arrange over the top of the leeks. Place all the ingredients for the dressing in a small jar and shake to combine. Drizzle over the top of the leeks and oranges. Serve room temperature.

Poached Quince and Beets, a.k.a. Quincy Jones Salad

wpid-2015-11-08_14.58.07.jpg

There’s a satisfying logic to why I named this salad after the legendary music producer, Quincy Jones. (Well, it’s satisfying if you love puns and music trivia as much as my family does.) Here’s the logic:

  1.  The exotic fruit I feature in this recipe is quince, Mr. Jones’ fruit namesake. I’ll talk more about quince in a minute.
  2. Like quince, beets also remind me of Quincy Jones. For those who love their music trivia, you know that he produced Michael Jackson’s Beat It (along with Thriller and so many other hit songs). Who doesn’t love a beet/beat pun?
  3. In an interview about Beat It, Quincy Jones said that to make a hit “…you have to go for the throat in four, five or six different areas.” This salad follows his recipe for success by going for the throat with five distinct flavors: quince, beets, fennel, mustard, and clove.
  4. Quincy Jones is a complete badass and deserves to have a salad named after him. If I were to list all the credentials and accomplishments that mark one of the most prolific musical careers of all time, I’d take up at least 45 minutes of your time. I would know, because my mom once spent an entire car ride from Sonoma to San Francisco reading all of Quincy Jones’ accomplishments off her iphone to my sister and me (she often gets wrapped up in her enthusiasm to learn about a new subject and falls into the rabbit hole of wikipedia). We eventually had to stop her because we’d reached our saturation point, and now “Quincy Jones” has become the code word we use to clue in my mom that she has been going on too long about a subject. E.g. “Wow mom, all that stuff about banana slugs is really interesting. I bet Quincy Jones loves banana slugs…”  (By the way, banana slugs actually ARE insanely interesting, especially what they do with that hole on the side of their head. You should wikipedia them.)

wpid-2015-11-08_15.00.02.jpgNow that I’ve explained the meaning behind the Quincy Jones Salad, let’s move on to why you’re really here: quince.wpid-img_20151108_145337.jpgQuince is a fruit that looks like a pear or yellow apple, but is sour and as hard as a rock (have I sold you on it yet?). But with some poaching, stewing, or roasting, quince transforms under heat to a soft, peach-colored, sweet fruit that has a wonderful floral aroma. Quince has a very high pectin content so it has long been used to make jams and conserves, such as the Spanish delicacy, membrillo, which is quince cooked down to a jelly-like paste and traditionally served with Manchego cheese (here it is on the menu of a Spanish restaurant right down the street, Venga Paella).wpid-img_20151108_145007.jpg

In this recipe I lightly poach the quince with some clove and star anise until it has a tender yet firm texture similar to cooked apples. The end result goes really well with crisp fennel and earthy roasted beets, and the mustard vinaigrette brightens it all up a bit. To stay true to my Spanish roots, I crumbled some aged Manchego over the top of my salad, but you can leave it off if you’d prefer.wpid-img_20151108_145427.jpg

I’ll give it a rest before you all start commenting, “I wonder if Quincy Jones likes quince…”

Quincy Jones Salad

  • Servings: 6
  • Time: 35 minutes plus 1 hour roasting time
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print
wpid-2015-11-08_15.00.39.jpg

  • 2 large beets or 4 smaller beets, washed but with skins still on
  • 2 quince (substitution: you can try green apples or Bosc pears, but poach for half the time)
  • 6 cloves
  • 6 peppercorns
  • 1 star anise pod
  • 2-3 strips lemon or orange zest
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic or apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 fennel bulb, halved and sliced thinly
  • 4 Tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt and fresh cracked pepper
  • 1 oz aged manchego, crumbled with your fingers

Wrap each beet in foil and roast in the oven on a roasting pan for 45-60 minutes at 375 degrees F, or until the beets are tender. Once cool, rub the peel off (they should be easy to remove) and slice into wedges.

Meanwhile, peel the quince, cut them in half and remove the core/seeds. Slice each half into 8 slices and put them into a saucepan with the clove, peppercorns, anise, lemon zest, water, vinegar, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil and let simmer uncovered for 20 minutes or until the quince slices are tender yet hold their shape, like cooked apples.

Make the vinaigrette by whisking the olive oil with the mustard, lemon juice, balsamic, salt and pepper. When ready to assemble the salad, layer the beets, quince and sliced fennel in a bowl and drizzle with the vinaigrette. Top with crumbled manchego cheese or serve as is.

 

Green Papaya Gazpacho

Gazpacho is my absolute favorite summertime food. But because the cornerstone of the dish is ripe, juicy tomatoes, I only get to make it a few months out of the year. When it’s that time, I go buy tomatoes by the flat at the farmers market (negotiating like a crazy pirate woman) and keep a couple gallons in my fridge at all times so I can guzzle a glass for breakfast, have a bowl for lunch, drink a cup-full as a snack when I get home and — you guess it — slurp up a big bowl-full for dinner.

2-IMG_20150622_173445243

Well, unfortunately, tomatoes are not “exotic” enough for this blog (no offense, tomatoes of the world). And they’re not in season yet anyways. But where there’s a will there’s a way, and boy do I have a will for gazpacho.

When I saw this green papaya at Berkeley Bowl I thought, “hmmmm…” and then I thought “heeeeeey!!!!” when the idea struck that I could make gazpacho out of it. Cucumbers, green pepper, garlic, and tanginess are what goes into gazpacho, and I have also enjoyed all of those paired with green papaya in East Asian dishes.

1-IMG_20150622_211010

The key to a good gazpacho is blending the olive oil, garlic, salt, and vinegar first in a good blender so that the olive oil emulsifies into a creamy elixir of the gods that will permeate the whole dish. Once you’ve blended those ingredients, you can start heaving the rest of the ingredients in the blender in no specific order. Because I like to make big batches all at once, this usually requires a couple blender-fulls, which would mean you’d need to save some of the liquid to distribute in each batch. I pour each batch into one “master mixing pot” that I stir, taste, adjust the seasoning, and then blend the whole thing all over again to get it really smooth and creamy.

wpid-img_20150701_105602.jpg

This exotic version of gazpacho happens to be even more healthy than the original. That’s because papaya is a super food, not to mention the mother of all super foods — avocados — which, along with the olive oil, pack this gazpacho full of omega fatty acids. Green papaya is just a papaya in its unripened state, most commonly used for cooking because it is very hard and not at all sweet. But the green papaya is even healthier than the ripened papaya because a) it has much less sugar, and b) it is much higher in papain, a powerful enzyme that helps us digest protein and keep the gut healthy. It’s also a great source of so many vitamins and minerals like copper, magnesium, folate, potassium, and vitamins A and C. And with 5 grams of fiber per serving, it fills you up, protects you from cancer and heart disease, and keeps things moving!

So blend up a big batch of this gazpacho and enjoy as much as you want of it, guilt-free, on a hot summer day. I served mine with a drizzle of crème fraîche with fresh mint, but that’s just being fancy. It’s just as good straight out of the ladle.

Green Papaya Gazpacho

  • Servings: 6
  • Time: 20 minutes + chill time
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

2-IMG_20150622_173445243

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1.5 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1/3 cup lime juice (about 3 limes)
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup good olive oil
  • 1 medium to large cucumber, peeled and sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced
  • 1/2 green papaya, peeled, seeds removed, and cubed (about ~3 cups cubed)
  • 1 small avocado, flesh only
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and sliced

Put the garlic, olive oil, vinegar, lime juice, cumin, and salt in a good blender and blend until frothy and emulsified. Then, add the sliced vegetables in batches, using some of the water with each batch, and blend each batch until smooth. Pour the contents of each batch into a large pot, bowl or pitcher to serve as a mixing container. Once all the ingredients have been blended and poured into the mixing container, stir it and taste. Adjust the seasoning by adding more salt, more acid (lime juice or vinegar) or more water depending on your preference. Once the seasoning is to your liking, put the mixture back into the blender to blend through one more time to obtain a smooth and creamy texture. Chill in the fridge before serving.

Optional: you can serve this with a drizzle of crème fraîche into which you stir fresh chopped mint.

Santiago Under The Stars

I’m a complete sucker for anything almond. Almond croissants, almond-scented lotion, marzipan, almond paste straight from the tube… yeah, I have been that desperate before.  The word “almond” on a dessert menu can magically create a vacancy in my stomach that just a second earlier seemed stuffed to the brim. If you are like me, then you would LOVE Tarta de Santiago.

Tarta_de_Santiago.JPG

The template used to make the cross on the Tarta de Santiago

Originally from the province of Galicia but now enjoyed all over Spain, a traditional Tarta De Santiago is a beautifully simple torte made with ground almonds, eggs, sugar, and a touch of lemon zest. It’s typically dusted with powdered sugar in the shape of the cross of Santiago (Saint James).  Pilgrims who walk the famous 500-mile camino that ends in Santiago de Compostela (where the remains of the apostle St.James are entombed– or so it is said) earn themselves a huge slice of this cake. Lucky for them, this torte can be found in almost every shop window of this medieval city, enticing almond lovers like me to taste and compare as many as possible.

Camino_seashell.JPG

The scallop shell, marking the path of the “Camino de Santiago” through a typical town of Glaicia

Galicia.JPG

Typical rainy day in Galicia

Tarta de Santiago has always been my favorite Spanish dessert, so I was a little weary to mess with a classic. But when I saw the starfruit at Berkeley Bowl, I felt inspired to incorporate this beautifully shaped delicacy into the torte. I wanted to capture an image I have of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela under a starry night sky.

wpid-img_20150507_201149.jpg

I decided to slice the stars and lay them in the bottom of the torte pan dusted with a little sugar before pouring the batter on top, so that the fruit would caramelize during baking. The result after flipping the torte over is as beautiful as it is delicious.

wpid-img_20150507_200519.jpg

A little background on the fruit, which is also known as Carambola in Southeast Asia where it originated. Its flavor and texture are like a combination of apple, pear and grape. Starfruit is very low in sugar for a fruit (only 4% sugar content) so it has a slight sour taste that makes it great for poaching or cooking, just like green apples. You’ll get lots of antioxidants, potassium and vitamin C along the way.

wpid-img_20150507_200427.jpgwpid-img_20150507_200346.jpg

It’s important to warn that people with kidney problems should avoid starfruit completely– it’s high oxalic acid content is thought to make star fruit dangerous, or even deadly, for people with poorly functioning kidneys. Also, people on cholesterol lowering statin drugs or other prescription meds should avoid starfruit because it has the same potential to interact with medications as grapefruit (potent cytochrome P450 inhibitor).

wpid-img_20150507_201504.jpg

Santiago Under The Stars

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

wpid-img_20150507_184319.jpg

  • 1 starfruit
  • 1 tablespoon brown or demerara sugar
  • 8 ounces blanched almonds (can be whole or slivered)
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Slice off the very ends of the starfruit. If it has any browning on its five ridges, trim them carefully and then slice into 1/4″ thick slices. Grease the bottom and sides of a 10″ or 11″ springform cake pan with some butter and sprinkle the brown/demerara sugar over the bottom before laying the starfruit slices across the bottom. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the almonds in a food processor and grind until you have a fine meal.  Set aside.  With an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks and sugar until it they are smooth and creamy. Add the lemon zest, almond extract, salt, and ground almonds and mix well.

With clean beaters, beat the egg whites in a large bowl until stiff peaks form. Carefully fold them into the egg and almond mixture until it is well incorporated. Pour the batter over the starfruit slices in the cake pan and bake for about 45 minutes or until the middle feels firm when touched lightly.  Remove from the oven and let cool.

Run a knife around the outside of the tart to ensure it is not stuck to the sides before releasing the springform pan and inverting the cake onto a serving plate. Carefully lift off the bottom of the springform pan to reveal the starfruit-topped cake below. Serve small slices, as this is a dense, flavorful cake.

Roasted Daikon “Bravas” Style

imageYou can’t walk into a bar in Spain without seeing someone eating the classic tapa, Patatas Bravas (meaning “fierce potatoes”). Fried chunks of potatoes drizzled with a spicy paprika-garlic sauce is hard to beat when it comes to bar food, but it can scare off the carb- or calorie-conscious. Why not smear that bravas sauce all over something a little healthier?

wpid-img_20150426_104720.jpg

Daikon might be the answer. Like a mild-tasting radish on steroids, daikon literally means ” large root ” in Japanese. It is a staple in Asian cooking where it is pickled, stir-fried, boiled in soups, fried in fritters, or eaten raw. But for some reason it’s kind of ignored in the west, its obscurity putting it on the exotic vegetable list. But hopefully not for long! It’s a more flavorful, less starchy, healthier alternative to potato. With only 21 calories, 5g carbs, and 2g fiber per cup (and very rich in vitamin C and copper) you health nuts out there should make daikon your new best friend.

wpid-img_20150507_200304.jpgwpid-img_20150426_113159.jpgKeep in mind that because daikon is less starchy and more watery than potato, it can’t perfectly pose as a potato. With some high-heat roasting or frying, you can achieve a slightly crisped outside with a tender, moist interior, but don’t expect curly-fry crunch. I chose the roasting method to make this dish even more guilt-free.

wpid-img_20150426_110310.jpgwpid-img_20150426_121652.jpg

wpid-img_20150426_110914845.jpgIf you can’t find daikon, you can experiment with a different root veggie like turnip, parsnip or rutabaga. Or if you want to make the traditional version of patatas bravas, just use the recipe below for the sauce but drizzle it on fried potatoes instead. Either way, the dish should be served with toothpicks and cañas (small glasses of cheap beer so that it’s always ice-cold) and shared among friends.

wpid-img_20150426_112649.jpg

 

Roasted Daikon 'Bravas Style'

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Time: 40 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy-moderate
  • Print

wpid-img_20150426_114802298_hdr.jpg

  • 1 small daikon radish, peeled and cut into bite-sized cubes
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil + 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 shallot, peeled and sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1 guindilla pepper, sliced into a few large pieces
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika (pimentón dulce)
  • 1 teaspoons regular paprika (pimentón picante)
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sherry wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
  • Parsley to garnish

Toss the cubed daikon in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and spread on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with some sea salt and roast at 450 degrees for 35 minutes or until tender, flipping the daikon pieces over with a spatula every 10 minutes or so.

Meanwhile you can start making the bravas sauce by heating the 1/4 cup olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot, garlic, and guindilla pepper and sauté for 4-5 minutes or until the shallot is softened and the garlic is light golden. Stir in the two types of paprika and sauté 1 more minute. Add the tomato paste, water, salt and sherry wine and simmer on low heat for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow to cool slightly. Finally, puree the mixture in a blender until nice and smooth.

When the daikon is done roasting, serve with the bravas sauce drizzled on top and garnish with chopped parsley.