Apple Salad

This one is going up after a conversation about what you can put cardamom in. The note in the book it comes from (Lord Krishna’s Cuisine) says I made this recipe for an apple demonstration back when I was working for Big Natural/Specialty Supermarket Chain in September of 1995. I remember liking it a lot.

1/4 c. yogurt or sour cream
2 T. chopped fresh mint
3 T. ground blanched almonds
1/4 t. cardamom seeds, crushed (you may use powdered cardamom if that’s what you have)
2 T. orange or lemon juice
3 medium-sized apples, cored and diced
1/2 c. seedless grapes, halved

Blend the yogurt and sour cream, mint, almonds, cardamom and orange or lemon juice in a mixing bowl. Fold in the apples and grapes, cover and chill for at least 1/2 hour before serving.

Carrot-Jicama Salad

Please pardon the plastic container in the image.  I wanted a picture of this before it got eaten today, so this one was taken between bites of cereal while I was trying to get out the door for work, so it is in le container de storage.

This sweet and crunchy salad with a spicy, smoky dressing is a great partner for black beans. I wanted to make something cold to enjoy with dinner, but already had a fairly standard corn-and-tomato salad planned this week. This is what I came up with.

7 carrots, peeled and diced
1⁄2 of a medium jicama, diced
1⁄4 of a small head of red cabbage, diced

2/3 c. canola oil
1⁄4 c. orange juice
2 T. lime juice
1 chipotle chili, minced
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. paprika
1⁄2 c. minced cilantro
1⁄2 c. minced parsley
2 T. minced spearmint
Salt and pepper to taste

Peel and chop the carrots. Place the carrots in a microwave-safe container and add a small amount of water. Microwave, covered, for five minutes, stirring once. Set the covered container aside and allow the carrots to finish cooking with their own heat while you prepare the other ingredients. Place the carrots, jicama, and cabbage in a medium bowl.

To prepare the dressing, combine the oil, juices, chili, and paprika in a vessel and stir vigorously until emulsified. Add the herbs and stir to incorporate. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the dressing over the vegetables. Place in the refrigerator until well-chilled. Toss before serving. Makes 6 servings.

Spicy Basil Tofu

Another from A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen, though this is a Thai classic.  This is great along with some stir-fried green beans and rice.  Having a Thai Basil plant that’s trying to overrun all the other basils in its planting bed is a great boon when making this recipe.

2 T. soy sauce (I use tamari)
2 T. water
2 t. light brown sugar
2 T. oil (peanut or canola)
2-3 fresh chiles, (preferably red Thai chiles), stemmed, seeded, and minced
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 pound extra-firm or firm tofu, crumbled and blotted dry between several layers of paper towels
1 small red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and finely diced
1/3 c. thinly sliced fresh basil leaves

Combine the soy sauce, water, and brown sugar in a small bowl, stirring occasionally to help the sugar dissolve.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat until shimmering.  Add the chiles and garlic and stir-fry until fragrant, about 20 seconds.  Add the tofu and stir-fry until lightly colored and firm, about 2 minutes.  Add the bell pepper and soy mixture and stir-fry until the pepper has softened and the liquid has evaporated, about 1 1/2 minutes.  Stir in the basil and stir-fry until wilted, about 20 seconds.  Serve immediately.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

The picture of simplicity, these.  They remind me of the concept of Can Can Casserole, in that there’s no measuring – the packages are the exact size you need.  There’s something so modern about that.  (It really is just a concept – go to Google and look up “Can Can Casserole” and tell me if you can find the same recipe twice.)

These are delicious, marginally nutritious (you could argue for the peanut butter and graham crackers, or against the confectioner’s sugar and butter) and cute-as-the-dickens with sprinkles on them.

1 pack plain graham crackers (from a 16 oz. box, please), pulverized (in the food processor or blender or smashed to bits with a wooden mallet or other reasonably heavy swingable object)
1 box confectioners’ sugar
1-18 oz. jar peanut butter
2 sticks butter

1-12 oz. packaged chocolate chips, melted (a glass bowl and the microwave at low power with frequent stirrings are the best way to achieve this.)


In medium microwave-safe bowl, combine graham crackers and sugar and mix until combined.  Add butter and peanut butter, then microwave to soften to stirring consistency.  Mix until combined.  Press mixture into a 13 x 9 in. pan.

Pour the melted chocolate over the bars, and spread out evenly with a spatula.  Sprinkle with…sprinkles.  Place in refrigerator and allow to set for two hours.  To cut, remove from refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature to avoid breaking chocolate.  For best results, cut with a sharp knife dipped in hot water and wiped dry.  Cut 1 1/2 in. by 1 1/2 in. bars – these are intensely sweet.

Spicy Lithuanian “Mushroom” Cookies

First, let it be said that there are no mushrooms in these cookies.  These cookies are mushroom-shaped.  This recipe comes from the same book the granola recipe does.


These have a wonderfully heady smell, and when you bite into them, the powdered sugar icing crackles and the poppy seeds crunch against the spicy cookie.  They’re pretty intense.  These cookies were my introduction to cardamom, and may have something to do with my total willingness to eat the cardamom pods one comes across in rice pilaf and certain curries.  I can remember biting into a pod at Gulshan when I was 18, a restaurant just off Indian Restaurant Row in NYC that I went to as an NYU student, and being surprised by the sudden piney, resinous flavor – but I liked it, and there was something familiar about it.  I figured it out not long afterwards.

These cookies continue to be a holiday tradition at my mom’s house.  I make them as well, and they’re a great thing to contribute to a cookie swap, because they are unique and impressive.  (The other thing I usually bring to a cookie swap is chocolate peanut butter bars, because seriously, after you make these, you should give yourself a break.)

The original recipe says to let the flavors mellow for three or four days before serving.  I’ve yet to be able to manage that.  I’ve never found it to be a problem to enjoy these right away.

1/2 c. honey
1/4 c. sugar
2 T. firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 T. butter
1 egg
1 1/2 t. ground cardamom
1 1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1 1/2 t. ground ginger
1 1/2 t. ground cloves
1 1/2 t. ground nutmeg
1 1/2 t. fresh grated lemon rind
1 t. fresh grated orange rind
2 3/4 c. sifted all-purpose flour
3/4 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
2 T. cream or milk

For decorating:

2 c. powdered sugar
3 T. water
poppy seeds

Preheat oven to 350.  Heat the honey in the microwave using a glass measuring cup, then stir in the sugars, butter, egg, spices, and grated rinds.

Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt into a medium-size mixing bowl.  Add the honey mixture alternately with the cream or milk, stirring with a wooden spoon until blended.  Turn the dough out onto a floured board or pastry cloth.  Knead the dough, adding flour to the board as often as necessary to prevent sticking, for 5 or 6 minutes, until the dough is easy to handle and not at all sticky.  It should be firm enough to hold the impression of your finger.  Let the dough rest at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Divide the dough into four equal parts.  Make mushroom “stems” from one-quarter of the dough by shaping into four rolls, each about 12 inches long and about 3/8 inch in diameter.  Cut into 1-inch lengths.  Shape one end of each piece into a point with your fingers.  Place the stems on their sides 1 1/2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet.  Bake at 350 for about 7 minutes until firm.  Cool on wire racks.

Make “caps” by shaping remaining dough into 3/4-inch balls.  Hold a ball in the palm of your hand and make an indentation about 1/2 inch deep in each with the handle of a wooden spoon, twisting it in and out.  This is where the stem will later be inserted.  Place the caps, indented side down, on an ungreased baking sheet, spacing them about 1 1/2 inches apart.  Bake for about 12 minutes until the cookies are lightly browned on the bottom.  Cool on wire racks.

Press the powdered sugar through a coarse kitchen strainer to remove any lumps.  Blend it with 1 T. of the water until smooth.  Add the remaining 2 T. water, 1 t. at a time, beating well after each addition.

Enlarge indentations in caps if necessary with a small pointed knife.  Dip one end of each stem in frosting and insert in caps.  Dry the cookies, cap side down.  Dip the top of each cap in frosting, allowing any excess to drip back into the bowl.  While still wet, sprinkle the frosted caps with poppy seeds.

Place the cookies, stems down, into a cooling rack where they may dry undisturbed for several hours or overnight.  Pack in airtight containers and allow the flavor to mellow for three or four days before serving.

Makes about four dozen cookies.

Cucumber-Chickpea Salad

This is an easy one for when it’s very hot.

With the presence of the chickpeas, it’s substantial enough to be an entrée salad.  If you buy canned chickpeas, there’s no cooking required. However, if you buy dry ones and fully soak them, you can cook them in the pressure cooker by bringing it to pressure, cooking them under pressure for seven minutes, and then allowing the pressure to drop on its own off the heat. When the cooker is ready to open, they’ll be fully cooked. The nice thing about this method is that it tends to not blow the skins off or split the beans.


1 1/2 c. dry chickpeas, soaked for 8 hours or overnight (or two cans, rinsed and drained)

water to cover plus one inch

1 T. olive oil


2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and cut into chickpea-sized pieces

1-15 oz. jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped

5 oz. fresh spinach (one bag)

Drizzle of olive oil

2/3 c. fresh parsley, minced


1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 c. canola oil

2 T. red wine vinegar (or more to taste)

2 cloves minced garlic

salt and pepper to taste

Place chickpeas in pressure cooker and add water. Close cooker and bring to pressure. Cook seven minutes, then remove cooker from heat and set on a heatproof trivet. Allow pressure to drop of its own accord.

Place the spinach in a large bowl and season lightly with salt and pepper and a short drizzle of olive oil, then toss. Microwave for one minute, then stir and set aside to finish wilting. When the cooker can be opened, drain the beans and add to the large bowl. Add the cucmber, red pepper, spinach, and parsley as well, and toss.

In a glass measuring vessel, thoroughly mix together all the dressing ingredients, then pour over the contents of the bowl. Toss gently. Serve at room temperature. Makes 6 servings. Leftovers will keep a few days, but the spinach will not look very attractive past the second day.

If you are the type who likes crumbly, salty cheeses, feta or ricotta salata would be excellent atop this salad.

(Note on the slightly inaccurate photo: I thought I’d have the chickpeas separately, but it ended up better when I mixed everything together later that night.  I wrote the recipe as if I had done that straight away.)


Sesame Crisps

We were having a conversation about what you can do with tahini this morning in the office, and I mentioned the sesame cookies my mom made when I was little, which don’t actually have tahini in them but are strongly sesame-flavored nonetheless. That may sound a little odd, but they’re really much like the idea of peanut butter cookies, and sesame cookies have a long history in the South, where they’re called benne cookies (benne being an adapted African name for sesame).  The coconut in these may be a little non-traditional, but I sure do have fond memories of these cookies from childhood. I believe this recipe came from Joy of Cooking.

¾ c. sesame seeds

½ c. grated coconut (mom says she has used both sweetened and unsweetened with good results)

2 c. sifted flour

1 t. baking powder

½ t. baking soda

½ t. salt

1 c. brown sugar, firmly packed

1 egg

1 t. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spread seeds on a rimmed cookie sheet and toast in oven for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to promote even browning. Add coconut and return sheet to oven for additional 5 minutes, until seeds and coconut are golden brown.

Sift the flour together with the powder, soda, and salt.  Cream the butter in a large mixing bowl. Gradually add brown sugar and cream until light and fluffy.  Add egg, vanilla, sesame seeds and coconut.  Beat well.  Blend in sifted dry ingredients gradually and mix thoroughly. 

Shape balls of dough, using a rounded teaspoonful for each. Place three inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten to 1/8 in. thickness using your hand or the bottom of a glass. Bake for 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees, until golden.

Makes 48 cookies.