I should explain that I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. Do I hear gasps out there? I know, it’s not a popular viewpoint.
Salt is another matter, I’ve yet to meet a crisp chip of any kind that I don’t immediately adore. But sugar, not so much. My first blog post was in late September of 2014 and, since that date, there have been exactly 5 recipes for desserts.
Working backward, the last one was in May of 2022: Overnight Croissant French Toast Bake with Coffee Rum Sauce
In May 2021: Sweet and Salty Cream Cheese Tart
In June 2015: Lavender Nut Cake
In December 2014: Raspberry streusel bars
And in November 2014 my mother’s secret recipe: Pot of Chocolate
Here is number 6, Tender Almond Cake. It’s not too sweet, both dairy and gluten-free. The recipe came from Salvatore Messina at the NY Times. It’s a keeper, good for dessert with some fresh fruit. But it’s also wonderful with a cup of tea or coffee in the morning or as an afternoon snack.
My pictures do not do it justice. If I wasn’t leaving for New Zealand in a few days I would make it again just for the pictures…it will have to wait until I get back. I wanted to get this recipe into your hands.
The recipe is similar to an Italian almond cake. However, he adapted it from a recipe for torta de Santiago the traditional almond cake from Galicia, Spain, using less sugar, no cinnamon, and more orange zest.
- 1 Tablespoon of unsalted butter (or butter substitute) for greasing the pan
- 8 oz/227 grams of blanched almonds
- 6 large eggs, separated
- 1-1/4 cups/250 grams of granulated sugar
- 1 orange, zested
- 1 lemon, zested
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- Confectioners sugar for dusting
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper and grease the sides.
- Pulse the almonds a few times in a food processor, then grind them, until they become a coarse meal. This will take 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the egg yolks and sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 1 minute. Beat in the ground almonds, zests, and almond extract until incorporated. Transfer the mixture to another large bowl and thoroughly wipe and clean the bowl of the stand mixer.
- In the clean dry bowl, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks on medium-high, for 1 to 2 minutes. Incorporate the whites into the egg yolk-sugar-almond mixture until no white streaks remain. Spread into the prepared pan.
- Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the middle comes clean.
- Cool on a rack. Run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it, then transfer it to a serving platter. Dust with confectioner’s sugar before serving.
Tender Almond Cake
Tender Almond Cake
Lamb and Almond Patties with Sumac Yogurt Sauce
This recipe is based on one from Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook Simple. Year’s ago when I first saw his books I thought they were a little esoteric. That has all changed with time. Ingredients like lemon grass, pistachios, rose harissa, good quality tahini and pomegranate molasses are more common in grocery stores. Sumac, urfa chili flakes, and za’atar can be found on-line or from better quality spice vendors. Recipes for making preserved lemons abound on the web and are superior to those purchased at stores. There are less obstacles to cooking from his books even in these days when shopping is more limited to places closer to home.
We are members of the Oakland speaker series which has, for the past year, been via Zoom because of the pandemic. Last month’s lecturers were Yotam and Samin Nosrat author of the cookbook Salt Fat Acid Heat. The show airs during our usual dinner time and I was inspired to make something from one of the books. Lamb and pistachio patties with sumac yogurt sauce jumped out at me (although I didn’t have any pistachios in the pantry). But an easy substitution would be almonds, and I had a wonderful new dairy free yogurt in the fridge to try…Nancy’s Oat Yogurt. The patties themselves didn’t contain any breadcrumbs so the dinner was both dairy and gluten free.
I could easily see these patties (made a little smaller) as part of tapas meal…or even as meatballs in a Moroccan styled tomato sauce. Or made larger and stuffed into a pita with the sauce and some summer sliced tomatoes. They will definitely become part of my regular retinue in some form or another.
Lamb and Almond Patties with Sumac Yogurt Sauce
It was fun to snack on these patties with the yogurt sauce while we listened to their take on the pandemic and how their lives have changed.
For the sumac yogurt sauce:
- 1 cup of Greek style yogurt
- 1 tablespoon of sumac
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
- Mix together all the ingredients for the sauce and keep in the fridge until needed.
To make the patties:
- 1/2 cup of shelled pistachios (I used almonds, toasted for a few minutes in a dry skillet)
- 1 1/4 cup arugula
- 1 onion quartered
- 1 large garlic clove, peeled
- 1 lb 2 oz (I used a lb.) of ground lamb
- about 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- Toast the almonds if using and cool on a plate (not necessary if using pistachios)
- Put the nuts into the bowl of a food processor. Blitz for a few seconds to roughly chop, then put into a medium sized bowl. Add the arugula to the processor, blitz a few seconds to roughly chop, add to bowl with nuts. Continue with the onion and garlic, to form a smooth paste, and add to the bowl. Add the lamb, 1 tablespoon of oil, 2/4 tsp of salt, and a good grind of pepper. Mix to combine, then with wet hands from into about twenty patties. Each should be about 2 inches wide and 3/4 inch thick, weighing about 1 1/2 oz. You can make these ahead for a day, uncooked, or they can be made in advance and reheated through 5 minutes before serving.
- Put 1 tablespoon of the oil into a large nonstick pan and place on medium heat. Once hot, add the patties. You can add as many as possible without crowding. Cook for about 7 minutes total, turning halfway, until golden brown and cooked through. Repeat with the remaining patties, adding more oil if needed.
- When done, pile onto a platter with the sumac sauce. More arugula in a salad is a nice addition.
Lamb and Almond Patties with Sumac Yogurt Sauce
Next time I might add some chopped mint with the arugula, maybe some zested lemon as well. The lemon would play off the lemony flavored sumac in the sauce and also add a touch of brightness. I’ve also stocked up on pistachios. Try this one and let me know what you think. What adaptations did you need to make for your pantry?
This is a wonderful vegetarian or vegan main dish, or a side dish for a large party. It’s perfect when you have folks with different dietary needs, also being gluten and dairy free. And because it is served at room temperature, you can make it several hours ahead. It will only get more flavorful as the lentils absorb the tahini sauce. What more can you ask for? On one platter you have your greens, roasted vegetable and starch/protein. The dates add a sweet note while the almonds add crunch and even more protein.
I served this to a large gathering, the leftovers the next day were still yummy (and didn’t last long).
Lentils with Roast Cauliflower, Chopped Dates, and Almonds
The original recipe came from Food and Wine, but it came to me about a year ago via one of the members of my book club. It’s been hanging out just waiting for the right time to make it.
I have given two measurements for the spices. The original recipe used the smaller amount but I found it was not sufficiently spiced for my taste. Cauliflower is quite mild and can absorb a lot of flavor.
This recipe serves 6-8
- 1/2 cup raw almonds
- 1 cup beluga or green lentils, rinsed and checked for small stones
- 1 head of cauliflower, cut into 1 inch florets
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin, briefly toasted in a dry frying pan
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- pinch of cayenne or red pepper flakes
- kosher salt
- freshly ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons tahini
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup
- 10 dates, pitted and chopped
- 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
- 4 cups loosely packed arugula or baby spinach
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the almonds on a pie plate or sheet pan and toast for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown. When cool, coarsely chop.
- Increase the oven to 425 degrees F.
- Meanwhile heat 2 cups of water in a saucepan, bring to a boil and add the lentils. Simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and cool.
- Prepare the cauliflower. On a rimmed baking sheet toss the cauliflower florets with 1/4 cup of olive oil, the spices (cumin, cinnamon, ginger, salt, pepper. Roast until tender and slightly browned, about 20-25 minutes. When cooked to your liking, remove from the oven and cool.
- In a large bowl, whisk the tahini with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil until smooth. Add the lemon juice, honey or maple syrup, and 2 tablespoons of water. Mix well.
- Add the lentils to the bowl and toss to coat.
- On a large platter lay a bed of the lentils, top with the roasted cauliflower, dates, almonds, and sliced onion. Sprinkle the arugula or baby spinach on top and serve.
This creamy, rich, spicy but with sweet notes, stew is the cure for the blues of any kind. Serve it at the end of a wet or grey day. It is comfort food at its finest and your house will smell exotic. You can even make it a few days ahead as it is improved by sitting in the fridge for a night. I saw the recipe in the New York Times Wednesday food section and knew I wanted to try it. I made some slight changes but it is essentially as written.
Ireland Hiking, perfect food after a hike in the Wicklow Mountains
Garam Masala is an Indian spice mixture, the name comes from the words “heat” and “mix” and refers to the heat of digestion. The mixture consists of coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cardamom seeds, peppercorns, fennel seeds, mustard seeds, cloves, and red chile peppers which are toasted until fragrant, cooled, and ground to a fine powder.
Start this the day before you intend to serve it, the meat needs to marinate overnight and the the split peas need to soak.
- 2 1/2 pounds of boneless pork stew meat or butt, trimmed of fat and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces.
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne (more or less depending on your tolerance for spice). I couldn’t find the cayenne so used a pinch of red pepper flakes.
- 1/2 cup of dried yellow split peas
- 2 1/2 tablespoons of coconut oil
- 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 slices of fresh ginger, peeled
- 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 serrano or jalapeño chili, minced
- 1 28-ounce can or package of diced tomatoes
- 1 cup of coconut milk (not light), solids and liquid whisked together
- Chopped cilantro for garnish
Garlic – Coconut Oil for serving
- 1/3 cup coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 6 cloves of garlic, sliced very thinly
- 3 hot chilis, red or green or mixed, halved lengthwise, seeds removed.
Coconut Pork Stew with Garam Masala
- In a large bowl, combine the pork with the cumin, salt, garam masala, and cayenne. Mix well, cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Cover the split peas with boiling water to cover by 2 inches, let soak overnight. Drain before using.
- Pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees.
- Heat the coconut oil in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the onion and saute until they are tender and golden brown, about 8 minutes. Add the cinnamon stick, ginger, garlic, and jalapeno. Saute for another 5 minutes until the jalapeno is tender. Add the pork and any juices from the bowl and saute until lightly brown and no longer pink, perhaps another 7 or 8 minutes.
- Stir in the tomatoes, drained split peas, and coconut milk. Taste for salt. The pork should be covered in liquid, add some water if it is not. Bring to a simmer on high heat.
- Once simmering, cover the pot and place in the oven for 2 – 2 1/2 hours. My own stew took almost 3 to soften the peas but they could have been old.
- Meanwhile prepare the garlic coconut oil garnish. In a small pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds. Once they begin to pop, add the garlic and chilis, fry until the edges of the garlic begin to brow. Immediately remove from the heat and cool. You do not want the garlic to burn and turn bitter. Once cool I drained the oil from the solids.
Garlic Chili Coconut Oil
- Serve warm, drizzled with the garlic coconut oil and garnished with cilantro.
I found the stew was delicious over a baked sweet potato.
Coconut Pork Stew with Garam Masala and Sweet Potato
You couldn’t go wrong with a spoonful of yogurt or sour cream to cut the heat.
Coconut Port Stew with Garam Masala
This recipe is both gluten and dairy free.