Category Archives: Breakfast

Dark Chocolate Cherry Muffins

You rarely find fresh cherries in pastries and desserts because cherries aren’t available year-round like other fruits. In California, cherry season is from mid-April to early June, so if you blink you just might miss it. This week, I bought the last of the season cherries from Murray Family Farms. While Murray’s won’t have any more cherries available this season, there are other farmers that will have cherries available for a couple more weeks, but after that we’ll have to wait until next year.

Due to limited availability and a very short season, I am always torn whether to just eat them fresh or bake with them. With that said, I do enjoy adding fresh cherries to baked goods. In this recipe, I created a dark chocolate muffin recipe with fresh cherries. The slightly bitter chocolate and the tart dark cherries compliment each other well. These muffins are moist in the center and crunchy on top from the raw turbinado sugar, which adds a golden brown color that contrasts nicely with the dark brown muffins. Try this recipe before cherry season is over. Enjoy!

Dark Chocolate Cherry Muffins

Yield: About 16 muffins

2 cups of Sonora wheat flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup of Valrhona cocoa powder or unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt
½ cup of unsalted butter, soften
3/4 cup of sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup of sour cream
1/3 cup of whole milk
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups of pitted and chopped ripe dark cherries (Bing or Tulare)
2/3 cup of dark chocolate chips
Turbinado sugar for topping

1. Preheat the oven to 350° and line the muffin pans with cupcake liners.

2. In a medium bowl, add the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk and break up any lumps. If the cocoa powder is lumpy, sift the dry ingredients.

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3. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the sugar and butter on medium speed for 2 minutes.

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4. Add one egg, beat until combined. Add the second egg ask beat well until smooth.

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5. Add sour cream, milk, and the vanilla extract. Beat until the mixture is smooth.image6. Set the mixer on low speed. Slowly add the in the dry ingredients until just a few streaks of flour is visible. Turn off the mixer and release the bowl.

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7. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the dark chocolate chips and the cherries, but don’t over mix.

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8. Scoop the batter with a large ice cream scoop into a lined muffin pan. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar.

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9. Bake for 20-22 minutes, but don’t overbake. Check with a toothpick at the 20 minute mark.

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10. When the muffins are done, immediately remove them from the muffin pans and transfer to a cooling rack. Cool for 10 minutes and serve with a tall glass of milk or coffee.

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Long-Cooked Broccoli Frittata

I first tried long-cooked broccoli at Campanile restaurant, visiting the restaurant many Thursday nights to eat one of their delicious sandwich creations. Nancy Silverton, former owner of La Brea Bakery and co-owner of Campanile, is the genius behind the delicious long-cooked broccoli sandwich, and this broccoli was unlike any I had ever eaten. It was soft but not mushy, and slightly sweet with lovely caramel notes. The long cooking process helps draw out the natural sugars from the broccoli. Though she has since sold La Brea Bakery and Campanile has closed its doors, Silverton has written many cookbooks, and in one she shares her recipe for long-cooked broccoli. I’ve used the recipe many times and have adapted it slightly here, adding it to my frittata recipe.

This frittata is delicious, but he broccoli is the star in this recipe. While the broccoli does takes about 1 1/2 hours to cook, don’t let the long cooking time intimidate you. You only need to stir the dish occasionally during cooking, so you can go exercise, prep other food, or read a book – just stay nearby so you check up on it from time to time. This the perfect dish to make on a leisurely Sunday morning, and I recommend serving it with light salad dressed with balsamic vinaigrette. As an alternative, you could use this long-cooked broccoli in pasta or on pizza. Enjoy!

 
Long-Cooked Broccoli Frittata

Serves 6

12 ounces of broccoli head (sliced 1/4″ thin)
1/8 cup of Kosher salt
1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves of garlic (thinly sliced)
1/2 small onion (thinly sliced)
3/4 teaspoon of sea salt
1/8 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
8 large eggs
2 tablespoons of heavy cream (optional)
1/4 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus extra for topping
1/4 teaspoon of freshly-grated black pepper

1. Bring 2 quarts of water and 1/8 cup salt to boil. Add the broccoli and boil for 2 minutes.

2. While the broccoli is boiling, get an ice water bath ready.

3. When the broccoli is ready, using a spider strainer, transfer broccoli to a ice water bath. Remove the broccoli and pat with paper towels until dry.

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4. In a 12″ stainless steel sauté pan, add the olive oil, blanched broccoli, onion, garlic, sea salt, and red pepper flakes.

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5. Cook over low heat for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

It should look like this at the halfway point.

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6. Once the broccoli is done, preheat the oven to 375°.

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7. In a large bowl, crack the 8 eggs. Add the the heavy cream and whisk.

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8. Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and the black pepper. Give it another good whisk.

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9. Turn up heat to high on the broccoli. Wait 1 minute. Add the eggs over the broccoli. Cook over the burner for 1 minute. Transfer to the the oven.

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10. Bake for about 10 minutes. Make sure the center is set and not jiggly. Broil for 1 minute until the top is golden brown.

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11. Remove from the oven. Loosen the frittata using a fish spatula. Transfer to a clean cutting board. Grate additional Parmigiano-Reggiano. Slice into 6 triangles.

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12. Serve warm with a side salad. I like to serve it bottom side up, since it has a nice golden color.

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Wild Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry is one of the most popular muffin flavors at a bakery. You will typically find this flavor alongside chocolate, bran and lemon poppy seed. For me, though, I grew up baking and eating blueberry muffins from a box. I remember Betty Crocker had a blueberry muffin mix that came with a can of wild blueberries from Maine – you drained the blueberries and folded them in at the end before baking. The muffin batter was rather ordinary but the wild blueberries, bursting with intense flavor, made up for it. Then I finally had a blueberry muffin from a fancy bakery. Since they used fresh local California blueberries, I expected the muffin to be spectacular but I was a bit disappointed. The muffin itself was good, but the blueberries were lacking in flavor.

So what makes a good blueberry muffin? First and foremost, intense blueberry flavor. You want the blueberry flavor to seep into the batter. I’ve made blueberry muffins with fresh local berries but find that frozen wild blueberries from the Northeast had the best flavor, at least for baking. Second, you want a dense but moist muffin. You achieve this by not overbeating the eggs and by using sour cream and oil in the batter instead of butter. The reason I usually don’t use butter in most of my muffin recipes is because, since it is solid at room temperature, it tends to harden the muffins once they are a day old. Finally, I like to add sugar crystals on the top to create some texture. It gives the dome a nice crunchy top. Try this recipe and let me know what you think. Enjoy!

Wild Blueberry Muffins

Yield: 1 dozen

1 1/3 cups frozen organic wild blueberries*
1 tablespoon of sugar
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup coconut oil (or a neutral flavored oil like organic canola)
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sour cream
Sugar crystals* or raw sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350° and line a muffin pan with 10 cupcake liners. Set aside.

2. Take the frozen blueberries and 1 tablespoon of sugar and toss together in a small bowl. Set aside.

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3. In large bowl, add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk and set aside.

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4. In a glass measuring cup, whisk the milk and sour cream. Set aside.

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5. In a stand mixer, beat the coconut oil and granulated sugar on medium speed for 1 minute.

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6. Reduce the speed to medium low. Add the the eggs, one at a time, beating until just blended. Scrape the sides of the bowl.

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7. Add the milk and sour cream mixture and vanilla. Beat until just combined.

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8. On the lowest setting, slowly add the flour until just combined. Don’t overbeat.

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9. Remove the bowl off the mixer. Add the blueberries to the batter and fold gently with a rubber spatula until just combined. Be careful not to crush the blueberries.

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10. Scoop the batter with a large ice cream scoop into lined muffin pan. Sprinkle with sugar crystals.

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11. Bake in the oven on the center rack for about 20-25 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Turn the oven to the broil setting and broil for 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven and remove the muffins from the muffin pan. Place the muffins on a wire rack to cool. Cool for about 15 minutes. Serve with butter.

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*You can find frozen wild blueberries at specialty markets like Trader Joe’s.

Refrigerator Strawberry Vanilla Jam

When strawberries are in season and plentiful at the farmers market, one of my favorite (and easiest) projects is to make strawberry jam. Not to be confused with preserves – which involves a specific preserving process – jam can just be jarred and will keep in the refrigerator for up to three weeks. I prefer to make my own jams because I find most store-bought versions to be too thick and too sweet, but one brand I do like is Bonne Maman, which is imported from France. I actually modeled my homemade jam after their preserves, which have the consistency and level of sweetness that I am looking for, and as a result my recipe uses 1/3 less sugar than most other recipes.

This recipe is relatively simple, but some attention is required during the active cooking process. The key to a successful jam is making sure you stir often so the sugars don’t burn on the bottom, and making sure not to overcook it. You want the jam to flow nicely when you spread it on bread, but not to be runny where it looks like a sauce. Testing the cooked jam on a cold plate will tell you what the consistency will be like once the jam cools.

This strawberry jam only uses five ingredients and can be made in less than 15 minutes, so you can make it whenever you run out. It also has lovely vanilla notes from the added vanilla seeds. Enjoy your jam session!

Refrigerator Strawberry Vanilla Jam

Yield: One 8-ounce jar

1 lb of fresh strawberries (washed, hulled, and sliced 1/4 thick) about 4 cups sliced.
2/3 cups of sugar
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1 two-inch piece of vanilla bean
1/8 teaspoon of Fleur de Sel or flaky sea salt

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1. Place a small plate in the freezer. Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise, down the middle. Scrape the seeds out using a small paring knife.

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2. In a 12-inch copper or stainless steel pan, add the strawberries, sugar, lemon juice, and the seeds of the vanilla bean. Stir to combine.

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3. Set on a burner at high heat. Cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring often. After 5 minutes, your mixture should have this consistency.

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4. After about 9 minutes, remove the plate out of the freezer. At the 10 minute mark, test the jam’s consistency by placing a 1/2 teaspoon on the plate. It should be loose and not run down the plate. If it runs down the plate, cook for a couple more minutes, but don’t over cook. A good jam should not be too thick when refrigerated.

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5. Remove from heat and stir in the Fleur de Sel.

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6. Spoon into a clean 8-ounce mason jar. Cool for 10 minutes. Add the lid and place in the refrigerator to chill. The jam keeps in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

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Chicken and Mushroom Omurice

One of my favorite foreign films is Tampopo, a hilariously fun “ramen western.” The main storyline focuses on the quest to make the best ramen with bizarre food-related vignettes imbedded throughout the movie. One of my favorite scenes is when a vagabond sneaks into a restaurant kitchen and makes a perfectly cooked omurice (Japanese rice omelet) for a young boy. You can tell the vagabond was a skilled cook by the way he maneuvered the scrambled egg in a pan. Tampopo Omurice Clip. After watching that scene I wanted omurice so badly, I went into the kitchen made my own.

Although omurice originated in Japan, Koreans have adopted this breakfast dish and many Korean home cooks make the dish for their children. This rice omelet is so popular with Korean kids, in fact, there’s even a childhood song about it. So what is in omurice, you ask? The main ingredient is cooked rice, but the condiment that gives the rice a reddish hue is ketchup. I know the recipe sounds weird, but trust me, it’s pretty good and kids love it. My recipe has soy sauce to temper the tartness of the ketchup and sautéed shiitake mushrooms for more savory notes. You’ll get sweet, sour, salted and umami flavors in one bite. The trickiest part of this dish is making the perfectly football-shaped egg omelet, or you can fry the egg-like crepe and drape it over the rice instead. Either way it’s delicious! Enjoy!

Chicken and Mushroom Omurice

Serves 4

1 1/2 tablespoons of sunflower oil or other neutral oil (used in two steps)
1/4 cup of chopped onion, small dice
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 ounces of fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and thinly sliced
1/4 cup of chopped roasted red bell pepper
2 tablespoons of organic ketchup*
1 tablespoon of organic soy sauce*
2 teaspoons of Maggi or 1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon of brown sugar
3 cups of cooked short-grain rice
6 ounces of chopped, marinated, and cooked chicken (recipe below)
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons of fresh cooked peas or frozen peas
Freshly grated black pepper
8 eggs, beaten with a pinch of salt
1/2 cup of omurice sauce (recipe below)

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1. Heat a wok or large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil. Then add the chopped onion and sauté for about 2 minutes.

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2. Add the mushrooms and the garlic to the wok and sauté for 3 more minutes or until all the liquid is evaporated. Add the chopped red bell pepper and sauté for one more minute.

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3. Next, add the ketchup, soy sauce, Maggi, and brown sugar to the wok. Stir well. Cook the sauce until it starts to bubble.

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4. At the cooked rice. Stir to coat the sauce over the rice. Add the cooked chicken and stir well for about 1 minute.

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5. Finally, add the chopped green onions and peas and stir until they are evenly distributed into the rice mixture. Taste for seasoning to see if it needs salt or pepper. Turn off the heat and cover the rice to keep warm while making the omelet.

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6. Heat a 6-inch nonstick pan on medium heat. Add a 1/2 tablespoon of oil. Add some beaten eggs to the pan, just enough to coat the entire pan (this will be about 2 eggs or 6 tablespoons)

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7. Now you have to work quickly. Once the eggs start to cook on the bottom, quickly tilt the pan away from. Start folding the egg using your wrist to create an omelet that resembles a football. You want the center to be runny.

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8. Place a mound of omurice rice mixture, the same size has the omelet, on a plate. Carefully placed the omelet on the mound of rice.

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9. Spoon some sauce on top of the omelet and sprinkle with some chopped green onions. Make 3 more omelets. Serve with Japanese pickles.

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Marinated Chicken for Omurice

2 chicken tenders (about 6-7 ounces), chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 teaspoon of soy sauce
1 teaspoon of sake
1/2 teaspoon of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of organic cornstarch*
1 teaspoon of sunflower oil.

1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl and let marinate for 20 minutes.

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2. Heat a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan and add the marinated chicken in one layer. Leave undisturbed for about one minute.

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3. Flip the chicken over and cook for another 30 seconds.

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4. Quickly sauté for about 1 more minute. Transfer to a bowl and set aside for the omurice recipe.

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Omurice Sauce

1/2 cups of organic ketchup*
1 tablespoon of brown sugar
1 teaspoon of mirin
1 teaspoon of organic soy sauce*
1/2 teaspoon of mustard powder

1. Place all the ingredients in a small nonreactive sauce pan. Stir well breaking up the brown sugar.

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2. Cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes or until the sauce starts to bubble.

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3. Turn off heat and cover with a lid until ready to use.
*If at all possible, try to use organic corn-based or soy-based products. Most of the corn syrup, cornstarch, and soy products sold in the stores are GMO.

Apple Ricotta Fritters

Making donuts at home can be a major undertaking. There are so many steps involved: wake up early to make the dough, let it rise, roll it out, cut out circles, let them rise again, fry them (in lots of oil), and finally glaze them. I get tired just thinking about the whole process! Unless you have a large family, it’s a lot of work, especially when there are cheap donut shops everywhere. With that said, I’ve developed a shortcut for making donuts at home. Rather than make traditional donuts, I make yeast-free donut holes. There is no rise time with this dough and you don’t need to roll it out either. They are delicious and some of the easiest donuts you’ll ever make.

Here’s my recipe made into mini apple fritters. It is a baking powder-based dough, and the addition of ricotta gives these fritters a light and moist texture. All you need to do is scoop the dough right into the fryer, like hush puppies. I learned about ricotta fritters from Nancy Silverton (co-founder of Mozza and formerly owner of La Brea Bakery) when she visited my culinary school years ago. Unlike the cloyingly sweet and greasy apple fritters at your local donut shop, these are light, mildly sweet, and not oily. My son said they remind him of beignets.

The recipe is pretty easy to follow, but please make sure you prep the ricotta the night before. And as with all my recipes, please read the entire recipe before you start. Happy frying!

Apple Ricotta Fritters

Yield: about 2 dozen

1 tablespoon of butter
1 tart apple (pink lady, honey crisp or Granny Smith), medium-sized, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
21/2 tablespoons of sugar (divided)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon Calvados* (optional)
3/8 teaspoon of Kosher salt
1 1/2 cups of sunflower oil
8 ounces of ricotta cheese (drained over a fine sieve or cheese cloth overnight)
1 cup of Sonora wheat flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
2 large eggs
2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon of organic corn syrup*
Coating
1/2 cup of organic confectioners sugar*
1 teaspoon of cinnamon

 
1. Heat a small sauté pan over medium heat. Add the butter until melted. Add the apple, 1 1/2 tablespoon of sugar, cinnamon, pinch of salt, and Calvados. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. You want the apples to be soft and the sauce to be thick, syrupy in consistency. Transfer the apple mixture to a bowl to cool.

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2. While the mixture is cooling, place the oil in a 1 quart heavy bottomed pan (copper or stainless steel ). Place a candy thermometer in the pan and bring the oil to 360°.

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3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Whisk well.

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4.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. At the eggs, vanilla extract, and corn syrup. Using a fork, whisk the flour into the wet ingredients until just combined. Don’t over mix.

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5. Add the ricotta, breaking it up into pieces with your hands. Using a rubber spatula, fold it gently into the flour mixture. You will see chunks of ricotta pieces. Don’t over mix.

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6. Next, fold in the cooked apples until just combined.

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7. Using a 1 tablespoon-sized ice cream scoop, scoop 6 round balls into the hot oil. Do not get tempted to add more fritters or the oil temperature will drop and create an oily and soggy texture.

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8. Fry them for about 1 minute and 30 seconds on one side and the turn them over and fry them for 1 more minute. You’re looking for a deep golden color.

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9. Transfer fritters to a paper towel-lined colander and blot any excess oil.

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10. Return the oil to 360° and fry 6 more fritters. Repeat this process until all the fritters are done.

11. In a small bowl whisk together the confectioners sugar and cinnamon.

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12. Using a small sieve, dust the apple fritters with the powdered sugar mixture. Shake to coat evenly.

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13. As with most fried food, they are best eaten when warm, but surprisingly these apple fritters still taste great hours after they’ve been fried. Enjoy them with a hot cup of coffee.

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*Calvados is an apple brandy. You can find it in most large grocery stores.

*If at all possible, try to use organic corn-based products. Most of the corn syrup and cornstarch sold in the stores are GMO.

Walnut Pesto Rice Bowl

Now that the New Year is here, one of resolutions on many people’s lists is to eat healthier. Here is a vegetarian brunch dish that is easy to assemble. The inspiration behind this dish comes from the sorrel pesto rice bowl from Sqirl Cafe and Bakery in Los Angeles. Their unique and delicious rice bowl is made with organic brown rice, sorrel pesto, picked radishes, preserved Meyer lemons, sheep’s feta, hot sauce and a poached egg. This dish is so popular that people will wait in line for well over an hour to order it and, on the weekends, it is almost impossible find an open table at the restaurant. To avoid the long wait in the lines, I decided to create my own version.

My pesto bowl is made with a walnut pesto recipe. I prefer walnuts over pine nuts because they have a better flavor and nutritional value. I also added lemon zest and lemon juice to mimic the sorrel flavor for this recipe. I’m not big fan of feta so I used goat cheese in mine, but you can use feta instead if you prefer. This recipe only make two bowls, but you can always double the recipe if you want to feed a family. Here is to healthy start for the New Year! Enjoy!

Walnut Pesto Bowl

Serving Size: 2

3 tablespoons of chopped yellow bell pepper, small dice
3 teaspoons of white vinegar, divided
2 small red radishes, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
Kosher salt
2 farm fresh eggs
1/4 cup of walnut pesto, plus extra for serving (recipe below)
2 1/2 cups of cooked organic brown rice (short grain)
1 ounce of goat cheese, crumbled
2 basil leaves, julienned for plating
Jalapeño hot sauce for serving, optional
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

1. In a medium pot, bring 5 cups of water to boil. Add 1 teaspoon of white vinegar.

2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, add the diced yellow bell pepper, 2 teaspoons of white vinegar, and a pinch of Kosher salt. Let it sit for 5 minutes. Remove as much of the liquid as possible, squeezing the liquid from the bell peppers. Set aside.

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3. In another small bowl, add the thinly sliced red radishes, lemon juice and a pinch of Kosher salt. Let it sit for 5 minutes. Remove as much of the liquid as possible, squeezing the liquid from the radishes. Set aside.

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4. Once the pot of water comes to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer. Crack the eggs one at a time into the water. Make sure you leave enough space in between the two eggs so they don’t cook together. Poach for about 2 minutes or until the egg sets but the center is still soft and runny. Remove with a slotted spoon and place onto a paper towel lined plate. Set aside.

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5. Add the cooked brown rice to a medium bowl, making sure it’s hot. (If not, heat in the microwave with a damp paper towel over it.) Add the walnut pesto and mix to combine.

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6. Divide the pesto rice into two bowls. Garnish with the radishes, crumbled goat cheese, chopped quick pickled yellow peppers and top with the poached eggs. Sprinkle some chopped basil, sea salt and freshly grated black pepper. Add a little extra pesto or jalapeño sauce, if using. Serve immediately.

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Walnut Pesto

1 1/2 cups of organic basil leaves
1/4 cup of toasted walnut, chopped
1 garlic clove (thinly sliced)
1/4 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 teaspoon of lemon zest
2 tablespoon of lemon juice
Salt
Freshly ground pepper
2/3 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
Red pepper flakes (optional)

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1) In a blender or food processor, add the basil, walnuts, garlic, cheese, lemon zest, lemon juice, pinch of salt, pepper and a couple tablespoons of oil in a blender. Pulse a few times. You made need to use a rubber spatula to push down the basil leaves.

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2) Keep the lid on but remove the plastic cap. Turn on the blender (or food processor) and slowly add the remainder of the oil in a slow stream. Blend until the pesto is smooth. Taste for seasoning and add more salt as needed.

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3) Transfer to a bowl. Use immediately or refrigerate for up to one week.

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