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Wow, August has been such a fulfilling and busy month. Somehow my last post was four weeks ago from Vermont! I stayed in that lovely state for nearly two weeks, came home for less than week, then was in Seattle for eight days. And now I’m in Philadelphia, celebrating my sister Emily’s 30th birthday, along with our older sister Hope. Traveling is good for my soul, less great for blogging.

I wasn’t about to show up in Philly empty handed so a birthday treat was in order. Cupcakes? Nah. A regular ole flour-based cake? Seemed uninspired. Blueberries are still in season and I’ve been interested in exploring more vegan and raw desserts so I turned to Emily von Euw’s blog, which has become one of my favorites to explore lately, and sure enough, got inspired.

Like a lot of raw and vegan desserts, this cake takes its base from a combination of nuts, coconut oil, and sweetener (in this case, maple syrup). And like a cheesecake, this cake ends up tasting creamy and rich, with strong overtones of the cashew flavor. It is freaking good. Find some local blueberries and keep that oven off. This was super easy to make and garners lots of “oohs” and “ahhs” and “wow, it’s vegan and raw?” And gluten free, as long as your oats are. So almost everyone can eat this cake!

Oh and are you following me on Instagram? I hope you will! @laduelala

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Blueberry Cheesecake
adapted from Emily von Euw

Crust
1 1/4 cup rolled oats
1 1/4 dates
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
drizzle of maple syrup

Filling
2 1/4 cup raw, unsalted cashews, soaked overnight (or at least a few hours) and drained
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Juice from 1 small lemon or 1/2 large lemon
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 coconut oil
Scant 1 cup water (less if water is transferred from your cashew’s soaking liquid)
2 1/4 cups blueberries

To make the crust: you’re essentially making oat flour out of your oats. Process in a blender until you achieve a pretty fine texture. If using a food processor or a blender with blades like a Ninja blender, then add the dates and maple syrup and process until it becomes one sticky mass. If using a regular blender, you will want to transfer the oat flour to a bowl and add the dates and maple syrup, mashing with your hands until it becomes a sticky dough. Then press the dough into the bottom of an 8-inch cake pan to form a crust (a springform pan would probably work great, but I don’t have one). I placed a large piece of saran wrap as a liner in my cake pan, underneath the oat crust. Chill in the refrigerator while you do the next steps.

To make the filling: blend everything together except the blueberries until it forms a thick and creamy mixture. Mine was a little watery so I added approximately two tablespoons of oats and re-blended, which helped. But go easy on that cup of water, start with a little less perhaps so you can judge the consistency. Poor half of this mixture onto the chilled crust in the cake pan. Then place one cup of the blueberries on top of this layer. Blend the remaining cup of blueberries with the remaining filling and process until smooth. Poor this on top of the blueberry layer. Chill in the refrigerator until it sets (a few hours at least), or you can place in the freezer, which is what I did, since I had to transport it to Philly. We made it.

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Here are some Seattle photos from last week.

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Olympic Sculpture Park right after sunrise.

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The International Fountain, in the shadow of the Space Needle. Kids love this place!
IMG_6054The Samarya Center, a yoga studio recommended by my teacher back home in New York, had the sweetest class there with founder Molly Lannon Kenny.

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Loved this store in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle called Totokaelo, a mashup of clothing, pottery, art journals, textiles, lighting design, and shoes. Found my friend Paul’s journal Convolution there, above, in orange.

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Sarah and I.

IMG_6095Molly Moon’s ice cream. Had maybe the best salted caramel I’d ever tried. Their waffle cones are made to order.

 

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“I like to hang out with people who make me forget to look at my phone.”
-quote I heard recently

I’m in the middle of my summer sabbatical. As some of you know, each summer I take time off from my life in New York City and retreat to my on-again off-again childhood home of Vermont. This is the loveliest time of year in one of the loveliest places on earth. (That’s a fact by the way, not some silly opinion; seriously, check wikipedia.) The Champlain Valley of Vermont: the western side of the state, close to Lake Champlain, and not as far north as you can get, but pretty up there. It is where my heart feels most at home, most at ease. My father and stepmother have the good fortune of calling this place home year round. Up here in the summer I can swim in their pond, shower outside under the stars, read in the hammock on the back porch, and this month, play—or attempt to play—with the three new kittens that were born in their garage. We pick chard and kale and cukes and tomatoes and dill and basil from the garden.

It’s been a good summer for me so far but not without its challenges. I have been working harder than almost any other time in the past few years, while also tending to a tender heart. As you may have noticed I have not been too focused on making or writing about food and I miss it. Although I am editing a cookbook this summer and it’s been both a great pleasure and challenge and once I’m done with the manuscript can hopefully share some of the recipes here.

The only hitch in these lovely summer sojourns is that my time in Vermont must come to an end, and as much as I like Brooklyn, I never want to return to my 400-square-foot apartment or riding the subway or meetings or general lack of lakes to swim in.

While up here though, I, on occasion, leave what we call “the compound,” and venture out to swim in the lake, meet friends for dinner at Black Sheep Bistro, get pastries at Vergennes Laundry, shop at the Middlebury Food Coop (where I worked in high school!), eat ice cream at Lulu’s in Bristol (slumdog millionaire ice cream flavor anyone?), or, like I did today, go blueberry picking. Pelkey’s is the go-to place to pick blueberries in this part of the state in August. I’ve been doing it every summer for the last number of years in a row. Here’s a blueberry cobbler recipe on my blog from July 2011 (and an unrelated potato and green bean salad from July 2012, and a summer roundup from Vermont in August 2012).
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I picked six pounds of blueberries today in just under an hour. I would have stayed and picked double that but I was with friends including a one-year-old in need of a nap and it was about 85 degrees and I was without a hat to block the sun. So, what to make with all these blueberries? My friend Emmanuelle gave me a great idea the other day: Nigel Slater’s Cake for Midsummer, a not-too-sweet peach-and-blueberry inflected cake with hints of almond and orange zest. Slater, being from the UK, writes in the metric system of course, but so does the chef I’m working with and so metric to imperial conversions have become a snap for me.

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A Midsummer Cake

adapted from Nigel Slater
serves 8–10

175 grams unsalted butter, room temp (about 1 1/2 sticks)
175 grams sugar (orig. recipe, I reduced to 2/3 cup and used half white half brown sugar)
2 large eggs
175 grams flour (approx. 1 1/4 cup)
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
100 grams ground almonds (scant 1 cup)*
1 tsp grated orange zest + splash of orange juice
a few drops of vanilla extract
200 grams ripe peaches, roughly chopped (1 peach)
150 grams blueberries (approx. 1 cup)

Grease and flour an 8- or 9-inch round cake pan. Preheat the oven to 340 degrees Fahrenheit (170 degrees Celsius).

Using an electric or stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. (Use good butter if you can, it makes a difference here in the flavor.) One by one add the eggs and beat until combined.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and almonds then add, gradually, to the butter and sugar mixture. Add the orange zest, splash of juice, vanilla, and incorporate. Then fold in the chopped peaches and blueberries.

Transfer the mixture to the cake pan and bake for 50 minutes to an hour and ten minutes, depending on the size of your pan. My 9-inch pan required about a 57-minute baking time. An 8-inch pan might take an extra five minutes or so. Stick a toothpick in and it should come out clean. Let the cake cool before sliding it out onto a serving plate. Some unsweetened freshly whipped cream would be a nice accompaniment, as would a strong cup of tea.

*I think a neat substitution would be cornmeal in place of the almonds. Or, buckwheat flour in place of the all-purpose flour.

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It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood. A warm, sunny, almost no humidity Saturday in Brooklyn.

Bike: check. Saddle bag: check. Sunglasses, money: check check. Recipe? No la tengo.

I usually head to the market with a pretty good idea of what I want to buy and cook.  Not this weekend. Inspired in part by the new cookbook I’m editing, where the author’s focus is on method and what’s fresh, what inspires—rather than following a recipe exactly—I set off for the market with open eyes.

I went in search of what looked good. What’s in season right now, this week. I heard a rumor cherries were in and was hoping I might snag some of those.

But I got to the market late. One stall had em, not many, but I asked if they sprayed and the guy said yes. I appreciated his honesty but walked on by. If I’m buying produce from a Greenmarket I try at least to buy spray-free if not organic, even though it does cost more.

There was only one organic stand at the entire Grand Army Plaza market, at least that I could see. And the poor guy isn’t even on the main stretch with the other vendors but set back from the fray. Willow Wisp Organic Farm from Damascus, Pennsylvania. He did not have cherries. But kohlrabi, a variety of bok choy, cilantro, dill, numerous types of lettuces and radishes, and squash. Lots of squash.

That got me thinking. I’d buy my first zucchini of the summer and make a faux pasta with it. I have lots of basil growing at home so that would make for a nice combination. I bought some of the garlic scapes from Willow Wisp too, thinking I’d mash them with the basil and some olive oil. I knew I also had olives and walnuts back home and thought they’d add some nice saltiness and crunch. A raw and vegan (and gluten-free, if you’re into that kind of thing) lunch that takes just moments to put together.

This is a kind of lazy man’s pesto with big payoff. And a recipe of sorts just begging to be messed with. Just start with the zucchini squash and you can add whatever looks good or in season.
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If you’ve never made “pasta” from zucchini before it’s simple. You can use a regular vegetable peeler and slice the squash lengthwise—you’ll end up with a big heap of zucchini strands that look remarkably like fettuccine. Garlic scapes are the long, curly stalks that jut out from garlic plants. You can chop the green curly scape and use it much like you would garlic; the flavor is milder but you will still end up with potent garlic breath.

There’s a blog I’ve been reading called This Rawsome Vegan Life and a while back I tried one of her recipes for a raw, vegan, zucchini pasta with sundried tomatoes. This is a kind of riff on that, so thank you Emily!

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Zucchini Pasta with Basil and Garlic Scapes
Raw, vegan & gluten free
Serves 2

1/4 c olive oil
Handful of fresh basil, roughly chopped
1 garlic scape, diced (1-2 tbsp)
Zest of one lemon
Juice of one lemon (more or less to taste)
Red chili flakes, pinch
2 large zucchini or 3 medium
1/4 c walnuts, rough chop
1/4 c black olives, rough chop
Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine the olive oil, basil, scapes, lemon zest and juice, and chili flakes in a glass or jar and muddle, trying to extract flavor from the basil leaves. Set aside for at least 15 minutes and prepare the pasta.

Using a vegetable peeler, slice the zucchini lengthwise until you end up with a heap of long strands. Place in a large bowl and toss with the basil oil. Let this sit for 10-15 minutes before eating, the zucchini will absorb more of the flavors. Add the walnuts and olives before serving. Salt and pepper to taste.

This recipe could be made with any number of substitutions or additions. Regular garlic (or none) instead of the scapes. Sundried tomatoes. Capers. Shallots. I think the most important part thing to get right is enough acidity, spice, and salt. Or fresh peas and ricotta or feta with mint instead of basil.

Miscellaneous…
The two bottom photos are of Rockaway Beach from this past weekend and an art show hosted in part by PS1 at the Rockaway Beach Surf Club. My friend Shingo Francis’s work is the blue piece. I’m kind of regretting right now I didn’t stay for the Patti Smith – Michael Stipe – James Franco performance(s)!

And a final note on the World Cup: not pleased that Mexico lost to the Netherlands today, and not until the 88th minute or so. Looking forward to watching US-Belgium Tuesday.

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