April 24, 2015

A Different Kind of Recipe

I’ve spent the past many weeks working on something a little different.  Since last August, I’ve spent far less time in my kitchen than normal, and far more time on my couch cooking up this:

2015-04-15 16.07.24

There were the months of nausea where I couldn’t even stomach the idea of being in the kitchen, let alone actually eating anything.  The aches and pains of later pregnancy.  And finally, the combination of itchy palms and feet, nausea and vomiting, and severe upper right quadrant rib pain that let to the diagnosis of cholestasis, and a rather unexpected Friday afternoon phone call while I was in the middle of a Biacore experiment telling me I needed to come in that very day for an induction.  Cholestasis comes with a significantly increased risk of still birth, and since my blood work came back at 37w0d exactly, I earned myself a ticket straight into the hospital.

One induction, 36 hours of labor, lots of pushing, a not-so-routine c-section involving both a horizontal and vertical uterine incision and a baby who was so stuck he had to be yanked out feet first, and two blood transfusions with dozens of bags of fluid (me, not him) later, we were finally able to enjoy our baby boy.  Ryan Harrison ultimately made his appearance on April 12th, joining a very unprepared family (pro tip: when everyone tells you that you have plenty of time to get things for the baby because first time moms deliver late, don’t believe them).

2015-04-15 15.41.06-1

Things haven’t been much smoother since his arrival – he lost over 15% of his body weight, earning a “severely dehydrated” status; my c-section incision is infected and requires draining and twice-daily packing (which is more painful than anything I experience with the actual c-section), but we’re slowly getting there.  I planned on spending these last few weeks of pregnancy (ha!) before his early May arrival scheduling a few blog pots so things would continue running as normal over here and stocking my freezer so we wouldn’t starve, but obviously… not so much.  I’ve decided I’ve managed as much of this “bed rest” as I can possibly handle (I reached the stir-crazy point about a week ago) and will be back in my kitchen this afternoon, baking up some brownies to bring to some neighbors for a little pizza party tonight, and I am overjoyed at the thought of doing something that makes me feel like “me” again.

Things may be a bit slow over the next few weeks, but I’m hoping that I’ll be back in the kitchen on a daily basis soon and new recipes will resume shortly!

April 7, 2015

Gluten-Free Passover Linzer Tart

For those you who celebrate, I hope everyone had an enjoyable weekend of Passover (or Easter).  We’re about halfway through Passover today, which probably means that you’re finishing up the leftovers of the desserts you made for Seder (well, unless you’re me, and you made too many desserts in an attempt to appease everyone, so we’ll be eating leftover dessert for at least another week).  Seder dinners are always big feasts, with lots of food, but the remaining 6 nights tend to turn into a mishmash of unplanned things thrown together at the last minute.  Why not make the last night equally special and make this tart for dessert on Friday night?  Bonus: it’s so good, you won’t complain one bit if you’re still eating it even after Passover ends!

gluten free passover linzer tart

Last week, I shared a flourless chocolate ganache cake that I made for Friday night’s Seder with our neighbors.  When it came time to plan out the desserts for Saturday’s family Seder, I couldn’t resist going back to my personal wheelhouse when it comes to desserts – fruit based.  I have a very tiny target audience when it comes to others who like fruit: basically, my father.  My husband and his entire family are all about chocolate or cheesecakes (or the most vile possible combination of the two: a chocolate cheesecake).  His friends always want something that combines chocolate with either peanut butter or oreos.  My coworkers are the biggest bunch of chocoholics I’ve encountered.  So when my father comes to town, I can’t resist making something that I know we’ll both enjoy.  (Don’t worry, I also made a chocolate layer cake since my mother-in-law was so disappointed that the chocolate ganache cake was not for her.)

passover linzer tart gluten free

This year, it was a linzer tart: a perfectly crunchy crust, made from a combination of ground almonds, walnuts, and hazelnuts (my father’s favorite), spread with a thick layer of raspberry jam.  I’ve never attempted a crust based so heavily on nuts and wasn’t sure how it would work out, but the dough was surprisingly easy to work with, baked up beautifully, and cut cleaner than many flour-filled pie and tart dough recipes I’ve used in the past.  And most importantly, the finished tart is delicious – I’d never expect something I made specifically for Passover to wind up as one of my favorite things I’ve made, but it really is that good.  I definitely won’t be waiting until next Passover to make this again!

gluten free passover linzer tart

It’s a little more work than some other desserts – not quite the same one bowl, one whisk ease as the chocolate ganache cake, but I assure you, it’s well worth the effort.  The dough is a little fragile, but I found that I could patch it together easily if it started to tear.  I made mine with butter, but if you’re serving meat for your Passover dinner, use margarine instead.  I also ground my own nuts for this – you can use any combination of nuts, totaling 3 cups after grinding.  Grinding the nuts is possibly the trickiest part of this, since it’s very easy to go from not-quite-small enough chopped nuts straight to nut butter; neither is particularly useful!  I found the best way to achieve the right texture was to do lots of very brief pulses with small batches of nuts; I did three separate batches in my food processor, and each took maybe 100 half-second pulses.  It’s better to err on the side of not-quite-fine-enough than going too far into the nut butter stage!  Don’t forget to use Kosher-for-Passover confectioners’ sugar, or if you can’t find any, make your own – combine 1 cup granulated sugar with 1 tablespoon potato starch and grind away in your food processor until powdery. 

gluten free passover linzer tart

Gluten-Free Passover Linzer Tart
Adapted from The New Passover Menu*


  • 1/2 cup butter (or margarine)
  • 1 1/2 cups ground almonds
  • 1 cup ground walnuts
  • 1/2 cup ground hazelnuts
  • 1/2 cup potato starch
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for sprinkling on top
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 cup raspberry jam


  1. If your nuts aren’t pre-ground, grind them in a food processor using a series of very short pulses.  The nuts should be finely ground, but not ground to the point that they are smooth and buttery.
  2. Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the butter until soft.  Add the ground nuts, potato starch, and granulated sugar; mix until well combined.
  3. Add a little more than half of this dough to a 9” tart pan, pressing the dough into the bottom of the pan and up the sides, creating a roughly 1/3-inch crust.  Use your fingers to push the dough up the sides and your palms to flatten the dough into the bottom of the pan.  Put the pan in the freezer for 45 minutes.
  4. Add the confectioners’ sugar to the dough remaining in the bowl and mix it in.  Shape the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill the dough in the refrigerator for 30 – 45 minutes.
  5. Remove the tart pan from the freezer and place it on top of a cookie sheet.  Bake the dough for 15 minutes in a 375F oven, until the crust starts to bubble up a bit and turn golden in color.  Remove the cookie sheet from the oven, slide the tart pan off the cookie sheet, and allow the crust to cool for 10 minutes.
  6. Spread 1 cup of the jam evenly over the bottom of the crust, using a silicone spatula.
  7. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll it out between two sheets of parchment paper.  Roll the dough into a 10” square, roughly 1/3-inch thick.  Using a knife or pizza cutter, cut the dough into 8 3/4” to 1”-thick strips.
  8. Using a large spatula or dough scraper, carefully lift each strip individually and place them across the top of the jam-filled crust to create a lattice.  I was able to do this with the room-temperature dough if I worked carefully and slowly, but if your dough is tearing too much, freeze the strips for 10 minutes first.  Don’t try to weave the strips into an over-and-under lattice; it’s too fragile.  Instead, just place 4 strips going in one direction, and the other 4 strips on top in the other direction.  Trim the ends of the dough and tuck them into the border of the bottom crust.  Sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar on top of the tart.
  9. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the jam is bubbling and the crust is golden brown.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

*Amazon Affiliate Link

April 3, 2015

March 2015 iPhonetography

You always hear the saying that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb… or the other way around… but I’m not sure which happened this year, since the month was bookended with snowstorms.  I think we’re finally done with snow and frosts, although I wouldn’t mind one more late-spring cold front to kill of some of these newly-blooming plants – my allergies are a mess and I’m having so much trouble breathing that I can’t lie down at all, which means I just sit on the couch and play Candy Crush from about 2am – 6am every day.  Yeah, life is reeeeeal fun right about now.

Anyway… March!  Cold weather, baking, dog walks in the snow, basketball, and a foster cat pretty much sums it all up.

March 2014

1) The Schuylkill was frozen for most of the month.  Last fall, the city completed this “boardwalk” that runs through the river – it’s fantastic, and one of our favorite places to walk the dog.
2) Fried plantains… trying to fight off the cold weather with a little Cuban cooking.
3) The dog doesn’t quite understand the concept of “work from home” – it was a 10 hour day of whining and whimpering while I tried to actually get work done.
4) Dog in snow!  We had about 10” this storm (which, of course, happened when my husband was out of town), and the dog was thrilled.
5) I know everyone thinks their dog is the cutest, but Dreidel’s half-floppy ears are hard to beat.
6) Campus in the snow.
7) A pie crust for Pi Day, and a glimpse of my Pi Plate.
8) Neighborhood sunrise.
9) Baking with the last batch of clementines I picked up this year – goodbye, winter citrus, hello spring produce… whenever you decide to make an appearance.
10) My parents came out to visit and I couldn’t decide if they would rather have chocolate buttermilk bread or clementine vanilla bread for breakfast, so I made both.  And then my mother brought banana bread, so it may have been a little overkill on the quick bread front.
11) When you average 3 hours of total sleep per 24 hour period, you have a lot of excess time to do things… like scrub all your burners until they sparkle at 4am.  Yawn. 
12) More snow; happy dog!  Living in the city, we don’t have a backyard, so having a fenced-in enclosure to just run in the snow was an extra special treat for her.
13) My husband and I are both proud GW alum, so we went to the GW-Temple NIT game.  GW lost, of course (Temple really should have made it into the NCAA tournament), but it was still fun to go watch a game.  All our lives we’ll be proud to say, we hail from GWU!
14) Jinxy, my current foster kitty – one part cuddly lap cat, one part playful piranha.  We’re working on the play biting, but in the meantime, I’m resigned to the fact that my arms will be covered in scratch and bite marks for the next while.
15) I agreed to foster Jinxy since he supposedly loves dogs, but he’s not too fond of mine.  He likes to poke his head through the stair rail and keep one eye on her at all times.
16) Jinxy discovered my fish tank, and spends a good 30 minutes standing on his back legs, swatting at all the fish.  I think he’s ready to try to catch his dinner.

April 2, 2015

Flourless Chocolate Ganache Cake

In my last Five on Friday post, I mentioned that we were hosting Seder this year and asked if anyone had suggestions for new and exciting desserts.  Lynn offered up this amazing-sounding almond pear blueberry cake, while Mae suggested a fruit crumble as something “a little different from the usual Passover dessert.”   These are both things that I would absolutely love… and fairly similar to things that I make every year.  I’ll always take a fruit-based dessert over chocolate (always always always), so fruit cakes and crumbles make annual appearances at my Passover table.  This year, I’m doing things a little backwards – what is new and different for me is probably what everyone else makes for dessert: a flourless chocolate cake.  We’re doing a small Seder with our next-door neighbors tomorrow night (family Seder Saturday night - I'll share the desserts for that next week), and they asked us to bring dessert.  Knowing that I’m not a chocolate person, they thoughtfully told me that I didn’t have to to make something chocolate, but I know that they (and my husband) are chocolate people, so when 75% of the attendees like chocolate, I bring chocolate.

flourless chocolate ganache cake

This flourless chocolate cake is oh-so-rich, a little fudgy, and topped with a layer of bittersweet chocolate ganache. The lack of flour makes it perfect for Passover, but there’s no reason to only bring this out once a year: serve it to your gluten-free friends, bring it to a birthday party, or make it because it’s a Tuesday.  It’s too good, and too easy, to save for special occasions.  Mix it by hand in one bowl, bake it in a tart plate, springform pan, or cake pan, smooth on a layer of ganache, and you have yourself one decadent treat.  Top with berries or toasted almonds, or serve with whipped cream or ice cream.  You really can’t go wrong!

flourless chocolate ganache cake

Flourless Chocolate Ganache Cake
Adapted from King Arthur Flour


  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup good-quality bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • optional: berries or sliced almonds for toasting


  1. Preheat oven to 375F.  Lightly grease a 9” removable bottom tart pan (my preference), springform pan, or cake pan.  If using a cake pan, cut a piece of parchment paper to fit, place it in the bottom of the pan, and grease the parchment paper.
  2. Combine the semisweet chocolate chips and butter in a large microwave-safe bowl.  Heat at 50% power in 1 minute increments until the butter is melted and the chocolate chips are soft, whisking between each microwave session.  Whisk until the chocolate completely melts.
  3. Whisk in the sugar, salt, and vanilla.  Add in the eggs, whisking until smooth, followed by the cocoa powder.  Mix just to combine.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes. The top should be just set, and an instant-read thermometer should register at least 200F when inserted into the center of the cake.
  5. Remove the cake from the oven and cool in the pan for 5 minutes.  Loosen the edges with a knife and remove the sides (tart or springform pan) or invert onto a wire rack (cake pan) to fully cool.
  6. Combine the bittersweet chocolate and cream in a microwave-safe bowl and heat until the cream is hot, but not yet simmering.  Remove from the microwave and stir with a spoon until the chocolate melts and the mixture is completely smooth.  Spoon the ganache over the cake, spreading to almost the edges with an offset spatula.  Add berries or sprinkle almonds on the ganache before it sets.  Allow the ganache to fully cool before serving. 
  7. The cake can be kept at room temperature for a few hours, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to a month.

March 27, 2015

Five on Friday (03.27.15)

1) Sick
Ugh, for the umpteeth time this winter, I am under the weather.  I can't quite tell if it's a cold or if my allergies are out of control (quite possibly the latter, thank you spring), but either way, I've been feeling fairly miserable.  Any time I am not completely upright, I'm filled with so much mucus that I can't breathe... so I've basically spent the past 3 nights up all night on the couch.  Last light I even bailed on my quasi-reclining position on the couch around 3am and went upstairs to hang out with our new foster cat (see more below).  I sat on a dog bed, petting the dog with my left hand and the cat with my right hand, unsuccessfully trying to fall asleep sitting cross-legged leaning against the wall, until my husband came in around 7am.  Needless to say, I think I'm going to cancel our dinner plans tonight because I think I'd much rather spend the evening zoned out on the couch than trying to eat food I won't really taste anyway.

2) Russet/Farm & Fisherman/Serpico
Another busy week for us restaurant-wise -- four dinners out (one was medicore at Entree, so I'm not including it - but the company was great!  So nice to catch up with you, Brian and Athas - let's get together again before you move!)

First up, Russet.  My parents came out to visit two weekends ago, and at the last minute I changed our reservations to Russet (#39 on the Philly Top 50 list).  I've been here once before with a friend, so it wasn't new to me, but my husband had yet to stop in, and I thought my parents might enjoy it more than the restaurant where I originally made reservations.  It's a small, cozy BYOB, which (like everywhere else these days) focus on farm-to-table cooking with a regularly changing menu.  The four of us shared an order of the gnocchi and the mushroom ravioli to start - both of which were excellent.  It seems appropriate given the name, and I'd definitely recommend anyone get the gnocchi if you drop in.  I will say that while we all enjoyed the food, the service was not quite up to par with the other restaurants we've been dining at lately.  Personally, I'd always rather have excellent food and just okay service than the other time around, but a quick perusal of Yelp reviews shows that many other people disagree, so... if you feel that way, Russet may not be fore you.

Last weekend, we had an early dinner at Farm & Fisherman (#26 on the Philly Top 50 list) before heading to the symphony.  It snowed all day and it was a treacherous 1.5 mile walk to the restaurant -- I'm not sure I've ever been so glad to arrive somewhere in one piece after all that slipping and sliding!  Also a BYO, the restaurant was awarded the best Farm-to-Table Restaurant award in 2012... do you notice a trend here in all these restaurants?  We really, really enjoyed everything we had here -- we started with the only thing that remains constant on the menu all the time -- the "bloody beat steak", which is essentially a giant roasted beet prepared like a steak.  It was fantastic -- that earthy, rustic beet taste, served warm, caramelized on the outside, over house made yogurt -- even my husband really liked it, and he's not normally a big beet person.  We split the risotto next (with arborio rice grown locally in New Jersey - who knew they grew such things nearby?), and then had the striped bass (me) and lamb (him) for dinner.  The restaurant is located just a few blocks from the Kimmel Center and so many other theaters in the area, so it's perfect for a pre-show dinner -- highly recommended!


Finally, we headed to Serpico (#9 on the Philly Top 50 list) last Saturday.  Serpico is billed as contemporary American fare, but it has a lot of Korean influences.  In summary, we LOVED it, and you should absolutely go if you're in the area.  We started with the corn ravioli, which were the perfect combination of slightly sweet from the corn, but a little spicy, and an order of the Korean fried chicken wings for my husband.  I'm not really a meat eater -- I was a total pescatarian for 15 years and will now try bites of meat here and there, but I generally don't care for it.  At my husband's urging, I tried a bite of the wings, and it's the only chicken I've had that didn't immediately make me cringe (I normally cannot stand poultry).  Despite the chili paste, the sauce was sweet and flavorful, and the wings were perfectly crispy.  My first (and likely only) chicken wing tasting was a success!  For dinner, my husband ordered the duck breast, smoked in a traditional Korean manner, and I had a kimchi and tomato stew - perfect for clearing out the sinuses for the start of my allergy issues!  We were so full, I wound up taking half the stew home afterward, and my Korean labmate was fascinated and wanted a full recount of our dinner, and promptly made reservations himself to go check it out. 


3) March Madness
So, uh, anyone actually doing well this year?  I... am not.  I'm participating in bracket challenges for both my lab and the #DarwinsBalls charity tournament among the science crowd on Twitter, and... yeah.  Not going to win anything this year.  My dog also fills out her very own bracket every year (indicating which team she would like with a tap of her paw or nose), but she's not doing too well, either.  Interestingly, she chose the same team to win this year as she did last year -- it appears our dog is a big Arizona fan.

4) Foster Cat
As mentioned above, we have a new four-legged visitor in our house.  I'm not sure if I've mentioned it on my food blog before, but I usually foster a few litters of kittens every spring/summer.  For various reasons, I'm not able to do so this year, but we did take in a slightly older cat for a few weeks.  He's been pretty stressed in the shelter so I'm hoping a little time in a home will help him chill out.  Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to be as much of a dog lover as the shelter promised, so he doesn't get free run of the house yet since he keeps trying to sneak attack our dog.  Hopefully they'll work out their differences soon.  If you happen to know anyone in the Philadelphia area looking to adopt a cat, please refer them my way!  "Jinxy" is somewhere in the 2-4 year old range, a male found as a stray in West Philly, and extremely playful.


5) Weekend
We have a pretty busy day tomorrow, mostly full of errands.  We're heading out to Lancaster to visit a friend we haven't seen since college, and since we'll be doing the trek way out to suburban-ville, we have a list of all sorts of places we want to stop (Target, craft store, Benjamin Moore for paint samples, Wegmans, etc).   A friend of my husband's from medical school is in town, so hopefully we'll get to spend some time with him, and otherwise, it will be a weekend of pre-Passover spring cleaning.  I thought we would dodge the Seder boat this year since my husband is on call all day both Saturday and Sunday next weekend, but when I threw out this tidbit when my parents asked what our plans were, they immediately responded with "No problem! We'll come to you!"  -- and thus, I am now hosting Seder next weekend.  I think most of the menu is pretty well planned, although I'm always looking for new and exciting desserts -- any suggestions?

Have a great weekend, friends!

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