Kwanzaa Culinarians 2014: Cacao Benne Cookies

Cacao Benne Cookies

Make a pot of tea or coffee, light a candle, grab a comfortable seat, and plate a few cacao benne (pronounced benny) cookies. How was your year? Since the time I’ve learned 14 isn’t my favorite number, I’ve cautiously waited for the year of 2014. It’s a painfully honest number. And, when the clock turned 2014 in the midnight hour on January first, I said a silent prayer. God help us. And, as I’ve imaged, this year is a roller coaster of emotions. Russia. Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ebola in West Africa. Mike Brown and other victims of the police. Family members passing. By the time summer arrived, my stomach was jumping to the tune of “War” sung by The Temptations. Since the beginning of human relationships, I’m sure there’s a country or region involved in war somewhere around the globe. Perhaps, due to my sensitivity to 14, this year’s wars and conflicts deeply troubled me. It’s 2014 communicating, “War… What is it good for?… absolutely nothing…”

Read more

The Banality of Broccoli

Broccoli and Freekeh Salad

Broccoli is (le sigh) a common green vegetable. For people who are unfamiliar with food, it’s a safe vegetable to cook. As a premier healthy vegetable, it’s more likely to be dropped in everyone’s shopping cart. A carnivore restaurant includes it in their vegetarian menu. As a home cook, I walk pass it in the grocery store, because there are exotic vegetables to discover.

Read more

Appetizing Event: “Blues Crawl” Evening Inspires a Blueberry Hominy Salad with Dandelion Greens

Blueberry and Hominy Salad with Dandelion Greens

A few weeks ago, I was invited to a “Blues Crawl, a blueberry-theme dinner. The evening started with a Blueberry-Jalapeño Margarita from The Arlington Club. Then we proceeded to tasting Blueberry Tamales from Fonda Chelsea Restaurant. The main course was Blueberry-Coffee Rubbed Skirt Steak served with Tomato Confit and Mascarpone Polenta from The Delicatessen. The evening ended with LAVO NYC’s Blueberry Semifreddo with Essential Blueberry Sauce. All the savory dishes brought out blueberries’ tart and juicy flavor without tasting similar to a dessert.

Read more

Parade.com: Hold the White Rice and Get Your Freekeh On

The Freekeh Cookbook by Bonnie Matthews

Here’s a typical weekday situation: A recipe calls for rice. There’s only 30 minutes for dinner. Healthy brown rice takes 45 minutes, and unhealthy white rice is 15 minutes to cook. When it comes to time, I’m guilty of choosing the latter. I have tricks for using grains in weekday meals, such as doubling the requested amount and storing the difference in the freezer, or cooking slow-cooking grains—such as barley and farro—on weekends.

One of my favorite healthy and quick-cooking grains is whole-wheat couscous. Quinoa is another favorite, but the rinsing process is time-consuming. My recent discovery is freekeh, a familiar grain in Arabic cuisines with a 15 to 20 minute cooking time.

Read more

Never Forget these Pecan Bars

Pecan Bars

Potato Chips, fruity and hard candies, twirly sugar sticks, chewy caramels, salty pretzels and raw nuts were not my childhood friends. Among the most offending taste were raw nuts. The taste of peanuts are what I image wood to taste like, but I love peanut butter. And, I will never understand people’s obsession with salted sunflower seeds as they spit speckled shells onto subway train floors. Then there’s the pecans. They’re a different nut.

Read more