Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Going Home for the Holidays!

This is a picture of Village Farm, the organic homestead that I grew up on in Belize, and where I am going for two weeks this holiday season. See the two rivers? Our farm is nestled between them. The little white specks are buildings. This picture was taken from the window of one of the Cessna Twin Otters that fly between southern Belize, where our farm is, and Belize City (where I'll be flying in on Friday).

A bromiliad in our front yard.


Our woodshed and some clothes drying. And below, a heliconia.

I can't wait to get home. My Mom says that we should have a decent cacao harvest this year (that's right, the same cacao that ends up in those 70% cacao solids chocolate bars that we greedily chop into morsels for baking or surreptitiously nibble on before breakfast), and the oranges and tangerines are ripe already, just waiting to be plucked off the tree and squeezed into some fresh juice. Have you ever had tangerine juice? Its bright and sprightly and dances on the tongue, not to mention being a full-on orange that puts the eponymous fruit to shame.

I will be making marmalade and fruit cake (I make our fruitcakes every year, although they unfortunately wont get to rest very long this season), and stuffing myself with carambolas and apple bananas (stubby little yellow bananas with the best banana flavour, perfect for eating out of hand).

As you can probably guess from the first photo, I don't actually have Internet access on the farm, so my posting will be limited to any trips that we make to town during my stay. In other words, I may not be posting at all for the next two weeks, although if I can I will try to put something up after Christmas and before my return to DC in January. Either way, I will of course be bringing my camera and will take some pictures to share with you when I get back.

I hope that everyone has a wonderful holiday season, I know I certainly will:)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Breakfast Series Number...? Sailor Muffins: Cranberry, Date and Coconut

Using both cranberries and coconut in the same recipe most definitely does NOT embody the virtues of eating locally, because no matter where you are, you wont be able to grow both. Cranberries like wet, cold bogs that freeze solid in the depths of winter. Coconut trees, those ubiquitous symbols of easy tropical living, refuse to put up with such nonsense and sensibly will not allow themselves to be cultivated where the temperature even approaches freezing. (On cold days like this morning I begin to think that I should follow their lead).


But in case you haven't noticed by now, I cannot claim to be a total devotee of the 100 mile rule. Cardamom, black pepper, star anise, all spice, cinnamon and bay leaves can be found in my spice cabinet along with turmeric, ginger and nutmeg...those wonderful spices that sent the Europeans sailing off in all different directions, desperate to get ahold of their own little piece of tropical paradise where they could establish colonial monopolies and complain about the heat.

I also make exceptions for some tropical fruit. What can I say, I get homesick sometimes and although the very best pineapples must be picked straight from the field*, I'll accept the occasional imported substitute. I do partially salve my conscience by trying to buy fair trade and organic bananas, oranges and the occasional clementine. And coconut. Which brings us back to the Sailor Muffins. A while ago I was planning to make a carrot cake, and to that end purchased some pre-grated unsweetened coconut to put in it. The cake never happened, so the coconut sat patiently in my fridge waiting for its chance to shine.

I am leaving for Belize (repeat after me: "yay!") this Friday at the crack of dawn. Well, actually, since it is the shortest day of the year I will be leaving my apartment long before the crack of dawn, more like 4 in the morning in the freezing dark. Lets not even mention that last night a memo was slid under my door informing me that "urgent electrical repairs" have been scheduled for Thursday night, starting at 10 PM and lasting until 7 AM on Friday, which will require turning off the electricity in my building for the entire time. So I'll be dragging bags out the door with a flashlight in my teeth. Its ok though, because I'm escaping to the land of the coconut and fresh squeezed orange juice. I'll be gone for two weeks, and to that end I have been trying to use up perishable items in my fridge that are likely to go bad in my absence.

Dried coconut is not one of them. Nor are dates, which would have happily sat in my cupboard until my return. The fresh cranberries I could easily have frozen. So really I guess I didn't achieve my goal after all. I still have half a cooked sweet potato, a blender full of pureed pumpkin and an almost empty container of soup to deal with before I leave. But at least I have some kick-ass muffins to fuel my efforts!


*The reason for this is that the root of the pineapple plant, which is actually a bromiliad, contains starch which is turned into sugar and then pumped into the fruit to ripen it. Therefore, once the pineapple has been plucked from the plant, it will not get any sweeter no matter what you do, and to ship them without bruising, they must be picked before they are fully and fragrantly ripe.


Sailor Muffins with Dates, Cranberries and Coconut

Makes 12 muffins, 214 calories each with 2/3 cup of coconut, one provides 16% of your DV of saturated fat, if your daily caloric intake is 2000 calories.

1 and 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour (or whole wheat pastry flour)

2 tablespoons flax meal

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 cup sugar

2 tsp baking powder

2 egg whites (about 1/2 cup)

1/4 cup vegetable oil

3/4 cup of 1% or skim milk

1/2 to 2/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (I used Bob's Red Mill, medium shred)

1/2 cup finely chopped dates

1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries

Procedure:

1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and pull out a muffin tin. Measure the egg whites, vegetable oil and milk into a bowl or measuring cup.

2. Mix the flour, salt, baking powder, sugar and flax meal together in a bowl. Stir in the coconut and the finely chopped dates until they are coated in flour.

3. Wash your fresh cranberries and add them to the flour mixture, then pour in your wet ingredients and mix together with a few strokes.

4. Fill your muffin tin and bake for 25 minutes. Turn the pan halfway through. If your oven is like mine, you may have to move it to a higher rack to keep the bottoms from browning too much.

These muffins will make your kitchen smell like toasted coconut. They are tender and delicious and don't need any butter. There is a reason for that. THESE MUFFINS ARE NOT HEALTHY! Yes, I know, not my style right? All the other muffins on my blog are low in calories, fat and sugar (though jam packed full of flavour). These muffins are also loaded with flavour and, thanks to the coconut, saturated fat. So don't make them the same day that you are planning to hit up a steak house or eat that triple chocolate layer cake left over from your birthday.

Why call them sailor muffins? Well, the three main ingredients were all quite easy to ship even back in the days of ships with sails instead of container barges. In the 1800s cranberries were packed in barrels with water, where they kept fresh for months and prevented scurvy on long voyages. Dried dates and coconut (especially in the form of copra) have been traded east, west, north and south for centuries. So, Sailor Muffins. Bringing together tropical privateers, Mediterranean traders and New England merchant marines in one delicious package.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

In the Spirit of the Season...Menu for Hope

There really isn't anything that I can say about the Fourth Annual Menu for Hope that hasn't already been said on someone else's food blog, which explains just how popular this fund-raising event is.

The Annual Menu for Hope raffle raises money for the United Nation's World Food Program. The first Menu for Hope came into being as a response to the devastation caused by the Tsunami in 2004. This year the money raised will go to fund an ongoing school lunch program in Lesotho. In 2006 almost 63,000 dollars were raised and we hope to beat that total this year, so in order to encourage everyone to participate, the food blogging community has compiled an impressive and drool-worthy list of prizes ranging from sommelier services to free dinners at some of the world's most famous restaurants.

What do you get to do to be part of this exciting project? Buy as many $10 raffle tickets as you like, with a chance to win great prizes. Some that caught my eye include: A one night package at the Vermont Culinary Inn of the Vermont Culinary Institute, Edible Paris custom food itinerary (ticket to Paris not included), Dinner for two at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Four Indian cookbooks, with spice tin, spices, teas and assorted dals, a Cuisinart ice cream machine and David Lebovitz's ice cream book "The Perfect Scoop", among many, many others. Free wine tours, cooking classes in Umbria, Italy, exquisite chocolates and chances to meet famous food writers are some of the other prize options that you can choose from.

Remember that prizes are divided geographically, so unless you are planning to fly to London or Australia in 2008, you might want to pick prizes that are being offered in your region (especially if they are tours, free dinners, or chances to meet famous people in the food scene). Go to Chez Pim to get more information about this wonderful raffle, to check out all the great prizes that you can win, and to think about the ones that you want to pick. Once you have a list of preferred prizes in hand, head over to Firstgiving Menu for Hope to buy your raffle tickets. The Raffle only runs from December 10th until December 21st, so you have one week to buy your tickets and keep your fingers crossed.

Results of the raffle will be posted on Chez Pim on January 9th, along with information on how to claim your prize, if you are one of the lucky winners. Remember, the more you buy, the more money goes to the World Food Program's project in Lesotho and the better chances you have of winning!

To read some wonderful posts about this annual tradition check out these blogs. Desert Candy's Mercedes used to work for the World Food Program, and I highly recommend her article on the subject. You can also access a list of prizes in the region at each of the regional host blogs listed below:

Chez Pim and other organizers of the event also sent disposible cameras to Lesotho, which were given to locals with the request that they take some photos of their daily lives to share with the Menu for Hope campaign. You can check out the photos here: Lesotho photos

While unfortunately I am not offering a prize this year, I'll be bidding eagerly on some of the ones that other food bloggers have generously donated. I hope that you will join me-and keep an eye out in 2008, as Rice and Beans in DC will definitely be participating more fully in Menu for Hope V!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Bananas, Cardamom, Coconut Milk...




Sounds good, right? That's what I thought too. I got the idea from a cookbook I flipped through at a bookstore the other day. Of course I can't remember the name now, but a recipe in it caught my eye and when I got home I put two teaspoons of brown sugar and 3 crushed cardamom pods in a frying pan, let the sugar melt, tossed in a banana and caramelized it, then poured in about half a cup of light coconut milk. As you can see, the result was quite explosive...but tasty. Tasty, but not amazing: the final product seemed a just a little too sweet and one dimensional to me. There just wasn't a depth of flavour despite the coconut milk, the cardamom and the fresh ginger that I added for bite. Coconut milk, banana and cardamom just seems like a winning combination however, so I'll be playing around with it some more in the future.


Friday, December 7, 2007

Masala Chai and Memories

There is no picture today. Between work, final research papers, birthdays, class presentations, and dinner with Jose's family, there has been no time for pictures. No time for real cooking either. I did make some sweet potato pancakes on Tuesday, stirring batter in the kitchen at 6:30 in the morning, defying the weekday gods in an attempt to break out of the breakfast doldrums, but that was it. Saturday I ate out. Sunday I ate leftovers. Monday Jose's parents took us out to celebrate our birthdays. Tuesday we ordered pizza. Wednesday I ate leftover pizza and clementines from Whole Foods (via Spain). And yesterday, after finishing off some old zucchini pancakes before rushing to my night class, I defrosted a container of unidentifiable frozen soup (it turned out to be peanut butter-vegetable) for my lunch today.

But this post is supposed to be about tea-spicy milky sweet masala chai, to be exact. It has been snowing and windy and cold this week. So looking out at the bleak grey sky at 6 AM this morning I decided what I needed was something spicy and warm, something that would wake me up and get me moving, but in a more gentle manner than a shot of expresso. Thinking that a mug of masala chai would be the perfect thing to sip on while munching sweet pancakes, I hopped on the internet and went straight to Confessions of a Cardamom Addict's delicious recipe. I varied it slightly by using all 1% milk instead of a mixture of milk and water, added a little more cardamom, and (of course) used black pepper from our farm in Belize.

One sip of my tea and I was transported to a chilly early morning on a second class train to Jaipur, to the sound of a boy lugging a steaming vat of masala chai down the narrow passageway, singing out "chai! chai!" with a melodic regularity that sounded like a bell ringing, while ribbons of fog snaked past the window through the dry brown landscape (punctuated by the occasional cow).

So what food brings back travel memories for you? Is it the whiff of a specific spice, the homey flavour of a special dish, the throat searing strength of a regional liquor? I look forward to reading your comments when I take a break from my paper on the politics of labeling displacement:).

Friday, November 30, 2007

Easiest Vanilla Frozen Yogurt Ever!



Ok, I admit it, so I stole this idea from David Lebovitz-you can read all about it on Heidi's blog. Incidentally, for the worlds easiest chocolate ice cream, go here. But really folks, this has got to be the EASIEST frozen dessert ever! Here's how it happened: My boyfriend hates regular, unsweetened, unflavoured yogurt (like the kind I make and eat everyday). So he buys Dannon all natural low fat vanilla yogurt, which has vanilla flavour and sugar in it, and eats that for breakfast instead. It is way too sweet for me, plus I like the plain ol' yogurt tang, so I stick to my homemade stuff.

However, when we returned from a week out of the city, Jose discovered that he had forgotten an unopened quart of vanilla yogurt in the fridge. It was now past its expiration date and he refused to even open it, swearing that it must be bad by now and that I could have it. Intrepid adventurer that I am, I checked it out immediately. Despite the Nov 13 expiry date, the yogurt, still sealed under its foil seal, was in perfect condition. I had no intention of eating such sugary contents on my breakfast cereal, so another idea came to mind. It was then that I invented (drum roll please):

The World's Easiest Vanilla Frozen Yogurt (Ever!)

This frozen yogurt has the same calorie content as the unfrozen stuff: 200 calories per cup, with 33 grams sugar, which is why I didn't need to add any.

I didn't think that the vanilla flavour of the yogurt was pronounced enough, so I grabbed a bottle of pure vanilla extract and dumped about 1 tsp of the stuff onto the yogurt, still in its container. Then I stirred everything around until smooth and scraped it into my ice cream maker. Thats all there is to it. 20 minutes later I had some absolutely delicious Vanilla Frozen Yogurt. The next day I decided to try it out with some strawberry sauce. It was fantastic!

Strawberry Topping

The recipe makes enough for one huge or two medium strawberry sundaes and packs a total 105 calories.

1 cup frozen organic strawberries
1 tsp sugar

Procedure:

Place strawberries and sugar in a saucepan over medium low heat. Cook until the mixture thickens slightly. Cool and pour over ice cream. Enjoy and thumb your nose at winter (who says its not ice cream making weather?!)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Grandma's Lemon Sponge Pie


After a relaxing week in Pennsylvania enjoying lots of Thanksgiving food (including five pies), I felt that I had to share the wealth with all of you. So here is my Grandmother's recipe for Lemon Sponge Pie-a regional specialty, that, according to my relatives, can only be found in Pennsylvania. My father's cousin always makes two of these for Thanksgiving. One for the table and one for my father, who adores lemon sponge. Depending on your love of lemons you can increase the zest and juice, as indicated below.

The recipe does not include pie crusts, but you can find good pie crust recipes all over the web, so I leave that part for you to figure out. Also, the filling can be baked without a crust (significantly lowering the dessert's calorie content) and makes a wonderful custard.

Lemon Sponge Pie

This recipe makes enough filling for two 8" pies, feel free to cut it in half if you just want one pie-or you can do like my cousin and give one away!

The juice and grated rind of 1 and 1/2 large lemons. If you want a more lemony pie, you can up this to 2 lemons.
6 eggs, separated.
2 cups granulated sugar
6 level tablespoons flour
3 cups milk
1 and 1/2 tbsp melted butter

Procedure:

1. Mix the grated rind into the granulated sugar, then mix in the flour.
2. Beat egg yolks into the sugar mixture and melted butter. Beat thoroughly and mix in milk little by little until well blended.
3. Beat egg whites to a peak and fold into the yolk mixture.
4. Pour custard into two partially baked pie crusts. Bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes, 400 degrees for 10 minutes and 375 degrees for 20 minutes until done. Let cool completely before serving.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Jammin' Jelly Exchange: A Present in the Mail!

I have been remiss in posting about the lovely preserves that I received in the mail a couple weeks ago, direct from Victoria, Canada, as part of the Jammin' Jelly Exchange that I wrote about earlier. Rhubarb-Grapefruit preserves, no less! With a beautiful hand-made label and everything! I was, to put it mildly, very happy with my stop by the mail room.

Thank you to the lovely lady in Victoria who sent me the preserves! They are delicious! And thank you to Molly at Batter Splattered for hosting the Jammin' Jelly Exchange. Now that I have actually posted about the lovely jam I received in the mail, I look forward to seeing what other people have exchanged when the final count comes in. Meanwhile, I can gaze upon my preserves basking by the window (or maybe spread them on some Belizean Creole Bread).

Friday, November 16, 2007

Belizean Creole Bread

This is one of those breads that my mother never made but that always reminds me of home because of how many times I ate it on market day when we were in town. I hadn't thought about it until a couple weeks ago when I came across a treasure trove of Belizean recipes online. They were posted on recipehound.com in some ancient format by a Belizean lady named Erleen Godfrey. Thanks to her, I made creole bread from scratch for the first time this week and it turned out wonderfully, puffing up in the oven and browning to a beautiful rich tone. Thank you Ms. Erleen, wherever you may be:).

Belizean creole bread would be a plain white bread were it not for the special secret ingredient: coconut milk, which transforms it into something fragrant and delicious, with a soft and airy crumb, easy to slice and even easier to eat; plain, or toasted with jam or butter or a slice of Dutch edam cheese. Back home us kids used to eat it with Unilever's infamous Blue Band Margarine-the tinned margarine of the masses sold across the developing world. Creole bread would also make a great base for some fabulous coconut scented french toast or bread pudding. I have leftovers from my office Thanksgiving party and am looking forward to further experimentation.

Belizean Creole Bread

1 and 1/2 cups coconut milk (preferably organic. I use the lowfat version, but it really doesn't matter which you choose. *)
5-8 cups of white flour (the amount you will need depends upon the humidity in your region. Here in DC I usually only use about 6 cups.)
2 tsps of instant yeast
1/2 cup of vegetable oil (I used canola oil this time but next time around I plan to use organic coconut oil to up the coconut flavour even more.)
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup warm water
1 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar

*If you want to stick with tradition, make your coconut milk from scratch instead of buying it in a can: pierce the eye of a mature coconut with an ice pick and drain the coconut water into a pot. Then break open the nut with a hammer or heavy knife and remove and finely grate the coconut meat-you can use a heavy duty food processor for this. Heat up the coconut water to medium heat on the stove and mix the grated meat into it, then turn off the heat and let it stand for about 15 minutes, stirring and mashing around the grated meat so that the water turns milk-coloured and opaque. Then strain the whole shebang through a cloth. The resulting white liquid is the real deal-fresh coconut milk, always much superior to the canned stuff. If you put it in your fridge, coconut cream will rise to the top, which, when thoroughly chilled, can be whipped just like dairy cream. So one day, when you feel like doing something different, pick up one of those coconuts at the supermarket and give fresh coconut milk a try!

Procedure

1. Proof the yeast. Mix together the 1/2 cup warm water, 2 tsp yeast, 2 tsp sugar and 2 tbsp of flour in a small bowl and set aside for 10 minutes.

2. Warm milk, fat, sugar, and salt in the microwave for about 20 seconds-stir together and set aside. Don't let the mixture boil, you just want to heat it up a bit. Sift 5 cups of flour into a large bowl.

3. Once the milk mixture has cooled enough that you can comfortably stick a finger in it, mix it into the yeast.

4. Add wet ingredients to the flour. Mix with a wooden spoon until a dough forms. If sticky, add flour until you have a dough that you can knead.

5. Dust your counter with flour and knead the dough until smooth, about 5-8 minutes. If the dough becomes sticky as you knead just sprinkle with flour as required. You may have to add up to a cup of flour at this stage depending on the humidity of your kitchen.

6. Put in greased bowl, cover with a damp cloth and let rise until double in size. Punch down and knead for two or three minutes. Make into two large or six small round balls. Place on a greased pan-let rise again, bake at 400 F/205 C for 30-35 minutes until the tops brown and the bottom of a loaf, when tapped, sounds hollow.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Some Yummy Things I've made from other Blogs

I wanted to take a moment to thank my fellow bloggers, Molly at Batter Splattered and Mercedes at Desert Candy, for two delicious recipes that I tried this past week. With holiday season and cold weather upon us, my willpower to avoid sweets has been weakened, and seeing their lovely pictures of these treats didn't help. Luckily we have plenty of people to help us eat anything I make so that it isn't devoured at two in the morning.

The two desserts that I just had to try were almost opposite from each other in texture, taste and type. One, Mercede's recipe for cardamom biscuits or kleeja, was dry, sweet but not too sweet, and slightly crumbly (like a good British-style biscuit should be) with a wonderful flavour and aroma of cardamom. Perfect for dipping in tea, coffee or some masala chai. Plus, they seem to keep well in a tin, which is great in case you have friends unexpectedly drop by one afternoon.

These biscuits were a big hit at the office, and disappeared with astonishing rapidity. They are also easy to make, rolling out nicely with no chilling time needed, and are only 50 calories each if you use a 2 inch cutter to make them. If you like cardamom, as I do, I highly recommend them. Once you try these cookies you will probably end up making them regularly just so you can have one around to nibble on with your afternoon tea (or latte). Plus, for all you vegans out there, I think this recipe could easily be veganized with some soy milk and that the results would still be great. Visit Desert Candy here for the recipe.

The other dessert I tried was Molly's recipe for pumpkin-cranberry pecan upside-down cake. I love upside down cakes, as does my father. His birthday cake every year is a pineapple upside down cake dripping with butter, sugar and pineapple-y syrup. This seemed like a great seasonal twist on my standard pineapple. I was, however, put off by the 2 sticks of butter, to Molly's dismay. I know, I know, upside down cakes require butter. There is no such thing as a dry upside down cake, and to achieve that beautiful and tasty topping, lashings of fat and sugar are required.


To salve my health-obsessed conscience just a tad I cut the amount of butter in the recipe to 1 and 1/2 sticks and it still oozed and dripped sugary-buttery goodness in every slice, to everyone's delight. The cranberries and pecans cooked to syrup- glazed perfection and the pumpkin batter was the best complement I can think of. Did I mention that four of us ate half the cake in one sitting? And that I am making it for Thanksgiving? This cake is so beautiful when turned out that it is THE perfect thing to make for holiday season potlucks. Everyone will ooh and ahh and you won't get to take any home. For the recipe to make this delectable creation, visit Batter Splattered here.

Cuban Picadillo

Picadillo, a savory blend of ground beef, raisins, olives and tomato sauce, is the only Cuban dish that my boyfriend José has made since we started going out some time ago. That being said, it is delicious, so I'm not really complaining. Still, I can't wait until he starts making ropa vieja, tostones, flan and pastelitos as well. Maybe some day his mother will teach him all her culinary secrets. Until then, picadillo will have to do. Note: Cuban food is NOT spicy at all, so this is the perfect Caribbean dish to make for less adventurous friends or relatives. We will be bringing it to Thanksgiving dinner with my Pennsylvania German relations for this very reason.

Cuban Picadillo

Serves about 6, approximately 345 calories per serving, without the traditional white rice.

1 and 1/2 lb organic lean ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
6 oz. of pitted Spanish olives with the pimiento stuffing in the center
4 oz (half a cup) of raisins
2-3 bay leaves
1 tsp ground cumin
8 0z (1 cup) of a plain tomato sauce
1/2 cup white wine
2 tbsp cider vinegar (not traditional, but adds a nice flavour)
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Some people add 1/4 cup of capers to their picadillo, which you may do if you like. José and his mother make it without.

Procedure:

1. Heat the olive oil on medium high heat in a large pan or pot. Brown the ground beef. Add the onion, green pepper and garlic and continue cooking until the meat is well browned.

2. Once the beef is browned, add the olives, raisins, bay leaf, tomato sauce, wine, cumin, salt, pepper and vinegar and capers if you are using them.


3. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring regularly, so the flavours have time to meld. This is traditionally served over white rice, with tostones or fried plantains.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Wild Persimmons

I am a fan of free food. That being said, free food is even better when it has been harvested with one's own hands from where it has been growing wild in the woods, mountains and valleys of one's environment. Or in my case, from Rock Creek Park, one of Washington DC's more famous park systems.

Wild food gathering has always been a fascination of mine, ever since I was introduced, at an early age, to my father's copies of Euell Gibbons' treatises on the subject. Starting with The Beachcombers Guide and moving onto to other books such as Stalking the Wild Asparagus, I read and re-read his books on harvesting wild foods from land and sea until I practically had them memorized. Mr. Gibbons knew his stuff and when he wasn't talking about his experiences living off the land in Hawaii, he waxed rhapsodic about things like wild orach, crabbing in the Chesapeake Bay and savouring wild persimmons plucked straight from the tree in the depth of winter.

Euell described the wild American persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) as "soft, sugary lumps of goodness". That is a pretty accurate description. These gooey, sticky treats are at their best when dead ripe. It is this softness which makes the American persimmon so unwelcome in modern supermarkets, as it cannot be shipped by any means. Luckily, to quote Mr. Gibbons, wild persimmons grow "from Connecticut to the Gulf of Mexico and west to the Great Plains". If you don't have access to a wild persimmon tree you can still make a delicious persimmon bread using very soft Hachiya persimmons, which are a cultivated Japanese variety.

In my case I was lucky enough to identify a large persimmon tree growing at one end of my running route through Rock Creek Park in Washington DC. Once I realized what the orange spheres were, I starting carrying a plastic bag in my pocket, and planned my exercise so I would end the run at the tree, where I picked the partially smashed fruit off the ground from where they had fallen and then walked home with a bag full, getting weird looks from passersby on the trail as they tried to figure out what the hell I was doing.

What I was doing was gathering the ingredients to make the most delicious persimmon bread ever. So far that is the only thing I have made with the persimmons, although they would lend themselves beautifully to puddings, custards, pies and other preparations. But I like this bread so much that I haven't bothered so far. Try it for yourself and let me know if you agree.

Wild Persimmon Bread with Walnuts

This makes one loaf, which, if you slice it into 16 slices, is 148 calories per slice (if you use eggbeaters or egg whites instead of whole eggs).

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 cup canola oil

1/2 cup brown sugar, not packed

2 eggs or 1/2 cup eggbeaters or egg whites

1 cup of persimmon pulp (wash the fruit thoroughly and push them through a colander or sieve to remove seeds)

1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Procedure:

1. Mix together all dry ingredients except the sugar.

2. Stir together the sugar, oil, persimmon pulp and eggs or eggbeaters in another bowl.

3. Stir wet ingredients into the dry ones until just blended, adding walnuts as you do so. Dump your batter into a greased 9 by 5 inch loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 40-50 minutes. The final product is a dark coloured loaf with a delicious flavour that I especially love toasted. It is delicious plain, but also pairs well with cream cheese.

Friday, November 2, 2007

The Return of a Loved One

You may remember that I posted a while back about how my poor camera had been broken during a trip to Atlanta. Since then I have been using a digital camera, which, while nice when it comes to the instant gratification of uploading pictures 2 minutes after taking them, does not have the capabilities of my old Nikon N80.

Well, I am pleased to announce that after a long, long wait (the camera had to be sent to an official Nikon technician center in New Jersey, where they took almost two months to fix it), my camera is back!! I look forward to grabbing my macro lens and getting some quality closeups for future posts.

In the meantime, I apologize for the not-so-great quality of some of the photos that have been posted here lately. When I see the gorgeous pictures that some of my favorite bloggers are taking, I feel a twinge of embarrassment for the crappy lighting and blurry closeups. (I am going to have to do a roundup of my favorite photos soon, because there just isn't room to list all the different blogs and blog posts with wonderful photography going on these days! Keep up the good work guys!)

But I do have something to blame: daylight savings time is working against me! When I get home it is dark, when I leave for work, it is dark. Hopefully once it ends this Sunday I will be able to get some pictures with natural light instead of the awful lighting we have in my apartment, and we can all ooh and aww over my perfect photos of perfectly plated food...oh wait...I think I must have nodded off there-it sounds like I am dreaming again. Its been a loooong week. But its Friday night now, and I have celebrated by baking this delicious sounding Pumpkin Gingerbread. It smells wonderful and I am sure it will taste so as well. I guess I'd better go try some and see!

Yummy Leeks! (Did I mention the Mustard?)

Growing up in Belize, leeks were an exotic vegetable that conjured up images of verdant English fields or European vegetable gardens. You pretty much never found them in local markets, so when my mother made her favorite potato leek chowder, it was always with regular old onions.

It wasn't the leeks that got me to try this recipe though-it was the mustard. Being a fan of the pungent and spicy, I have a serious disdain for that polyester yellow stuff that masquerades as mustard at hot dog stands and fast food restaurants across the USA. So this May when I came across a recipe for leeks in a mustard vinaigrette that advised using the most pungent French mustard you could find (preferably flown directly from France itself), I knew I had to try it. This recipe is from the Washington Post. I indicate my changes in the recipe below. My version is a bit healthier, thanks to the cut in oil, while retaining the all important sharp mustardy flavour of the dish.


Extra-Sharp Leeks Vinaigrette

5 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, roots trimmed, halved length-wise (see picture above) and rinsed.

5 tablespoons of hot Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 tablespoon of red wine vinegar

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (the original recipe calls for 1/2 cup, which you may use if you prefer)

1/4 tsp kosher or sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Procedure:

1. Cleaning leeks is easy, just cut off the tattered bright green tops and the white roots on the very end, then slice them in half lengthwise. Run the sliced leeks under some water and rinse them thoroughly so that any dirt that may be hiding in the layers of delectable leaves is properly flushed out. To make sure that a large portion of the leek is white, farmers usually heap up the soil around the base of the plants to hide that part from the sun, and this can sometimes cause dirt to sneak in between the leaves. This cleaning procedure ensures that none of it ends up in your final dish.

2. Bring a pot of water to a boil. The original recipe says that one should "reunite the leek halves; bundle leeks and secure with kitchen string." I must admit that I don't own any kitchen string, so I just place the leek halves directly into the water and handle them gently so they don't fall apart. Feel free to tie them together if you like. Either way, simmer the leek halves until fork-tender, which should take about 15 minutes. Drain the leeks and let them cool.

3. Whisk together the mustard, lemon juice and vinegar, then slowly pour in the olive oil, whisking as you go. Add salt and pepper to taste. Slice each leek lengthwise into thirds and toss with the vinaigrette. You probably will have some extra, which you can use for other things, such as dressing up the winter salad that I posted about a few days ago. The other nice thing about this recipe is that you can make it ahead of time. The leeks keep perfectly well in the fridge for days, either with or without the vinaigrette.

This makes a great side dish for a traditional "meat and potatoes" kind of meal. Take it from me and don't try eating it in huge portions-the mustard, vinegar and leeks can be overpowering if consumed in quantity. But as a side dish, this is delicious and adds a nice exclamation point of flavour to your dinner or your Thanksgiving table, if you are in the USA and planning your menu for that holiday.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Belizean Stewed Beans

There are literally hundreds and hundreds of varieties of beans, and each one is especially beloved by at least one country, culture, region, island, town, village or individual somewhere on the planet. Everybody has their favorite, and will defend it to the death. Don't ever tell a lover of legumes that their preferred bean is not the best! Luckily for us, pretty much all of them are delicious and each bean has its own unique qualities to contribute to the culinary arts, so we can enjoy them equally without having to pick a fight.

That being said, in my part of the world we usually eat what are known as red kidney (RK) beans, and those particular beans are definitely a Belizean favorite. They are also a popular component in Cajun food and chili here in the USA. You can learn the basics about kidney beans, including calorie info, here: RK Beans at Whole Foods. This post explains how I prepare Belizean Stew Beans, a staple that is the backbone of the Belizean diet. We eat it almost every day, and turn leftovers into refried beans for breakfast. While many people put a pigtail in the beans for added flavour, I usually stick with a vegetarian version. (Not to mention that I haven't seen pigtail for sale anywhere in DC lately).

The classic way to serve stew RK beans is with white rice, a side of coleslaw, some fried plantains or bluggos (a cooking banana not available in the USA) and, if you are lucky, some Belizean stewed chicken (recipe coming up soon) or fried fish.

I learned to cook beans as a kid, and quickly discovered that my parents had completely different styles of cooking as evinced by the way they prepare beans and rice. My mother meticulously measures everything out, while my father simply "eyes" the quantities and measures the water in relation to the amount of beans and the length of his index finger. I liked my Dad's way better, since all it involved was dumping the beans in the pot and adding "enough" water, but I shall try to inject some measurements here to give you an idea of how it works.

Belizean Stew Beans

About 4 cups of dried Red Kidney beans
Water
Ground cumin: about 1/2 tsp or to taste
Whole cumin seeds: about 1 tsp or to taste
Dried oregano: about 1 tsp or to taste
1 or 2 bay leaf (in Belize I usually use a leaf from the allspice tree instead)
Freshly ground black pepper: about 1/2 tsp or to taste
Onions: 1 large or 2 medium, diced.
Garlic: about 4-6 cloves, or to taste, each one cut into two or three pieces.
Recado*: a piece about 1 tsp in size.
Salt: about 1 tsp or to taste
About 1 tbsp coconut oil (optional)

*This is a mix of annatto paste with other spices (black pepper, cumin, oregano, salt to name a few) which is formed into balls or blocks and sold across Mesoamerica. I do not know if it is readily available in the USA or not as I always get it from home. If you can't find it in your area (look in stores selling Mexican food), you can substitute about 1/2 tsp chili powder. You can read about recado rojo here. There is also a pitch black version, recado negro, which is spicier.

Procedure:

1. People are often scared of cooking beans from scratch because they think that it is difficult or will take too long. While most dry legumes (lentils are an exception) do need to soak before being cooked, this can easily be worked into a busy schedule. Personally I like to set the beans to soak in the morning, and then cook them in the evening. You can also set them to soak the night before and cook them the next day. If you need to have dinner on the table in 20 minutes, don't serve them the same night you cook them, as it takes an hour or two for the beans to get tender. Instead, let them cook away while you go about your evening routine, and the next day you will have a big pot of beans that can be used in hundreds of different and delicious ways.

So: the first step here is to take the beans, dump them into a large pot and add water. Swish the water around, look for any debris and strain the beans. Then refill the pot with water, about twice as much as you have beans. You want the beans to be sitting under several inches of water. Set them on a counter top, cover with a lid and forget about them for 5-12 hours.

2. When you wake up the next morning or get back from work that evening, the beans will have absorbed most of the water in the pot and will be leathery and flexible. Top off the pot with more water so that you again have at least 2 inches of water above the level of the beans. Set the beans over medium heat with the lid on and leave them to simmer. At this point you can go do other things. Do your laundry, cook your dinner, pay bills, watch TV, whatever. Just try to check the beans once every 20 minutes or so, give them a good stir and see whether they are soft yet. If you need to, add a little extra water (sometimes the beans will soak up a lot of it as they begin to cook).

3. When they are mostly soft (slightly "al dente" to taste), add the chopped onion, the garlic, the bay leaf and all the spices EXCEPT the salt. Let cook some more until the beans are completely soft, then add the salt and the coconut oil if you are using it (DO NOT substitute coconut milk, it will not be the same). Important: The reason the salt is added last is that if you add it before the beans have cooked completely, it toughens them, with less than yummy results (leathery bean skin is not what you want in your final product).

4. At this point the beans are done. You should have a pot full of soft beans swimming around in a delicious dark red broth of their own juices. However, they always taste best when they have been cooked or reheated several times. This allows the flavours to meld. So if you aren't planning on eating them immediately, let them simmer for a while longer (I usually let them cook on low heat until I go to bed.)

Now What?

Now that you have a big pot of delicious stewed RK beans, what to do with them? Well, make some rice and fried plantain and eat them of course! But there are a lot of other options as well. If you think you wont use them up quickly, portion the beans out into plastic containers and freeze them for later. You can use these frozen beans to make anything calling for canned ones, just zap them in the microwave to defrost them first. But make sure you cook up a big pot to start with because you will want to use some stewed beans to:


1. Make some authentic homemade refried beans! Just toss beans in a pan with a little fat (olive, canola or coconut oil, or even lard if you want), hot sauce and/or other spices to taste and cook over medium/low heat. Since these beans are already seasoned, you probably won't need to add too many ingredients. Mash the beans up with a fork or potato masher and stir regularly until they reduce. Stash these in the fridge where they will keep for at least a week. Serve with eggs and tortillas for breakfast, make bean burritos for your work lunch or a quick dinner, or concoct some nachos for game night.

2. Make chili! There are a million chili recipes out there, and some people argue that chili shouldn't have any beans in it, but I think that is a regional preference-I know I like mine with beans as do a lot of other people, judging from some of the recipes out there. I'm sure I don't need to provide you with a chili recipe-just use your personal favorite (if it contains beans) and substitute some of your stewed beans for the canned ones-I assure you the results will be better!

3. Make minestrone! My mother often would whip together some type of minestrone to use up leftover beans. Its a great way to add some veggies to your diet too! Normally minestrone calls for cannellini beans, but RKs work fine in some versions (you will have to experiment to see if you agree).

4. Eat them every day like a Belizean. With rice. With fish. With stew chicken. And fried plantain, of course. Enjoy!-and don't forget the Marie Sharps hot sauce!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Breakfast Series Post # 2: Pumpkin-Molasses Muffins

These muffins are loosely based on a recipe for "Best Pumpkin Muffins" from the Vegan with a Vengeance cookbook. My recipe is not vegan but they could be easily re-veganized by using some soy milk as recommended in the original. The original version also uses white flour and a whopping 1-1/4 cups of sugar, a guaranteed morning calorie bomb, not to mention the sugar rush and crash that would leave you starving at 10 AM. Proof once again that just because a recipe is vegan does NOT mean that it is healthy! My version uses substantially less sugar, less oil, and whole wheat pastry flour, with the result that each muffin is only 181 calories and gives you 1 serving of whole grains. Thanks to the pastry flour and pumpkin pulp, the muffins stay tender and moist and the sunflower seeds add a nice crunch. They are fabulous for breakfast, especially toasted plain or with some apple or pumpkin butter.


Pumpkin-Molasses Muffins

Makes 1 dozen muffins at 181 calories each.

1-3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 tablespoon (yes, a tablespoon) of baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/8 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp allspice

1/4 cup canola or other mild vegetable oil

1-1/4 cup pumpkin pulp (if you use your own pumpkin be sure to blend it smooth before using)

3/8 cup brown sugar (not packed)

2 tablespoons dark molasses

1/2 cup organic 1% milk

1/4 cup dried cranberries*

1/4 cup sunflower seeds

*You can use all cranberries or raisins or substitute chopped dates or even a mix if you prefer. I used 1/8 cup raisins and 1/8 cup cranberries.

Procedure:

1. Stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder and spices, sunflower seeds and cranberries or other dried fruit.

2. Measure out the molasses, milk, oil and pumpkin pulp and stir into the dry ingredients until just mixed.


3. Fill muffin tins about 2/3 full and bake for 18-25 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Jammin' Jelly Exchange in the Pouring Rain

As I posted earlier, I am participating in Molly of Batter Splattered's Jammin' Jelly Exchange, where jam-makers the world over unite to ship each other samples of their creations for their mutual approval and enjoyment. Earlier this month Molly sent me the address for a lovely lady living in Victoria, British Colombia who does not have a blog, but apparently reads them and enjoys eating jam.

So last week I got the address in my email, snagged a small cardboard box from work, took out and packed a jar of Belizean Orange Marmalade and a little jar of my Apple-Ginger Chutney, and then proceeded to procrastinate about actually mailing the thing. My problem was, I told myself, that I couldn't get to the Post Office during normal working hours, and the UPS store closed too early! Excuses, excuses...but they lasted me until this past weekend, when being out of town for a wedding gave me another reason to not mail out the precious jam.

Here they are, all wrapped up and ready to go:


I was totally completely planning on mailing the jam this week. In fact, I was going to do it on Monday. And Tuesday. And Wednesday. And I was really really going to do it on Thursday on my way down to class, but then I had a paper to finish and, well, you know how these things go.

So it was Friday and pouring rain when I realized that I absolutely HAD to mail the box today, or suffer the wrath of the Blogger Food Exchange Gods who loathe tardiness and procrastination. Either that, or wait until Monday, when the vicious cycle would start all over again. As it is, I had to walk past the UPS store to drop off a paper at the Anthropology Department, so I really didn't have any excuse. Except that it was cold, gray and pouring down rain. No cats and dogs here, just freezing, wet, heavy drops of precipitation that somehow managed to penetrate all defenses and leave one clammy and cold.

I put on my hiking boots, the ones that are supposed to be at least semi-water proof. I put on my hoodie and my sturdy double lined rain and general foul weather coat with fuzzy warm pockets. I stuck my paper in a ziplock bag and put the precious jam box in one plastic bag and then another, just for good luck. I grabbed the largest umbrella in the stand and ran out the door before I changed my mind.

Despite the raincoat, the waterproof boots and the umbrella, by the time I got home I was soaking wet. But the box of jam stayed dry long enough to make it to UPS, where one can only hope they will manage to deliver it safely to Canada. While filling out the customs form, I had to indicate the value of the contents of the box, and I promptly found myself in a quandary: How exactly does one calculate the value of homemade jam? How much should I be billing myself per hour for stirring pots of fruit and sugar? Isn't home made jelly one of those "priceless" items like you see in those VISA card advertisements? "Sugar, 1.29 a pound. Organic apples from your favorite farmers market, 2.59 a pound. Home made apple butter? Priceless."

I can't wait to see what priceless preserves show up in my mailbox!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Breakfast-My favorite meal of the day! Post # 1

I love carbs. The Atkins and South Beach diet crazes came and went and I sat there contentedly munching on homemade muffins and bread. I never did understand how bacon and eggs could ever be considered healthier breakfast options than a piece of multi-grain toast or an innocent apple. After all, we need carbohydrates like a car needs gas. Without complex carbohydrates running through our bodies, our brains don't function correctly and we get all cranky. I think Foamy the Squirrel says it more eloquently than I.

It is for these reasons that breakfast is my favorite meal, for it is at breakfast time that I really load up on whole grains, a great source of complex carbohydrates. They fill you up, they are delicious and you can make all kinds of yummy things with them. Add some fruit or veggies (more carbs!) and some lean protein and you are ready to go!

In the name of whole grains, I have decided to do a mini-series of posts celebrating breakfast. There will be many a recipe, I promise. In fact, if you actually came here looking for something to cook, just scroll down to the bottom of this post. But first, let me bore you with some needless back history. I was a lucky kid. Growing up on a farm, my family ate breakfast together (and lunch and dinner too). Because high cholesterol runs in the family, we didn't eat many eggs over easy, or chow down on crispy bacon. Instead, we normally consumed what I later discovered is a very European-style meal.

Most days we would start our day with toast cooked on the griddle on our wood stove (we didn't have a toaster because where would we have plugged it in?), served with jam, peanut butter and a big fruit salad. The fruit was from our farm and the bread and jam were homemade. You can't put a price on a breakfast like that. If we had beans left over, we would get re-fried beans with our toast. Leftover spaghetti from dinner meant spaghetti pancake the next morning, and oatmeal made a weekly appearance, often enhanced with some local bananas and cinnamon.

After 18 years of these hearty, heart healthy breakfasts I moved to Washington DC and promptly fell into the classic college trap of not eating that meal at all. Sleeping in until 9 and then running to my 9:30 class seemed vastly preferable to eating when I was staying up until 2 in the morning studying or hanging out with friends. Not surprisingly this was the same time I started gaining the famous "freshman 15". Ironically, eating breakfast can actually help you maintain a healthy weight, as Susan points out at Fat Free Vegan. At the time I was completely ignorant of the fact that breakfast may well be the most important meal of the day.

Luckily once I graduated from college I rediscovered the wonderful world of morning carb-loading. Grits, oatmeal, toast, bagels, muffins, pancakes and waffles...what a great way to start the day. Along with some fruit and yogurt, they form the backbone of my morning and keep me going at work. As I prepare to start graduate school full time in January you can bet I'm not falling back into that old no-breakfast trap. Breakfast is just too delicious to give up!

So I know you must be hungry for a recipe after my breakfast pep-rally. This one is perfect for St. Paddy's day morning-or any morning that you have some kale that needs to be eaten pronto slowly dying in your fridge. I know the combination of bananas and kale sounds strange, perhaps even disgusting, but don't knock it til you have tried it. The first sip you can taste the greenish flavour of kale, but from then on it's banana all the way. Delicious and so darn good for you! You will feel like superman (or woman) as you walk out the door. I speak from experience, as I had this for breakfast this morning. You don't need a multivitamin with this smoothie around! Plus, if you are like me and loved Dr. Seuss' Green Eggs and Ham book so much that you used green food coloring to make your own green eggs, than you will enjoy the lovely emerald color of this beverage.


Banana and Kale Smoothie

Serves 1, 290 calories with 3/4 cup of milk and the flax meal.

1 banana ( I like to peel and freeze mine the night before so the smoothie is thick like a milkshake)

1/2 to 3/4 cup 1% organic milk

1 tbsp flax meal (optional)

1 tsp maple syrup

1 cup chopped raw kale leaves (wash these thoroughly before chopping)

Procedure:

Wash and chop the kale leaves:


Then toss everything in your blender and blend until smooth.

I plan on trying this smoothie with a date blended in for sweetness instead of the maple syrup. The flax meal is entirely optional, or you can substitute wheat germ or even a tablespoon of oatmeal if you like. I'm not Irish in any way, shape or form, but doesn't that color just make you want to dance a jig?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

An Autumn Salad (1.0) and a Delicious Dijon Vinaigrette

Trying to eat with the seasons means no lettuce in December, no asparagus in August, no strawberries in February. It also means that instead of eating the exact same old boring lettuce, tomato and onion salad for 12 months of the year, I get an opportunity to come up with something more fall-appropriate as we move into the cooler months.

There is certainly plenty of material to work with-especially right now in early autumn, when it isn't even that cold yet (especially today-83 degrees is not typical, you hear that you green house gassing Humvee owners?). Late summer crops linger on while the first wave of apples, cabbages and winter-loving brassicas are just hitting the stands of the Dupont Circle Farmers' Market.

Coming up with this winter salad was a matter of looking at my kitchen counter and throwing together about half the fruits and vegetables lying around on it. Keep in mind: this salad was invented to be modified. Don't hesitate to make substitutions or changes-grab this recipe, drag it into your kitchen and let it know who's boss!

The Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette is an adaption of a dressing that I found in the Washington Post, and I find that it is delicious on just about everything. Try it on a hearty roast beef sandwich, on top of a bratwurst or some sauerkraut, brushed over a fish fillet or as a glaze on a chicken breast-it always tastes good!


Autumn Salad 1: Purple Cabbage, Carrots and Apple

This salad serves two as an ample side and one very hungry individual as a hearty main course (you may still have leftovers), but is only about 190 calories for the entire salad (without dressing). Plus it gives you 1 serving of fruit and 2 and 1/2 of vegetables!

1 cup shredded purple cabbage

1 small to medium sized apple, diced

1 medium carrot, shredded

1/4 to 1/3 cup minced onion (more if you like onion, less or none if you don't)

1 tablespoon sunflower seeds

2 tablespoons raisins

Juice of 1/2 lemon

About 1 cup spinach leaves, washed and dried (I have left these out plenty of times and the salad is still delicious, but if you must have something green in it, go with spinach. Lettuce just can't stand up to bold flavours of the cabbage, not to mention the mustard vinaigrette!)

Procedure:

1. Toss everything except raisins together in a large bowl with the lemon juice.

2. Mix the raisins together with about 1/4 cup of the mustard vinaigrette (see recipe below). Place them in the microwave and heat for about 25 seconds. Let them sit for 5-10 minutes until the raisins have plumped up. Pour over the salad, mix together and let sit for about 5 minutes for the flavours to meld. Serve. Don't try saving some of this salad for the next day-it is edible but nowhere near as good as the fresh version, despite being made of heartier ingredients than the highly perishable tomatoes and lettuce of summer.


Dijon Mustard and Olive Oil Vinaigrette

Makes about 1 cup, at approximately 535 calories for the entire recipe, or 34 calories per tablespoon.

1/4 cup good quality olive oil

1/4 cup Dijon or other pungent mustard

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons sugar (or to taste)

a large pinch of salt

Procedure:

Place the mustard in a small bowl. Pour the olive oil into the bowl in a slow stream while whisking to blend. Whisk in the vinegar, lemon juice, sugar and salt. You may add a dash of freshly ground black pepper if you like. Whisk until smooth, then give it a taste and add a bit more sugar if necessary. This makes about 1 cup of dressing which will keep quite well in the fridge. Make sure to bring it to room temperature before using-you may also pop it in the microwave for 10 or 15 seconds if you are in a hurry. If the olive oil has solidified, once the dressing has been brought to room temp you may want to whisk it again to mix everything together before serving.