chocolate almond banana acai bowl

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Let’s talk about the Avocado Consumption of 2002. 2002 was the year I discovered the avocado, consumed it at every meal (I practically subsisted on guacamole), and ended up developing an allergy to it. If you’ve been a long-time reader of this space, you’ll know that I have an addictive personality. If I love something, I love it HARD until it becomes something that I hate, something that my body is desperate to reject. When I think about it, I’ve always been this way. When I love something so much I have to undress it, dig deep and burrow myself all the way in there. I have to know something until it’s completely familiar, until there’s nothing else to know.

Moderation is a joke, because I tend to skirt the extremes. But I’m trying. Hence, the nutritionist I’m seeing this week. But I digress.

I recently discovered the acai bowl. Believe me when I say that the feeling I had for my first bowl was like church. Light streaming in through the glass, cold pews, crisp paper–all that jazz. In short, I’m returning to the Avocado Consumption era. Luckily, I think I’ve hit a wall after having realized that I can’t LIVE ON ACAI. Naturally, this happened after two days of eating nothing but acai smoothies and bowls. Sound familiar?

Anyway, I love this bowl. Don’t be deceived by the look of this recipe because it’s not saccharine sweet. While the dates and banana lend some tenderness, the cacao is a bit bitter and the acai fruit isn’t your quintessential raspberry, which is to say that this bowl has wonderful balance. Not only is it insanely healthy, but you will be sated for HOURS.

HOURS, PEOPLE. Let that sink in.

Know that I’ve got a few more acai recipes cooking, so this won’t be the last of my beloved bowl.

INGREDIENTS
1 large banana
2 Sambazon‘s Immunity Smoothie Acai packs (New Yorkers, this is on Fresh Direct)
2 tsp coconut oil
1/2 cup rice milk (coconut/almond milk will do just fine here, as well)
1 tbsp cacao
2 dates
1 tbsp almond butter
1 tsp unsweetened coconut flakes
1/3 cup your favorite granola
1/2 cup fresh blueberries

DIRECTIONS
Blitz all the ingredients (from the banana to almond butter) in a high-powered blender/Vitamix, with the banana being at the bottom as a buffer for your blades, until smooth. Pour into a bowl and add the coconut flakes, granola + blueberries on top. Dive in with a spoon and weep.

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pumpkin, marjoram + ricotta risotto with pumpkin seeds

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You should know that this risotto was a triumph on many levels. Initially, I wanted to tackle a risotto where quinoa was the star, however, after a long discussion with a friend, who probably can prattle on about food just as long as I could, she reminded me that we often try to make quinoa the replacement for pasta and rice, when it should be celebrated on its own merit. Yes, we do spend time talking about grains in excruciating detail. Don’t even get me started on our involved discussion regarding free-form crusts — it’ll bore you to tears.

While it’s true that I’ve made many risottos, the lemon flavor that the marjoram brings, as well as the creaminess of the fresh ricotta, delivered a dish that was far superior than what I’ve made before. Make no mistake, you will eat this standing up, leaning over the stove, ladling large spoonfuls of creamy, steamed rice in your mouth.

Don’t you dare apologize.

The second triumph came in the form of photography. Long-time readers of this space know that I’ve made investments over the years in equipment and self-taught tutorials — all in an effort to show you the beauty I see in a dish (its textures, aromatics, composition), as if part of my heart could be imbued onto a photograph, which would serve to connect me to you. I’m a minimalist when it comes to taking photos of food, as I fervently believe that what’s on the plate is always the star of the show. I care less about scenery and people and the like, and only go in for moderate styling — nothing that would interrupt the headlining act.

So, after fiddling with whiteboards, bounced light and napkins, I finally captured photos of the dish that not only required little editing (the beauty of natural light!), but was the complete and utter visual evocation of how I feel about this dish.

From me, to you.

INGREDIENTS
1 qt (2 pints) low-sodium, organic/local chicken stock (or you can use vegetable)*
1 shallot, finely diced
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp chopped fresh marjoram
1 cup of arborio rice
4 tbsp of pumpkin puree
2 tbsp fresh ricotta cheese
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
1/4 tsp sea salt; 1/4 tsp pepper
*1 quart is the equivalent of 32oz or 2 lbs

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DIRECTIONS
In a large sauce pot, bring the stock to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Keep this pot next to our sauté pan, as you’ll need to continuously ladle from the stock to the skillet, so proximity is key.

In a large sauté pan (translation: a skillet that can hold 3-4 quarts), sauté the shallots and salt on medium heat until translucent (1-2 minutes). Add in the marjoram and stir for another 30 seconds. Pour in the rice and cook until the rice is translucent and browns slightly, approximately 1-2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low. You do not want burned onions or rice, so if this starts to happen ladle in liquid immediately. Do you want to sob over burnt risotto? My guess is NO WAY, NO DAY.

Add the stock, 1/2 cup at a time, and stir, and stir, and stir, until all of the liquid is absorbed. Keep ladling in the liquid in increments until all of the water is absorbed and the stock is thick and creamy. Remember, risotto isn’t a dish that will cook itself, it requires dedication, so be prepared to stand in front of the stove stirring for 20-30 minutes. I’ve been blasting Radiohead in these sorts of parallel parking scenarios.

In a small skillet, brown the seeds until fragrant and toasted (1-2 minutes).

Once all of the water has been absorbed, stir in the pumpkin, and pepper until the risotto transforms into a satiny orange. Mix in the ricotta. Stir for a good minute and serve hot.

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edamame + corn quinoa salad + a trip to ps1

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The scariest moment is always just before you start. –Stephen King

Yesterday was a photograph worth shredding. A day worth tearing to pieces and setting the scraps of paper aflame. Right now I’m writing this from a friend’s apartment, surrounded by her beautiful zoo of cats and dogs, creating some distance from it all. A few weeks ago, someone regarded me with interest, said, I don’t know what to think of you. I can’t put you in a box. I want to put you in a box, because it’s easier that way, but I can’t. At the time, I laughed when the person said this, felt proud that I couldn’t fit neatly anywhere, but as time passes, this notion that I will never be simple, be easy, starts to fill me with dread. And I think that’s what I keep evading — the fact that I consistently deviate toward a box in which I’ll never fit. Invariably, I’ll squeeze and adjust and won’t breath for a bit, and as soon as I find myself lodged halfway in, it’s only then that I’ll panic, want to climb out and run as fast as my legs will take me. It’s only then that I regard the box as a coffin, trying to pull me under, under.

I’ve always been a difficult woman.

Finding my next leap has been an exhausting process. I’ve met with many companies that are settled when I crave the unsettling, while many others talk a good game about an open culture, use all the buzz words so acutely, but then they ignore the cowering girl at reception, they whisper that they envy me my trip to Europe because, they too, want to get out. To run. After a dozen of these instances, I start to feel as if the days repeat themselves with minor variation. Photocopies of boxes stacked up neatly in open workspaces. People sporting headphones, music blasting, miming sleep. Phones that never ring because the idea of a voice is irksome when we can email our passive aggressive state. People who moan about Monday and Sundays much like how one would regard an apocalypse. The week has been reduced to five days where only coffee and Spotify will save.

I’m difficult because I want none of this. I don’t want to be complacent, to punch a series of memorized numbers that will grant me trespass to a place that I will inevitably grow to hate. I don’t want to befriend Seamless. I don’t want to spend every day inching my way toward the dying, the final box and its heavy lid and the earth that will usher us back from where it is that we’ve come.

I’m difficult because I refuse to except anything less than extraordinary in a market that’s below ordinary, at an experience level where people feel as if they can get mediocrity and inexperience on the cheap instead of making the investment, instead of thinking about the long haul. I’m difficult because I want all my children — my food, writing, friends and business work — to have equal time in the proverbial playing field, rather than reduced to a changeling, some strange, ugly thing relegated to dark corners and hidden under blankets.

I wonder if what I want actually exists, and this is the thought that keeps me up most nights, bleeding into day.

Every day I try my hardest to remain focused and positive. I fixate on creating. I try to spend time in the company of others, desperate to turn the beat around. But I’m scared of being crippled by real financial obligations (student loans, debt) to escape the ordinary.

Yesterday, paralyzed, I spent the day with art and food. Here’s hoping that I’m soon able to walk, leap, run.

INGREDIENTS: Edamame + Corn Quinoa Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette
For the salad
1 lb frozen corn (fresh, shucked corn will also do)
1 lb frozen edamame (fresh will also work)
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 tbsp chopped fresh sage
Salt/pepper to taste

For the dressing
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp white (or red) wine vinegar
1 tsp ground mustard
Salt/pepper to taste
–Whisk all together to make a delicious vinaigrette

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DIRECTIONS
I know what you must be thinking — there’s a lot of contrasting flavors here, but somehow they work. Somehow, they’re harmonious and coalesce. Trust me on this. However, if you are the mistrustful sort, you can always dress this in a simple olive oil (3 tbsp) with the existing flavorings, and the salad is equally divine.

In a medium pot, boil 2 cups of water and the pre-rinsed quinoa. Once the mixture is boiling, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15 minutes. Once the quinoa is done, fluff with a fork and set aside to cool slightly.

In a large pot, cook the frozen corn and edamame (if using fresh, just shock for a minute in the hot water) on hight heat for 5-7 minutes. When done, drain and set aside.

In a large skillet, add 2 tbsp olive oil, sage, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper. Stir for 30 seconds, and then tumble in the corn and edamame. Cook, stirring frequently, for 4-5 minutes.

In a large bowl, add the cooked veggie mixture to the quinoa. Toss gently with a spoon. Add the carrots and stir. If you’re rocking the vinaigrette, dress the salad with it, otherwise, feel free to indulge in olive oil to keep the mixture fragrant and delicious.

Serve lukewarm or cold.

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watermelon, blueberry + basil quinoa salad + a red awakening

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Always the setting forth was the same, Same sea, same dangers waiting for him, As though he had got nowhere but older. Behind him on the receding shore, The identical reproaches, and somewhere, Out before him, the unraveling patience, He was wedded to. There were the islands, Each with its woman and twining welcome, To be navigated, and one to call “home.” The knowledge of all that he had betrayed, Grew till it was the same where he stayed, Or went. Therefore he went. And what wonder, If sometimes he could not remember, Which was the one who wished on his departure, Perils that he could never sail through, And which, improbable remote, and true, Was the one he kept sailing home to? — “Odysseus” by W.S. Merwin

Today I woke thinking of red. It’s strange, I know, but I’ve always been prone to dreaming in shape and color. Fields of blistering poppies, Stop signs, scarlet paint thrown onto a canvas, a thumping rabbit’s heart covered in leaves, and a sanguine river gushing out of the very elegant elevator doors in The Shining — I saw all of this as I woke. It was a tableaux of rich color — reds faded to the orange and browns of daguerreotype, and hues so bright they threatened to scald.

On my way to the laundry, I noticed these abandoned shoes. And then I read this: I realised that I was staring at a fork in life — a choice between the somewhat Known and the completely Unknown. That was really what it came down to. The rational brain wanted to choose the former. And a seemingly irrational voice wanted the latter.

Perhaps this color assault was meant to awaken, to jolt oneself out of bed, to snap into life, get into the frame as it were. Red is symbolically interpreted as intense passion, love, energy, life (and arguably, the fear of losing it). Red has the power to pause, to cease, to make one surrender. A heart beating under skin. A valiant man in uniform running into a towering inferno. But red could also signify courage, longing, determination — a will that will not bend, a force that will not be broken.

I thought about this today for it’s the first day in weeks that I’ve enjoyed uninterrupted sleep. I didn’t wake to a random sound, my cat’s restless breathing, or my own thoughts racing. I felt awake.

I also realize that I’m on the verge. Sort of like Odysseus watching all that he’s left behind, moving toward something unchartered and unknown. I think about taking great risks, making leaps, packing bags, being nomadic, embarking on the newness of something, and it’s all very thrilling.

In celebration of this red awakening, I’ve embarked on a minor challenge: finding a myriad of ways to fix quinoa. I’ve found books, blogs, and combinations that are exciting, and I’ll be sharing them all with you this week. So sit tight, soak your quinoa and think about the ways in which you can breathe life into a body that maybe once you thought was ready for the pasture.

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INGREDIENTS: Recipe inspired by Quinoa Revolution, but beyond the watermelon + quinoa, this recipe is all mine.
1/2 cup red quinoa, rinsed under cold water
1 cup water
2 cups cubed watermelon
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, packed in olive oil
1 tbsp of the sundried tomato olive oil (or regular olive oil is fine, too)
1 tbsp chopped fresh basil
3 tbsp blanched, slivered almonds, lightly toasted in a dry pan for 1-2 minutes
1/4 cup gruyere, cut into small cubes (the salad is divine without cheese, so don’t freak if you can’t have dairy. Or, you can opt to use feta)
Salt/pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS
After you’ve rinsed the quinoa, add it, along with the cup of water to a medium pot. Bring the water to a boil, and then simmer, covered for 15 minutes. When done, fluff with a fork and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, toss the watermelon, blueberries, sundried tomatoes, basil, almonds and gruyere. Add the cooled quinoa, oil, salt + pepper to taste. Serve lukewarm or chilled.

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vegan carrot ginger soup

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There was a moment of immense sadness last week. Days where I collapsed onto my couch, and the only thing I could stomach was cereal. A friend had to come over with a bag of groceries and a pot of quinoa salad to sustain me, and I nearly fell into her arms, grateful, heartbroken. All because I can’t imagine a life without my Sophie. The cat who has always been my constant, who saw me through me getting my life together, who tussled with me on the carpet and lunged for my hand with my paw when she was frightened.

The prognosis is severe. The ultrasound discovered a benign growth adjacent to heart, which is large enough to engulf it. She also has a hyperactive thyroid, kidney stones — all of which aren’t the root cause of her severe lost, but certainly don’t help her comfort. What’s telling is the fact that her stomach and intestines are extremely dilated, unnaturally so. Essentially, they’re not functioning the way that they should, not absorbing nutrients, eating her from the inside out. Sophie may have cancer, but she’s too frail for an endoscopy or for a biopsy (more conclusive in detecting cancer, but not completely conclusive).

So I have her on the Cadillac of expensive medication. Twice daily I give her medicine she hates. She writhes when I hold her down, and I weep and weep, and tell her that I’m trying everything I can to make her better. Because she needs to get better. Every day I pray for a miracle that the drugs will work, make her stronger. Pray that I don’t have to put her down in 10 days time.

So until then, I busy myself. I bake cookies, make soups, consult at brilliant agencies and companies who want me to breathe life into their brands. I write recipe reviews, I see friends, I do yoga, I read. I try to live my life as quietly and rich as I can. I try to breathe some of my energy into her. So that I can fill her up with it. So that she can come back to me again.

Thank you all for your amazing comments. It’s been so hard for me to respond as I’m still sorting through all of this, but please know I’m reading them and giving you a mighty PAW PUMP.

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INGREDIENTS: Recipe adapted from Joanne Chang’s Flour, Too. Read my review of her cookbook on Medium!
2lb/910g carrots, peeled and cut crosswise into 1inch/2.5cm chunks
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
3 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 medium fennel bulb, eliminate the leafy greens and thinly slice the bulb
3 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
2inch/-5-cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
6 cups/1.4L vegetable stock (low-sodium)
1 small Granny Smith or other tart apple, peeled, halved, cored and diced
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

DIRECTIONS
Pre-heat the oven 400F/200C, and place a rack at the bottom of the oven.

Spread the carrots on a baking sheet lined in tin foil. Drizzle them with 2 tbsp of the olive oil and sprinkle them with thyme, 1 tsp of the salt and 1/4 tsp of the pepper. Roast the carrots for 35-45 minutes, or until tender. Roasting tends to bring out the natural sweetness of carrots, which adds such a lovely depth of flavor to the soup. Once done, set aside.

In a large pot (I use my dutch oven), heat the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium/high heat. Add the onion, celery, fennel and garlic, and reduce the heat to medium, stirring often with a wooden spoon for 6-8 minutes. You want everything to soften and for the onions to be translucent. Stir in the ginger, add the roasted carrots and stock, and bring to a boil. Add in the chopped apple and simmer for about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.

I have an immersion blender, which is the greatest invention known to mankind, so I’m able to cream this all up in a single pot. However, if you don’t have an immersion blender, breathe it out. Transfer batches of the soup to a blender and blitz away until creamy. Then grate in some fresh nutmeg, serve with buttered bread (not vegan, I guess), and kick back.

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white bean salad + carrot salad with carrot ginger dressing + ripping the band-aids off

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When you begin to realize that there are divisions in your life that are not mathematical, is when things start to get dicey. It’s as if I’ve spent the past four years blissfully asleep, content in my ignorance, happy to let the world and all the beauty within it, slip, and then I woke from this night terror, confused and disoriented. The costs of ignorance are incalculable, I can’t even begin to do the maths on this one, and while I work on getting my personal house in order I’m growing concerned about the world around me, about the people in it and how they’re content to go through their day under anesthesia.

Have you ever seen the film, Carnival of Souls? A woman who was meant to die in a car accident, doesn’t, and you watch as she roams, soulless, through Utah. She’s a fragile wisp of a thing, prone to hysterics, but at the same time she’s comfortably uncomfortable in her self-imposed isolation from love and faith. In a few scenes in the film, you see her running through a department store, park or a crowded thoroughfare, screaming. No one can hear her, and this terrifies her — the threat of being alone in her torment, the idea that she can’t be heard when she wants to. This silence forces her to face the specter that was there all along — her death, physical + spiritual.

This is a roundabout way of saying that at times I feel very much like this woman. When I’m surrounded by people whose greatest lament is not getting their preferred Soul Cycle class, when an awkward silence falls when I talk about the world and all the monstrous things in it (The AP scandal, brutal rapes in Rio and India), when people can’t fathom going beyond their own sympathetic brunch because being a friend means you have to be there for the long haul, not just for a clasped hand and a few nods and a brunch paid — when all of this, all of this happens, I feel as if I’m alone in my lament.

When I talk about my writing and my excitement for it, and for looking for a job that won’t compromise it, people stare at me blankly to a point where I always, inevitably, ask, Am I boring you? When I think about how I shouldn’t have created such a sharp divide between myself and my co-workers, and how I now don’t know how to be friends with them, even after we’ve left the place that threatened to undo us, many don’t understand.

Maybe I’m hypersensitive (it wouldn’t be a first) or overtly-critical, but I’m walking through life without medication, walking with all the band-aids ripped off, and I need to move toward people who are going to get it. Who are going to be there for the long haul. Those who know that in the end, our friendship was worth the stretch.

In the interim, I’m focusing on making my life (amidst all this complexity) as simple as possible. Naturally, every conversation in my life starts, ends, or involves food, and this would be no different. How simple is it to make a cold carrot salad and a hot white bean one when a friend sits across from you and says she’s scared of the world, too? Or when your best friend, the woman you’ve known for half your life, tells me on a phone line that she doesn’t care about petty politics, she just wishes people would climb out of their damn box. These conversations give me hope. Warm my heart.

INGREDIENTS: Recipes adapted from Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Good
For the carrot salad + carrot ginger dressing: Of note, there is a different version in her cookbook, however, you’ll find that it’s merely a shift in serving size rather than an alteration of ingredients.
4 cups shredded carrots (this is for the salad)
1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped (this is for the dressing)
1 large shallot, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh ginger
1 tablespoon sweet white miso
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon roasted sesame seed oil
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
2 tablespoons water

For the white bean salad: Of note, I made some alterations to Paltrow’s original recipe, as I didn’t feel her version had enough thyme
1 14oz can of cannellini (or white kidney beans), drained and rinsed in cold water
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1 shallot, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely diced
2 tbsp of olive oil
Salt/cracked black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS
For the carrot salad + carrot ginger dressing: Pulse the carrot, shallot and ginger in a blender until finely chopped. Scrape down the sides, add the miso, vinegar and sesame seed oil and whiz together. While the blender is going, slowly drizzle in the grapeseed oil and the water. Toss spoonfulls of the dressing (how much you add is to your taste, really. I prefer salads that are lightly dressed as opposed to drenched) onto the carrots. I added a handful of black sesame seeds for color and additional crunch.

For the white bean salad: In a large skillet, add the olive oil and heat on medium. Sauté the garlic for 2-3 minutes until the garlic slightly browns, and then add the shallots and thyme, and cook for another 1-2 minutes until the onions are slightly translucent. Add the beans and cook for another 5-7 minutes. Serve hot, seasoned with salt/pepper, or at room temperature — either way, the beans are delicious!

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persian jeweled rice

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There was a time when I stacked unread magazines. Hoarded issues of The New Yorker, Bon Appetit and Harvard Business Review, for the thought of opening a single issue would send me into a state of apoplexy. My life, for a time, could not handle complexity. I was a fragile thing, prone to only managing complexity in small doses, so I have to say that after four years of living under anesthesia, it feels good to READ. It feels joyous to immerse myself in a magazine and make recipes that take an extraordinary amount of time, just because.

I’ll also have you know that I’m reading, which has been helping tremendously in terms of my story writing. In the past month, I’ve devoured Nick Flynn’s The Reenactments, Taiye Selasi’s Ghana Must Go, Claire Messud’s The Woman Upstairs, V. Nabokov’s The Eye, Bill Clegg’s Ninety Days, Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem (re-read), among a pile of art books acquired in Paris, and I’m finally, FINALLY, keeping up with my Bon Appetit. Which brings me to this lovely dish made in the evening during a long, cold weekend.

I’m going to hold on to this feeling for as long as I possibly, possibly can.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe courtesy of Bon Appetit
1/4 cup unsalted, shelled raw natural pistachios
1/4 cup slivered almonds
2 cups basmati rice
Kosher salt
1 orange
1/2 cup sugar
2 medium carrots, peeled, cut into matchstick-size pieces*
1/4 cup dried barberries or 1/2 cup dried cranberries*
1/4 cup raisins*
1/4 tsp saffron threads
2 tbsp unsalted butter
4 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground turmeric

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NOTES IN THE MARGINS
Dried barberries, sold as zereshk, are available at Middle Eastern markets and kalustyans.com. However, I had dried cherries, Turkish apricots (which I finely diced) and golden raisins on hand, which made this recipe sing. I’d also use dried mango or blueberries, if you have them as well. Use what you have on hand when it comes to dried fruit instead of making the fuss of ordering items on online. Unless that’s your bag, in which case, Kalustyans is the BUSINESS.

Also, I used 3/4 cup of pre-chopped (cubed) carrots, if you’re looking to save a little time.

Be forewarned, this recipe will take a little over two hours from start to finish. Don’t cut corners, don’t NOT read the recipe — the joy is in the process, in the alchemy of taking simple ingredients to make extraordinary flavors and textures. This recipe was calming for me, methodic in a way that baking feels, so I invite you to take it easy, spend time with this because the results will be well worth the journey. You’ll love the candied taste of the orange peel, the smokiness of the nuts and the crunchiness of the rice and charred bits at the bottom of the pan. I felt AWAKE after eating this rice, it was that GOOD.

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 350°. Spread pistachios on a rimmed baking sheet and toast until just beginning to brown, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate, let cool, then coarsely chop. Spread almonds on the same baking sheet and toast until golden brown, 5–8 minutes; let cool. Set nuts aside.

Place rice in a fine-mesh sieve and rinse under cold water until water runs clear. Cook rice in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until grains have lengthened but are still firm, 6–7 minutes; drain and rinse under cold water. Spread rice on another rimmed baking sheet; let cool.

Meanwhile, using a vegetable peeler, remove zest from orange and thinly slice lengthwise (reserve flesh for another use). Bring sugar and 1 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add orange zest and carrots, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until carrots are tender, 15–20 minutes; drain and set aside (discard syrup).

Combine barberries and raisins in a small bowl and cover with hot water; let soak 10 minutes. Drain and set aside. Place saffron in another small bowl and add 1/4 cup hot water; set aside.

Heat butter and 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, season with salt, and cook, stirring often, until soft and beginning to brown, 8–10 minutes. Add cardamom, cumin, turmeric, and 1 tablespoon saffron mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Reduce heat to low, add barberries and raisins, and cook, stirring often, about 3 minutes. Stir in reserved nuts and orange zest and carrot mixture; season with salt. Set fruit and nut mixture aside.

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Heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil in a large wide heavy pot over medium heat. Add half of rice, spreading evenly; top with fruit and nut mixture, then remaining rice, spreading evenly. Using the end of a wooden spoon, poke 5–6 holes in rice all the way through to bottom of pot (to help release steam and help rice cook evenly).

Drizzle remaining saffron mixture over rice. Place a clean kitchen towel over pot, cover with a tight-fitting lid, and secure loose edges of towel on top of lid, using a rubber band or masking tape.

Cook until pot begins to steam, 5–8 minutes. Reduce heat to very low and cook, without stirring, until rice is tender and bottom layer of rice is browned and crisp, 30–40 minutes.

Scoop rice into a wide serving bowl, breaking bottom crust into pieces.

DO AHEAD: Fruit and nut mixture can be made 2 days ahead. Cover fruit and nut mixture and remaining saffron mixture separately and chill.

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sweet potato soup with coriander, chipotle, and a side of circus

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Everyone wants the circus act in 140 characters or less. You balance the beach ball on your head, cough up fire, and the applause is thunderous. You shimmy and shake and the crowd indulges their minor digressions, too. You’re envied, obsessed over, and given neat little platitudes whose meaning is small enough to fit on fortune cookies. Everyone’s got the shakes: they switch channels when they see displaced Syrians in tents or women holding up pictures of their loved ones still trapped under all that earth in Bangladesh. Instead, they self-medicate on gossip magazines and indoor sports that “allow you to get deeper,” but ticket collectors neglect to tell them that the floor is bottomless. The deep is whether these pants are a size 6 or if they’re a size 2. There’s already so much drama in my life, they mumble. The deep is wondering if they’re witty enough to keep up with the live-tweeting of television shows that all the “popular” bloggers do. The deep is that book that is moderately sad, but it’s a safe sad, a sad that only goes on for a few pages and then there’s the promise of idyll, that magical ending we all desire. The deep is telling other people they’re so brave, but failing to return their phone calls because they just can’t deal. The motley lot shuffle past and preach concern, but their ferocious blinking and marathon eating suggests yours is a deep for which they’re not properly equipped.

You are drowning and everyone takes pictures with their expensive phones of the water. They just want to hold you close, pat your back, and be on their way. They’ve done their charity; they’ve nodded in the right moments, but perhaps that water should be Lo-Fi or Mayfair?

And then you’re left with the empty peanut shells that cut your hands and feet, empty popcorn bags greasy with fingerprints, and a bill divided in two.

They skitter like frightened mice when you say the words, I am afraid. They muffle you quiet with pretty words like, “You’re so strong! You’ll always find your way!” Because they need a strong Felicia, their mentor, their comic relief, their guidance counselor, their human Rolodex. How would the world press on otherwise? We need our circus intact. We need the show to go on.

All these years you give, and this is the kind you’re likely to get.

It makes you tired, shut in, desperate for blooms and hot soup. It creates a need to press the mute button on the world and everyone in it. So there’s soup, oceans of it.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe adapted from Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Good. I’m GOOP’ing her book so you don’t have to.
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil*
1 large red onion, finely diced (about 1 1/2 cups)**
2 garlic cloves – minced
5 springs of cilantro, leaves reserved for garnish***
3/4 teaspoon cumin
Course sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons chipotle in adobo
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced (about 6 cups)
6 cups (1 qt) vegetable stock

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DIRECTIONS
Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, cilantro sprigs, cumin, and a heavy pinch of salt and cook, stirring now and then, until softened but not browned, 10 minutes. While the soup base is cooking, I used this time to peel and chop the sweet potatoes. Add the chipotle and the sweet potatoes and stir to combine. Add the vegetable stock to the pot and turn up the heat. Once the soup comes to a boil, lower the heat and simmer until the sweet potatoes are very soft, about 30 minutes. Remove and discard the cilantro. Carefully puree the soup in a powerful blender. I’ve an immersion blender, which is honestly the best gadget investment I’ve made for the kitchen. I’ve had it for years and I can still get a delicious puree. If you want a really refined, smooth texture, you can pass the pureed soup through a fine-mesh strainer. Garnish each bowl with a few of the reserved cilantro leaves.

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Notes in the Margins
Overall, the soup was pretty extraordinary. A bit spicy for my taste, as I chopped up a whole chipotle and added it with the adobe sauce for measurement. However, if you love spicy this is definitely for you. If you don’t, use 1/2 a pepper and some of the sauce it’s steeped in and the soup will be perfection. What I love about this soup is the consistency. You get the velvet, creaminess that is indicative of most cream (or white potato) based soups, but without the dairy, fat and wasteful calories. And no, I’m not counting calories as I had a huge rosemary roll slathered with Irish butter to accompany my small bowl of soup. Just executing some carb strat, guys.

*Gwyneth is truly high if she thinks that onions and garlic won’t brown on medium heat with two tablespoons of olive oil over a period of ten minutes. I added another 1/2 tbsp into the mix and kicked the heat down to medium/low after five minutes, and all was well with the world. You may want to go safe and add 3 tbsp. This soup is enough for four.

**I abhor red onions in a way that you can’t understand. Instead, I used a small yellow onion and it did the job just fine.

***If your hatred of coriander (translation: cilantro), it’s cool, I won’t judge. You can definitely use basil or sage. Think of the sort of herbs you’d add with squash, as you’re getting a similar sort of flavor play here.

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a moveable feast: mango, avocados, greens + guac!

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To say that every day I wake to a typhoon or a circus or something in between would be a grand understatement. The past few months have been exhilarating, thrilling, frightening and magical all at once. Not only did I have a chance to explore unknown cities, I’ve had the luxury of rediscovering art, finding it, having it find me, and somewhere along the way I’ve managed to create a little bit of art of my own. I’m starting to learn who I can trust and who I can’t. I’ve become weary of the intensity of people, and am now drawn to the quietness and calm of others. I say Good Morning, I read Faust, I write longer emails to friends (from one line to a paragraph!). I don’t know what I want next, but I think I do. Every day is a stutter, a series of starts and stops, and the constant, the satisfying threadline through all of this has been food. Always the food.

I had a dear friend come round this weekend, and I prepared a feast that made us swoon. Verdant, flavorful and bright, it was a delicious melange of texture and taste, and not for a moment did we feel we were missing something because it was vegetarian and virtuous (or at least, semi-virtuous, as we had a heaping of fried millet falafel). Rather, we were sated, full, and excited to dive into my stash of French dark chocolates.

We spent four hours trading stories about our respective experiences the past few months, and it occurred to me that the other crucial threadline, perhaps one that supersedes food, are friends. Those great, magical people who are always there, who talk you off ledges, who encourage you to climb new ones, and those who tell you that although the millet falafels are far from attractive, they are DAMN GOOD.

INGREDIENTS
For the salad
2 cups packed baby kale
1 cup packed spinach
1 cup packed arugula
1/2 cup cashews, toasted in a dry pan
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
2 oz soft cheese of your choice (I used a truffled cow’s milk cheese that had the texture of brie, however, you can use goat, brie, or gorgonzola)
1/4 sundried tomatoes, packed in olive oil
1 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt/cracked pepper to taste

For the mango + avocado salad, dressed in a lime balsamic vinaigrette: Recipe adapted from Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Good
2 ripe mangoes, peeled, pitted, and thinly sliced
2 ripe avocados, peeled, pitted, and thinly sliced
Coarse sea salt
1 batch Balsamic-Lime Vinaigrette (we didn’t use all of the dressing, but used about 1/4 of it. That might have also been the case because I knocked over the dressing and spilled it all over the table.)
A small handful of fresh basil leaves

For the basil-lime vinaigrette
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp brown rice syrup
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
¼ cup plus 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Coarse sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

For the guacamole
1 ripe avocado
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
2 stalks of scallions, fine dice (all parts: white, green, light green)
juice + zest of half a lime
Sea salt + pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS
For the salad: Toss all of the ingredients above. Only add the olive oil when you’re about to serve, as the leaves will wilt.

For the mango + lime salad + vinaigrette: Whisk the vinegar, brown rice syrup, and lime juice together in a mixing bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Keeps well in a jar in the fridge for up to a week. Alternate slices of mango and avocado on a serving platter and scatter with a pinch of sea salt. Drizzle with the Balsamic-Lime vinaigrette; tear the basil leaves and sprinkle them over the top. Serve immediately.

For the guacamole: Cut + core the avocado and crush the meat with the tines of your fork. Add in all of the ingredients and serve with carrots, chips, or strips of red bell peppers.

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collage9

burrata, arugula + edamame salad

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Words cannot express how much I LOVED this salad. Riding into the city, I flipped through the latest issue of Bon Appetit, and I felt the rapture coming. The original recipe calls for sugar snap peas, but I opted to use protein-packed edamame instead. The salad is light, flavorful and perfect with chunks of a fresh baguette.

After a breakfast of blueberry pancakes with my sweet friend Alex, believe me when I say that this would make for a very virtuous, albeit delicious, follow-up. Although I should be clear: I do not regret the BLUEBERRY PANCAKES WITH ROSEMARY SAUSAGE.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit, and modified slightly.
Serves 4
8 ounces shelled, cooked + cooled edamame (I use frozen edamame, cook for 4 minutes, drain + rinse with cool water)
4 cups arugula, thick stems trimmed
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves plus more for serving
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves plus more for serving
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons (or more) fresh lemon juice
Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)
1 pound burrata or fresh buffalo mozzarella

DIRECTIONS
Combine cooked and rinsed edamame, arugula, 1/4 cup basil, and 1/4 cup mint in a large bowl. Add oil and 2 tablespoons lemon juice and toss to coat. Season salad with salt and more lemon juice, if desired.
Tear open balls of burrata (if using buffalo mozzarella, slice 1/2-inch thick) and arrange on a platter. Top with salad and more basil and mint.