A Journey of Taste and a Simple Peach & Marscarpone Tart

Grain-free

One of my mother’s favorite tales to tell is the phase when E and I were quite young and we wanted waffles and (canned) green beans for breakfast every day.  Usually, this story was told during my later childhood and teenage years when I abandoned the green beans for a pickier palate.  While E, S, and I were not anywhere close to the picky eaters in parent’s horror stories, by the time the three of us were in elementary school, food choices were limited.  Carrots, corn, and fried potatoes (definitely not mashed) made regular appearances at dinner, plus the occasional salad with the tomatoes left on the plate and a few celery slices if I was feeling generous.  Cucumber if I was forced. Gravy was definitely not on my plate for many years, and that also knocked off any sort of stew as well.  Tuna out of a can was accepted, but only in a tuna salad sandwich, tuna mac & cheese, or tuna fish on toast.  Macaroni and cheese, while we’re on the subject, was something I could only eat fresh off the stove, refusing to wait until my family came to the table–any sort of thickening of the sauce as the dish cooled made it unpalatable.  Most meats were okay, depending on their preparation, and all three of us devoured fruit.  At restaurants, the pickiness returned full force.  When my sister and I were young, we often felt ill after eating away from home.  For a while, we thought it was lactose intolerance, but it was never truly consistent.  To this day, we are not entirely sure, but I suspect that it was mostly a nervous stomach, but perhaps even a reaction to gluten early on.  I don’t remember feeling unwell after eating gluten-filled food at home (be it homemade, or take-out).  E has always reacted worse than I did, and even now, doesn’t seem to respond as I have to a gluten-free diet.  But whatever the reason, this meant that E and I almost exclusively ate chicken tenders with honey mustard at every restaurant we frequented.

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In high school, for whatever reason, I made myself try and begin to enjoy shrimp (only in the form of cold shrimp cocktail or alfredo pasta) and tomato basil soup (the first soup I ever remember eating).  When I finally ate the chili mac that my mother made for dinner, I realized that chili was actually tasty.  One night I decide to add a single sliver of pepper and onion from my fajitas to the chicken, cheese, and sour cream in my tortilla.  Trying new foods in my teenaged years was the start a long slow process of exploring food that I still continue today.  College, in particular, worked its wonders.  I distinctly remember that day in my freshman year, when, unenthused with the dining halls choices, I picked a baked sweet potato.  It was the first sweet potato I have ever tried…and it was delicious!  In my junior year, I finally returned to green beans–fresh, instead of from a can–and managed to enjoy the green vegetable with a squeeze of lime juice and cracked black pepper.  I discovered pomegranates, figs, persimmons, asparagus, beets, goat cheese, broccoli, spinach, fennel, and lamb, just to name a few.

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Many other foods fell into my range of “delicious and acceptable” over the years of college, and even now, I’m continuing to try new things.  It helps that M will try anything and everything.  His willingness instills a much needed dose of bravery in me.  With M, I’ve tried oxtail, curries, oysters, paté, crab, chestnuts, banana peppers, several types of fish, and many others.  As I found cooking and baking to be such a joy, reading and researching through cookbooks and blogs has inspired me to try even more foods, and use the ones I am familiar with in whole new ways.  Now, I am excited to purchase my first tomatillos, even if I am not quite sure, at that moment, what I will be doing with them.  I am eagerly continuing my quest to find a preparation and flavoring for cooked greens that will make me like them as much as M (he is happily eating his and my portion of the ‘failures’ along the way).  I am saving the seeds I spoon out of squash to roast the next day, craving freshly steamed artichokes, and cooking beans and lentils from scratch.  I’m making the list of foods I’ve yet to try (jicama, eggplant, swiss chard…) and figuring out just how to try them.  I’m making zucchini lasagna. I am mixing butternut squash into flour and eggs to make my own gnocchi on a Thursday night, while planning when I can attempt making bone broth from scratch.  I even let my macaroni and cheese cool and thicken as I stir in tuna and peas on the nights when I am especially lazy with dinner.

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Last night, M and I went out to dinner with his mum, as a late celebration of my birthday.  She was tied loosely to a community event, so we chose the indian restaurant in the plaza where her group was performing.  I didn’t have anything as daring as you might expect to have inspired this post–the lamb kebab and the seafood sampler–but I reminisced about the first time I had ever eaten indian food (M all but forced food court butter chicken into my hands one rehearsal when he found out I hadn’t eaten dinner–it was delicious, though it might have been the hunger talking).  When M admitted that he ate just about anything, even as a child, he made me think about how little I actually ate, and, subsequently, how far I’ve come.  I still have a ways to go, especially with some strange palate and texture preferences, but I’d like to think I’m making progress.  I can, on occasion, drink soup out of a cup or thermos, nowadays (is it weird for anyone else to drink something savory, instead of using a spoon?  This is the same reason that I can’t stomach bloody marys–if somewhere served them in a little bowl, I think I’d do just fine).  As much as I am learning new techniques and recipes in the kitchen; I am learning even more about the actual foods that make up those recipes.

peach tart top

Today I am sharing a recipe that is far from revolutionary and, ironically, is made with ingredients that I would have readily eaten as a child.  But, it is slightly updated to be entirely grain-free and significantly less sweet than my high-school self would have expected.  Peaches are everywhere this summer, like every other summer, and I am sure that, by now, every food blog has some recipe for peaches with pastry.  This recipe was thrown together one morning a week after seeing Shauna post an instagram photo of the birthday tart her friend made for her.  Peaches, blueberries, and marscarpone, resting lightly on a crumbly tart shell.  It looked delicious.  So I thought about the tart as I bought peaches and marscapone, and I thought about it more over the next few days, until I had the morning off.  M and I were preparing to visit my mother’s house, then go to Ikea (for my first visit ever!) to look for a new mattress and bedframe.  And the peaches were ripe, and the little note on the marscarpone was needling at me (“marscarpone is a delicate sweet cheese, blah blah, enjoyed as soon as possible after purchase, blah blah blah”).   Since I hadn’t yet worked out how to bake the tart with the peaches without turning the marscarpone into a puddle that doomed my tart crust…I decided to make a breakfast tart and leave the fruit uncooked.  I didn’t want anything too sweet, but I did want the added benefit of a little more protein than the marscarpone could provide.  And I had coconut flour in the back of my fridge and almond flour in my pantry.  With a few more ingredients, I pressed a crumbly crust into my tart pans and baked it off while I sliced my peaches.  After a layer of marscarpone and a spread of fruit, this tart became a perfect light breakfast.  I even took a little into a mini-tart pan to bring Mom breakfast!  Also, the lovely printed tea towels in these photos are a birthday present from E and A.  Isn’t the heart print the perfect background for this tart? They got me a stack of linen-type thin towels in all sorts of fun, vintage-type prints.  I love these thin towels for covering rising bread, rolling summer rolls, and–obviously–photographing dishes, and have been at a total loss with the thick kitchen towels that I have at the new house.  Now I have plenty (though I couldn’t resist grabbing one more at Ikea).

peach slice

Peach & Marscarpone Coconut Tart

Serves: 6-8 | Prep time: 20 minutes | Cook time: 10 minutes

For the Tart Crust:

Adapted from Elana’s Pantry

  • 1 3/4 c. almond flour
  • 1/4 c. coconut flour
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 c. shredded coconut
  • 1 Tbsp. coconut butter
  • 2Tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 egg
  • up to 3 Tbsp. sugar (optional)

For the Filling

  • 8 oz. marscarpone cheese
  • 2-3 medium peaches
  • 1 tsp cinnamon + 1 tsp sugar (optional)

Set the marscarpone on the counter to come to room temperature/slightly soften.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Melt together coconut butter and coconut oil in ramekin.  Cool. Combine almond flour, coconut flour, salt, cinnamon, and shredded coconut in a medium bowl until thoroughly mixed.  Add beaten egg and coconut oil/butter mixture and mix well with spoon or hands until the dough is crumbly, but sticks together when pressed between fingers.  Press dough into a tart pan.  Prick bottom with fork in a few place.  Bake tart crust for 10 minutes, until lightly browned.

While crust is baking, thinly slice peaches.  Remove crust from oven, allow to cool for a few minutes.  Spread marscarpone gently over crust (it’ll be a little crumbly) before completely cool.  If using cinnamon-sugar, sprinkle over marscarpone before spreading peaches over top.  Serve cold or room temperature for a barely-sweet breakfast or dessert.

peach slice peek


The Best Asian Pan Sauce

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I thought about calling this post “The Little Asian Pan Sauce That Could…Be Put on Everything”.  But ultimately, I thought simple was better, because this sauce is exactly that: simple.  And, yet, it is extraordinarily delicious on everything I have brushed it onto: chicken, shrimp, pork, pineapple, roasted vegetables.  These photos are from the beginning of the summer, before the camp craziness, but I have made this sauce several more times throughout the past weeks.  Even after an 11-hour work day, the fifteen minutes spent to create this sauce were well worth it.  Though I rarely remembered to take photographs over the last seven hectic weeks, I still have a respectable list of recipes (and even a craft or two) waiting to be posted.  But this sauce tops the list.

asainskewerplate

Camp is an interesting time in my life.  I keep hoping that I will be better adjusted each time that summer rolls around, but even after three years, camp is the sprint of my occupational race.  This year, with our move, we were up by 5:30am to walk the dog, pack breakfast, dress and get out the door to beat traffic.  M’s schedule had him outside for five hours of the day, and running around in between.  My schedule had me warming-up, stretching, dancing, writing, filming, improvising, acting, blocking, and directing 30 teenagers for seven hours straight, before joining M for the final hours outside.  Besides the physical energy needed to keep up with our campers, the mental energy needed also surprises me.  We are monitoring allergies and health issues, and students’ preferences, behavior, and participation.  We are leaders, mediators, teachers, and examples, whether we are behaving correctly or not.  Especially with teenagers, the moment that their teachers disengage in an activity, their interest is lost, as well.  We eat with the students and take breaks with them; every moment between when they step out of their car, until they climb back in, is under our eyes.

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So I suppose it isn’t so surprising that camp, while exhilarating, entertaining, and uplifting; is also entirely draining.  Though I jumped at the chance to participate in any opportunities for stretching during the camp day, I come out of camp craving long walks and yoga.  I find myself needing a nap by midday, and still climbing into bed early each night.  I yearn for the contemplative time spent kneading gnocchi dough, simmering soups, and slow-roasting vegetables.  I need to savor the meditative smells of rising yeast bread, caramelizing onions, and fresh-chopped herbs.  The end of camp sends me running to the kitchen and also induces cravings for the heartier, slower autumn dishes, in spite of the August heat.  Luckily, butternut squash is already starting to appear in our farmer’s markets, and the summery tomatoes and peppers lend themselves towards these fall flavors as well.  I’m alternating between long, involved dishes and quick sautés and stir-fries as I settle into this self-imposed time of renewal.  I’m looking forward to my mornings of walking and yoga, with more slow-paced stretches of work before I come to evenings of cooking, writing, and learning.  I finally have time to truly delve into my Lynda.com subscription, and I am very excited at the variety of program tutorials waiting for me.

asianchixkebabs

I suspect that this Asian sauce will be showing up in my kitchen again, very soon.  The full flavor, so simply made, is too perfect to ignore.  I hope you will make some, too!  Let me know what you try it on–I’ve yet to be disappointed.  Shrimp may be my favorite meat to glaze with this sauce, but it was absolute divine on the peppers and pineapple in these skewers.

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Asian Pan & Glazing Sauce

Adapted from Bonefish Grill

Serves: 4 | Prep time: 5 minutes | Cook time: 10 minutes

  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. finely minced ginger
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 3 Tbsp. gluten-free tamari*
  • 1/4 c. + 1 Tbsp. ketchup
  • 1/2 c. gluten-free oyster sauce**
  • 1 Tbsp. lime juice
  • 2 tsp. rice vinegar
  • 2-3 Tbsp. honey or agave nectar (to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp.-1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1-2 tsp. sriracha sauce (optional)

*Please always check labels.  The vast majority of tamari used to be gluten-free, but I am finding more and more that contain gluten.  San-J is a reliable gluten-free brand.

**Wok-Mei makes a gluten-free oyster sauce.  For vegetarians/vegan readers: several veg. brand are available.  Lee Kum Kee’s Vegetarian Oyster Sauce is, in fact, vegan, but contains wheat.  Please let me know if you find a reliable Gluten-free AND Vegan Oyster sauce.

Saute ginger and garlic in the olive oil in a small saucepan.  In a separate bowl, whisk together tamari, ketchup, oyster sauce, lime juice, vinegar, and honey/agave.  Once ginger and garlic is fragrant (1-2 minutes) and just barely beginning to brown, add sauce mixture.  Bring to a boil, turn down heat, and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Stir in red pepper flakes and sriracha sauce.  Remove from heat.  Sauce will thicken as it cools.  If too thick, add up to 1 Tbsp. of warm water.

Brush sauce onto grilling or frying meats and vegetables, basting with every turn.  Or, use as a marinade.  Sauce will keep in tightly-sealed container in the fridge for up to one week.


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Catching up with Almond Flour Scones

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It has been over a month since I last posted, in spite of my best intentions.  My summer camp, as mentioned, ate up a considerable portion of each day.  With our move, M and I are further away from this job, so that meant that we were up by 5:30am every morning to walk Punc, pack lunches, and get ready to leave the house by 6:30.  We usually didn’t get home until 5:00 or 5:30pm, and by then, quite truthfully, it took all of my remaining energy to put together some semblance of dinner, then shower, and sleep.  On the very first day of camp, I came home and simply couldn’t move for four hours.  I adore my job, especially the summers, but it takes constant energy.  After twelve hours of acting, blocking, stretching, singing, dancing, planning, memorizing, and leading; it was an achievement to keep my eyes open until 10:00pm.

scone stack

We have one week left, but I can confidently say that this summer was the best one yet.  We had truly outstanding staff and equally outstanding students.  I have spoken about teaching before, touching briefly on how inspiring my students are to me, and how teenage culture is played out before me only a few years after I left it, myself.  I always feel as though I learn as much from my students as they (hopefully) do from me, and this year, as always, I had several particularly inspiring students.  I will not go into details–the privacy of my students is the most important thing–but I can say that, a physically exhausting as camp has been, I know after a few days of proper sleep, all of this inspiration will have me refreshed and ready to dive into our fall classes.

scone pile

I did manage to have a few adventures in the kitchen, mostly inspired by our farmer’s market finds.  I hope to share those adventures soon–just one more week of camp (and my birthday) to get through before the schedule returns to normal!

With all of my early mornings, filled with harried lunch-packing (though I tried my best to pack the night before, so much of our sliced veggies and fruits or sandwiches, etc would have suffered from sitting overnight, leaving me with some prep every morning) and even quicker breakfasts, it was important for me to find something quick, portable, and protein-packed.  Our camp has a nut-free policy, but I rely so much on the handy protein of nut products that I often found myself searching to pack them into my breakfasts, and then thoroughly washing my hands upon arrival.  These scones, with their tantalizing mix of whole-grain flours and almond meal, were the perfect fit for my breakfast bill.  The scones are exceedingly flexible in terms of add-ins–I made another batch of white-chocolate blueberry scones, as well as cherry pecan, using the same recipe.  Those eluded photographs, but I do have my first batch of blueberry lemon spice scones to show off.  These scones freeze beautifully.  I was able to grab a few, microwave for ten seconds for a quick thaw, and then carry them to eat in the car on the way into work.  These scones are easily vegan.
scone duo

Almond Flour Scones

Serves: 8 | Prep time: 15 min |Cook time: 10-15 minutes

  • 1 1/4 c. almond meal
  • 3/4 c. oat flour, teff flour, or additional almond meal (and any mixture therein of the three)
  • 2 Tbsp. corn starch (or potato starch)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 3 Tbsp. boiling water
  • 1 Tbsp. flax seed (ground)
  • 2 Tbsp. milk of choice
  • 2 Tbsp. honey or agave (granulated sugar may be used, but you must add an additional Tbsp of milk)
  • dash salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (or citrus juice, for citrus scones)
  • up to 1 Tbsp spices or zest of choice, optional
  • up to 1 c. of add-ins (dried fruit, nuts, chocolate chips, fresh fruit, etc), optional*

*If only one type of add-in, I usually ended up using only 1/2-3/4 c.  If using two types, I used up to 1/2 c. of each.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Combine boiling water and ground flax seed in a small bowl, stir together well and allow to rest, thicken, and gel for several minutes.  Combine almond meal, flours, cornstarch, baking soda, salt, and any spices (if using) in a large bowl, stir until thoroughly mixed.  Combine milk, vanilla/juice, and honey and any zest (if using) in small bowl.   Add liquids, plus the gelled flax mixture, to the dry mix and stir until fully incorporated.  Stir in choices of add-ins*.

*For the scones pictured, I stir 1 tsp of cinnamon into the dry mixture, 2 tsp. of lemon zest and 1 tsp of lemon juice into the milk and honey mixture, and 3/4 c. of dried blueberries into the dough.

Dump the dough onto the lined baking sheet and shaped into 1 large or 2 small round circle(s).  Cut each circle into eight triangles, but do not separate the triangles.  Bake for 9-12 minutes, until lightly browned.  Remove from oven, recut at the lines, but, again, do not separate scones.  Allow to cool.  Store in a tightly sealed container on the counter for up to one week, or in the freezer for up to one month.

If you would like glaze the scones, wait until completely cool, then mix 1/2 c. powdered sugar (with up to 1 tsp. spices) with 1 tsp. vanilla extract and 2 Tbsp. water or citrus juice.  Drizzle over cooled scones and allow to harden.