Wordless Wednesday: Timeless Treats

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Berkeley, CA 94705

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Easy Brie-zy Entertaining

What’s that I hear, off in the distance? Could it be the sound of winter boots storming down the driveway? The staccato knock of knuckles against the front door? The unmistakable chime of the doorbell, ringing out as clear as day: YOUR GUESTS HAVE ARRIVED!?

Ah yes, it sounds like the holidays are here again! Trickling in slowly, gathering in greater numbers with every passing minute, the kitchen swells with sounds of merriment, laughter and banter ricocheting off the walls. Cue the music, crank the oven, and break out the appetizers; it’s time to dazzle with more than sparkling tinsel lining the hallways.

Play your cards right, and one spectacular starter will set the whole party in motion. The pros know that it’s only possible by keeping it simple, prepping ahead, and using the best ingredients. That’s why I’m dropping this show-stopping wheel of homemade vegan brie, supple and soft, crowned with the bold combination of tart raspberries and balsamic vinegar. If that doesn’t kick off the festivities with applause, at least, perhaps you’ve invited the wrong audience.

Buttery, creamy, melting at room temperature, this brie isn’t a dead-ringer for its dairy counterpoint, but it doesn’t need to imitate exactly when it can exceed that experience. Reaching into my pantry for an easy accompaniment, bottles of Alessi White Balsamic Raspberry Blush Vinegar and Alessi Raspberry Infused White Balsamic Reduction inspired this unconventional, yet compelling combination. Melding that tangy, fresh flavor with sweet whole berries in a lightly simmered compote created a heady aroma that no one could resist.

I can count on Alessi ingredients to raise the bar on everyday staples, no matter the recipe or occasion. Family owned and operated for 72 years, these essentials have stood the test of time. They’ve been stocking grocery store shelves across the country for as long as I can remember, that’s for sure. Going straight to the source reaps the greatest rewards, though, since orders over $20 ship free and no where else can you find such a wide section of authentic Italian specialties. As if that wasn’t enough, if you shop directly through Alessi.com and enter the code HANNAHK at checkout, you’ll get 15% off your order! This code is good for 1 use per customer, until December 31.

Both the cheese and chutney can be made up to a full week in advance, so there’s no need to stress on the big day. Just take off the chill as conversations warm and spirits flow. The savory wedges will melt in your mouth, and any extraneous worries will melt away. Now that’s what makes a happy holiday.

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Hello Gourd-geous!

No Thanksgiving dinner would be complete without a pumpkin pie on the menu. Over 50 million of the crusted custards meet their demise on this fateful day, despite the fact that the pilgrims didn’t serve a single slice at the first harvest celebration. Somehow, the American love affair with the warmly spiced, sweet and simple pastry blossomed into an obsession spanning the generations. Everyone has a secret recipe that their grandma made, or a special twist that no one can replicate.

My enthusiasm for pumpkin pie is admittedly a bit tepid at best. It’s just so predictable, so plain! Every bite has the same flavor, the same texture, the same sugar overload. That was, until at a friend’s behest, I tried topping tradition- Literally.

Crisp, buttery streusel, the best part of crumb cake and bakery muffins, turns ho-hum pumpkin pie into the legendary dessert that everyone will crave all year long. The creamy filling itself is still the main attraction, sweetened with a balanced hand and highly aromatic, redolent of cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.

Considering its popularity, there’s no need to give the classic pumpkin pie a gut renovation. Just a light touch-up, once in a century or two, may help win over some new fans.

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Reign Souspreme

Flawlessly functional, endlessly versatile, the contemporary pressure cooker has come a long way from the formidable stove top contraptions of yore. What was once a fearsome unitasker, just as likely to detonate as provide dinner, is now the must-have appliance in any moderately serviceable kitchen. The category is exploding with models- Metaphorically, of course, because safety seals have evolved and improved over the years as well. Performance varies, and what’s particularly important for those with limited countertop real estate to spare, some are far more capable and adaptable than others.

No mere pressure cooker, the Fissler Souspreme Multi Pot has 18 one-touch cooking programs. You’ve got all your staples, from stews, beans, rice, and beyond, but also the ability to slow cook, make cakes, and steam vegetables, too. What really sets this compact dynamo apart from the competition, however, are the settings for fermentation and sous vide.

Who could possibly resist the temptation to whip up a batch of kimchi at home, from scratch, in three hours? Fully fermented with a satisfying funk, I sped through the concept by hastily dumping a bag of shredded cabbage into the pot, along with fiery gochugaru, roughly torn scallions, and salt. No chopping, no brining, no mess. Seal the lid and walk away; the Souspreme Multi Pot can take it from here. If you can stand to wait longer, your patience will be rewarded with a punchier cabbage pickle, but in a pinch, this can save you from bland bi bim bap, no problem.

Yogurt is another basic essential I had wanted to try for ages, but never had the ideal conditions. It takes only milk, of any sort or origin, and a starter culture to bring in the good bacteria. Keeping it all warm- Not hot, not cold- For 12 hours is the real challenge. Not so in the Souspreme Multi Pot. Once again, just set it and forget it. Walk away, go about your daily life, and come back in for a real tart, tangy, dairy-free delight. I let mine run overnight, so woke up to the most heavenly little pots of maple-sweetened matcha yogurt, made with pistachio milk. Where else are you going to find that kind of combination?

What about that headlining sous vide function, you may ask? Well, now that’s a fun twist that really highlights the precision of this fine machine. The temperature can be set to the every degree from 113 to 194 degrees Fahrenheit. With such exacting control, there’s no need for an immersion circulator. Just vacuum seal your food, pop it in, and dial up the timer for anything between 1 and 24 hours. Though typically reserved for prime cuts of meat or boiled eggs with runny yolks, the same concept is completely applicable for the hardy vegetables that could otherwise be at risk of under-cooking, like whole heads of cauliflower or cabbage.

The new wave of plant-based meats, however, adds an interesting new chapter to this story. I had to find out if the “bleeding” burgers could be cooked in this way, finished with the reverse searing technique. That is, cook the patty to a safe temperature, slowly and carefully, and then set it on a blisteringly hot griddle to immediately sear the exterior, leaving the inside utterly rare, pink, yet ready to eat. Finally, I was able to experience that ideal juicy burger patty that only turns up in culinary mythology. Thick, beefy patties, finished with two planes of golden brown crust sealing in an undeniably prime center. THAT is the experience that can win over any carnivore, any day.

Getting back to basics, the true test came down to a classic little French dish known as cassoulet. Traditionally stewed and baked for hours, if not a full day, some say there are no viable shortcuts for this hearty, comforting dish. Well, I say, they’re wrong! Starting from dry beans in cold water, it takes zero labor and only 30 minutes of cooking time under pressure using the Souspreme Multi Pot.

Crisp cubes of bread are toasted separately and added at the table to stay perfectly crunchy, as opposed to the typical morass of mushy breadcrumbs baked right in. Meaty shiitake mushrooms, also added directly to the Souspreme Multi Pot without any need to soak, stand in for less savory entrails and offal in this modern, meatless revival. Tender yet toothsome flageolet beans, plump and creamy, are the real stars of this show. Although you could substitute white navy beans in a pinch, I’d implore you to seek out the genuine article first. Their texture is unrivaled, and the way they drink in the umami broth, rich with wine and heady aromatics, cannot be beat.

Sounds like a dream-come-true for time-pressed cooks and voracious foodies alike, right? Well, wake up, because this delicious vision is about to become real. You can win your very own Souspreme Multi Pot to get this meal on the table, and still have ample time to play with all 17 other functions afterward, too. Read on to enter and snag the recipe! Trust me; you’ll want to save this one for easy reference.

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One and Done

One bowl. Six ingredients. No oil. No gluten.

Ready? Set? Bake!

It’s a lot to ask of one little loaf, but this pumpkin bread can truly do it all. Pared down to the bare essentials, it’s the ace up my sleeve for last-minute fall festivities or sudden sweet cravings. Everything comes straight out of the pantry and into the oven faster than you can say “good gourd!

Versatile, flexible, and endlessly adaptable, this basic foundation is just the beginning. Dress it up with nuts or seeds, get spicy with chai or apple pie blends, or go whole grain with buckwheat flour instead. Add cocoa powder, chocolate chips, and marshmallows, oh my!

This isn’t exclusively a bit of autumnal magic, either. Swap 3 – 4 large, ripe, mashed bananas for the pumpkin puree and you’ve suddenly got a crowd-pleasing perennial banana bread sensation to serve.

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