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Mushroom Barley Soup

Friday, November 23, 2012
Mushroom Barley Soup

poi una notte di settembre mi svegliai
il vento sulla pelle,
sul mio corpo il chiarore delle stelle
chissà dov’era casa mia
e quel bambino che giocava in un cortile...

~ Nomadi, Io Vagabondo

then one night in September I woke up
wind on my skin,
starlight on my body
I wondered where my home was
and that kid playing in the courtyard...

~ Nomadi, Me, a Vagabond

There comes a time when you decide to leave behind your certainties and you're ready to embrace new ones.
It seems to happen quite suddenly, but deep down you know that it's actually the combined effect of all the intersections you've crossed before, of all those sleepless nights spent riding a bicycle through the paths of your mind; that it's a spell orchestrated by the dust of the desert and the stars of a forest in the summer; it's the energy received by silent glances and infinite hugs, which slowly took shape within you and became the courage of a dive into the unknown.
It looks like you've done it all by yourself, but deep down you feel obliged to thank one by one those encounters, and those farewells, the loves real and fake, the tears, and the smiles, and all those written words, and sung, or recited, and then again those that were rewritten, edited, and returned to the sender.
It's wandering this way that you get there, to photograph and then sit in front of a mushroom soup that seems to speak a universal language. You close your eyes and you could be in Paris. But also in Rome or San Francisco. And all you ask is to keep wandering through unknown roads, with a tender heart and a ticket always open.

Thyme and Shiitake Mushrooms

Mushroom Barley Soup
for 4-5 people

mixed fresh mushrooms
(white and brown button mushrooms, shiitake)
650 gr
dried shiitake mushrooms 10 gr
onion 1/2
shallot 1
carrot 1
celery stalk 1
pearled barley 100 gr
vegetable stock 1 liter approx.
tamari or soy sauce 4-5 tablespoons
olive oil, salt, pepper, fresh thyme, bay leaves as needed

Place dried mushrooms in a bowl, cover with water and let stand at least 10 minutes. Drain and chop them, reserving their liquid.
Finely chop onion and shallot and sauté for a few minutes in a couple of tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, add diced carrot and celery, fresh and soaked mushrooms, and cook for about 10 minutes until soft. Add barley, tamari, broth, mushrooms' water, thyme and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook for about 40 minutes. If necessary, add a bit of water. Season with salt and pepper and serve

Thyme and Salt

For this recipe which may make sense only to me (please forgive me, I won't do it anymore...), I was inspired by a similar soup that I've tasted at Whole Foods, this place so wonderful that I'd almost sleep in there, a foodist' paradise where food doesn't lie, it's your friend and often you find out that it's also your neighbor; a hipster supermarket where apples seem to have fallen right from the tree of your childhood, scents and colors would get drunk also the irreducible ones, and where employees are all... you know... beautiful, fit, and tattooed.

Pistachio Olive Oil Cake

Monday, November 19, 2012
Vegan Cake with Pistachios and Olive Oil

So don't be afraid to let them show
your true colors
true colors are beautiful
like a rainbow

~ Cindy Lauper, True Colors

Vegan cake, round two.
At this point I would almost say it's official, I don't even do it on purpose and I find myself coming out...
Olé! Love me the same amount, because I'm still the same girlinthekitchen with a soul a little vintage and a blog a tiny bit messed up. Don't panic, I don't bite, and I'm not bad. I'm simply differently fed, and yes, maybe even a little dreamy.
With or without tofu, I keep listening to music, arguing with artichokes, and falling in love with Robert De Niro inside a bookstore in New York. With or without tofu, I keep being moved with no shame by some orange marmalade during winter mornings. With or without tofu, I have the same tender heart, I do.
With vegan love, please accept a slice of this soft and fruitylicious cake, and peace.
And if someone wants to ask me why, I just say why not.

Pistachios and Olive Oil

Pistachio Olive Oil Cake
for a 9" diameter springform pan

toasted, shelled pistachios 85 gr
soy yogurt, plain 140 gr
extra-virgin olive oil 65 gr
unrefined sugar 150 gr
silken tofu 170 gr
flour 150 gr
baking soda 1/2 teaspoon
baking powder 1/2 teaspoon
salt 1 pinch
vanilla extract 1 teaspoon
For the topping
organic orange 1
organic lemon 1
unrefined sugar 100 gr
water 240 ml
Grand Marnier 60 ml
toasted, shelled pistachios, unsalted 40 gr
pomegranate seeds as needed

Pulse pistachios in a food processor until finely ground, being careful not to overdo it, or else they will release their oil. Set aside. In a large bowl, mix yogurt, tofu, sugar, oil and vanilla, and beat well until smooth and with no lumps. Sift together flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda, and add to the tofu mixture. Mix well, then add ground pistachios and incorporate to the rest.
Pour batter into the springform pan previously greased with oil and lined with parchment paper on the bottom, and bake at 325 for about 30 or 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool on a rack.
Meanwhile, prepare the topping. Wash the orange and the lemon ( moi? Meyer lemon, ça va sans dire... ), cut them in half and then into slices about a 1/4" thick. Remove seeds, and place them in a pot with water, sugar, and liqueur. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer gently for about an hour until the fruit is very tender. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and blend until it becomes thick. Spread it on top of the cooled cake, and finish it off with chopped pistachios and pomegranate seeds.
So delicious and I mean it!

Pistacchi e Melograno

The recipe comes from this new best friend of mine, which I bought in a tenth of a second after seeing it by accident in a window downtown (I see it, I go in, Iwant that, I pay, thank you, I go out).
And if he and I now sleep together, it is also because of this cake, I want you to know that.

Vegan Guinness Chocolate Cake

Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Vegan Guinness Chocolate Cake

He was a wise man who invented beer.
~ Plato

... to say nothing of the one who invented dark chocolate, and sunglasses, the one who gave birth to chamomile tea, summer at the seaside and facebook, that who developed hair gel - even better if it smells like cookies -, flared jeans, fragolino wine and focaccia, and even the one who created Snoopy, the bicycle, the toaster and the sky full of stars.
But we digress. Or maybe not, who knows, I like to think that everything is held together by the same thread, a shaggy cord full of knots, powered by candies, raspberries, and popcorn, that passing by Plato with his pint of beer, and through Calvin & Hobbes, Amélie Poulain and Lucio Battisti, has resisted time, the whims and storms of the mind without ever breaking at all, and has surprisingly led me in front of this cake, super chocolaty, very elegant and total black, to put it as he does.

Guinness and Flour

GUINNESS?? CHOCOLATE?? CAKE?? Have I heard it right? Three of the things that make life worth living, joined together in a soft and spongy hug. Impossible not to be seduced. Impossible not to capitulate.
And therefore, when they virtually suggested me the same warm, tender, and fragrant hug in veganlove version, as a gesture of love towards myself, as a tribute to a dusty 50mm lens and a trunk full of mismatched bowls and crumpled rags, but also as an act of trust for this crazy little blog and this crazy little world, I jumped at the chance without thinking about it too much.
And just like a cochobeersugar boomerang, after adjusting, sanding and repainting it my way, I throw you the same hug full of love and hope, on top of an ideal off-white vintage tray.
Call it what you will, delusions of a romantic foodblogger, sweet paranoia of a mid-autumn night, special effects of one Guinness too many, but if that same thread, passing through some semi-secret door, managed to get to you, I recommend you capitulate with me, grab this boomerang and share a slice, before re-launching it through space as it should be.
Because it was certainly a wise man or woman who invented beer, but even more so the one who dared mixing it with chocolate.
To say nothing of the one who one day tried adding some tofu...

Cocoa and Guinness

Vegan Guinness Chocolate Cake
for a 9" diameter springform pan

Chocolate and Cocoa

flour 250 gr
unsweetened cocoa powder 100 gr
sugar 300 gr
baking soda 2 teaspoons
baking powder 1/2 teaspoon
salt 1 pinch
guinness extra stout 450ml
sunflower seed oil 100 gr
vanilla extract 2 teaspoons
silken tofu 125 gr

For the chocolate frosting
semisweet chocolate 170 gr
coconut milk 120 ml

Waiting for the Cake

In a large bowl, sift flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add sugar, stir and set aside. In another bowl whisk together oil, vanilla extract, beer and tofu (yesyesyes, you've read that right, oil+Guinness+tofu, it sounds like Star Trek disguised as Grandma Duck, but trust me, it'll all work out that way...) until the mixture is smooth and without any lump. Gradually add the flour&cocoa mixture and stir until well blended. Pour batter into a springform pan previously greased with oil, and bake at 350 for about an hour. Let the cake cool on a rack.
Meanwhile, prepare the frosting. Finely chop the chocolate and place it in a bowl. Heat coconut milk over medium-high heat and bring it to a boil, stirring occasionally to prevent it from sticking. Pour boiling milk over the chocolate, so that it completely covers it. Allow to sit for about 5 minutes before mixing it to yield a smooth glaze. Let it cool down for about 30 or 40 minutes until it thickens and becomes spreadable (if it's not thick enough, add one teaspoon of corn starch and stir well). At this point, beat the frosting with an electric mixer so that it incorporates air and feels lighter. Gently spread it on top of the cooled cake and serve.

Vegan Guinness Chocolate Cake is Gone

Fudgy Wudgy Raspberry Brownies

Thursday, November 1, 2012
Fudgy Wudgy Vegan Raspberry Brownies

Happiness. Simple as a glass of chocolate or tortuous as the heart. Bitter. Sweet. Alive.
~ Joanne Harris, Chocolat

It happens sometimes, that you run into a special encounter. You're standing there looking up in the air, lost through the tortuous streets of your heart, busy imagining the sky, to the extent that at times you almost feel as if you've lost the thread of your skein. Then one day, one day like any other, with the sun, the fog and perhaps a hint of rain, you find yourself in the middle of an intersection, and still gazing into the clouds, you unconsciously make a left turn. And it's right there, at the end of the curve, half by chance and half for fun, that it hits you.
It's someone like you, half a soul mate with his own tangled skein, wwandering and looking up in the air, and clinging to your same ghosts, trying not to lose the thread. In that moment, under the tenderness of a random encounter in the rain, you understand why you had to make a turn at that intersection, why right that path, why those reflections in the mirrors have led you up to that point. Suddenly, exchanging umbrellas, your wandering starts making sense, and indeed the reason why for a long time you've ran around in a circle seems quite obvious, and so do all those curves, and those distractions, and the hills with no top, and the ways down into the night. The map of the labyrinth inside you starts getting a little clearer, and the countless times you've argued with whoever it was who drew it in you, slip away from memory.
Without thinking too much, and with eyes still at the clouds, you feel that the only thing you're required to do is stretch your heart, hide your clutter a little bit, and make room for those like you who sometimes get tangled under the rain. It's at the end of the curve, and thanks to that unexpected encounter, that you decide to sit down for a moment, take a breath, and put off for a day the checklist of things. It's an afternoon like any other, with the sun, the fog and perhaps a hint of rain, the day when you exchange your threads, and organize an unlikely picnic by swapping a slice of cake and some toasted bread with jam.
And then, when you start your ride again, you feel lighter, as if by magic, because you know that the skein is now a little less tangled.

These bittersweet brownies, full of cracks but guilt-free, these soft, red and graciously imperfect brownies are the result of an encounter in the rain. I dedicate them to all those special people who suddenly happen to fall into your hands, and who unwittingly light your way.

Fudgy Wudgy Brownies Batter

Fudgy Wudgy Raspberry Brownies*
for a 9x13" baking pan

semisweet chocolate chips 120 gr + 65 gr
raspberry fruit spread 280 gr
soy milk 50 gr
unrefined sugar 150 gr
vegetable oil 75 gr
flour 250 gr
unsweetened cocoa powder 25 gr
almond extract 1/2 teaspoon
pure vanilla extract 2 teaspoons
baking powder 1/4 teaspoon
baking soda 1/2 teaspoon
salt 1 pinch
fresh raspberries 150 gr

Fudgy Wudgy Raspberry Brownies Batter

In a double boiler melt 120 grams of chocolate chips, and let cool. In a large bowl, combine the raspberry fruit spread with soy milk, sugar, oil and extracts. Beat with the mixer for few minutes until the mixture is smooth and without any lump. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt, and add them by hand to the previous mixture. Stir well and then add the melted chocolate, the remaining chocolate chips and the fresh raspberries. The batter will be quite thick.
Spread it in the pan previously greased with oil and dusted with flour, and level it with a spatula. You don't need to spread it to the very corners of the pan, because the batter will expand while baking and everything will be OK. No worries.
Bake at 325 for 45 minutes. For once forget the toothpick test, because brownies are moist and the toothpick would betray you. Just trust the smell coming out of the oven...
Let them cool off, then cut the brownies into squares, have a bite and scream out loud:


Fudgy Wudgy Raspberry Brownies on Plate

*I adapted the recipe from Veganomicon, slightly adjusting the amount of chocolate and flour. This is my latest craze, which - I fear - one day I'll have to explain. But for now, just take them as they are, these crazy, reddish, guilt-free brownies.
With vegan love.

All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt.
~ Charles M. Schulz