Oat-standing Granola

Great granola is a timeless staple.

Always humble, all it takes are some oats and creativity to make a treat that suits all cravings, needs, and constraints. When you hit upon a formula for thick, resoundingly crunchy clusters, gently kissed with sweetness, you won’t soon forget it. That’s why I still think of the granola by Belinda Leong from b. patisserie. Though not naturally vegan, I recall she created a special, secondary version to accommodate while working an event in San Francisco, so many years ago.

Was I the photographer? Prep cook? Stylist? Was this an awards ceremony? A press event? A cooking demo? I honestly can’t recall. The actual event has become lost in the morass of memories that blur and blend in my mind. What’s important is that I know this was the only vegan option there, so naturally, it captured my attention.

Exhibiting remarkable balance for such a simple breakfast treat, it’s the attention to detail that amplifies flavors and textures beyond their simple beginnings. Remarkably light, airy, shatteringly crisp, the texture is really what makes it so special. It’s otherwise a simple affair, accentuated by toasted sliced almonds, making it buttery like a delicate almond croissant. Notes of toffee, caramel, and malt intertwine, crafting a taste sensation that could just as well top an elegant parfait or sundae. Granola isn’t just for breakfast anymore.

Make It Your Own

Adapted from the recipe found on Food & Wine, this essential formula is ripe for experimentation.

Consider adding any of the following, to taste:

  • Dried fruits, like raisins, chopped dates, cherries, blueberries, or chopped apricots
  • Seeds, like pepitas, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, or chia seeds
  • Spices, like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, black pepper, allspice, or cloves
  • Chocolate chips or chunks
  • Coconut flakes or shreds

Some easy ideas for substitutions include:

  • Instead of almonds, swap out part or all for pistachios, cashews, pecans, or walnuts
  • Instead of brown sugar, use date sugar or coconut sugar
  • Instead of vegan butter, use coconut oil
  • Instead of maple syrup, use agave nectar or vegan honey

If this granola looks incredibly simple, even basic, you’re not wrong. As a celebration of quality ingredients and the skill it takes to bring the best out of each, that’s part of the appeal.

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Flat-Out Fabulous

Long before savory oats became the trendy breakfast du jour, poha has been the most important meal of the day for thousands of years.

As a daily oatmeal eater, it takes a lot for me to consider switching teams. Poha was the unexpected jolt of inspiration to break out of the routine for a low risk, high reward payoff.

What is Poha?

Poha is flattened rice, but the word is also shorthand for many of the dishes it creates. There are thin, medium, and thick flakes, producing a range of textures best suited for instant snacks, quick meals, or more time-consuming creations. They all cook more quickly than whole grain rice though, while retaining more vitamins and minerals than standard white rice.

Like Vietnamese broken rice, this unique format isn’t a defect but intentional feature. Modern factories use heavy rollers to flatten the grains just like rolled oats. Traditionally, and still to this day in some small villages, the rice is pounded by hand, earning the alternate description of “beaten rice.”

Chivda is a term that can be used interchangeably depending on the region, although it often refers to a thinner variety, dry-roasted with spices and enjoyed as a crispy snack.

What Does Poha Taste Like?

Very neutral in flavor as you’d expect from plain rice, the real attraction for poha is the texture. Soft, slightly sticky, tender, and easily yielding, it’s easy to eat and beloved by young and old. Thin poha tends to fall apart and become mushy when cooked, which is why it’s more popular when dry roasted. Medium and thick poha can have fluffier, separate grains

Regional Variations

India itself is a huge, diverse area encompassing many unique cultural identities, so it should come as no surprise that poha does as well. These variations are a testament to the versatility of poha, allowing individuals to customize their breakfast experience according to their preferences.

  • In Maharashtra, you’ll find Kanda Poha, where onions play a dominant role in the recipe.
  • Batata Poha, from Gujarat, incorporates potatoes for added substance.
  • In the north, you’ll encounter Indori Poha, which is boldly sweet and sour, tart and tangy, with plenty of heat in each bite.

How To Cook Poha

Though I naturally draw parallels between oatmeal and poha, there are notable differences in the cooking procedure and textural results. Rather than porridge or gruel, poha is dryer, more like pilaf, true to its rice base.

  1. Medium and thick poha needs to be rinsed to remove excess starch that would otherwise make the dish gummy or mushy. Place it in a fine mesh sieve and rinse it under running water for about 10 – 15 seconds. Gently swish the poha with your fingers while rinsing to ensure even coverage.
  2. Transfer the rinsed poha to a large bowl and add water to cover. Soak for 5 minutes to soften, which expedites the cooking process. Drain thoroughly so it doesn’t get waterlogged.
  3. Always stir gently to avoid breaking the flakes. Add your cooking liquid, cover, and simmer for about 5 minutes, until soft and fluffy.

Breakfast All Day

Don’t forget, breakfast is truly a state of mind. Though it’s traditionally enjoyed as a morning meal, there’s nothing stopping you from enjoy poha for lunch or dinner, too. This version, redolent of toasted spices and finished with a bright splash of lime juice, is simple to make yet complex in taste. Basic pantry staples are the foundation that’s easily adapted to taste. Many also enjoy sweet poha, aligned with conventional American hot cereal with cinnamon and maple syrup, so don’t be afraid to experiment. These grains may be flat, but their flavor sure isn’t.

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Dipping Into A Different Take On Hummus

There comes a time in every hummus lover’s life when they will inevitably contemplate how to scoop the maximal amount of dip directly into their mouths without offending civilized company. Chips and vegetable crudites are already thinly veiled excuses to shovel more of the buttery chickpea spread onto an edible vehicle. For everyone else who’s stared longingly at a diminutive, communal bowl at the center of a party platter, I have a solution for you: Fattet hummus.

What Is Fattet Hummus?

Consider it the Levantine equivalent of chilaquiles. Made with toasted pita wedges instead of tortillas and deconstructed hummus instead of salsa, it’s a socially acceptable way to eat hummus by the spoonful, with no expectations of sharing. Myriad versions exist across the Middle East, just like the endless versatile, adaptable appetizer that is hummus itself. Some are described more like a savory pita bread pudding, flooded with yogurt and baked in a casserole dish. Others, such as my own here, use less saucy components to keep the pita more crisp and dry. This is one of those “recipes” that should be considered more as a suggestion than a rule. There are no wrong answers for either inclusions or amounts.

Types of Fattet Hummus

Specific regional variants of fattet can be found throughout Levant region, each with its unique twist on the dish. Mine is a bit of a mashup that borrows the most elements from the Syrian and Palestinian approaches.

  • In Jordan, the dish usually features minced beef or lamb sauteed in ghee and sprinkled over the yogurt layer with pine nuts, sliced almonds, and pomegranate seeds.
  • In Syria, whole chickpeas are used and the whole thing is drizzled with melted ghee, toasted nuts, and paprika.
  • In Lebanon, chickpeas and tahini simmer together with baharat spice mix before being layered with toasted pita chips, sautéed garlic, and toasted pine nuts, finished with a pinch of paprika.
  • In Palestine, you’ll find a version most closely recognizable as “traditional” hummus, and also the one with the most complex assembly. Cooked chickpeas are blended with lemon, cumin, tahini, garlic, salt, olive oil, and water until smooth. Half of this mixture is blended with yogurt while half is left plain. The pita is not toasted, but cut into squares and added as the first layer. Freshly squeezed lemon juice, cayenne pepper, salt, and aquafaba are added, soaking the bread until its soft. The yogurt hummus is then added, followed by the plain hummus, and garnished with toasted sliced almonds, toasted pine nuts, a drizzle of olive oil, and chopped parsley.

How To Serve Fattet Hummus

Enjoy fattet hummus warm for breakfast or brunch as a complete bowl-in-one meal. You could always add schug (or hot sauce) if you like it spicy, pickles or salad to get more veggies in, or sweet black tea infused with fresh mint to start the day in style. It’s not the kind of dish that keeps well, so I make it just one serving at a time. If you have company, feel free to double, triple, or quadruple as needed.

Next time you’re craving hummus, don’t waste time with dainty dips; grab a spoon instead. A hearty bowlful of fattet hummus is what you’re really craving.

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Ballad for Balaleet

Equal parts sweet and salty, balaleet (بلاليط) is the greatest breakfast you’ve never heard of. Toasted vermicelli is enriched with butter and perfumed by aromatic rosewater, saffron, and cardamom, creating an indescribable taste sensation. It’s both delicate and bold, hearty but decadent, deceptively simple on paper with wildly complex flavor harmonies. Top that all off with a tender omelette and you can start to understand why it’s a signature dish of Emirati cuisine.

As it’s sweetened with sugar, sometimes with a heavy hand, balaleet can be served cold for dessert, too. Think of it like rice porridge / rice pudding; versatile and endlessly adaptable based on personal preferences. My take leans more savory than most, balanced out by my not-so-secret ingredient: Sugimoto shiitake powder.

Key Ingredients and Substitutions

There are no rules for making excellent balaleet, only recommendations. Experiment to create the version you enjoy best.

  • Spaghetti: I used regular spaghetti for the sake of convenience, but you could swap in any long noodle, like angel hair or linguine, and make it gluten-free if needed.
  • Vegan butter and olive oil: Let’s not kid ourselves: The generous measure of plant-based fats are a large factor in making this dish so crave-worthy. If you need to eat oil-free, though, you can try going without. Toast the noodles in a dry skillet before proceeding with the recipe, and make sure you use a non-stick skillet for the omelette.
  • Rosewater: Try orange flower water instead if that’s more readily available. In a pinch, a tiny splash of vanilla extract and lemon juice can fit the bill.
  • Saffron: Real saffron is a splurge, no doubt about it. Save your money by using a pinch of ground turmeric instead.
  • Sugar: Some recipes can have upwards of 1/2 cup of granulated sugar per serving! I prefer much less, but you can always add more to taste. To make this recipe sugar-free, add a few drops of liquid stevia, as needed.
  • Sugimoto shiitake powder: While there’s no replicating that deep umami flavor, absent of any overtly mushroom-y taste, you can make do by swapping the plain water with shiitake mushroom soaking water instead.
  • Chickpea flour: The key to making a tender, fluffy plant-based omelette, chickpea flour is an essential staple that should always be on hand. That said, if you’d prefer a simpler approach, you could skip the homemade omelette altogether and heat up a JUST folded egg.

Another Note About Noodles

Skip right to the good stuff and start with fideos to make this recipe even easier. I like the more random lengths created by breaking up full strands, plus it’s just fun to break things.

  1. Place your long noodles in a strong zip-top bag. Don’t use a flimsy plastic shopping bag because it will surely tear and make a mess in the process.
  2. Press the air out of the bag and make sure it’s sealed.
  3. Either use your hands to pick up and crack the noodles at random, or smack it gently with a rolling pin, until the pieces are all roughly 1 – 2 inches in length.

Traditionally, the noodles aren’t toasted, but I love the color, extra nutty flavor, and toothsome texture this creates. You’re welcome to skip this step if you’re in a rush.

How To Serve Balaleet

Forget cold cereal flakes; given the balance of fiber and protein, balaleet is the true breakfast of champions. As such, it’s a complete meal on its own. My only suggestions would be for drink pairings, such as:

  • Chai tea
  • Strong coffee
  • Fresh squeezed orange juice

For added heft, you could also incorporate or serve on the side:

  • Whole chickpeas
  • Sauteed or caramelized onions
  • Hash browns or home fries

If you haven’t yet tried balaleet, you’re missing out. If you have, I’d implore you to give it another go with shiitake powder as an all-purpose flavor booster. Seamlessly amplifying both sweet and savory notes, you may be surprised by what a big difference this small addition can make.

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A Star is Born

Get Your Glow On

Shining brightly as a beacon of hope and guiding light, stars hold a heavy symbolic weight with their ethereal luminescence. When it comes to Christmas specifically, it’s the crowning jewel on top of a majestic evergreen tree, the pinnacle of the holiday spirit itself. Why not add a little bit more star power to the whole season, starting with your plate.

Gold Star Bread

What Is Star Bread?

Gold Star Bread is a glorious, glowing ode to brioche, cinnamon rolls, monkey bread, and coffee cake all wrapped up in tender outstretched rays. The dough itself is soft and buttery, rich and warmly spiced, infused with the flaxen hue of ground turmeric. That alone could be turned into a luscious loaf. For a special occasion, though, we might as well go all out. Mocha infuses each twist and turn as a sweet wake up call. Ease into a festive day ahead with your very own golden star leading the way.

Sharing pull-apart bread with loved ones is a whole different experience from whacking off a simple slice. You eat with your hands, drop all pretenses, and can surrender yourself to the tactile sensation of the warm, freshly baked dough. While it makes for a showstopping breakfast or dessert, the assembly is no more complicated than any other yeasted treat.

Gold Star Bread

Filling Ideas for Star Bread

If you’re not a coffee person, you’ve got plenty of flavorful options.

  • Easiest of all, simply omit the coffee powder and keep it cocoa.
  • Swap the coffee and cocoa for ground cinnamon.
  • Use brown sugar and chai spices.
  • Add roughly chopped pecans, walnuts, and/or crystallized ginger.

The sun may hide away on some winter days, but the stars will still come out to guide your way. Hold on to that golden glow through the holidays and beyond.

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Waffling Around Breakfast

Tender, fluffy, redolent of warm spices; the best cinnamon buns are the epitome of comfort food for those with a sweet tooth. Each rich swirl is lavished with buttery cinnamon filling and smothered in silky cream cheese icing, melting and mingling within the warm, freshly baked pastry. Such an experience can’t be replicated with anything store-bought or made in advance, so how does anyone enjoy such a treat on a busy morning for breakfast?

Turn that concept into a simple waffle batter and bake that decadent cinnamon sweetness right in for an effortless recipe renovation.

Want to save more time in the morning?

These waffles are your ticket to instant comfort food with some advance planning.

The waffles themselves can be made ahead of time and frozen for up to two months. Simply reheat in the toaster oven until hot throughout and lightly crisped on the outside. The cream cheese drizzle will keep in the fridge for up to a week.

What’s a good substitute for sweet potato flour?

Sweet potato flour is unique for its subtly sweet flavor and thickening properties. It’s an excellent gluten-free option, but may be tricky to find in some markets. If you don’t want to order online or simply want to start cooking ASAP, here are the best options to try instead:

  • Quinoa flour
  • Oat flour
  • Rice flour

Never again compromise between convenience, cravings, and nutrition. These decadent-tasting yet secretly healthy waffles have it all!

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