Viva La Vegan

Flatbread with a French Accent

A street-food staple from Nice is a vegan's best friend


TM_VV_SOCCA_AP_002For many vegans, chickpeas and chickpea flour are saving graces. Full of good fats, protein, and fiber, these delicious legumes are like hitting the nutritional jackpot.

Most people, vegans or otherwise, know chickpeas for their role in Middle Eastern cuisine; the ever-popular hummus is the classic example of a chickpea-based dish. One of the last places one might expect to encounter a flatbread composed of chickpea flour is Nice, in the southeast of France.

Yet that’s where socca, a pancake-like unleavened flatbread made almost exclusively of chickpea flour, water, salt, and olive oil, originates. Socca is a staple street food in the city of Nice and in the surrounding region. It is generally made quickly, using large cast-iron skillets in an open oven and is served in roughly chopped pieces, dripping with olive oil, with nothing but a generous dash of black pepper as accompaniment.

Such a plain, unglamorous dish may seem unappealing to some, but socca’s modesty intrigued me. What could it be about a simple preparation of flour and water that would purportedly make people devour entire pans of the stuff within minutes? I intended to find out. MORE

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Wasted food is one of the unfortunate facts of our modern lives (a recent study says that we toss between 30% and 50% of all food produced). We overbuy, we eat out on nights when we had planned to cook, and we let leftovers wither away into slimy puddles in the back of the fridge. For our planet to survive and thrive, we need to curb this waste.

While there are grand, systemic changes that need to occur to truly rectify this issue, there’s also a lot that we can do at home to reduce the amount of food that ends up in landfills. To my mind, the most important thing to do is to start seeing our aging and leftover food from a transformational perspective.

Leftovers from dinner can be scrambled into eggs for breakfast. The last bits of cheese can be blended into a pleasing spread the French call fromage fort. And then there’s stale bread. From use as a soup thickener, to bread puddings and panades to breadcrumbs, it can do almost anything. MORE

The Larder homemade soft pretzels

When I was first out of college, I spent exactly $.85 on breakfast each morning. On my way to work, I’d stop at the food truck parked outside the front door of the building and order a small coffee with cream and a soft pretzel. I’d hand over a short stack of quarters and dimes and get a brown paper sack with my order tucked neatly inside.

By the time I got to my desk, the pretzel would be slightly warm from the coffee and ready to shed large grains of salt all over my keyboard. I loved the ritual of starting my day that way.

Pretzels, whether hard or soft, have long been a staple in my life. When I was young, skinny pretzel sticks were the first solid food my sister and I would be allowed to have after a bought of stomach flu. Throughout high school, I bought those terrible, long-frozen-and-defrosted Super Pretzels from the cafeteria as an afterschool snack. And during college, my roommates and I would devour large bags of crunchy mini-twists during our study sessions, thinking them a healthier snack than the potato chips we truly craved. MORE


Whole Grains for a New Generation

Kick off the new year with delicious, healthy home cooking


The arrival of the New Year means that it’s time for clean slates and refreshed habits. I always look forward to January as a chance to reset and start being a little more intentional about how I spend my time and what I eat. For me, this means getting a little more sleep and reintroducing vegetables and whole grains into my kitchen. (I have a bad habit of losing all restraint during the holiday season.)

In past years, redoubling my whole grain efforts has mostly meant that I eat a lot of sautes with brown rice, pots of vegetable soup with barley, and slabs of salmon over quinoa. While moderately healthy, tasty, and filling, these meals aren’t particularly inspired or exciting.

This year is different, thanks to Liana Krissoff’s new book, Whole Grains for a New Generation. As follow-up to her book Canning for a New Generation, this volume contains whole grain recipes for every meal of the day. It’s one of those books that made me want to leap up and start cooking. So far, I’ve made four recipes from it and I have at least another 20 earmarked for the very near future. MORE

Gluten Free

Gluten-Free Holiday Treats

Flour-free cookies for sensitive Santas


Gluten free Christmas cookiesI recently decided to go gluten-free and, most of the time, it doesn’t really bug me. I don’t mind skipping the starchy foods I used to rely on for the easy quick-prep meals that characterized my diet. Of course, there are those little things I miss now and then, like whipping up a plate of fluffy pancakes on Sunday morning, or sinking my teeth into a really good slice of crispy thin-crust New York pizza.

But at this time of year, I’ve found myself only missing one thing: Cookies. When Thanksgiving ends and the holiday season officially begins, seemingly earlier than the year before, the pumpkin pies and cranberry scones disappear in favor of brightly decorated reindeer-shaped sugar cookies and wide-eyed smiling gingerbread men.

If you’re anything like me, you may be worried that your family won’t want to give up their usual holiday cookies in favor of gluten-free treats that you can enjoy. But here are some delicious alternatives everyone will love—so make sure you have extras! MORE

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During my childhood, my parents always gave homemade gifts to their friends, co-workers, and employees during the holiday season. My dad would stir up industrial-sized batches of his super-secret pancake mix, package it in zip top bags, and pair it with jars of my mom’s blueberry jam.

In exchange, we’d receive plates of chewy homemade toffees, tins of dense, sugar-dusted pfeffernusse and giant bags of long-roasted Chex Mix. (I loved the nearly burnt bits most of all.)

Since becoming an adult, I’ve spent years searching out my signature holiday treat, so that I could have a thing that my friends and neighbors would look forward to each December. I’ve tried tiny frosted sugar cookies (too much work), dark chocolate toffees (delicious, but I could not abide the endless wrapping), and pumpkin seed brittle (good, but not everyone likes grassy flavor of pumpkin seeds). MORE

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The way some people love antique furniture, I love antique pie recipes. Vintage American cookbooks are full of with mysterious, alluring recipes that hardly anyone bakes anymore — Marlborough pie, Osgood pie, syrup pie, brown-sugar pie, boiled cider pie — and they fascinate me. What does a Kentucky transparent pie taste like? Is it actually transparent? Why did people stop making Tyler pies? Are we missing out on something? Or do recipes go extinct for a reason?

About fifteen years ago I baked a chess pie, a vintage dessert still popular in the South, and I have baked one for Thanksgiving ever since. It is my favorite pie in the world, filled with a blond, jelly-like custard.  What other lovely vintage pies would I discover if I started searching?  This year, I decided to try to find a great old American pie to resurrect for the Thanksgiving table. I mined my old cookbooks for intriguing recipes, ruling out any that sounded remotely familiar. No chocolate pies, no lemon pies, no apple pies.  As I told my daughter Isabel, “The pies have to be antique.” MORE

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My mom grew up in the fifties and sixties, in one of those idyllic suburban neighborhoods where kids walked to school unsupervised and played outside in the afternoons until the streetlights came on.

There was no better day of the year in her community than October 31. The streets would fill with miniature hobos, ghosts and witches, all clutching brown paper shopping bags to hold their treats, warm winter coats concealing most of their costumes.

These were the days before candy companies got wise and started producing snack and “fun” sized candy bars and long before homemade treats were deemed dangerous. This meant that my mom’s grocery sack ended up filled with full-sized Snickers and Chunky bars, freshly baked gingerbread men from Mrs. Rath and Mr. Brown’s famous popcorn balls. MORE


Not Your Mama’s Cookies

Win a copy of Hedy Goldsmith's new cookbook, Baking Out Loud


When it comes to home baking, I tend to be utilitarian. I can turn out a serviceable loaf of banana bread, am fairly comfortable with basic yeast doughs and make a mean oatmeal chocolate chip cookie. However, once I stray beyond my familiar territory, things often go sideways.

It’s not that I’m not interested in more adventurous baking, I simply haven’t had much luck when I’ve tried things like homemade Oreo-style sandwich cookies (the filling separated and tasted like a grease slick) and many-layered cakes (never has a baked good so resembled the leaning tower of Pisa). And while even the ugliest disaster can still be delicious, it’s nice when you find that sweet spot of both visual and palatable success.

Knowing this, you’ll understand that I approached Hedy Goldsmith’s Baking Out Loud with both excitement and a little trepidation. Goldsmith is a pastry chef based in Miami, Florida, who is known for making over-the-top versions of familiar treats (like Twinkies and Cracker Jacks) and her glossy, beautifully photographed first book contains many of the items that have made her famous throughout the South. MORE