Sunday, September 28, 2014

Vegan Coffee Crumble Cake

I had a friend from America who visited me in Tangier a while back. We were making plans with another friend of mine and while on the phone with him, I said "So are you still in the coffee?" My friend looked at me funny and said "Excuse me, what did you just say?"

"I asked if he was in the coffee- that's normal, right?"

Apparently I've forgotten how to speak english. Because here in Morocco, are you in the coffee is a perfectly acceptable way to ask if you are at a cafe.

And let me tell you- the cafe culture here is huge. Somedays, I wake up and leave my apartment around 9am and while walking past the cafe just next door, see an old man in his kandora with a glass of cafe au lait in front of him and a smoking cigarrette nestled in the ash tray. I go out, do my thing around the city, and coming back around 4 or 5pm, see the same man with what appears to be the same glass of coffee and the same cigarette, still burning at the same length.

At night, instead of overflowing bars and clubs, you'll find hundreds of chatty cafes filled with teens drinking cappuccinos, juices and hot chocolate. Sometimes on particularly social weekends, instead of bar-hopping like I would do in University, I find myself cafe-hopping to see different friends. I kind of love it.

Needless to say, I drink a lot more coffee here than I ever have in my life. And as if drinking loads of coffee wasn't enough, why not consume it in an edible form as well? This is not just coffee cake as in you-eat-it-with-a-cup-of-coffee cake. This is coffee-infused deliciousness.

Cinnamon Coffee Crumble Cake

makes 1 loaf cake

100 ml soy milk
150 ml strong coffee- cooled
60 ml vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp lemon juice
225g granulated sugar
210g flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon

4 tbsp flour
50g brown sugar
30g cold vegan butter
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 180º C and grease a loaf pan. In a large bowl, mix together the soy milk, coffee, oil, vanilla, lemon juice and sugar. Sift in the remaining dry ingredients and stir just until combined. Don't over-stir! Pour the batter into your pan and stick in the oven- it will bake for about 30-40 minutes total or until a tooth pick comes out clean.

Make the crumble topping as soon as you put the cake in, by combining all of the ingredients in a small bowl with your fingers. After the cake has been in the oven about 20 minutes, take it out, sprinkle the crumble on top and let it bake the remainder of the time. If you put the topping on right away, it will sink into the cake and, granted, still taste great, but won't look as pretty. Let the cake cool, slice, and enjoy with more coffee!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Triple Berry Crumble

What happened to summer? Usually it is the time when I stay at home and relax, pick up some restaurant shifts, chill with friends, ya know. But ooh no this summer was quite the beast.

Not only did I travel around Europe a bit, experience Ramadan in Tangier, and film an upcoming dance video, but I also visited this strange place called the USA for three weeks. Besides the fact that I almost forgot how to speak english and my frequent exclamations of "why is everything so big??" it was wonderful to be back and spend time with family and friends. 

I spent a week in Minneapolis, riding my bike as much as possible without my legs falling off and soaking up that bizarre, bittersweet nostalgia that comes with going home after a long time. Then my parents and I drove up to Montreal to see my brother in his amazing new life at the École National du Cirque. After a week of exploring and developing a huge crush on that city (blog post to come...), I flew to New York. Upon arrival, I felt like I was flailing around trying not to drown in a sea of people, so I promptly took a bus to Boston to escape the madness and see my cousin. 

That is where the food comes in. My cousin, her girlfriend and I visited the greatest farmers market where berries were cheaper than water. We bought boxes and boxes and the only thing left to do was bake with them. Voila, the triple berry crumble was created. And devoured. 

Triple Berry Crumble 
adapted from Baker's Royale

170g (6oz) raspberries
170g (6oz) blackberries
170g (6oz) strawberries, chopped
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/3 cup sugar

150g spelt flour
3 tbsp brown sugar
4 tbsp chopped pecans
1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
4 tbsp cold vegan butter substitute (I use earth balance) chopped into pieces

Start by making the filling- combine all of the ingredients in a sauce pan and stir over medium heat until it comes to a boil. Pour into an 8x8" pan (I used a weird 5x10" but both totally work) and let cool while you make the crumble. 

In a medium bowl, mix together the dry ingredients, then add the butter substitute either with your fingers or a pastry cutter. You want it to be clumpy and crumbly. Let it sit in the fridge while you preheat the oven to 200ºC. Once it is ready, sprinkle the crumble evenly over the fruit and bake for 25-30 min, or until the top is golden brown. Let cool and eat your heart out. 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Istanbul Flashbacks

Waah so I have a lot of catching up to do, you guys. I am currently in Boston (in the States? What??), but before I get to that I'm gonna jump back to my week in Istanbul.

I seriously loved that city. I was there back in the beginning of July visiting my wonderful Moroccan friend from my days in Tangier part one, who moved to Istanbul about 8 months ago. Currently, he's teaching English classes, being passed off as an American from LA. Classy. So while he was working, I was out exploring on my own and he got to show me his favorite nooks and crannies on the weekend.

Let me tell you, there was an overwhelming amount to see. And most importantly, eat.

My friend was lucky enough to live relatively within walking distance (I say relatively meaning like 20 minutes, but I'm a crazy fast-walker) to the hip, bustling Taksim Square. So my first sights were wandering around the big open center and off onto the crowded shop-laden side streets.

Here I discovered a shop with the best Turkish Delight I've ever had called Haci Bekir, watched some guy make a whole show out of serving a little girl a scoop of ice cream, went to some great little local bars with my friend, and ate a lot of street food- my favorite being these clam shells stuffed with rice, clam meat & spices with a squeeze of lemon. Everyone I tell this to says "oh my god, you ate seafood from the street??" Meh. It was delicious and I'm still alive.

Later in the week my friend took me to a restaurant also around the Taksim area that had the most amaaazing Turkish food that was like stuff your imaginary Turkish mother would make you. There's a whole buffet of dishes to choose from and you can pick up to 5 for a ridiculously cheap price.

Most of the more touristy things I did on my own, and honestly found them to be a bit underwhelming. I saw the Aya Sofya Mosque from the outside which was lovely, but didn't want to wait in line (bein' lazy), especially when you could just breeze on into the blue mosque. So I opted to go into that one instead, which was stunning with intricate blue and red tile-work and lush carpets. The area around these mosques, however, had a few too many aggressive tour guides and vendors yelling at me for my taste.

The Grand Bazaar was near there too- I meandered through the narrow arches for a bit and almost bought a lamp.

I did go on a great boat tour that was just 10 lira and took you around both the European and Asian coastlines for about an hour and a half. You get to see astonishingly intricate palaces and beautiful beachside homes. Plus getting off your feet for that long is the best.

After Rome the week before, I didn't really feel a burning need to go see more museums, but I did check out Istanbul Modern one afternoon. The general collection wasn't exactly my thing, but there was a photography exhibit comparing old and new Istanbul that was beautiful and definitely worth the trip.

Also, if you're down in that area near the museum, walk around and maybe you'll stumble on this awesome staircase, surreptitiously wedged between two large buildings:

Last but not least- do not leave Istanbul without trying the best baklava you will have in your life at this place.

No I did not eat all of that by myself. But I could have.

Anyway, that's all just my humble advice & experience in Istanbul. Go see this city for yourself and tell me what I missed, for next time.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Roman Holiday (sans Gregory Peck)

Before I say anything about my 4 day trip in Rome, you should know something about me. My favorite movie is Roman Holiday. I've seen it probably at least 7 or 8 times. Because of this, the idea of going to Rome (although it was my second time there) is a bit romanticized in my head. I always pictured myself  in a little white blouse eating gelato on the spanish steps and riding around on the back of a motorbike with Gregory Peck.

However, since my stomach would swell up like a balloon if I ate real gelato and I now have my own wonderful version of Gregory Peck back at home in Morocco, neither of those things seemed quite appropriate. So my friend Melissa and I did a lot of other good things instead.

Let me take you on a little photo journey of the highlights:

Melissa and I (being sort of art history geeks) both agreed that one of our favorite things we saw was the Gallery Borghese, surrounded by the lovely Borghese Gardens.

I know I know there are sooo many museums to see in Europe, but the Bernini statues displayed in the Borghese are worth a trip. Believe me.

We attempted to hit all of the major tourist attractions later each day (after 6pm) so as to avoid the high noon crowd with the walking headsets and tour guides frantically waving umbrellas. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. We managed to see the Colosseum during the tourist lull, but the spanish steps and Piazza del Popolo were a bit crazy. Sometimes it was like dodging tidal waves. 

We did a lot of walking around the quaint little side-streets until we would stumble on gems like a raw vegan gluten-free gelato shop. Sound impossible? Nope. It was all of that plus one of the most delicious things I've ever put in my mouth. Grezzo saved my life from being eternally gelato-less.

And of course, my favorite thing about Italy. Each evening we attended a magical thing called aperitivo, in which you buy one drink between the hours of 6 and 9pm and are provided with free dinner.

Well, technically you just get mini appetizers, salads and things from a buffet table near the bar, but if you load up your plate 2 or 3 times and ignore the stares from haughty Italians who know exactly what you're doing, that's a full meal right there. My favorite bar we went to was a cozy little hole in the wall called Caffe Bohemien. It was complete with comfy couches, antique books on the shelves, a chandelier over the bar, good food, and the best aperol spritz I've ever had.

Let me tell you- 4 days in this city is not enough. I feel like there are so many nooks and crannies that are just waiting to be explored, plus I love having the chance to learn and practice more Italian. Audrey Hepburn began my fantasized romance with Rome, but my own sliver of experience has caused a real love of the place to bloom.

I would love to hear if anyone has other suggestions for next time (fingers crossed) I get to visit!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Peach Pie Crumble Bars

Okay, I have no excuse anymore. It's deep summer. I am finished with work (for the most part). I am on a sort of vacation and suddenly I have this funny thing called free time. What do I do with myself for the next month?

Here's my plan so far:
-travel until I'm broke
-read more books
-bake things for friends and make them happy
-write for this blog again

Actually, I've already got the first one covered. I am currently in the midst of a two week trip to Rome, Istanbul and Barcelona. Travel stories and photos coming soon.

In the meantime, I wanted to give you guys a little sweet taste of what I've been cookin' up in my kitchen. These bars are like a summery explosion in your mouth. Nothing beats butter, sugar and fresh peaches. Make these, sit on the grass with bare feet, soak up some sun, and be happy.

Peach Pie Crumble Bars
(vegan option)
adapted from The Tart Tart

makes about 12 bars

245g flour
75g rolled or instant oats 
110g sugar
40g brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
180g cold butter, cubed (or can easily substitute cold vegan margarine for vegan option)
2 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 1 tbsp water

1 kilo fresh peaches or nectarines, cut into small cubes
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp orang blossom water (optional)
juice of half of a lemon
85g brown sugar
15g cornstarch

Preheat your oven to 190ºC. Start by mixing all of your dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the cold butter, using your fingers to combine until it reaches a sandy texture. Mix in the cornstarch and water and form 2/3 of the dough into a ball, placing in the fridge while you make the filling. The other 1/3 of the dough should stay crumbly, but you can put that in the fridge to chill out too.

Mix all of the filling ingredients in a bowl and stir well to coat the peaches completely. Set aside.

Take out your dough and press it into the bottom of a well-greased 9x9" pan. Spoon the peach filling evenly on top, and sprinkle with the remaining crumbly dough. Bake for about 45-50 minutes or until the top starts to turn golden brown. Let cool for about 15-20 minutes before cutting into bars.

Yes, I know it's hot and your oven will only make it hotter. These are worth it. Sorry not sorry.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Loves Lists- May

The summer winds are starting to blow off of the Mediterranean and through the streets of Tangier. Can you believe it's almost June? I sure can't. I have no clue where the time has flown. It's freakin' me out a bit.

I still haven't had much time for recipes and cooking, but really it's a good thing, because my dance stuff has been gaining some serious momentum. My new workshops that I just started last week have been full & lively, I'm assembling a team for a new dance/video project that I am producing, and I just performed in the Tangier Street Art Festival with my dance partner and it seemed to be a huge success. It's been a lot of work, but also lots and lots of payoff.

I am super excited for summer to arrive, not just for longer days of beach lounging, but because I've got some little vacations set up. As happy as I am in this city, I can feel my travel pants starting to get antsy. Perusing maps and travel blogs have reappeared as my main time-fillers. These summers winds make me want to blow away.

In the meantime, while I dream about Istanbul and Montreal, here are some things I've been lusting over lately:

May Love List

-This recipe is the perfect combination to feed my current obsession with orange flower water and my on-going need for strawberries every day.
-Love these photographs- intimate & quiet homescapes.
-I have literally shown this video to every single one of my friends who are dancers. I am just obsessed. Beautiful, twisted, haunting, and seriously impressive.
-On my to-cook-immdediately list: A fresh spring onion fritatta, grilled green onions with walnut romanesco, fried cauliflower steaks with honey + hot sauce, and this coconut noodle salad with caramelized limes.
-New music addiction. This guy too.
-You can always count on my friend Renee to have something good and chocolatey to share. Mm I want them all.
-Another one of the many dance videos I've been watching for inspiration.
-My ideal Sunday afternoon: sitting on my terrace in the sun reading this and sipping on this.
-And because everyone loves cute animals and pretty pictures.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Easiest Ever Chocolate-Dipped Peanut Butter Cookies

Oh my lord, where has the time gone? It's been ages since I've visited this little corner of my world and I gotta say I've missed it. 

Since we last chatted, my life has been flip flopped and turned completely on it's head. Luckily, the end result is rich with new perspectives, new friends, new experiences, new things learned.

Just to give you a taste of what has been going on, here's a little list of recent major events:

1. The big dance show I was choreographing for the past 4 months was finally performed! We presented the show in Tangier, Tetuan and Rabat with incredible receptions in each city. Near the end of rehearsals, I truly thought we were not going to pull it off, but in the end somehow we all pushed through. And it happened. And it was great. And I am beyond proud of my dancers.

2. My friend and I moved! I won't get into gritty details, but basically there were some complications with our old house and we were forced to find a new one. The great news is that our new apartment is in the city center and even more spacious and beautiful than the last. So we are happy and finally all settled with that.

3. I'm starting to teach more classes at a relatively new performance & studio venue in Tangier called Tabadoul. I have just begun prepping and advertising for that as well as trying to find inspiration for choreography, because after that last performance I am creatively exhausted.

4. I have another new dance project coming up that I have just started conceptualizing. It's still in it's baby stages so I'll elaborate more soon :)

Phew. So that is where I have been. Even though there's still a lot going on in my life, I feel a bit more settled and centered now than I did in the past couple weeks (thanks to my amazing friends and a certain new special someone...), which means time to get back to writing, baking, photographing, blogging. For crazy times, let's start with one of the simplest recipes I've ever made. 

These peanut butter cookies are made with literally 4 ingredients and the result is slightly chewy, perfectly crumby & rich with flavor. Make with caution- they are seriously addictive. 

Easiest Ever Chocolate-Dipped Peanut Butter Cookies (gluten-free)
recipe from the Food Network

makes about 2 dozen small cookies

250g creamy peanut butter
200g granulated sugar
1 egg
150g dark chocolate

Preheat your oven to 375º F (190º C) and grease a baking sheet. Cream together the peanut butter and sugar in a mixing bowl, then whisk in the egg. Form the dough into little balls and press down into disks on the sheet. Bake for about 12 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. Let cool completely.

While the cookies are cooling, melt the chocolate in the microwave or a double boiler, stirring occasionally. Using a spoon, dip and coat half of each cookie in chocolate and place on parchment paper. Let sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes or until the chocolate has hardened. Eat, share, enjoy.