Category Archives: yogurt

Sour Cherry-Happy Pie vs Phony Fruitcake


Fresh sour cherry summer pie is one of those foods that I just can’t stay away from no matter how hard I try: it’s the best way for me to enjoy those intensely tangy and rich little fruits in season. In the juxtaposition with the neutral and subtle baked pear, the cherries shine even more. I intensified the filling taste with lemon zest, ginger and cinnamon and added a bit of almond flour to the crust dough to give an extra nutty charm to the flaky crunch. I also replaced the standard vanilla ice cream with quick homemade yogurt cream. The result: simply irresistible summer concoction bursting with freshness and flavors!

This pie actually broke my almost 10 days of strict diet regimen. In strive to get more of a bikini body towards vacation time I decided to be more active: I took up running and (almost) eliminated sugar and carbs from my diet (fats die hard with me). My only dessert during this time was a little fresh watermelon cake, the recipe of which I picked up from Better Homes & Gardens (June 2014 issue), although I’ve discovered many of them on Youtube and internet after.

I got really hooked: it was refreshing and innovative with almost zero calories and great quench. I named it phony fruitcake and continued to experiment with the concept of having the no-bake body of a cake made of fresh fruit. I eliminated the frosting part (which was a little too kitsch for me) and just kept carving my phony fruitcakes from melon, pineapple, papaya, etc. topping them with fresh berries and sometimes a lace of berries coulis with maple syrup instead of sugar. The cake didn’t have much of a substance, but I liked the simplicity and the skinny side of it.

The phony fruitcake became my best dessert-friend for a while and I really hoped that our connection would last… Then the sour cherry-picking time arrived and I became ravenous-hungry for an old-fashioned simple rustic pie with lattice crust. (Last summer I already disclosed my weakness for sour cherries here).

So when a friend came with a pack of pie dough in shell (yes, I’ve even cheated on the dough this time) to help me cherry picking and asked me to ditch the diet for once (politely) and whirl the grandma’s cherry pie with her, I gave up. Later that night I was devouring the best cherry pie I’ve had in a long time, even with commercial crust (below is my recipe of the pie dough from scratch).

I quickly traded the previous motivational quote by Kate Moss: ‘’Nothing tastes as good as thin feels’’ (heck, I don’t even remember how thin feels, although I’m sure even Bethenny Frankel often feels like that too) for much more appealing one by Woody Allen: ‘’ When we lose twenty pounds… we may be losing the twenty best pounds we have! We may be losing the pounds that contain our genius, our humanity, our love and honesty.’’ (What a great soul bargain – I like it!) 

Like anything seasonal, my phony fruitcake has to go into temporary liquidation. Obviously it’s hard to compare these two desserts because both are very different and have almost the opposite designations.   The phony fruitcake might be a great addition to some over-the-top posh micro-cuisine table d’hote, or some special occasion, but sometimes you just need a simple cherry galette to nourish your body and soul. It should be noted, the cherry pie tastes much more complex and interesting than just a piece of water melon and is much more than just an empty calorie. It wraps me mentally in my grandma’s blanket and I close my eyes and realize that I’m already in vacation at so many levels…

I suggest you try them both and tell me which one you prefer: the Cherry Pear Pie or the No Bake Fresh Watermelon Cake.  Cheers!

 
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SOUR CHERRY & PEAR PIE WITH YOGURT CREAM
Yields: 8 portions
Ingredients:
For Double Crust Pastry
 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ cup almond flour (optional)
1 tsp sugar
¾ tsp salt
1 cup cold unsalted butter cut in cubes
1/3 cup (or more) ice cold water
  
For Filling & Assembly
 4 cups (1 lb) sour cherries, pitted (about 1 ½ lbs whole unpitted cherries) fresh, frozen or canned
¾ cup plus 1 tbsp granulated sugar
¼ tsp salt
 3 tbsp cornstarch
2 medium size pears, peeled, cored and sliced
1 tbsp lemon zest
½ tsp freshly grated ginger
½ tsp cinnamon
1/3 tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ tbsp butter, to dot
1 tbsp milk for brushing the crust
Instructions:
Combine flour, almond flour, sugar, salt in a bowl or food processor. Add butter and pulse a few times until mixture resembles coarse crumbs (or rub with fingers until the small clumps form).  Add ice cold water gradually while pulsing until the mixture forms a ball.  Divide in two pieces, form each piece into a ball, flatten and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (up to 2 days).
Preheat the oven to 425F. Mix cherries with sugar, cornstarch and salt. Add lemon zest, ginger, cinnamon and vanilla. Add pears and mix. Set aside.
Roll out the first dough disk on floured surface to 12 inch round. Transfer to 9 inch diameter round pie dish. Roll out the second dough disk on floured surface to 12 inch round. Cut 10 ¾ inch wide strips from dough round with pizza knife or similar.
Transfer the filling to dough-lined dish. Dot with butter. Top with dough strips in a lattice pattern. Trim the dough overhang to ½ inch. Crimp the edges to seal. Brush lattice crust with milk. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar. Place pie on baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375F. Bake for another 45-50 minutes or until the filling is bubbling and crust is golden brown. Transfer pie to the rack and cool completely. Cut into wedges and serve with yogurt cream, frozen yogurt, vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
YOGURT CREAM
1 ½ cups plain Greek yogurt
1-2 tsp maple syrup
½ tsp vanilla extract
Mix the three ingredients and refrigerate until ready to use.

Waste Not Cranberry Banana Bread Pudding


The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.’ This quote from witty Calvin Trillin is very ‘dear’ to me because leftovers of the unknown origin were what my Mom served the family as well. Which partly explains why I am so keen on food and cooking today… 
This reminiscence however, has nothing to do with the delicious sweet-and-savory Cranberry Banana bread pudding I made last weekend.  Except for the word leftover and the fact that almost half of the food we buy goes wasted. Let’s improve this statistics a little with a worthy and no-waste recipe.  This one is full of flavor and good things (fruits, seeds, allergy-friendly ingredients) and can be used in different menu applications: breakfast, brunch, dessert, side dish or coffee/tea break. And it’s actually made of the LEFTOVERS: stale bread/brioche/challah, very ripe banana, cranberry sauce left from holidays, etc. 
It is also fun thing to make with kids. Last week-end one of my friends, a busy mom with two little kids, popped around for a cup of tea after her ski trip and, pudding was the first thing that came to my mind as a quick and uncomplicated treat.  
Photo credit: Natalie Schweiger
Photo credit: Natalie Schweiger
Give your kids some easy tasks like peeling and slicing banana, breaking eggs, distributing crumbs and fruit in the baking dish. Crushing candy cane with the roll (to sprinkle on top of the pudding if the wish be) is another kitchen chore kids adore to do. They would really appreciate the result and their own participation. And of course, a nice cartoon while the pudding is in the oven…
I didn’t have to invent it or look for a recipe – I just used my favorite summer cherry pudding recipe  (the best thing ever to happen to a fresh or frozen tart berry: I’ve tried other recipes, but the acquired taste wins every time) with a few new touches.  I added 1/3 cup of roasted hemp seeds for a slightly nutty taste to upgrade the amount of protein, B vitamins and fatty acids. Feel free to skip this ingredient, or replace it with seeds or nuts of your choice (poppy seeds make also a very good option). 
I spiked the pudding with a bit of Meyer lemon juice and zest and replaced whipped cream dressing with a savory yogurt cream, mixing Greek yogurt with some cranberry sauce and a spoon of maple syrup. Finally, I made a quick cranberry coulis with an old cranberry sauce and some frozen cranberries.
The wonderful thing about this dish apart from being tasty and made of the recycled ingredients (and so comforting during winter cold), is that you can’t have too much of it. If you have any leftovers, please don’t throw them away, just portion them out if necessary and freeze.
Photo credit: Natalie Schweiger
Photo credit: Natalie Schweiger
Although the leftover fatigue is in my blood, I am urging you, please give them a second chance with some further dishes.  Put a slice in a lunch bag, have a piece for a tea break, with your morning café au lait (with grilled cheese on top – why not?), or freeze some and try later as a side dish to grab some of that juicy gravy from a roasted bird.
However you decide to re-purpose this pudding, it will be better, healthier and cheaper than any store bought stuff. Enjoy!
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One year ago: Easy Eggless Tiramisu
CRANBERRY BANANA BREAD PUDDING
Ingredients:
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup sugar (or brown sugar, or mix of sugar and maple syrup)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of ground nutmeg
2 cups of milk (or almond milk)
4 cups gluten-free white rice flour bread (or challah, or brioche), cut into 3/4 inch cubes
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries (up to 1 ½ cups of berries)
1 large ripe banana, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch thick pieces
1/3 cup of roasted hemp seeds (optional)
Zest and juice of 1 Meyer lemon (or 1 orange)
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Cut the bread in 3/4-inch squares to make 4 cups. Peel and cut one ripe banana into 1/2-inch thick pieces. Reserve the cranberries.
Using a wire whisk, stir well beaten eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla extract, lemon zest and juice, cinnamon and nutmeg in a medium bowl (or use a blender).
Place 2/3 of the bread cubes in on 9 x 13-inch buttered baking dish (or two smaller ones to make the equivalent volume); distribute cranberries, banana slices and hemp seeds and top with remaining bread cubes. Pour the egg mixture slowly and evenly over the bread mixture.
Bake uncovered for 65 to 70 minutes or until a knife inserted near center comes out clean; cool slightly (or completely, if you would like it to set so you can remove it from the baking dish to the plate) and serve with a dash of yogurt cream and a splash of cranberry coulis or a topping of your choice.
Yogurt Cream for dressing – mix three following ingredients:
1 ½ cups of plain Greek yogurt
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 to 2 tbsp cranberry coulis
Cranberry Coulis (yields 2 cups):
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1 tbsp grated orange zest
2 tbsp orange juice
1/3 cup granulated sugar or maple syrup (or more if you like it very sweet as opposed to sour-sweet)
1/3 cup water
1 cup cranberry sauce leftovers
Mix the first 5 ingredients in a saucepan and bring to boil over the medium high heat. Lower the heat and let simmer for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add cranberry sauce and mix well helping to dissolve faster.  Simmer for about 5 minutes or until mixture thickens. Remove from the heat and cool completely.

Healthy (Re)solutions: Pick-Me-Up Lassi

One might not feel like running a mile in this Martian cold weather or going to the gym during the flu outbreak, but…  A glass of a nurturing shake and a bit of morning sun meditation make a great way to start a day on a positive note from my experience. 
I am not talking about classic frozen fruit +ice smoothies–they are quite predictable and, therefore, boring.  They also lack satiety. I am not a breakfast person, for example, so I like to add some extra dimension to my morning drink to wake up and boogie.  As a result, I switched my smoothie (fruit+ ice) to more of a lassi (fruit + yogurt+) style putting everything I wanted to be in there to catch me when I am falling from a sleep/other morning deprivation and help me tune into a productive mood, specifically during the times of the polar vortex. 
I’ve developed a few favorites and even gave my cocktails names depending on their color and taste, i.e. Go-Nuts; Lacoste; Tropical Sunshine, etc. Each of them has a certain nourishing purpose. This one is a particularly good-for-winter drink.  I called it Royal Velvet for its purple color, velvet-like feel, and the elegant taste.  
It’s packed with super-foods, including organic frozen berries (perfect antioxidant), yogurt, almond milk, nuts, seeds, even a slice of fresh ginger and a pinch of clove (both anti-inflammatory) to make sure there is enough of everything in it to make a winning substitute for an over-the-counter supplements I wouldn’t want to reach for.  For the berries, I used frozen blackcurrant grown and picked in our garden (which I was happy to try for the first time this year in a smoothie and was shocked about how good they tasted – otherwise their destiny used to be a garbage can by spring for years – can you believe it?) If you can’t get a hold of blackcurrants, use any best quality frozen purple or red berries of your choice.
I used plain Greek yogurt, almond milk, almonds, hemp and flax seeds for my choice of the balance of caloric and nutritional values,  which you can of course swap for yogurt, milk, nuts and seeds of your choice as long as they tickle your fancy.

The combination of the ingredients is designed to work as a winter guard: support the immune system and combat colds and flu. For an additional strength, I included some brewed Echinacea and rose petal tea (both also collected from our garden last summer) tea in it. It is totally optional, but if you still wish to include it, you can find Echinacea tea or syrup at any organic food store these days. 

For the sweetness, I used an exotic raspberry honey jelly (which I bought at the nearest bee farm last fall  ), but just a pure honey (natural antibiotic) or a maple syrup (antioxidants + zinc) would also make a perfect option. Dates are also a great sweetener addition to this mix if you like. For the final touch, I added a bit of the rose water for a surprising fragrant twist.  Again, I used the one I made last summer, but you can buy rose water in most of the groceries (baking section) today.
Our bodies are xx-something-pounds live chemical labs in need of constant re-fueling, energy and vitality. If we think about them this way, I’m sure many of our New Year’s resolutions would be very much connected with what kind of fuel we charge ourselves with daily. So why not selecting the best ones today in the form of one of the feel-good drinks? The body will thank you immediately for this little gesture of thoughtfulness with a bit more energy. The mind will follow shaking off that frigid twister melancholia. Name it smoothie, lassi, or shake, my point is – give it a try. The payoff will be sweet: one glass and… suddenly…  tout va bien, or, ‘Everything is Fineaccording to this talented Scottish artist… The winter will pass, and then there will be spring and then summer, and fall, and another winter… And that one will go too.
Cheers to the healthy 2014 start and the eternal healing!
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ROYAL VELVET LASSI:
Yields: four standard or two generous servings.
Ingredients:
1+ cup frozen purple (and/or red) berries (blackcurrant, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, etc.)
2 cups plain Greek yogurt
½ cup almond milk
2 small ripe bananas (or equal quantity of papaya)
1/3 cup almonds
1 tbsp hemp seeds  
1 tbsp ground flaxseed
1 thin slice of ginger 
1 pinch of ground cloves
2 tbsp raspberry honey jelly (or honey, or maple syrup)
1/3 cup brewed and cooled Echinacea /Rose Hip tea (or 1 tbsp. Echinacea Elderberry herbal syrup)
1 tsp. rosewater
Instructions:
Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend on a high speed until smooth. Taste and adjust thickness and flavors. Dilute with some extra almond milk if necessary. Enjoy!

Nordic Shrimp Deviled Avocado


Nordic shrimp stuffed avocado is almost a no-recipe party deal with guaranteed success. My family members have pretty different tastes, but we all agreed on the winning combination of the ingredients in it. Oddly enough, we first made it to fit the choice of the wine we would have selected. Weird, but true (it’s usually the opposite): we were inquiring about Bourgogne Aligoté when sommelier at the liquor store gave us a flyer with summer recipes developed by their chefs to match the new wine arrivals. The festive picture of the stuffed avocados quickly caught our eye. And there we were on a hot summer night, grilling avocados on a BBQ before stuffing them with chilled zesty shrimp salad few hours later.  
Boy-oh-boy, they were delicious: delicate sweet Nordic shrimps soaked in yogurt herbal lemony mix, drowning in the nutty-creamy-smoky avocado flesh with little accents of a bacon crisp, Tabasco and lemon zest. Pure Heaven!  And, guess what? This appetizer is just as good with a simple rosé as it is with Aligoté or Sémillon varieties (as we had a chance to experiment later in summer).
Now that we have to close our BBQ for winter (hopefully not this week, may be the sun will still give us some slack this week-end), I am using the sandwich grill to char the avocado halves. A no-grill version is also good, but in this case I suggest you remove the avocado flesh with a spoon, cut it into 1.5 cm (3/4 in.) dice, gently stir them with the shrimp mix and then fill in the avocado peels.  Garnish with bacon bits, lemon zest and herbs. Finally, the recipe works perfectly well with fresh cilantro or dill replacing tarragon leaves in winter.  
Summer or fall; rain or shine – you should really give it a try!
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NORDIC SHRIMP STUFFED AVOCADO
Yields: 4 servings
Ingredients:
225 g (1/2 lb) pre-cooked Nordic shrimp
60 ml (1/4 cup) plain yogurt
60 ml (1/4) cup chopped fresh tarragon (or cilantro, or dill)
Juice and zest of one lemon
Tabasco to taste
2 avocados
125 ml (1/2 cup) bacon, cooked and crumbled
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Instructions:
Pre-heat the BBQ or the sandwich grill to medium high. In a bowl, combine the shrimp, yogurt, half the tarragon (or cilantro, or dill) leaves, half the lemon zest, all of the lemon juice, the Tabasco and salt and pepper. Store in the refrigerator.
Cut avocados in halves and remove the pits. Brush the avocado halves with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill cut-side down on the BBQ or sandwich grill for about 3 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter. Divide the shrimp salad among the avocado halves. Garnish with bacon bits, the rest of herbs and lemon zest.
Adapted from SAQ (The Société des alcools du Québec) Summer 2013 Recipes Collection.

Buttermilk Baby Eggplant Amuse Gueule

This colorful amuse-gueule will convert even the most die-hard adversaries of a yucky –mushy (by nature) eggplant.  The creator of the recipe has found a way to balance the ingredients in an unexpected but a most harmonious way giving the dish not only the visual appeal, but also incredibly addictive kick of the Middle Eastern taste. It includes: olive-oil-induced creamy roasted eggplant, za’atar spice, tangy garlicky cool buttermilk-yogurt sauce and tart-sweet fresh pomegranate seeds. The original recipe used large eggplant; I used baby eggplants instead to turn the dish into individually portioned appetizers.  It is also very easy and fast to prepare. 

If you are a vegetarian and you haven’t heard of chef YO (Yotam Ottolenghi) yet, you will soon. For a few years now he’s been hogging the chef limelight in the UK with his creative Western twist on the Middle-Eastern flavors. And with his third bestselling cookbook just released, his recipes go really world-viral – especially vegetarian recipes (although the chef himself isn’t a vegetarian). Not so long time ago, I was staring at this aubergine dish on the cover page of his previous cookbook ’’Plenty’’,  mesmerized by its assertively artistic sense of composition and color, thinking: ‘’Oh, please, not again! You not gonna buy yet another cookbook with a fancy cover page recipe! Just take some time to think about it and at least read some reviews like normal people… You don’t even know this guy…’’ And then I forgot…
Until today… when the recipe dropped in my lap as one of the home assignments from the free Harvard course on molecular cuisine, and an example of a simple low caloric, nutritionally balanced and utterly tasty meal, which  Buttermilk Eggplant (YO’s signature dish) is. Not only I fell in love with it, it brought back the taste of Za’atar spice mix, which is so easy to make and so refreshing to use with numerous other dishes (see recipe below). With this one, in particular, I made some quick za’atar baguette crostini with cheddar and mozzarella to spoon the extra buttermilk sauce with. They appeared to be welcome addition to the eggplant appetizers…
Quick disclosure: Montreal is a culinary mecca for Middle Eastern cuisine compared to other Canadian cities (my visit to the newly opened Turkish resto is already scheduled). And I am set to explore many more places and recipes. Finally, I really wanted to know more about Ottolenghi’s cuisine so I discovered his website with recipes as well as the exciting series of his food travel to Turkey, Israel, Morocco and Tunisia called ”Ottolenghi’s Mediterranean Feast’”.  Thumbs up, YO, for sure they will keep me busy this week-end… Now, let’s Ottoleng it.

The video of YO himself making his own dish would probably be the best reference. As for my own notes: making incisions in the cut side of each eggplant half is essential to absorb the olive oil – I did not do the diamond pattern though – just parallel incisions worked well with me (to grab a bit less oil).  I also reduced the amount of buttermilk from the original recipe to 5 tablespoons instead of 9 to make it less liquid. Finally, I did not use fresh thyme, but a dried one and I guess it worked fine to me. Without a doubt, I will be making the dish again. Cheers!

Full disclosure: I ate a double portion:

BUTTERMILK EGGPLANT APPETIZER
Yields: 4 portions
Ingredients:
Eggplant Dish:
2 large eggplants or 6 baby eggplants, cut in half lengthwise and scored
1/3 cup olive oil
1 pomegranate de-seeded (see Note*)
1 ½ ttsp fresh lemon thyme leaves or dried thyme
1 tsp za’atar spice mix (see next)
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Za’atar Spice Mix:
¼ cup sumac
2 tbsp dried thyme
1 tbsp roasted sesame seeds
2 tbsp marjoram
2 tablespoons oregano
1 teaspoon coarse salt
Grind the sesame seeds with mortar and pestle or in food processor. Mix with remaining ingredients. Store za’atar mix in a cool, dark place in a jar, plastic bag or airtight container (for 3 to 5 months).
Buttermilk Sauce:
1/3 cup (5 tbs) buttermilk (see Note**)
½ cup Greek yogurt
1 ½ tbsp. olive oil, plus drizzle to finish
1 small garlic clove, minced
Pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 400F. Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise cutting straight through the green stalk (the stalk is for the look – don’t eat it). Use a small sharp knife to make three or four parallel incisions in the cut side of each eggplant half, without cutting through to the skin. Repeat at a 45-degree angle to get a diamond-shaped pattern. Place eggplant halves flat side-up on a baking sheet. Brush thoroughly every half with olive oil and season with thyme, salt and pepper. Roast for 35-40 minutes, remove from the oven and allow to cool.  Mix buttermilk into yogurt, remaining olive oil, garlic and salt to season. Store in the fridge until ready to use. Remove seeds from pomegranate. Serve by spooning sauce over eggplant halves and sprinkling za’atar and pomegranate seeds on top. Finish with the drizzle of olive oil.
Note*: Useful video on how to de-seed pomegranate with water; and another technique on de-seeding pomegranate without water.
               
Note**: If buttermilk is not available, add vinegar to milk (1/3 cup milk + 1 tsp distilled/white vinegar), stir, and let sit for 5-10 minutes to develop into acidified buttermilk. 
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Adapted from: notes from EDX course and ”Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes From London’s Ottolenghi ” by Yotam Ottelenghi, Chronicle Books, March 2011.