Some Like It Hot, Some Like It Cold: Breakfast Bowls, Two Ways

For my fondness for farro, I have Harvard University Dining Services, of all entities, to thank. HUDS is also the reason the words “Scheherazade casserole” send shivers down my spine and into my stomach, but that is a story for another post.

Toasted and tossed with roasted root vegetables, farro made a meal divine by HUDS standards. I felt like a cruel joke was being played on me whenever it would appear on the weekly menu, only to be absent from the actual offerings, replaced by some subpar substitute. Beef fajita fettucine, anyone? 

Since leaving the world of HUDS behind, I have let my love of farro run wild. I have tried it drowned it in garden vegetable soup, cooked in coconut water and topped with toasted coconut, and stirred into salads. All so simple, all incredibly satisfying.

My favourite farro preparation has been this farro marinara bowl. Fat pearls of farro simmered in silky tomato broth remain toothsome enough to give girth to the bowl. Their velvety mouthfeel and nutty undertones meld with the verdancy of the basil and spinach into a hearty bowl that I tuck (myself) into without hesitation.

And, to intersperse your farro bowl-feeding spree with something cooler, here is a smoothie bowl that incorporates cashew milk and spinach, but that smacks of strawberry alone. I grew up on skim milk, sousing bran flakes with it, and swigging it by the cupful at breakfast. Cashew milk, however, lends a luscious creaminess to the smoothie that skim milk cannot, making each spoonful feel luxurious.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Continue reading

Eat, Drink (and Breathe) Carrot Cake

I was the oddball kid who grew to favour pseudo-healthy food for breakfast. I began with an oversized appetite for Eggo toaster waffles drenched in melted margarine, Nesquik cereal nuggets that doubled as chocolate milk-makers, and my mom’s doctored up Betty Crocker butter pecan cakes. But gradually, I developed an affinity for fibre-filled flax and bran flakes, steel cut oats simmered in cinnamon-infused milk, Greek yogurt with a rotation of seedy and nutty accoutrements, and, above all, carrot cake.

Sure, carrot cake hardly comes close to health food status. And it rarely makes an appearance at the breakfast table. But in my sugar-spun fantasy world, I would eat carrot cake for breakfast at least once weekly, if not more, without fear of turning orange. Moist (I have no qualms about using the word), gently spiced, springy slices of carrot cake, frosted white and ribboned with coconut, and studded with walnuts and fleshy fruit gems.

BB's CC

I became reacquainted with the charm of carrot cake three years ago while visiting New York. One August morning, I rose before the sun, loosened my belt and donned my Toms, and began a pilgrimage through the foodie Mecca aptly nicknamed “The Big Apple.” My hundred-some-block journey by foot took me down thoroughfares less touched by tourists, exposing me to the kaleidoscope of a city that New York is: ever-moving, ever-evolving, ever-multicoloured. For every surly man skulking in the alleyway, lighting up a cigar (or was it a joint?), there is an ebullient woman with unabashedly ruby lips swaying her hips and singing aloud to her music. The whole is indeed greater than the sum of its parts.

Much the same could be said of Billy’s Bakery, where, in a city often condemned for being cold and impersonal, warm pastries and equally warm conversation awaited me. The cashier, who introduced himself as “Vlad,” poured me cup of milk (soon to be followed by a second with the “neighbourhood discount”) and sliced me a slab of carrot cake that one crossword, two Sudoku puzzles, and two cups of milk could not even help me to finish. The cake was enough to make me really mean it when I told Vlad to have a nice day. And it was enough to leave me perpetually dreaming about carrot cake for three years, inspiring cake and smoothie recipes all the while.

Continue reading

Gorgonzola and Greens Pasta + The (Sort of) Last Supper

IMG_4937We thought that it would be our last shared meal for a long time. In fact, that “long time” turned out to be six-and-a-half sleepy hours, before he joined me in eating corn flakes bathed in cold milk, mine slightly soggy and peppered with peanuts, his still crisp enough to create crunching noises in rhythm with the steady striking of rain. Bowls rinsed, bags gathered, bodies embraced and released all too soon, I set out beneath a canopy of steel-grey clouds that flapped like slashed curtains.

See you laters can be just as hard as goodbyes, especially when the point at which “later” will become “now” remains undefined. After finishing my final college exam on the final day of Finals Period, I went through Senior Week and Commencement Week much like many of my peers, seeing and saying see you later to the people whose presence had enriched and defined the last four years of my life, whose absence would at first feel alien. In a flurry of duct-taped boxes, UPS receipts, and flights, I was off romping through Europe with A-, N-, and R-, spending more time applying knowledge gained in my senior spring architecture course and expanding my stomach for gelato after every meal than I was dwelling on having to part ways with my travel companions eventually, for a long time, or at least for some time.

Despite what this post may suggest, super-sentimentality is far from my natural frame of mind. I could, and will now attempt to, keep this post crossing the line to nostalgia by noting all of the recent developments that have kept me engaged, excited, looking forward to the future while reveling in the present: moving into my first apartment (small but cozy, with fluffy carpet, at least twice as much counter space than my cramped dorm kitchens ever had, and a price that’s right for D.C.), assembling my small set of furniture (received piece by piece in the mail), getting reacquainted with the Metro (that is, paying steep fares, Kindle-ing it up, and being sandwiched between sweaty strangers), getting to know the locals (almost jarringly genuinely friendly, opening doors, holding elevators, and beaming smiles without fail), and starting my first full-time salaried job (I have already learned a lot from colleagues generous with their knowledge and their time). I have loved the past few weeks and cannot wait to see what the next, and yet more after, will bring.

But when the inevitable desire to reminisce about college, Europe, and the time spent in those places with people whom I love dearly arrives, I’ll gather some Gorgonzola, greens, and grains, and recreate my last supper with A-, itself inspired by one of our last meals in Venice. We made a few modifications, in part to use up pantry ingredients, in part on a whim. We threw in several handfuls of baby spinach, substituted pepitas for pistachios, and added a good glug of heavy cream nearing expiration. What we did make sure to include was Gorgonzola, rich and robust, our tried-and-true cheese that we had bought in blue-marbled blocks and smeared over crusty €1 baguettes wherever we picnicked in Europe and, most memorably, that we had devoured in that tagliatelle dish. One of my mottos for the trip (and in my life, really) was “the dairier, the merrier,” as a healthy appetite for adventure and cheese – nutty Comté, buttery Brie, and milky mozzarella still warm in its pillowy and pliant bundle – sustained us through scaling seemingly endless stairways, navigating labyrinths of alleyways, and crossing borders via overnight bus. Anointed with velvety and pleasantly pungent sauce, streaked with spinach, and freckled with pepitas and black pepper, this dish is the epitome of comfort food, reminding me of good times that were had and manifold good times to come, much sooner than later.

IMG_5420

Continue reading

Cashew Maple Condensed Milk Cake

 CASHEW MAPLE CONDENSED MILK CAKE

Ingredients

Cake:
1 can sweetened condensed milk
½ cup maple milk
4 eggs
1 cup flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup finely chopped cashews

Frosting + Toppings:
2 cups plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons maple syrup
½ roughly chopped cashews

C + M + CM + ♥ = CMCMC

This recipe is made for the rare occasion when you have leftover maple syrup in the fridge and a spare can of condensed milk in your pantry. Throw in a hodgepodge of other ingredients, mix with a lot of love, and, soon enough, you will have baked a no-brainer cake. The maple Greek yogurt frosting strikes the balance between tangy and sweet, jazzing up an otherwise basic condensed milk cake. Any nuts would work well in this cake. I went with cashews when devising this recipe, because 1) those were the nuts that I had on hand, and 2) who doesn’t love a palatable palindrome? Bake at 350º for about 30 minutes, and let cool before frosting the layers. Perfect as a mid-week pick-me-up or for weekend tea time.

A Heart-y Breakfast: Berry Brown Breakfast Rice Pudding

BERRY BROWN BREAKFAST RICE PUDDING

Ingredients

½ cup uncooked brown rice

2 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk

2 cups water

As many strawberries as you want, sliced

Plenty of peaches, pitted, peeled, and finely chopped

A handful of basil, shredded

A generous dusting of ground cinnamon

Eat Your Heart Out

If Arroz Con Leche and Strawberry Shortcake made a baby, his name would be Berry Brown: baptized Berry Brown Breakfast Rice Pudding in extenso, but that is quite the mouthful.  Continue reading