Blog - recipes
If you are a fan of Moroccan cuisine like I am, then you have no doubt come across the iconic version of bisteeya, which is traditionally made with chicken or pigeon. The dish is customarily served as a first course offering. It is always eaten with your hands…which is already appealing to me. It is also always consumed hot – just hot enough to slightly irritate your fingertips. Paula Wolfert, in her classic book Couscous and Other Good Food From Morocco, described the eating experience like this: “To enjoy [bisteeya] Moroccan style, plunge into the burning pastry with the thumb and first two fingers of your right hand and tear out a piece as large or as small as you want. You will burn your fingers, of course, but you will have a lot of fun and the pain will be justified by the taste!”
Now that’s a piece of descriptive food writing which makes you want to jump in and try a bisteeya!
I will freely admit having a real weakness for a good cookie…and a well-executed chocolate chip cookie rises to the top of my list of foods I crave but wish I didn’t.
I was eventually faced with an important decision after giving up consumption of all dairy products more than three years ago…either give up chocolate chip cookies or figure out how to make them without dairy. My ultimate decision is the following recipe for Chocolate Chip Olive Oil Cookies.
This dairy-free version of chocolate chip cookies comes very close to everyone’s favorite original tollhouse recipe. They should end up chewy and oozing with chocolate…an ultimate treat for all cookie aficionados! After some experimentation, I finalized the ingredient list which included a few surprises. I decided to use both baking powder and baking soda in the recipe to create a nice rise in the batter as the cookies baked. This was ultimately important because I eliminated the use of whole eggs. Originally, I wanted to make a completely vegan version…which I did accomplish. I just felt the addition of a slightly whisked egg white added a tremendous amount of structure to the final product…and without adding any additional fat (the completely vegan version eliminates the use of the egg white and adds 30 gr. of egg replacer, which is essentially guar gum, starch and a binder).
So, back to the recipe and the use of olive oil. I really enjoy baking with olive oil as I believe the final product is much cleaner in taste…allowing one to enjoy all of the ingredients rather than having their flavors muted by the overwhelming flavor of butter. I like that. But, using olive oil in recipes which call for creaming flour and fat became an issue because the mix always leaked fat and never really became homogeneous. I finally added a bit of arrowroot to help bind the mix in the final product…but more importantly, I simply changed the method. Instead of creaming the fat and flour together, I just treated the fat (olive oil) as a liquid ingredient and mixed it together like one would do in making muffins. I worked fine for me…
Finally, I used the half banana as part of my egg replacer. I was worried about this ingredient at first because I thought the flavor would become too prevalent in the cookie, but in the end, the marriage of flavors actually worked to an advantage and I was thrilled with the result.
Baking a cake with olive oil? I know, this does sound strange at first to many who are used to baking with traditional fats (think butter), but the result with olive oil is a very light tasting product resembling a sponge cake. The absence of butter allows the other flavors to become more prevalent making this cake a truly delicious and fresh-tasting revelation.
Any fat acts as a shortening in baking, because it ‘shortens’ gluten strands and tenderizes the product. Most professional bakers use shortenings made from vegetable oils. The liquid fats are made solid during the manufacturing process and the fats become hydrogenated…and these types of fats are not very health-friendly. Hydrogenated fats are mostly used because of cost considerations. They are far less expensive than butter, and they will create products with a longer shelf life. Good for the manufacturer…bad for the consumer.
Most hydrogenated shortenings are intentionally flavorless and leave an unpleasant coating in the mouth. Fresh butter on the other hand has a highly desirable flavor and melts nicely in the mouth. Butter does cost more than hydrogenated fats and has less shelf life. But for the home baker, these factors seldom come into play.
So why change fats now? Well, my two reasons are really quite simple. I think olive oil is a healthier fat alternative and I like the way olive oil performs in baking vs. butter. Butter makes such a big impression in the final product; it simply selfishly takes over and will not allow the other flavors to be recognized.
When I came across a version of olive oil cake some years ago from Marcella Hazan’s classic book on Italian cooking, well I knew I needed to experiment and try out the cake. It was stunning and I was immediately convinced on the merits of baking with olive oil.
Combining the flavors of eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini, red peppers and onions is a classic Provencal mixture. Using the same flavors and ingredients and combining them with pasta and a creamy béchamel also makes a fantastic vegetarian lasagna. This version goes a step further and eliminates all dairy as well to make a vegan entrée. Of course, you can use a more traditional butter and milk béchamel and add grated parmesan cheese to the top of the lasagna if you would like to make the same combination with dairy products…but after tasting this version…well, I think you will be convinced the meat and dairy are simply not necessary!
Ratatouille Lasagna – Makes about 4-6 generous servings
4-5 medium-sized eggplants
6 rondini zucchini
4 red peppers
about 3 dl. tomato sauce
about 5 dl. béchamel sauce
lasagna pasta, lightly blanched
salt as necessary
Begin by preparing the vegetables. Slice the eggplant lengthwise about 1-cm thick. Season with dried thyme, salt and a good coating of olive oil. Prepare the rondini zucchini in the same manner. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat and grill the eggplant and zucchini until well-marked on both sides and the vegetables are softened. Reserve. Coat the peppers lightly in oil and roast in a 230° C oven with top heat until well blackened on all sides. Remove the skin and seeds and slice into quarters. Reserve. Combine about 1 dl. of béchamel sauce with the lemon-pignoli pesto to loosen. Assemble the lasagna by first lightly coating the bottom of your lasagna dish with béchamel. Add a layer of lasagna sheets to completely cover the bottom. Add the eggplant and light layer of tomato sauce. Add another layer of lasagna sheets. Top with the lemon-pignoli mixture, then with the zucchini. Add the red peppers and light coating of tomato sauce. Add another layer of lasagna sheets, then a coating of béchamel and tomato sauce. Add a final layer of pasta, then top with the soy yogurt mixed with béchamel. Cook in a 200° C oven for about 30 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the middle goes through the lasagna easily. Cool slightly before slicing.
Zopf has always been one of my favorite breads – especially fresh out of the oven and slathered with jam on a lazy Sunday morning. Traditional zopf, though, has quite a lot of butter and milk…not good for those watching their health or waistline. So, we came up with this method as an experiment to see if we could substitute the butter with olive oil and create something similar to a traditional zopf. We already knew substituting rice milk for the milk in the original recipe would be no problem, and just to keep things challenging and vegan, we came up with a vegan egg wash (combine 35 gr. water with 1 tsp. malt, 1 tsp. corn flour and 15 gr. olive oil).
The result was astonishing. We simply couldn’t believe how good the experiment went and proceeded to consume the entire loaf. To ensure the recipe works consistently, we went ahead and made the zopf again the next day…you know, just to see if we could produce the same high quality bread a second time or if we were the benefactors of beginners luck.
Fortunately, the recipe worked a second time and we are once again enjoying zopf at home – but without the animal fats!
Braiding of the zopf is simple – once you get the hang of it. We have a nice video in our original zopf recipe posted in our blog. Follow this URL: /blog/How-to-Make-Zopf/
Olive Oil Zopf
Makes about 3 loaves of 500 gr. each
1 kg. zopf flour
30 gr. fresh yeast
1 Tbl. sugar
1 Tbl. salt
5,5 dl rice milk
145 gr. olive oil
egg wash or vegan egg wash
Mix the flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Dissolve the yeast with the rice milk, then add this to the flour by creating a well in the middle of the flour and pouring in the yeast mixture. Leave for about 10-15 minutes to let the yeast come to life. Once the yeast is foamy, add the rice milk and olive oil then mix together to form a dough. Knead for about 5-7 minutes. The dough should be a bit sticky, so add some flour when it sticks too much to your surface. The dough is right when it’s still sticky, but not sticking to your hands. Put the dough in a bowl, lightly cover with a towel and allow it to double in size – about an hour. Form one large zopf, or 3-4 smaller loaves. Allow the formed bread to proof for 20 minutes, then coat with an egg wash (or vegan egg wash). Add poppy seeds to the bread and bake at 200° C (with fan) for 30-40 minutes (bake for 20 minutes if you would like to freeze the bread). Cool before slicing.
I was quite surprised to be served cornbread with steamed lobster during my recent trip to Boston and Maine. I really didn’t know this was a common accompaniment to sweet lobster. My previous experience with cornbread always came with a good steaming bowl of chili…and I really enjoyed the combination. But the lobster connection was completely new to me.
I didn’t actually taste the cornbread-lobster combination because I don’t eat anything made with dairy products – and cornbread has lots of butter and milk in the ingredients. Bummer really, as I could imagine the taste of a well-made moist cornbread would match nicely with the sweet meat of steamed fresh lobster. This idea stayed in my head and I knew I would be making cornbread my way very soon.
I decided to experiment a bit and try to create a version of cornbread which would have a very moist consistency and rich corn flavor. I replaced the milk with rice milk, which worked very well and basically identical to normal milk versions. I used my standard conversion of 75% olive oil to butter in the recipe, which again worked perfectly. Substituting the eggs were a bit more challenging. I have used a smashed banana in combination with ground flax seeds successfully in the past, but I didn’t want any strange banana flavors in my cornbread. The idea of using a smashed avocado just came to me one morning and it seemed like a good replacement of the banana.
The outcome was very good, if not a bit different. A friend of mine commented on the cornbread and told me it was quite ‘Californian’ of me
Not a bad thing really!
This recipe makes about 12-16 squares…depending on the size of pan you use and how big you cut the squares
175 gr. Bramata Polenta (coarse cornmeal)
175 gr. all-purpose flour
50 gr. masa harina
20 gr. baking powder
10 gr. salt
1/2 avocado, mashed
1 Tbl. ground flax seeds
10 gr. vinegar
75 gr. olive oil
30 gr. honey
4,25 dl. rice milk
Preheat your oven to 180°C before you start gathering the ingredients. Generously coat your baking pan with oil – I use a 20-cm X 30-cm stainless steel pan. In a large bowl, mix together the polenta, flour, masa harina, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, add the mashed avocado, ground flax seeds and vinegar. Mix in the olive oil. Combine the rice milk and honey, then add these two ingredients to the avocado mixture. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just mixed together. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and bake until golden on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean – this will be about 35-40 minutes. Cool slightly, then slice into squares. I like storing any leftover cornbread on a plate with a paper towel draped over them. Storing them in an airtight container makes them go mushy.
I think this version of sweet corn and garlic soup is one of those perfect seasonal recipes which I look forward to each year. The combination of plenty of fresh garlic with fresh corn ooze a delightful sweetness in your mouth, which is balanced nicely with a slight acidity from the tomatoes and a bit of heat and smokiness from the Spanish paprika. I also added a touch of turmeric to preserve a nice yellow color. I elected to use masa harina (typically used to make tortillas) to create a sort of roux with the olive oil and onions and to highlight the corn flavor in the soup. I think this is really important in this soup, but you can feel free to use whatever flour you like to help bind the soup.
The garnish is really rather simple as I sautéed fresh summer chanterelle mushrooms (try to use the smaller ones and keep them whole) with some chopped onion and a few tablespoons of the fresh corn kernels.
One final tip… If you are just using water, which is what I often do in making this soup, then enhance the flavor slightly by boiling the corn cobs (after removing the kernels) for about 20 minutes.
This recipe will make about 2 liters
1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled
4 Tbl. olive oil
1 red onion, sliced
2 tsp. pimenton de la vera (Spanish paprika)
½ tsp. turmeric
4 Tbl. masa harina
1 tomato, chopped
5 ears fresh corn
2 ½ liters water or vegetable broth
salt & pepper
Boil the garlic cloves to soften them and to make them milder in flavor. Place the cloves in a small pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, and cook for 3 minutes. Drain and repeat 4 more times. After cooking the garlic cloves, place them in a small blender with 2 Tbl. olive oil and puree until very creamy. Reserve. Remove the corn from the ears and reserve. In a large pot, heat the remaining 2 Tbl. of olive oil over medium-high heat and cook the red onions, stirring often until wilted and soft. Add the reserved garlic puree, the paprika, and the turmeric. Mix well, then add the masa harina and stir until well incorporated. Add the chopped tomato and reserved corn, then half of the liquid. Stir well, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot. When the liquid begins to boil, add the remaining liquid and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring often. Purée the mixture in a blender (Careful!…only fill the blender half-way and hold the top down with a towel before turning on the blender), then strain into a clean pot, making sure to press out all of the liquid. Re-heat the soup, check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper and serve hot.
I first came across this recipe from my favorite vegetarian/vegan cooks, Peter Berley. The idea of using basic hummus ingredients to create something totally different was intriguing to me and I couldn’t wait to try out the recipes. I replaced the yogurt used in the original recipe presentation with soy yogurt, which I find works very well as a non-dairy replacement in most recipes. I also decided the eggs were not necessary. I elected to use a couple of tablespoons of ground flax seeds to replace the eggs, and I was very happy with the results. I think the use of beaten egg whites is optional for these pancakes. They do add a certain lightness to the final pancake, but the recipe also works without them if you would like to keep the pancakes completely vegan.
Variations to the basic pancake could include grated zucchini, grated pumpkin, chopped bärlauch and other herbs. Let your imagination run with this idea and enjoy savory pancakes for your next meal. Both recipes make enough for 4-6 servings…depending on your hunger level of course!
140 gr. chickpea flour
70 gr. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 Tbl. curry powder
1 tsp. sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
2,5 dl. water
125 gr. soy yogurt
2 Tbl. olive oil
2 tsp. ground flax seeds
1 bu. chopped cilantro
1 bu. chopped parsley
2 egg whites, beaten (optional)
Whisk together the chickpea flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, curry powder, salt and pepper. In a separate bowl, whisk together the water, yogurt, olive oil and ground flax seeds. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry mixture and stir to combine. Add the chopped herbs and mix well, fold in the beaten egg whites if using. Place a nonstick pan over medium heat. Coat with a small amount of oil and heat for about 30 seconds. Spoon the batter into the pan and fry for 4 minutes until the surface of the pancake has begun to dry out and the underside is golden. Flip and fry the other side for about 3 minutes. Transfer to a heated pan and keep warm. Repeat with remaining batter.
Spicy Tahini Sauce
150 gr. tahini paste, well mixed
2 dl. water
juice of 2 lemons
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
Combine all ingredients in a small blender and process until smooth.
Since changing my diet about three years ago to a whole food, plant-based diet – including fish (I call this a pesca-vegan diet), I have really enjoyed creating dishes which replace some of my old favorites. To my utter surprise, these new creations are often far tastier than the older versions which were usually loaded with butter, cream and probably some kind of meat product. I have come up with ways to cook with less fat, or replace the meat-based fats with excellent quality olive oil.
This dish replaces one of my old standby favorites of green beans, onions and bacon. I wanted to create something similar when I came up with this idea, and the thought of using roasted sweet onions to increase the sweetness lost from the butter was obvious to me. Replacing the smoky flavor and crunchy texture of the bacon was less obvious. Almost by accident one The notion of using hot smoked salmon to provide the smoky flavor just came to me one day as I peered into the refrigerator. It was an excellent choice and worked perfectly in combination with the sweet onions and green beans…except the textural thing of course, which I continue to work on!
1 large Spanish onion
ground fennel flowers
300 gr. fresh green beans
250 gr. hot-smoked salmon
Slice the onion in half, remove the root attachment, then slice the onion into thick slices. Season with salt and coat well with olive oil. Add the ground fennel flowers (you can also use ground fennel seeds or ground cumin if you can’t find the fennel flowers) and mix well. Place on a large baking tray and put into the top part of a pre-heated 230°C oven with top heat. Grill the onions for 15 minutes…remove and toss about a bit, then put back into the oven for another 10 minutes. The onions should be a bit black around the edges and most of the water will have evaporated.
Prepare the green beans by snipping off the ends and washing well. Bring a pot of water to a boil, add a good portion of sea salt to the water after it reaches a boil, then plunge the beans into the water. Boil for about 3-5 minutes – the beans should remain slightly crunchy. Remove the beans and place on a plate to cool.
To put everything together, heat 1 dl. of water in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the beans and onions and toss well. Once the water has evaporated, season with a bit of sea salt and about 1-2 Tbl. of olive oil. Break apart the smoked salmon into large chunks and add to the pan. Heat just long enough to take the chill out of the salmon. Serve right away.
My teen years were spent in the farm country of southeastern Washington state in Walla Walla – home to the famous sweet onion of the same name. And like most kids in the area, I worked a summer packing these large onions into 50 pound sacks to be loaded onto large trucks to be shipped throughout the state and country. These onions were clearly a source of huge pride to the locals. Today, of course, that pride remains but it has been somewhat replaced by the increasing number of vineyards and wine producers in the area.
Back to the onions…
The sweetness in these onions are intense because of their relative low levels of sulfur and higher levels of sugar. I remember enjoying them in salads or donning a grilled hamburger. Some people even ate them raw like an apple, but I thought this was just showing off.
Fast forwarding to Zürich…
Several years ago during one of my regular trips to the market, I finally got enough nerve to inquire about the really large onions I always spotted from July through September. They never had a skin to them…and they were indeed very large. Just as I asked, a lovely elderly lady next to me jumped in (very rare in Switzerland) and told me all about these monster onions. She explained to me how sweet they were and what the Swiss normally do with them…which is boil them, slice them in half, scoop out the middle and fill them with ground meat. They are then topped with cheese and finished in the oven. I was intrigued, but since I don’t eat meat or cheese, the actual recipe didn’t appeal to me. I did buy one though and decided to slice it and roast it in the oven.