25 January, 2012

A Day of Cooking; A Day of Fasting

{Experiments in Bliss: In the kitchen}

In the wee hours of Monday morning, 2:39am to be exact, the moon entered its new phase. For those of you who have been reading a while, you know that I have been fasting on the 24 hours following each full and new moon. Thus, Monday was a fasting day for me. (These are still quite a challenge, for me, by the way. I do like to eat!) The real challenge, however, was due to the fact that Monday was also my planned day for preparing food for the week. So, my day of cooking was my day of fasting. Brilliant planning skills, don’t you think? Still, I managed to do okay. I gave myself allowance to lick my fingers when they got sticky with goat’s cheese. (mmmmm.) And I decided it was necessary to taste a couple of beans while they cooked so I could know when they were tender enough to remove from the heat. Other than that, I was a champ. In fact, I was so proud of myself that I let myselfhave a little reward at the end of the day. I rationalized that the blueberry sorbet towhich I treated myself was acceptable for the fast since it’s really a liquid, but just happens to be more concentrated when really cold. In any case, it was worth it. Ciao Bella’s blueberry sorbet consistently makes me swoony with joy.

‘So, what did I make myself to eat this week?’ you ask. Well … I began by cooking up a big pot of flageolet beans with garlic and herbs. In addition to a good quantity of beans, I was also able to extract from this pot a garlicky bean soup as well as a thick bean paste which I can't wait to serve on warm grilled bread.

While the beans were cooking, I set about making Tart no.1. (I had made a couple batches of whole grain gluten free French flan pastry dough the other day. Monday found them fulfilling their destinies.) Tart no. 1 was an adaptation of Aran Goyoaga’s shiitake + purple potato tart. Aran Goyoaga is the brilliant chef/photographer/woman behind the blog Cannelle et Vanille. Hers is one of my favorite blogs to read – full of inspiration, charming stories, amazing recipes, and even more amazing photographs. You should definitely check it out … if you aren’t already a devotee, that is. Anyway, I did not follow Ms. Goyoaga’s recipe to the letter. I made a few key substitutions. For instance, I already mentioned that I had made my own tart dough earlier, and that was from another recipe. I also wasn’t able to get any purple potatoes this week, so I went with Red Bliss (appropriate, no?). I didn’t have any leeks, so I used a chopped up Brussels sprout in its place. When sautéing, I decided to get a little decadent and used bacon grease rather that EVOO and went with the cast iron skillet rather than a sauté pan. I added raw coconut aminos to the mushroom mix during the sautéing, and added some hot mustard powder to the potato slices to give a little more richness to the whole thing. And, finally, I added a little chopped parsley to the end product since my potatoes didn’t have the beautiful rosy tint of purples, and left the tart looking a little bland without something else on it. The updated recipe is below. It turned out really well. Obviously I didn’t get to taste it fresh from the oven, but I had a slice cold from the fridge today, and it delighted the pants off my taste buds! Thanks, Aran, for your intrepid inspiration!

Tart no. 2 involved roasted tomatoes, so while the tomatoes were roasting, I cooked up a batch of amaranth grains. These will make many a happy meal: warm cereal, amaranth + ragout of winter squash, bacon and mushrooms, a hearty addition to the flageolet soup, etc. Once the tomatoes were done, I set about assembling tart no. 2. I knew I wanted to make some sort of tomato tart, but wasn’t quite sure what kind of tomato tart. Then I remembered that Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. I decided to dedicate my tomato tart to St. Valentine … and/or Valentino, the notorious romancer … after all, tomatoes are also called love apples. In keeping with the theme, I tossed the tomatoes in EVOO and dried damiana herb. Damiana is an herb associated with aphrodisiacal properties, though it is also a great tonifying longevity herb. So, it’s romantic and healthy! Then I added a little red kale because, well, it’s super healthy and it’s really pretty. And red and frilly equals romantic. So, that was Tart no. 2. I’m calling it Heart’s Desire as a nod to a location in the book I’m reading right now: The Matchmaker of Perigord, by Julia Stuart. (I love her books!) I highly recommend this book as well as her second book: The Tower, the Zoo and the Tortoise.

I took a break in my day of cooking/day of fasting to attend my lyrical dance class at Ninth Street Dance. It was wonderful, as usual. I am so glad I decided to give myself the gift of these classes.

When I returned home from dance class, I did one final round of cookery. I roasted acorn squash and Brussels sprouts. Some of the squash was reserved for the ragout for the amaranth grains, but the rest was pureed with butter and vegetable stock (which I made a couple days ago). This puree will be used in tortillas with goat’s cheese, cilantro and lime to make quesadillas. Delicious!

So, life is good. It’s continuing on at its usual pace, but I am managing to carve time within that pace for the things that nourish my body and spirit. I hope you are doing the same!



PS: My continued apologies for the lousy photo quality, but I work with what I have.

Red Bliss + Shiitake Tart (aka: Tart no. 1)

1 tart crust (for 9-inch tart)

2 T. bacon grease

1 T. . EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) for coating potatoes

1 small Brussels sprout, stem and outer layers removed, diced

8 ounces (110 g) shiitakes, sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 t. salt, plus more for topping

1/4 t. ground black pepper

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

1 t. raw coconut aminos

2 eggs

1/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk (canned)

2 ounces (60 g) chevre (soft goat’s cheese)

1 med. Red Bliss potato, thinly sliced


1 t. hot mustard powder

Preheat oven to 375F (190C). In a medium cast iron skillet, heat the bacon grease over medium heat. Add the Brussels sprout and cook for 5 minutes or until soft. Add the shiitakes, garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes until tender stirring occasionally. Add the parsley and raw coconut aminos (if using) and stir. Remove pan from heat and let filling cool. In a separate bowl, toss the sliced potatoes in olive oil, salt, pepper and hot mustard powder. 

In another small bowl, whisk together the egg and coconut milk. Spread the cooled mushroom filling and the crumbled goat cheese over the tart crust. Pour the egg mixture and spread evenly. Top with oiled + spiced potato slices. 
Bake the tart for 30 to 40 minutes until golden. Let the tart cool for 15 minute before cutting.

*NOTE: Slicing with a mandoline makes things infinitely easier and more uniform, but, if, like me, you do not have a mandoline, then slice as thinly as you can without hurting yourself!

Heart’s Desire Tart (aka: Tart no. 2)

1 tart crust (for 9-inch tart)

Pint grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise

1 T. damiana leaves

1 T. EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)

1/4 t. salt

1/4 t. ground black pepper, plus extra for topping

1 c. red kale leaves, woody stem removed, loosely chopped

3 eggs

1/3 c. unsweetened coconut milk (canned)

1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for topping

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Toss tomatoes with EVOO, damiana leaves, salt, and pepper in a bowl until well coated. Lower to temperature to 325° F. Roast tomatoes, cut sides up, in shallow rimmed baking pan in middle of oven, 1 hour. When done, remove from oven and cool in the pan for 15 minutes.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and coconut milk. Add the kale and parmesan to the whisked mix.

Place the roasted tomatoes in a single layer on the tart crust. Pour the egg mixture and spread evenly. Top with ground black pepper and parmesan cheese, if desired. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until golden. Let cool before serving.

**Note: This recipe was an adaptation of several recipes, the primary two being the Roasted Tomato Tart from July 2006’s issue of Gourmet Magazine, and Aran Goyoaga’s Roasted Tomato + Watercress Tart.

Flageolet Beans w/ Garlic + Herbs

(adapted from Oct. 2009 issue of Bon Appetit)

1 pound dried flageolet beans

8 c. water (room temp.)

2 T. EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil)

1 large head garlic, unpeeled, top ½ inch cut off to expose cloves

1 t. dried rubbed sage leaf

1 T. Herbs de Provence

¼ t. whole black peppercorns (I used the famous Pohnpeiin pepper, but go

with what you’ve got)

1 t. coarse sea salt

Place beans in large bowl. Cover with cold water (at least 6 cups) and let soak overnight.

Drain beans. Place in heavy large pot. (I used my Le Creuset dutch oven.) Add 8 c. water, EVOO, garlic, herbs and peppercorns. Bring to simmer over med-high heat. Reduce heat to med-low and simmer, uncovered, for 1-1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Mix in coarse salt. Continue to simmer until beans are tender, adding more water if needed to keep beans covered, about 30 minutes longer. Remove from heat and cool beans in liquid 1 hour.

Using slotted spoon, transfer beans to separate bowl, reserving bean cooking liquid, but discarding garlic head and peppercorns. Serve with a drizzle of EVOO and salt and pepper to taste.

Flageolet + Garlic Soup

Take equal parts cooked beans (see above) and reserved cooking liquid and place in blender. Add meat of garlic head that was used in cooking of beans. Puree to a smooth consistency, adding more beans or water, as desired. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Herbed Flageolet Bean Paste

Take 2 parts cooked flageolet beans (see above) and 1 part vegetable (or other) stock and place in blender. Add juice and zest of ½ lemon. Add Herbs de Provence to taste. Puree to a thick pasty consistency. (You may need to do this in small batches depending on the efficacy of your blender.) Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve on warm bread/bruschetta, or any other way you like it!


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  2. Come on over for dinner, Merrybelle!