Category Archives: Fruit

Going With the Grain Part I: Fig, Walnut & Freekeh Salad

The two F's: figs and freekeh.

The two F’s: figs and freekeh.

 

WTF.

As in what the freekeh?

If you don’t know this ancient grain, summer is the perfect time to give it a try.

It’s a lot like bulgur, except that freekeh is roasted young green whole wheat kernels, while the former is cracked, hulled parboiled whole wheat kernels. As such, bulgur cooks in a flash, while freekeh takes about 20 minutes or so. The tiny grains of both are packed with fiber and protein, and cook up with with a slight chewy texture. I think freekeh tastes just a little toastier.

Grains like these, which are staples of Middle Eastern cuisines, make incredible summer salads or side dishes. You’re probably already familiar with bulgar in tabbouleh salads. Freekeh can be used in the same way.

Enjoy it in this tasty, texture-tantalizing “Fig, Walnut & Freekeh Salad.”

SaffronintheSouks

The recipe is from the new cookbook, “Saffron in the Souks: Vibrant recipes from the heart of Lebanon” (Kyle), of which I received a review copy. It’s by John Gregory-Smith, a food and travel writer who specializes in Middle Eastern and North African cuisine.

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One-Pan-Wonder: Chicken In Plums and Sweet Spice

Plums and Pluots color this one-pan chicken dish a dazzling color.

Plums and Pluots color this one-pan chicken dish a dazzling color.

 

For the past couple of years, Middle Eastern cuisine has been having a major moment.

And we are all luckier for it.

No longer does the spice mixture of ras el hanout prompt a quizzical look. We now talk knowledgeably about the best brand of tahini. And we think nothing of whipping up our own hummus at home.

The new “Honey & Co. at Home: Middle Eastern recipes from our kitchen” (Pavilion), of which I received a review copy, adds to that narrative by providing a wealth of tempting accessible recipes. The book is by husband and wife chefs, Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich, who own the Israeli-influenced cafe, Honey & Co. in London.

Honey&CoBook

As alums of Yotam Ottolenghi’s renowned London restaurants, their recipes spotlight seasonal ingredients, but are even easier to make at home. Try your hand at everything from “Yemeni Lentil Meatballs” and “Cold Yogurt and Pomegranate Soup” to “Lamb Chops with Rocket, Figs and Walnuts” and “Tahini Cake with Lemon and White Chocolate.”

“Chicken in Plums and Sweet Spice” is a Middle Eastern version of a tray bake.

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Olson’s Cherry Pie

Cherry pie time.

Cherry pie time.

 

A little piece of me dies when businesses like the Milk Pail in Mountain View and C.J. Olson Cherries in Sunnyvale shutter.

I know, I know, it’s all in the name of progress in the Valley of Heart’s Delight, where tech companies have long ago supplanted farms and orchards.

Tech may (or may not) make my life easier. But quaint family-owned farm stands and gourmet open-air markets make my spirit soar.

In too short of a time, C.J. Olson Cherries went from being an expansive cherry orchard to a small fruit stand in a spanking new retail mall to merely a mail-order company now whose products are also stocked at a couple of local stores.

A heap of filling inside.

A heap of filling inside.

When it still existed as a fruit stand, I would buy not only fresh cherries but other stellar locally grown fruit. And at least once a year, I would splurge on one of their famous cherry pies. They were not inexpensive. But once you tasted one, you realized they were worth every penny. While other pies may be filled with a lot of sugary jam or nondescript pureed fruit, Olson’s featured nothing but whole, pitted Bing cherries — and a ton of them at that. As a result, it was a pie that celebrated cherries exuberantly.

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Love, Set, Match Milk And Honey Cake

A honey-buttermilk cake with a filling of honey whipped cream.

A honey-buttermilk cake with a filling of honey whipped cream.

 

If there is such a thing as a man’s man or a woman’s woman, well then, this is a cake’s cake.

“Love, Set, Match Milk & Honey Cake” is from the new cookbook, “Simple Cake: All You Need to Keep Your Friends and Family in Cake” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy. It’s by Odette Williams, a native Australian who now makes her home in Brooklyn, where she’s an apron designer.

The genius of this book is not only that the recipes are definitely simple, but encourages you to mix and match cakes with your choice of various frostings and fillings.

Simple Cake

There are 10 basic cake recipes — all that you really need, Williams declares. That’s because each cake recipe provides suggestions on flavor variations and topping choices, not to mention baking directions for turning the recipe into cupcakes or mini Bundts or a square or rectangular cake instead of a round one.

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Bestia’s Butter-Topped Banana Bread

Half a stick of melted butter gets brushed on top before this banana bread gets a shower of sugar, too.

Half a stick of melted butter gets brushed on top before this banana bread gets a shower of sugar, too.

 

I often kid myself that pumpkin bread, zucchini bread, carrot cake and banana bread verge on being healthy because they contain fruit and veggies.

But who’s kidding who?

Clearly, that con won’t even get off the ground when you’re confronted with “Butter-Topped Banana Bread.”

Yes, two loaves with intense banana flavor, a mountain of walnuts and 1/2 a stick of melted butter drizzled abundantly on top of each one of them.

Uh, there is calcium in butter, right?

This lavish rendition of a staple baked good comes from “Bestia: Italian Recipes Created in the Heart of L.A.” (Ten Speed Press, 2018), of which I received a review copy.

Bestia Cookbook

It’s by husband-and-wife chef team, Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis of Bestia in Los Angeles; and Lesley Suter, the former deputy editor for Los Angeles magazine.

Menashe (executive chef) and Gergis (pastry chef) opened their wildly popular Italian restaurant in the LA Arts District in 2012 long before that area became a destination. They hit a home-run with that first restaurant. That was followed in 2018 by Bavel, their Middle Eastern restaurant that hit it out of the park.

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