Thursday, October 30, 2014

Interview with Billy Parisi and his Lemon Polenta Cake with Blueberries

Is there a full moon? Really weird stuff happens when the moon's face is in full bloom. Last week, we were out of eggs. Shawn was probably relieved, because that meant that I could not bake. But, my yearning for sweets soon had me baking an eggless vegan cake, not my usual gig. This week, I have no cornmeal, which is normally not a big deal, because, ordinarily, I do not have a use for it. But something I saw a couple of days ago got embedded so deeply into my mind that getting my hands on a box of that stuff suddenly became a state of emergency.

The funniest thing is that our pantry is bursting with cans, jars, bags and boxes. Jams, we have got - Cherry, blackberry, strawberry, apricot, even pumpkin, but not a single box of cornmeal.  So I had the crazy idea of making my own. There just was no time to waste going to the market for polenta and that bag of popcorn was not going anywhere. It might as well go to some good use. I only needed a cup of cornmeal. So I put my handy, dandy little coffee grinder to work. That did not do a great job. So my resident engineer (aka my hubby) suggested upgrading to the juice bullet thingy. I really wanted to make a specific Lemon Polenta Cake with Blueberries. This reaction is quite a normal response after seeing photos of food on Go, see for yourself, if you do not believe me. 

Billy Parisi is an accomplished chef and family man. His drool-inducing creations pop off of the vibrant pages of his site, but are elegantly simple enough for busy home cooks like me. Here is a man who wears many hats: Food and Content Creator, Sometimes TV Host, Picture Taker, Coffee Drinker, Daddy, Husband, College Sports Enthusiast, Fashionisto, Film and Music Lover. With a culinary degree paired with one in communications and videography, he has both the technical training and an eye for design.
Billy is an approachable, friendly, grounded man with a positive disposition, an all-around likable fellow. With a character ideal for the role of an educator, Billy's enthusiasm for food as an attainable art is clear in the beautiful composition of dishes and the uncomplicated techniques of his recipes. He intends to wow you with a gorgeous plate of food, but is also willing to share his secrets to replicating it at home for yourself. In this vein, he was also willing to answer some (very nosy) questions I had for him.

C: Where were you born/raised?
B: I was born in Detroit and actually moved around quite a bit as a kid.  We moved twice while in Detroit and then we moved to Cleveland when I was 8, St. Louis when I was 11, and then I was off to Phoenix for Culinary School after graduation in St. Louis.  I'm now in Chicago, but I'm not sure if there is a place I could call home.  Detroit or St. Louis maybe? 

C: What do you like to do on vacation?  You do take vacations, right?
B: We are able to sneak a few vacations in there where we can.  Although Cliche, I love the Caribbean.  I would sit on the beach all day, eat food and do nothing.  I just love starring into the Ocean and feeling that strong breeze roll in, nothing like it.

C: Where would you love to live?
B: I am a sucker for the South.  I love the hospitality, I love the weather and I love the people.  I'd probably want to live in Charleston, NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana) or Atlanta, if my wife would let me of course.  I'm pretty sure though that I'll be in Chicago for the long haul. 

C: How did you land in the cooking industry?
B: You know, I always say it started before I was born.  My grandparents were from Italy and my dad met my mom in a restaurant, he was a cook and she was a waitress.  Food has always really been in my life but I actually didn't start loving to cook until I was 13.  When we were in St. Louis, my dad's buddy owned a restaurant so I started washing dishes there when I was 13.  I kind of had a Kitchen Confidential restaurant upbringing where I literally idolized the chefs at this restaurant.  Heck I was only 13 and watching them make insanely beautiful food just caught my attention and really the rest is history.

C: Why do you love your job?
B: I love that I can be at home with my family and just make awesome food all day and take pictures of it.  Seeing the smiles on my wife and daughter's faces is irreplaceable.  I love creating memories with food, whether it's through a picture or a night at the dinner table with my family.

C: If you had an endless budget, what would you do?
B: I'd build an awesome house with an insane kitchen, cook food, take pictures of it and eat with my family :-)

C: What do you cook at home?
B: It changes so much on a weekly basis.  Some weeks I'm baking pies and other weeks I'm making Spring Rolls, literally whatever sparks my interest that week, I'm cooking it.

C: What's in your freezer?
B: I have some leftover frozen pizza sauce, bolognese, chili and a whole bunch of frozen vegetables.

C: Which do you prefer to make: Sweet or savory?
B: Savory all the way, but I love combining them together.

C: Which do you prefer to eat: Sweet or savory
B: Savory. sweet.... savory!

C: Your Soigne dishes are stunning.  Do you force yourself to compose new recipes or
are you naturally inspired?
B: It kind of goes back to what I'm in the mood to do and then I just make'em.  I have learned through making those videos, since I am the producer, shooter, editor, food stylist and chef, that they need to not be a long recipe.  Short and sweet is better and more engaging. 

C: What's your favorite junk food indulgence?
B: Sour patch kids and cool ranch Doritos! 

C: What do you absolutely refuse to eat?
B: N/A :-)

For a cook, good food is intended to convey a powerful message. Sometimes it a romantic novel that takes you on a trip to a beautiful land far away. Other times, it places you back into your grandmother's kitchen when you were a child. 

This gorgeous cake is one of Chef Billy Parisi's signature creations. The lemons and polenta give it an Italian accent. The blueberries give it American flair. Most importantly, it is elegantly simple to prepare by design. 

This cake is also gluten-free as the almond and corn flours stand in place of traditional all-purpose wheat flour. And don't worry about those lemons as they won't go to waste. The zest is needed for the cake batter, but the juice goes into the homemade blueberry sauce. Get the original recipe here.

I have never really been good at following instructions. It is usually a challenge for me to remain faithful to a recipe. To me, recipes are merely just suggestions, even in baking where disobeying the print is sacrilege, punishable by flopped results. This lemon cake is one case, however, in which I followed every step like a model student. It was so easy to make and so beautiful with the fluffy white clouds of whipped cream and rich purple drizzle of blueberries on top. The cake turned out so yummy that Daisy could not wait for me to take a few photos to show it to you. That is why a big slice is missing. She then asked for seconds.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Daisy's Crumbs Cookies

Tis the season where the sniffles are persistent uninvited guests. Daisy still has a bit of a cough, but was very excited to go back to school today and see her friends.  When I picked her up and we headed home, I asked about her day.  I speak to her in Armenian, but she usually replies in English, which is easier to enunciate. I asked all the usual things,  like who she played with, what did she eat, did she learn a new song. Suddenly, she started reciting a little ditty about Autumn in Armenian:

Autumn came, beautiful Autumn.
It brought gold to the fields and pastures.
The wind danced with the leaf.
Slowly creeps in the misty fog.

My heart melted, hearing her speaking in full sentences.  I grabbed my phone and got it all on tape. 

Now,  I listen to the recording, especially toward the end of the day at the office, when I miss her most.   On the drive home, I look forward to doing something fun with her, like baking. I am Armenian, after all. My people practically live on coffee and pastries. The best thing to bake with kids is a big batch of cookies. Growing up in the States has made me quite the chocolate chip cookie connoisseur, but I have not found that perfect recipe, the one that takes me back to the bake sales from my school days. Luckily, I found an excuse to keep looking.

We had guests coming for dinner on Sunday, so I called my favourite my little blue-eyed culinary consultant for some ideas. When I asked her what we should bake, she suggested cookies, "Crumbs Cookies." Never heard of them. So I googled it. (Yes, google is now a verb.) The first thing that came up was Fregolata, a big, crumbly Italian almond cookie with a very sexy name. Irresistible indeedy, but I doubt Daisy has ever had one. So I showed her more photos and she pointed to the chocolate chippers and nodded, "See, Mama?"

I am always happy to bake chocolate chip cookies for any reason, on any day. There is never a bad time for them, even on Ordinary Tuesday. This was an especially good idea since it meant I was going to bake with my little sweetheart. 
A good chocolate chip cookie recipe is a hard find. There are just so many out there. So I went right to my girl, Dawn of the charming Vanilla Sugar Blog. She's a Cape Cod surfer girl who knows her cookies. Her signature Friday Links are a fun read and I always learn something new, like grating butter. Yes, grating butter. I couldn't believe my eyes, either, but it makes perfect sense. In case of a Chocolate Chip Emergency (You know what I'm talking about.), there is no time to wait for the butter to soften to room temp. That's when you grab the cheese grater. 

This recipe is so lovely, no fancy equipment is needed. You can make this with nothing more than a wooden spoon and a big bowl. Grating the cold butter helps it soften quickly.  The cute little cookie scooper is also not necessary - I just always wanted to have one. Actually, the cookies turn out much cuter if you drop them into clumpy mounds using two teaspoons. Chilling the dough briefly before baking makes for crumbly cookies, just what my little sweetheart wanted.  Pistachios and cherries went into the mix just to shake things up a bit.

Daisy's Crumbs Cookies
Note: You may want to save 1/2 cup of the cookie dough before adding eggs for use later. I have a surprise coming for you as to what you can make with it.

Inspired by Vanilla Sugar Blog
Makes about 3 dozen

1½ sticks butter, cold
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 vanilla bean or 2 tsp extract
1 tsp instant coffee
2 1/2 cups flour
1 Tb baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch sea salt
2 cups chocolate chips
handful dried sour cherries
handful raw pistachios

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a bowl.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Using a cheese grater, shred butter into a bigger bowl.
Add sugars and mix until creamy.

If you are using a whole vanilla bean instead of the extract,
use a paring knife to split it lengthwise down the center.
Then scrape the pulp.

Incorporate coffee, eggs and vanilla.

Add flour mixture in batches to the butter mixture and stir until just combined.
Gently fold the chocolate chips, dried cherries and pistachios into the batter.
Transfer cookie dough into the fridge for 5 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350*F.

Using a small cookie scooper or a two teaspoons, measure 1-inch
mounds of dough spaced about an inch apart onto the cookie sheet.
Return remaining dough to the fridge.

Transfer to the hot oven and bake about 10-12 minutes.
Using a spatula, gently lift cookies and place onto a wire rack to cool.

Remove dough from fridge and measure next batch for baking.

Enjoy while still warm with a very cold, very tall glass of milk.
Store in an airtight container for 3 days. Remaining dough keeps well in the freezer up to 1 month.

This is now officially my favourite chocolate chip cookie recipe, or as Daisy calls them, Crumbs Cookies. They come out crunchy, crumbly on the outside and chewy on the inside. The sour cherries and pistachios offer a make every bite a little different. As for the coffee, no one will ever guess you sneaked a pinch into the mix. They will just keep asking you what chocolate chips you used because they taste so darned chocolaty! Old fashioned recipes are the best. Picture a sweet purple-haired granny in her country kitchen, wearing a cotton smock apron, turning the dough around the bowl with a wooden spoon, despite the pain of her tired hands. She recalls the recipe from memory, like so many other delicious things she makes. This is that kind of recipe. She's a keeper. These cookies taste so good that they demand a smile. I have already made them twice in the last week. But most of them were given away, because if they stayed at home with us, I could not stop eating them. Now I am looking for another excuse to bake them again and with the holidays coming, I should not have any problem finding a good one. You have my guarantee that Daisy's Crumbs Cookies are easy to make, even at a moment's notice. Keeping your hand out of the cookie jar, however, is not so easy.

You might also like these Bombshell Bars...

Friday, October 24, 2014

Woodland Theme Table Decorations: Guest Post for Happy Happy Nester

The holidays are coming and everyone is stocking up on  all sorts of seasonal decorations, including tableware. The stores are bursting with the cutest serving platters with happy snowman, reindeer and Santa, dazzling cake stands with hanging crystals and sparkly table linens. 

While the oranges and yellows, followed by the reds and greens herald the holidays, doing something a bit edgy and different makes for a refreshing take on old traditions. So when my bloggy friend Janine asked me to do a guest post, I was thrilled to raid the closets and cabinets for a new idea. That is how a woodland-inspired tablescape came to be.  Hop over to my creative friend Janine's blog Happy Happy Nester for all the details. While you are there, you will find more inspirations for decorating your home. She recently did a fun and useful post about apples and features a recipe for making your own candied apples. Some of my very favourites are her recycled paper crafts idea, vintage ornaments article and her mom's almond cookie recipe. The best part to Janine's blog is the stories she shares about her family and childhood. Enjoy!

Get the Spooky Soup recipe is here...

Also in season, Tuxedo Pinktober Pumpkins!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tuxedo Pumpkins for Pinktober

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and, this year, our pumpkins are all dressed up in dashing tuxedos just in to for Pinktober celebrations. Black and white convey a timeless elegance. A dusting of pink glitter is a sparkly hat-tip to all the breast cancer warriors around the world. My original thought was to bake something (big surprise). But, a trip to the pumpkin patch quickly changed my mind.

Early Sunday morning, we headed toward a small family farm with our neighbour-friends who have a son about Daisy's age. She insisted on riding in their car so she could spend more time with him. They really are two peas in a pod. We got to the farm in time to beat the heat and the crowds. It was lovely up there. A small, rustic farm with loads of pumpkins in every shape, size and colour, many with beautiful twisty stems. The kids had a blast helping us mommies find the best ones, while the hubbies waited patiently under a big, old olive tree. There were lots of things to do, too. We took a little train ride through the sunflower field to see all the silly scarecrows the family had made. There was a corn maze, a haystack pyramid and a petting zoo. After lunch, we headed home, hoping the kids would crash in the car. Daisy was so excited that by the time we got home, she really had no intention to nap. So, I got the acrylic paint out and we got right to work. Daisy took her time, patiently painting a nice pattern. Hers is the prettiest one and stands out against the rest of the pumpkins. It looks like the Earth as seen from space on a black/white 1960s TV, right?

The original plan was to paint black/white stripes onto the pumpkins, but after my first try, I realized I had neither the steady hand of a surgeon nor the patience to make it work. Acrylic paint is very forgiving. So I painted right over my mistakes. Because I always have sweets on my mind, I decided to see how they would look with contrasting colours dripped over the stems.  These pumpkins almost look like cake or ice cream sundaes with the hot fudge dripping along the sides. The sparkly glitter on top adds just a touch of pink whimsy. Black and white look great in any room. Ours have already gotten a tour of most of the house. They sat on the front porch for a while and looked fabulous with our old letterbox, black cafe set against the pink exterior of our house. Our house is pink, but not by choice. That is how it was when we bought it. I do like the colour pink, maybe a little more than Shawn does. But, when we found our house, the colour was not a deciding factor. Originally, most of the interior walls were also pink. Even the old kitchen sink was pink and the walls are still covered in pinky wallpaper. The first thing Shawn did before we moved in was hire someone to help paint the main rooms. When the fellow arrived, he first thing he said was: "Who lived here? Barbie?!"

Let's get PINK!

Pinktober Tuxedo Pumpkins

What to Get
Pumpkins, gourds and squashes of various shapes/sizes, faux/fresh
Black acrylic paint
White acrylic paint
2 paper or plastic plates
Fine pink glitter
A cute li'l partner-in-crime

What to Do
Cover your work surface with several layers of newspaper to protect it against paint drips.
Squeeze some black paint onto one paint, white onto the other.
Paint some pumpkins white, others black.
Allow them to dry completely (30 minutes).
Use an alternating colour to drip over the top of the stem, allowing it to travel down the sides.
Before the drip paint dries, sprinkle some pink glitter on top.
Allow the pumpkins to dry thoroughly (45 minutes) before displaying.

In honor of Pinktober, lots of ideas were dancing around in my head. Painting these beautiful tuxedo pumpkins with my little sweetheart was a very messy, but wonderful way to end a beautiful Autumn day. They turned out so nicely that we also painted all the little fake gourds and squashes we had around the house. While pink is not my favourite colour (I love red), it has taken on very special meaning for me in recent years. I am grateful for the support of my loving family and friends. I am also fortunate to have received excellent medical care. Life has its ups and downs. As we get older, there will be more and more pebbles in our path. Pinktober is a reminder to celebrate every day, because life is the worth the fight.  

For more kid-friendly fun ideas, check out Bedazzling Pumpkins and Piggy Celebration Cake...

Friday, October 10, 2014

Spooky Soup: Cottage Zucchini + Cannellini

Another month zipped by already and it is already time for Andrea's October picks from the River Cottage Veg cookbook for our cooking club. For the first time, I made the dish before she announced it. Not bad for an Armenian woman, ey? (We are always fashionably late.) Maybe Andrea and I were thinking the same thing? In my continued (and failed) efforts to summon cold weather by cooking wintery dishes, I made an Italian style zucchini soup with parmesan cheese and fresh herbs. I ditched the heavy cream (Call the doctors! Something's wrong with me.) for cannellini beans not only to make the soup more creamy, but also to beef it up a bit. Made from fresh late-summer squash and basil, the vibrant green will soon give way to the reds and oranges of the coming season.

Making the soup was so quick and easy. While the zucchini sauté in the pan, make the "spiders" fashioned out of dark raisins.  First, you press down onto a raisin and flatten it a bit. Then you can use either a good paring knife or kitchen shears to snip little legs off each side. The process sounds easy enough. no? Well, either I was too picky or hungry, because more of these little guys ended up in my tummy than on top of the soup. The raisin spiders can be made ahead of time and the kids would love to help.

There is really no cream in this soup, apart for the bit used to make the spider web. I wanted to keep it light enough to serve as a starter or side. It easily adapts to a healthy and delicious dinner with a bigger portion. The parmesan cheese and cannellini beans add substance and flavour without making dinner too heavy. Serve right from the stove with a fresh loaf of crusty bread, because a full belly promises good sleep on a chilly night.

There are several types of zucchini. While it is one of my most favourite vegetables, some crops can be bitter and ruin your entire dish. The dark green zucchini does not seem prone to this bitterness and it is my choice.

This recipe serves 4, so you only need 4 raisin spiders. But, I found that making them was not as easy as I had thought. So I suggest you have a good little pile of raisins handy and eat the "ugly" ones as I did. Also, the web does not have to be right in the center of the bowl. Put it off to a side. Asymmetry is interesting.

The soup is delicious and ready in a snap. Do not let the long instructions fool you - I'm just chatty.

Cottage Zucchini + Cannellini Soup

Inspired by Page 165
Serves 4


For the Soup:
2 Tb extra-virgin olive oil
7 medium zucchinis (the dark green kind)
3 stalks leeks
3 cloves garlic
32 fl oz free-range chicken stock
1/2 cup grated parmesan + more for serving
15oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 lemon, juice + zest
handful fresh parsley
handful fresh basil
Salt + pepper to taste

For the Garnish:
handful of raisins
3 Tb sour cream
splash of heavy cream
plastic squeeze bottle


To make the spiders, press down onto a raisin with your thumb
to gently flatten it a bit.
Use kitchen shears or a sharp paring knife to snip little legs along
each side.

Pour heavy cream and sour cream into a plastic squeeze bottle.
Give it a gentle shake. Chill in the refrigerator until the soup is

Place a pot onto medium-high heat and
drizzle a bit of extra-virgin olive oil into it.
Peel, crush and mince garlic. Set aside for at least 10 minutes.

Was the parsley and basil, rinse, drain and set aside.

Wash and slice the leeks. Immerse into a bowl of cold water
to remove the dirt that may be trapped between the layers.
Rinse and drain.

Wash and cut zucchinis into about 1-inch pieces.
Sauté until golden and aromatic.
Add leeks and garlic.
Continue cooking until golden.

Add stock, cheese, beans, lemon juice + zest.
Reduce heat to low and simmer 15 minutes.

Shortly before serving, add the fresh parsley and basil.
Use an immersion blender to purée the soup until smooth.

Divide soup among 4 bowls evenly. 
Use the squeeze bottle to make several concentric circles with
the heavy cream + sour cream mixture 
over the top of the soup somewhere off-center.

Drag a toothpick from the center of the innermost circle
to the outer edges around the bowl to create the web.
Drop a raisin spider somewhere onto the web.

Repeat the decoration for the rest of the bowls of 
soup and serve with a fresh loaf of crunchy baguette.

The candlelit woodland-inspired tablescape sets the scene for a cozy, but festive dinner any night of the week. Details on how to make your own coming soon in my guest post for the stylish Janine of Happy Happy Nester. She has a crisp, fresh sense of design and cute craft ideas, like recycling old paper into paper leaves for a pretty wreath. She also shares some treasured family recipes, like her mom's almond cookie and her homemade chai tea mix.

Fall is a wonderful time of year when the mercury starts to drop and the anticipation of the holidays brings about old fashioned notions, like baking cookies, making soup from scratch, gathering in front of the fire to play board games. A warm and comforting bowl of this bright green soup is a salute to lingering gifts of summer and the spooky little intruder is not only cute, but yummy.
Get the kids to help make the raisin spiders and the cream cobwebs. Dinner will be so delicious and fun, the kids will not even suspect you snuck some veggies into their bowls.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Persian Olive Caviar (Zeytoon Parvardeh) for Mehregan 2014

There are times when something reminds me of my early days in Iran and suddenly, my heart feels heavy. I was seven when we left and am grateful to call the States my home. Every now and then, I do miss Iran. As the season marked by the bounty of harvest, Fall is a beautiful time of year there. The mountains are speckled with trees sporting reds, oranges and yellows and the breeze carries a crisp chill.  That is the best time for a stop at a teahouse where a warm cup of slow-brewed black tea is a comfort to a weary traveler. These small roadside stops are a dreamy memory for me now, with visions of pretty courtyards centered around ornamental pools and wooden beds under the shade of old trees. 

We are now on the cusp of Mehregan, the ancient Persian celebration of Autumn. Dating back to the pre-Islamic Zoroastrian days of Persepolis-ruled Persia, this festival was one of only two occasions when the King granted an audience.  Armenians were also present.. It has been noted that one year, the Armenian Governor presented the Persian King with a gift of 20,000 horses.

A small landlocked country with threatening borders, Armenia has always felt a close alliance to its Persian neighbour. While my childhood days of the mighty lion with sword in hand are long gone, political and religious differences are set aside and the friendship between Persians and Armenians continues to grow strong. As such, I am thrilled to have been invited to participate in the First International Mehregan Cyber-Feast featuring Persian food bloggers from around the world. Be sure to check out the delicious recipes each of these talented and beautiful ladies is featuring for the Fall celebration:

Ahu Eats                   All Kinds of Yum Bottom of the Pot     Café Leilee                    Della Cucina Povera 

Fae's Twist and Tango  Family Spice Fig and Quince Honest and Tasty       Lab Noon            Lucid Food                 Marjan Kamali        My Caldron              My Persian Kitchen     Noghlemey            Parisa's Kitchen          Persian Spice           Sabzi Blog                Simi's Kitchen             The Saffron Tales    The Salty Pear            Spice Spoon             The Unmanly Chef Turmeric and Saffron   Veggiestan             West of Persia            Zozo Baking

 My choice dish is one as rich as the history of our homeland - Persian Olive Caviar.     Sexy, no?

Better known as Zeytoon Parvardeh which means "prepared olive," it hails from the north-eastern tip of Iran close to where my grandmother was born. This tapenade highlights luxurious foodstuffs: Green olives, walnuts, mint, pomegranate molasses, garlic and one that is likely unfamiliar to you: Golpar. 

Mistakenly labeled "Angelica," golpar or Persian hogweed is native to mountainous regions of Iran. Its seeds are harvested and ground to a powder often sprinkled with salt over steamed lima beans for a delicious and healthy pre-dinner snack. Its name literally translates to "Rose Feather," but its taste is not exactly like that of roses. Very distinct and somewhat difficult to describe, its flavour is fragrant, mildly reminiscent of pepper or cardamom. You really have to taste it for yourself. 

Look for "Ground Angelica" in your neighbourhood Middle Eastern grocery stores among the spices. Be careful when shopping for it online as it can be pricey with the added shipping. It imparts very interesting flavour.

Unlike most mouth-watering Persian dishes that require time and patience to make, Olive Caviar is a snap to make. Lucky you. This rich spread is lovely on crackers with a slice of mild cheese. Roasted or grilled chicken is delightful with a heaping spoonful served with a side of vegetables. It also pairs beautifully with creamy avocados in a crisp green salad. 

Persian Olive Caviar (Zeytoon Parvardeh) 
Makes 1 cup

1 cup best quality green olives
3Tb pomegranate molasses
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 tsp golpar
3 cloves garlic
1 bunch Persian mint
freshly cracked black pepper

Toss everything into the food processor and blitz to a coarse consistency.
If the olives are too salty, soak them in a big bowl of cold water for 5 minutes beforehand.

See what my foodie friends made for this ancient celebration of the Autumn equinox:

Ahu Eats: Badoom Sookhte Torsh | Sour Caramelized Almonds
All Kinds of Yum: Jeweled Carrot Salad
Bottom of the Pot: Broccoli Koo Koo (Frittata)
Cafe Leilee: Northern Iranian Pomegranate Garlic and Chicken Stew
Della Cucina Povera: Ghormeh Sabzi | Persian Lamb & Herb Stew
Fae’s Twist & Tango: Rice Meatballs | Kufteh Berenji
Family Spice: Khoreshteh Kadoo | Butternut Squash Stew
Fig & Quince: Festive Persian Noodle Rice & Roasted Chicken Stuffed with Yummies for Mehregan
Honest and Tasty: Loobia Polo | Beef and Green Bean Rice
Lab Noon: Adas Polo Risotto | Persian Lentils Risotto
Lucid Food: Sambuseh
Marjan Kamali: Persian Ice Cream with Rosewater and SaffronMy Caldron: Anaar-Daneh Mosamma | Pomegranate Stew
My Persian Kitchen: Keshmesh Polow | Persian Raisin RiceNoghlemey: Parsi DalParisa’s Kitchen: Morasa Polow | Jeweled RicePersianSpice: Fall in Love with Autumn
Sabzi: Ash-e-Mast (Yogurt Soup with Meatballs)
The Saffron Tales: Jashn-e Mehrgan – Iranian Autumn Harvest Festival
Simi’s Kitchen: Lita Turshisi | Torshi-e Liteh | Tangy aubergine pickleSpice Spoon: Khoresht-e-bademjaan | Aubergine Stew
Turmeric & Saffron: Ash-a Haft Daneh | Seven Bean SoupThe Unmanly Chef: Baghali Polow ba Mahicheh | Rice with Fave Beans and Lamb
ZoZoBaking: Masghati | Persian Scented Starch Fudge

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Monday, September 29, 2014

Stuffed Pumpkin (Armenian Ghapamah) Feature on the Zozo Baking Blog

Yesterday, we spent the day with one of my oldest and dearest friends who has twin girls Daisy's age. As soon as we arrived, the kids ran outside to play on the swings and slide. Looking out the window,  I could see Autumn is here. The trees were still green, but there was a breeze rustling the leaves and the sunshine cast a golden glow. Reflecting on all the goodness in my life, I have been savouring friendships, old and new. A recent friend at the helm of ZozoBaking came as a lucky encounter on Instagram, of all places. As lovely as her name, Fariba is a talented baker specializing in traditional Persian sweets. Lucky for us, she offers baking classes, but also frequents local farmers' markets with her homemade treats which are as beautiful as they are delicious.

Recently, she asked if I would submit a guest post for her blog and I was thrilled at the offer. My version of a traditional Armenian stuffed pumpkin has a filling inspired by South African flavours. See how the recipe evolved from this toe-tapping tune at ZozoBaking!