Tahini Date Caramel

Bananas with Broiled Tahini-Date Caramel on Butter Toasted Oats with Coconut Cream

Bananas with Broiled Tahini-Date Caramel on Butter Toasted Oats with Coconut Cream

I have an acquaintance from college who ended up, after college, moving into a house about 100 yards from the house I grew up in.  She moved into the notorious “banana tree house” that all of us neighbors secretly wanted to tear down because of the wildly overgrown banana forest in the front yard.  Anarchistic and unkempt looking, it didn’t jive with the otherwise clean cut Santa Monica gardens on the block.  20 years later, and a spectacular house remodel later, the lot now contains a massive craftsman, multi-leved house . . . . and an only slightly neatened banana thicket.
I’ve been curious as to whether the tree produces any edible fruit (didn’t look like it), and last week as I was biking to work I saw her in the front yard and she gave me a banana. A very green and closed up banana.  I put it in a brown paper bag inside a dark cupboard and hoped for the best.  A week later, still barely peel-able.  Then I got an idea.  In Thai cuisine you often see on menus “green” papaya and mango salads that utilize very underripe fruit.  So I surgically removed the banana fruit from it’s peel and decided I’d broil it with some caramel sauce on top.  I got the caramel sauce idea from one of my favorite all-time cooking sites Use Real Butter.  Jen lives and cooks full throttle and I love her style.  Plus she’s a bonkers awesome photographer.  Go check her out.  Anyhow, she made Tahini Date Caramels with Sea Salt that I believe was adapted if not wholly taken from the Kitchn.  The recipe appealed to me because of the absence of sugar, even though we all know dates are relatively high in natural sugars.  Still, if you’re gonna have sugar, have it with some good vitamins and antioxidants and straight from the earth, rather than processed!
So, for this Fiesta Friday I bring you a nice shallow bowl of butter toasted oats in coconut cream, with broiled tahini-date caramel banana lattice.  I stuck an egg in the middle just for fun.  And some sprouted toasted raw buckwheaties.  It. Is. Delicious.
Here’s the Recipe:
I recipe Tahini Date Caramel   . . . . thinned out with 1/4 cup coconut cream and 1/4 cup water
Creamy Tahini
Coconut Cream
Coconut Cream
The Caramel
Sauce (Ain’t much leftover!)
Next, cook up some oatmeal by taking 1 cup of steel cut oats and toasting them in melted butter for about a minute or two.  Then proceed to cook oatmeal as normal; 1 parts oatmeal to 2-3 parts water depending upon your type of oats/directions.
Spread out oats in a bowl and create a pocket in the middle into which you crack 1 egg.
Slice 1 banana lengthwise into 4 pieces and place in lattice design across oats and egg.
Brush 2-4 Tbsp sauce over banana slices.
Pour in a little almond milk or milk if you like, or cream, and broil for 5 minutes or until sauce starts to brown, but before it burns of course.
Serve up!
Finished Dish with Buckwheaties
Finished Dish with Buckwheaties

Cowberry Yoghurt Muffins Parfait Style

Cowberries are also known as Lingonberries, a small tart fruit which is a staple in Northern Scandinavia, picked in the wild and used to accompany a variety of dishes.  If you’ve been to the IKEA cafeteria you’ve seen them as a sauce for the Swedish meatballs.   They are also grown in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, but not seen very often here in California unless in jam or preserves.

Having been an English major in college, I developed a fond relationship with wordplay, so you can imagine my delight at the other common names for the Lingonberry:  csejka berry, quailberry, beaverberry, red whortleberry, cougarberry, mountain bilberry, and even partridgeberry!

My best friend from college moved to Sweden 20 + years ago and one of our very closest family friends, Stig the mad genius carpenter, is a “Sami” (formerly known as a “Lapp”; from Lapland, Sweden), and I visited Sweden once many moons ago.  I love most things Swede, in homage to my friends and for 2 other reasons:  (1) meatballs; and, (2) open faced sandwiches.

This week it’s been cold cold cold, by Southern California standards, so I’ve been feeling downright Nordic.  In addition, last Sunday we had a wonderful pie at our favorite cafe that was made with jam and a layer of yogurt, and I’ve been wanting to re-create those flavors and textures since then.  So for this Fiesta Friday I dreamt up this cowberry muffin, parfait style.  It has a bottom layer of cooked lingonberries (or you can use jam), a layer of drained greek-style yoghurt mixed with an egg yolk and some flour for firmness/bakeability, and a top layer of bacon.  The muffin dough uses a combination of rye flour and coarse polenta mixed with a little more yoghurt.

I experimented with more use of natural light in my photos this week and would love your input on the different shots.  Believe me, the whole production did not bode well for my husband this morning, who during Lent does not eat until after 5 p.m., so as he calmly did his morning reading/meditation, I was scuttling baked cowberry muffins, halved and whole, around the house pulling up blinds, moving chairs, making all kinds of noise and trouble to snap my shots.

Natural Light, from above

Natural Light, from above

From Above, Instagram enhanced

From Above, Instagram enhanced

Side View, Natural Light

Side View, Natural Light

Side View, Instagram enhanced

Side View, Instagram enhanced

Whole Muffins, Natural Light

Whole Muffins, Natural Light

Natural Light

Natural Light

I Made a Mess, Instagram enhanced

I Made a Mess, Instagram enhanced

Here’s the Recipe:


1/2 cup lingonberries or lingonberry jam

1 Tbps cornstarch mixed with 1 Tbsp water

1 1/4 cup greek style (full fat) yoghurt

1 cup plus 2 Tbsp rye flour

1 cup coarse polenta

1 egg

1 egg yolk

1 Tbsp baking soda

1/2 cup water

8 slices bacon, cooked to 75% of how crisp you would normally like it

(Makes 4 large muffins)


1.  Gently warm 1/2 cup lingonberries, or lingonberry jam.  Mix 1 Tbsp cornstarch with 1 Tbsp. water and add to lingonberries.  Stir for 2 minutes then let sit for at least 10 minutes, or to cool.

2.  Mix 1 cup greek yoghurt (full fat) with 1 egg yolk and 2 Tbsp flour.  Set aside.

3.  Mix 1 cup rye flour and 1 cup coarse polenta and 1 Tbsp baking powder.  Add 1/4 cup greek yoghurt, 1 egg and mix well, and 1/2 cup water and mix well.

4.  Layer large silpat muffin molds or pour into muffin tin as follows:  2 large spoonfuls of lingonberry, 2 spoonfuls of yoghurt mixture, 2 spoonfuls of flour mixture, repeat layers but with 1 spoonful of each mixture.  Break bacon slices into pieces. Top with bacon.  Cover the tops of the muffins for the first 35 minutes of baking.  Uncover for the last 10 minutes of baking.  Let cool well before unmolding.



A little more history on this delightfully sour berry:

  • In Sweden and Norway, reindeer and elk steak is traditionally served with gravy and lingonberry sauce.

  • A traditional Swedish dessert is lingonpäron (literally lingonberry pears), consisting of fresh pears which are peeled and boiled in lingondricka (lingonberry squash) and then preserved in the pear-infused lingonberry squash and not uncommonly eaten during Christmas. This was very common in old times, because it was an easy and tasty way to preserve pears.

  • In Sweden and Russia, when sugar was still a luxury item, the berries were usually preserved simply by putting them whole into bottles of water. This was also a home remedy against scurvy.

  • In Russia this preserve had been known as “lingonberry water” (брусничная вода) and is a traditional soft drink. In Russian folk medicine, lingonberry water was used as a mild laxative.

  • A traditional Finnish dish is sautéed reindeer (poronkäristys) with mashed potatoes and lingonberries, either cooked or raw with sugar. In Finland, a porridge made from the fruit is also popular.

  • In Poland, the berries are often mixed with pears to create a sauce served with poultry or game.

Make Your Own Bone Broth

Bone broth is one of the most healthful and (potentially) delicious drinks you can add to your recipe arsenal.  For me it is primarily a drink but it is also obviously a versatile building block which you can use to create wonderful soups, sauces, even vinaigrettes.  There is a wealth of web information on how to make a bone broth, and I built my go-to recipe on a mash up of recipes found on Nourishing Traditions (book) by Sally Fallo.  I like my broth strong and dark, peppery and tart, and with some vegetable and spice undertones.  Here’s my recipe:


4 lbs assorted beef bones preferably from grass fed beef (marrow and knuckle bones yield an especially rich and collagenous, healthy broth)

1 cup apple cider vinegar (use a brand with the mother such as Bragg’s)

1 onion, quartered

4 tbsp tomato paste

1 head garlic

2 inches fresh peeled ginger

1 fennel bulb

Small knob of fresh turmeric (1 to 2 inches)

1 Tbsp black peppercorns

Here’s what you do:

Paint your bones with tomato paste, toss your onion and garlic with olive oil and throw onto a cookie sheet and into a 425 degree oven.  Roast for 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and place garlic, onion and bones into a slow cooker.  When cooled, fill with filtered water and apple cider vinegar.  Let sit for 1 hour.  Quarter fennel and add to slow cooker with celery and carrot and black pepper.  Cook on low for 48-72 hours.  Strain broth, pressing on solids, and add freshly grated turmeric to taste (I like 1 Tbsp) and a pinch of salt and ground pepper.  Heat and enjoy!


Make Your Own Bacon

Make Your Own Bacon
Pork Collar

You’re about to make the most delicious bacon you will ever taste.

Making your own bacon is not difficult, and the effort is absolutely worth the difference in flavor. We are fortunate to have many purveyors of artisan bacon nowadays and I have found many of them beyond tasty . . . and costly. Homemade bacon will not only save you money, but also empower you . . . and most importantly, yield serious deliciousness.

I adapted my recipe from Michael Ruhlman’s. Michael is my favorite food blogger, and one of my favorite writers in general. His recipes are sound, researched, practical and have been successful without fail for me, and his writing is witty, irreverent and funny. In my recipe I omit the preservative (mostly out of laziness) and the garlic, and tweak the herbs. I also use the collar cut of pork rather than the belly called for in Ruhlman’s and almost every other recipe you find for bacon. I got this idea from my friend and rising chef/baker/fermenter star Rose Lawrence, whose cafe Red Bread serves collar bacon. The first time I tasted it I swore there were 4 pork chops worth of flavor packed into one slice of the bacon, so I had to try to recreate it at home.

Pork collar is not commonly available at the supermarket, or even specialty butcher shops, but you can special order it at higher end grocery stores such as Bristol Farms, Gelson’s and Whole Foods. But my local farmer’s market features a butcher, Peads & Barnetts, who regularly sell the collar.

Collar packaged

His collar comes from the curly haired Mangalitsa pigs

Mangalitsa 3

Homemade Bacon:


1 pork collar (approximately 4 lbs)

2 ounces (1/4 cup, kosher or coarse Sea Salt)

4 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper

2 bay leaves, crumbled

1 tablespoon fennel seed, crushed

1/4 cup brown sugar

5 to 10 sprigs fresh thyme

1 sprig fresh rosemary

1.  Mix all ingredients (except the collar of course) together in a bowl.  Rub the salt and spice mixture all over the collar.  Really massage the mixture into the pork.  

2.  Place the collar in a large ziploc bag and close the bag .  Alternatively, wrap it in heavy duty saran wrap. Place the collar on a flat surface (plate, board, cookie sheet) on top of a couple paper towels in the refrigerator for 7 days.  Once or twice during the 7 days massage the pork collar (there is no need to take the collar out of the bag/wrap). 

3.  Unwrap the collar and “cure” in a 200 degree oven for 90 minutes.  Let collar cool to room temperature, rinse off the salt and spice mixture, pat dry and place back in the refrigerator.  This will firm up the collar so you can easily slice it.

4.  After the collar has been in the refrigerator for 2 hours, take out and slice.

Collar Bacon fanned

Fry up and serve with a poached egg.

Eggs & Bacon