Tunisian Grilled Salad (Slata Mechouia)

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The first time I went to Tunisia when I was 19 years old, I remember watching my host mom in amazement as she nonchalantly plopped some green peppers, tomatoes, an onion, and a few cloves of garlic right on her stovetop burner. I had never seen anyone cook food directly on a burner like that before. As the vegetable skins began to sizzle and char, they released an intoxicating aroma into the house and before I had even tasted it, I was already smitten with this dish.

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Fresh Mint and Chocolate Ice Cream

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I’m so excited to share this post with you because this one’s a special collaboration with a fellow gardener and food blogger: the talented Sofia of From The Land We Live On. I’ve been admiring Sofia’s gorgeous food and gardening photography for quite sometime and I had the idea at the back of my mind that it would be fun to feature her in one of my videos. I was so thrilled when she agreed to join forces on this one! We spent a delightful day together: she made decadent mint and chocolate ice cream with freshly harvested mint from her garden (with the help of a very keen little helper as you’ll notice in the video!) and I filmed the whole wonderful adventure.

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Coconut Chocolate Squares

This Coconut Chocolate Squares recipe is a simple dessert only has five ingredients and takes 20 minutes to make!

This Coconut Chocolate Squares recipe is a simple dessert only has five ingredients and takes 20 minutes to make!

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My brilliant friend Katie brought these coconut chocolate bars to a party a couple months ago and they disappeared in seconds, thanks to urgent whisperings traveling from room to room and ear to ear about the incredible bars someone had just put down on the kitchen counter.

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Roasted Carrots with Carrot Top Pesto

Carrot Top are edible, and make excellent pesto to pair with Roasted Carrots.
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This is one of the most delicious ways I know to eat carrots. Many people don’t know that carrot tops are edible. I didn’t either until fairly recently. But they have a lovely fresh carrot aroma that doesn’t really compare to anything else. (If I could bottle up that perfume, I would spray it on myself everyday!) It seems only right to serve carrot top pesto slathered on top of the beloved root it sprung out of.

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Lilac Coconut Cream Tarts

Lilac Coconut Cream Tarts feature a shortbread dough crust for a buttery, cookie-like tart base.
Lilac Coconut Cream Tarts feature a shortbread dough crust for a buttery, cookie-like tart base.
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I have a little obsession with edible flowers (you may have noticed). I like marmalade made with dandelions, and semifreddos peppered with rose petals, daylilies turned into fritters, and then there’s lilacs. Sumptuous, intoxicating lilacs.

Lilac Coconut Cream Tarts feature a shortbread dough crust for a buttery, cookie-like tart base.

There’s just something magical about cooking with fragrant colorful blooms and when it’s spring time, feasting on flowers feels like a fitting way to celebrate the world springing back to life after a long winter.

Lilac Coconut Cream Tarts feature a shortbread dough crust for a buttery, cookie-like tart base.

This recipe is delicate and delightful. Yes, it does requires a bit of time. (Though you can always cheat a bit and use store-bought tart shells to save time. Don’t tell anyone I said that). But the time you put into these is going to be enchanting and worthwhile.

Lilac Coconut Cream Tarts feature a shortbread dough crust for a buttery, cookie-like tart base.

I experimented quite a bit to get these right. I incorporated lilac sugar, lilac-infused milk and cream, made candied lilacs and lilac syrup, all in an effort to see what would most fully capture the potent aroma of that irresistible flower. In the end, the most successful experiment was the lilac whipping cream. The cream really seemed to absorb the lilacs’ perfume. The candied lilacs are an optional garnish, but a lot of fun to make.

Lilac Coconut Cream Tarts feature a shortbread dough crust for a buttery, cookie-like tart base.

I initially struggled a bit with my tart shells because tart dough is notorious for shrinking while it bakes and I am stubborn about not wanting to use pie weights. I wanted an easy recipe that would bake nicely in a simple muffin tin.

In the end, I found that a shortbread dough worked best, keeping its shape very well, especially if placed in the freezer before baking. It’s also incredibly delicious to eat, yielding a light buttery cookie-like tart base. I used a muffin tin, but if you have them, you could certainly use fancy fluted tart molds to create something more dainty. Either way… enjoy!

Happy spring to you all!

Lilac Coconut Cream Tarts feature a shortbread dough crust for a buttery, cookie-like tart base.

Lilac Coconut Cream Tarts

lilac-coconut-cream-tarts-5

Fresh lilacs lend an enchanting aroma to this springtime twist on the classic coconut cream pie. (Recipe Credit: Aube Giroux of Kitchen Vignettes)

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Ingredients

  • For the Coconut Shortbread Tart Shells:
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup confectioners (powdered) sugar
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbsp unbleached white flour
  • 3 Tbsp coconut flour
  • 1/8 tsp salt (omit if using salted butter)
  • 1/2 tsp natural coconut extract (or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract)
  • For the Coconut Lilac Cream Filling:
  • 1/2 cup cane sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 x 13.5 oz can of unsweetened full-fat coconut milk (about 1 1/2 cup)
  • 1 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1 cup fresh just-picked lilac blossoms (green base removed)
  • For the Toppings (optional but recommended):
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup fresh just-picked lilac blossoms (green base removed)
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup lightly toasted unsweetened coconut
  • A couple dozen fresh or candied lilac blossoms for garnish

Directions

  1. To make the tart shells: In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar (by hand or with an electric mixer). Add the vanilla or coconut extract and beat until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk together the unbleached flour, coconut flour, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the creamed butter and sugar and mix until just incorporated. If the dough is very soft, refrigerate it for about 15 minutes.
  2. Divide the dough into 12 even-sized balls. In a buttered muffin pan (no need to butter if using a non-stick pan), press each ball of dough into the bottoms and sides of each individual muffin slot. Alternately, you can roll out the dough to 1/8 inch and use a large 5 to 6 inch circular cookie cutter to make dough circles that you delicately place and lightly press into each muffin slot. Prick the bottoms with a fork a couple times. Place the muffin pan in the freezer for about 15 minutes to harden the tart shells (this will prevent the dough from shrinking and puffing up during baking).
  3. Preheat oven to 325F and bake the tart shells for approximately 15 to 20 minutes or until golden. Check the tart shells at the 10-minute mark and if the bottoms are puffing up, prick them again gently with a fork. Once baked, let the tart shells cool in the muffin pan for about 10 minutes before removing and letting them cool on a rack. Now, they are ready to be filled.
  4. To make the coconut lilac cream filling: Pull the lilac flowers off the branch, ensuring there is no green tip at the base, just the petals. Whisk the whole milk and coconut milk together and pour over the lilac blossoms in a medium-sized bowl. (If needed, you can warm the coconut milk slightly to melt the coconut fat so it will incorporate evenly into the whole milk when whisked). Allow the lilacs to sit and infuse in the milk for a few hours (or overnight) in the fridge, covered. Next, pour the infused lilac blossoms and milk into a small saucepan and slowly heat the milk until it begins to release some steam. (Don’t let it boil). Use a fine-mesh sieve to strain out the lilac blossoms and return the strained milk to the saucepan. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Add about a quarter of the warm milk and mix well, then pour this mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the milk, whisking well. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until it thickens, about 6 or 7 minutes. In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks and then slowly pour the thick hot milk on top, whisking constantly until incorporated. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook at medium heat for another 2 minutes, stirring the whole time as it bubbles. Remove from heat. If you wish, strain the custard through a fine sieve.
  5. In a heavy skillet over medium heat, toast the coconut for about 5 minutes or until it begins to turn slightly golden. Add the toasted coconut and vanilla to the custard, mixing well. Allow the mixture to cool slightly (10 minutes or so). Spoon into the prepared (and fully cooled) tart shells and refrigerate the tarts until filling is set (about 1 to 2 hours).
  6. To make lilac-infused whipping cream: Several hours in advance of assembling the tarts (or the night before), mix the heavy cream and fresh lilac blossoms together. (If the lilac blossoms have been rinsed, make sure to very gently pat them dry first). Let the lilac cream infuse in a covered container in the fridge for several hours (or overnight). When ready to assemble, strain out the lilac blossoms. Whip the cream, adding the sugar halfway through. If you wish, add a few drops of food coloring (I use beet and blueberry juice) to lightly color the whipped cream. Top the tarts with the lilac whipped cream, toasted coconut, and lilac flowers. Candied lilacs are also lovely!

Yield: 12 tarts


Aube Giroux is a food writer and filmmaker who shares her love of cooking on her farm-to-table blog, Kitchen Vignettes.

Aube is a passionate organic gardener and home cook who likes to share the stories of how food gets to our dinner plates. Her work has been shown on television and at international film festivals. Her web series has been nominated for multiple James Beard Awards for Best Video Webcast (On Location). In 2012, she was the recipient of Saveur Magazine’s Best Food Blog award in the video category.

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

This Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies recipe is a quick, one bowl recipe that's ready in ten minutes.

This Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies recipe is a quick, one bowl recipe that's ready in ten minutes.

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Cookie cravings are demanding. They have a way of urgently commanding your immediate attention. These cookies are good for those emergency moments, when there’s no time for fuss or lengthy ingredient lists. This is probably the easiest cookie recipe anyone could ever make: 3 ingredients, 1 bowl, 1 fork, 3 minutes to make the dough, 10 minutes to cook, and voila, you’ve got a high protein, low-sugar cookie that is mighty fine. They’re also great for the gluten-free friends out there.

This Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies recipe is a quick, one bowl recipe that's ready in ten minutes.

I first found this recipe online and was shocked how easily it yielded a great peanut butter cookie with only three basic ingredients: peanut butter, egg, and sugar. But the recipes I tried used a one-to-one ratio of sugar to peanut butter and I found that to be way too sweet. I tried halving the sugar amount and it was perfect for my taste. I also like to use coconut sugar which is lower on the glycemic index and has a deep caramel-like flavor. So my version of these flourless peanut butter cookies uses half the sugar, coconut instead of white sugar and lo and behold, the cookies are delicious. After experimenting a little, I found that adding a little baking soda and salt to these cookies makes them closer in taste to the traditional peanut butter cookies my grandmother used to make, but I often leave out the baking soda and salt altogether and they’re perfectly fine.

This Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies recipe is a quick, one bowl recipe that's ready in ten minutes.

Now, one caveat: the quality of the peanut butter is important here. It is after all the main ingredient. You need a nice smooth peanut butter that spreads easily. Stay away from very thick peanut butter as you’ll get a hard puck of a cookie. And of course, make sure to use fresh peanut butter, there’s nothing worse than the taste of rancid peanuts in a cookie. I use a very smooth organic peanut butter made of peanuts only, no additives. I can’t speak for this recipe using peanut butters that contain hydrogenated oils and I don’t recommend those, for health reasons. But if you use a basic, fresh smooth peanut butter, you should have good results.

This Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies recipe is a quick, one bowl recipe that's ready in ten minutes.

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies recipe

These Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies are a quick, one-bowl recipe. (Recipe Credit: Aube Giroux of Kitchen Vignettes)

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup natural smooth peanut butter (avoid anything too thick)
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar (white cane sugar is fine, increase amount to 1 cup if you prefer a sweeter cookie)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Mix all the ingredients together in a medium bowl until a stiff dough is obtained. Roll into 12 balls and flatten with a fork, making a criss-cross pattern. Bake on a greased or parchment-lined cookie sheet, about 1 inch apart, for about 8 to 10 minutes. Eat warm or cold. Will store at room temperature for about 1 week.

Yield: 1 dozen cookies


Aube Giroux is a food writer and filmmaker who shares her love of cooking on her farm-to-table blog, Kitchen Vignettes.

Aube is a passionate organic gardener and home cook who likes to share the stories of how food gets to our dinner plates. Her work has been shown on television and at international film festivals. Her web series has been nominated for multiple James Beard Awards for Best Video Webcast (On Location). In 2012, she was the recipient of Saveur Magazine’s Best Food Blog award in the video category.

Quebec-Style Yellow Pea Soup

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This soup is as familiar to me as fish chowder is to a Mainer. Like a true Québecoise, my mom would make Soupe aux pois on a regular basis, long after we moved away from Québec.

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No-Bake Tahini Chocolate Mousse Pie

This No-Bake Tahini Chocolate Mousse Pie recipe is a rich, velvety dessert that tastes like peanut butter cream pie.

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Here’s one for the tahini lovers! And if you’re not a tahini fanatic, don’t worry, the flavors in this velvety pie meld into something kind of indescribable. On first bite, this pie has been known to fool people into thinking it’s a peanut butter cream pie. But then the tastebuds realize it’s something else. And if you don’t tell, your guests will be guessing for quite a while. That’s my kind of dessert. A dessert with complexity and mystery! And a rich dessert, involving lots of cream. (Though if you’re not a fan of cream don’t worry, you can substitute avocado for a totally vegan version, the recipe for that one is over on my blog.

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