Lotus flower in Ubud

Lotus flower

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Flowers in Bali and the Gili Islands

Flower gorgeousness in Bali and Gili. Feast your eyes…
flower poolGili Air flowersflowers in Baliflower offerings in the road-Ubud

Transformations: Dill Scallion Butter Chicken Sausage with Beet Puree and Artichoke Fennel Salad with Cucumber and Wasabi + Your Appetite

chicken sausage with beet cream and fennel artichoke salad 2

Remember that beet salad I posted a little while ago? The tangy, creamy and colourful one? Well, I made a lot of it and started to get really sick of eating it. I love beets and I love salad and have a high tolerance for both, but there’s only so much I can take of any one thing on repeat. It was imperative to exercise my leftover transforming skills in a big way.  

chicken sausage with beet cream and fennel artichoke salad

A beautiful plate and/or presentation of a dish, including bright colours and pleasant forms, can change your hunger level and alter how attracted you are towards any food or dish presented to you (excepting anything with bananas… they will always be evil).  Dishes that are beautifully arranged actually whet your appetite and make you hungrier.  

 

 

Mmm... appetizing
Mmm… appetizing

Colour plays a crucial role in our attraction to food. Studies have shown that blue is the least appetizing colour to eat. Our foraging ancestors learned to avoid toxic and spoiled foods, which were often blue, purple, grey and black (berries, eggplant, etc, excluded). That behaviour has been imprinted on us. So when food is dyed blue, our appetites turn cold. In fact, dieters are advised to use blue place mats, lights, plates, etc… when eating to aid in appetite suppression.  

 

 

Umm... not so appetizing.
Umm… not so appetizing.

Foods that are red, orange, green and yellow (depending on culture) are apparently the most appetizing and exciting to us. Red is the colour of passion, intimacy and enthusiasm and all that registers when we look at our food. Cool.  

chicken sauasge with beet cream and fennel artichoke salad bite

So, in honor of red, I give you beets. Yes, more of them.  

This dish was actually inspired by food items that had to be used from my kitchen. They were either in great abundance or approaching their expiration dates.   I had made some dill scallion butter in the summer when the garden was overflowing with dill. I made a large batch and since butter freezes well, most of it went into the freezer. It’s very easy to make (put dill, scallions and softened butter into your food processor and blend) and really tasty on everything. I use it on popcorn, toast and sometimes to fry eggs. It works gorgeously when frying up an Applegate Chicken and Apple sausage, too.  

The recipe for the beet salad can be found here. Place a cup of it in a blender (adding a bit more dressing for texture) and blend until smooth.  

 

chicken sausage with beet cream and fennel artichoke salad last biteAnd, of course, we have the artichoke heart fennel salad with cucumber and wasabi. Everything about this dish was heaven to eat. And to look at.

Artichoke Heart Fennel Salad with Cucumber and Wasabi

Ingredients

  • 2 steamed artichoke hearts, remove spiky leaves and quarter (you could heat up frozen or canned artichokes, which is a lot easier, but not nearly as good. Avoid the marinated kind)
  • 1 cup fennel bulb, sliced (about ¼ of a whole bulb)
  • 1 cup small seed cucumber, sliced
  • 1 tsp tamari or soy sauce
  • 1 tsp lime juice
  • ¼ tsp wasabi paste (or powder mixed with water 1:1)

Directions

Mix ingredients.

Plate the salad with a dill scallion butter chicken sausage and beet puree in an artful way that fills you with passion and feelings of intimacy and piques your enthusiasm.

Look at. Admire. Devour.

Flavour Pairing: Tangy Dill Walnut Beet Salad + Colourful Things in California

beet salad bite

In the past month, in the midst of my job search, I went on a few mini trips for the purpose of pleasure and to visit friends and family (previously mentioned here). It had been many years since I’d seen my sister and even longer since I’d been on the State side of the Pacific, what with the whole living in Asia thing. In fact, the last time I’d been to the west coast was for my sissy’s wedding to her fabulous wife 5 years ago. It was a lovely trip full of fish tacos, kitties and pretty nature.

The Ladies of Hanukah: Bee, sissy, mum and me. Thanks to Erika for the photo!

While wandering, I took a few (hundred) photos of those pretty natural things. Here are some of my favorites:

Green and yellow treesCA treeCA tree detailCA thornsCA mossNorthern CA landscape

4 trees in profile

ColourfulCA moss 2.

Beets are also colourful. And flavourful.

beet salad 

This recipe has converted a few beet haters I know. Beets pair astonishingly well with dill, which has been a traditional gastronomic practice in many European cuisines in various forms. Borscht in Eastern Europe and salads in Italy. With the aid of lemon and Dijon, this salad is an exemplary archetype of freshness. The walnuts add texture and creaminess. Do make. Do eat. Do enjoy.

beet salad 2

Tangy Dill Walnut Beet Salad

Ingredients

  • 3 large beets, peeled and cut into bite sized cubes
  • 3 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1 cup ( ½ a bunch) of chopped fresh dill
  • 2 tbsp of diced red onion
  • 2 tbsp of dijon mustard
  • 1 ½ -2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 2 tbsp tamari
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp walnuts, crushed (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Place the peeled cubes of beets in a large pot of water and bring to a boil. Continue boiling for 25-30 minutes. To check if they’re fully cooked, poke a large piece with a fork. Like a potato, it should be soft when done. Do not overcook, or you’ll have beet mash.

Drain and rinse the beets in a colander and place in a large bowl when fully drained.

Add all other ingredients and mix well.

Variation

Replace mayonnaise with goat’s cheese for a saltier, less emulsified creaminess.

Cumin Rosemary and Garlic Sweet Potato Fries + Mohican Ruins?

sweet potato fries

Mum and I went for a walk in the woods last week in the fresh snow. A friend had cleared a new path this past summer that borders the unfriendly edges of our property and we wanted to explore the old ruins found there. When I say unfriendly, I’m alluding to the gun toting, 4 wheeling neighbors who once threatened my mum when she approached their home to get directions. How charming.

 mohican ruins 1mohican ruins 2mohican ruins 4

I can see that my New Year’s resolution of being less sarcastic will be a challenge. (Happy 2013, by the way!)

mohican ruins 5

mohican ruins 6mohican ruins 7
 

Some expert of some relevant subject came to see these ruins and speculated that they might have been built and used by the Mohicans as a trading post long ago. The ruins consisted of a large stone marker and 3-walled structure of some sort, where people would meet and/or leave goods for each other. It’s pretty cool to find this sort of thing in ones own (extended) backyard. It can be easy to forget the possibilities of the past in just about any place (except for maybe Surtsey Island), and especially in an area as quiet (quiet for me, anyway) as the Berkshires. It is unknown whether or not these are actually Mohican ruins, but it is nice to think of that possibility. I like feeling the rich history of a place, whether it’s geological or human. Time has spread its wings over everything.

mohican ruins 3

 

One of the most satisfying winter comfort foods are sweet potatoes. Warm, earthy, orange and versatile. They add flavour and heart to any meal.

 roasted sweet potato bite

Though many cooks like to take the natural sweetness found in sweet potatoes to an even sweeter level (sweet potato pie, candied yams, sweet potato pancakes, etc) I prefer to balance the sweetness by adding salty and savory ingredients. A quick look at my brand new Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg lists a few great ideas, like: garlic, duck, dill, cilantro, cumin, prosciutto, sage, Dijon, chives and more. Mmm.

 roasted sweet potato bite 2

If you’re not that comfortable working and experimenting with new sweet potato recipes, try these fries as a way to practice. You are guaranteed delicious results.

Cumin Rosemary and Garlic Sweet Potato Fries

Ingredients

  • 3 medium-large sweet potatoes
  • 3 crushed and minced cloves of garlic
  • 1 ½-2 tbsp of cumin powder
  • 2 tsp of fresh or dried rosemary leaves
  • 1 tsp salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp sesame oil (optional)
  • Cooking oil

Directions

Preheat oven to 400ºF/200ºC/Gas mark 6.

Peel your sweet potatoes (or leave the skin on and just cut off the ugly bits like I do- when they are roasted the skin becomes soft and yummy. It is matter of taste. Just make sure you wash them well). Using a large knife, cut the sweet spuds into ½ inch slices. Then cut them into long fries.

Place them into a large bowl with all the other ingredients and mix until the oil and spices are evenly coating the fries.

Place the fries onto (a) baking sheet(s). Be sure to give them plenty of space. If they are too crowded, they won’t roast as well and will take much longer. Also, be sure to add any oil and spices at the bottom of the mixing bowl for extra flavour.

Place in oven and roast for about 45 minutes. Check them every 10-15 minutes to stir and turn them. This will prevent burning on one side and ensure even cooking.

Remove from heat when nicely browned and your kitchen is filled a warm, hearty smell.

Eat when hot.

Serves 4-6

Gluten Free Carrot Cake With Maple Cream Cheese Icing for 50 People (and fewer)

Night sky long exposure

On a completely unrelated note, here are a few photos my friend Dilwara and I took not too long ago. The moon was full and we were drawn out into the frigid night air to gawk at the blanket of night she covered the land with. With long exposures and fast moving clouds, the results were, as you can see, orgasmicly gorgeous.

 Moon star

Night sky 2

I was asked to make a gluten free cake for an event I was cooking for at The Abode this past Fall. I was given a choice between making carrot cake or frosted banana bread. I completely despise everything about bananas, so it was sort of a non-choice, really. My distain for bananas goes so deep; it’s practically become part of my identity. Habiba: The Girl Who Hates Bananas. My young Korean students were always so confused that anyone would not like bananas, it became one of the class jokes. My mum told me that as a child, I cried if someone offered them to me. Sometimes I tear up in horror a little bit still.

Gluten Free Carrot Cake With Maple Cream Cheese Icing 2

 

Banana lovers are very sneaky with their yellow torture devices and more than once I’ve been traumatized by the ill placement of said fruit. Banana haters can expect to have to double-check the ingredients of a smoothie, cookie or sweet cake, and even though it’s disappointing, it’s not horrifyingly shocking. But, when eating a vegetable stir-fry, pizza or chicken enchilada, one shouldn’t have to be on guard for bananas! I have had the misfortune of experiencing each of these normally fine dishes with the addition of bananas, rendering them useless. I am exceptionally good at detecting even the smallest amount of banana, which promptly ruins whatever food I am eating. If I could pass a ban, I would.

I digress.

 Gluten Free Carrot Cake

I made a carrot cake (banana free!) with maple cream cheese icing. It was a gorgeous texture, not too dense, and full of flavour.

 Gluten Free Carrot Cake With Maple Cream Cheese Icing 3

I’m very skeptical with gluten free foods (probably because of the early attempts of gluten free enthusiasts to recreate comfort foods and ending up with a mouthful of something chalky, hard and tasteless) but I was very pleased with the flour I used. Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Flour uses garbanzo bean flour as its base. Sounds like you’ll end up with a cake that tastes like falafel, but I didn’t detect a thing.

Gluten Free Carrot Cake With Maple Cream Cheese Icing

Gluten Free Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Icing

Ingredients for 50 servings

For the cake:

  • 12 cups gluten free flour
  • 3 tbsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 3 tbsp cinnamon powder
  • 3 tsp nutmeg powder
  • 3 tbsp ginger powder
  • 3 ½ cups canola oil
  • 8 cups sugar
  • 24 large eggs
  • 10 cups grated carrots
  • 3 cups chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 2 cups raisins (optional)

For the icing:

  • 3 cups of softened cream cheese
  • 2 cups of softened butter
  • 4 cups icing sugar
  • 2 cups maple syrup

Ingredients for 8-10 servings

For the cake:

  • 2 cups gluten free flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon powder
  • ½ tsp nutmeg powder
  • 1 tsp ginger powder
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 ¼ canola oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 cups grated carrots
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  • ½ cup raisins (optional)

For the icing:

  • 1 cup softened cream cheese
  • ½ cup softened butter
  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • ¼ cup maple syrup

Directions

Preheat oven at 350ºF/180ºC/Gas mark 4.

In a bowl, mix flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger together.

In a separate bowl, whisk sugar and oil until smooth. Then, whisk in eggs one at a time.

Slowly stir the dry mixture into the egg mixture. Stir until smooth.

Stir in carrots, nuts and raisins.

Pour the batter into a greased pan and bake for about 30-40 minutes. To check if the cake is fully cooked, poke it in the center with a fork or skewer. If it comes out clean, it is finished.

Let the cake cool. To remove the cake from the pan, use a knife to scrape the edges and ensure it is not attached. Put a plate or tray on top of the cake and flip them together. Ice that bad boy.

Devour.