When I moved to Pittsburgh for work over a decade ago, it was the middle of a blustery, bitterly cold winter, and having lived in more temperate climes for the preceding decade, I was not exactly in love. Then I learned the secret to loving the ‘Burgh – getting out of downtown and into the many neighborhoods that surround – and truly make up – this great American city.
I enjoyed many great meals during my two year assignment, but the one I remember most was one I made at home for friends. It was capped off by a dessert I’d cheated and picked up at the local bakery, because I’d been dying to try it myself. Search the internet for “burnt almond torte” and the first page of listings are either about Prantl’s Bakery’s delectable creation or one of many attempts to recreate it. I still crave it. When a friend and I visited Pittsburgh last Spring, I took him to Prantl’s hoping he would order something that I could enjoy by proxy now that half the ingredients are verboten.
Last week, though, inspired by seeing a dear friend who was headed home to Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving, I decided to make my own attempt at hacking the recipe. If it didn’t work, I could just blame the lack of gluten, eggs, and dairy, and consign the idea to my dreams. But it did work, and beautifully at that. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the gluten free, vegan, Burnt Almond Torte.
Three warnings: 1) That crunchy almond coating makes cutting it neatly tricky (Hope you’re either not a perfectionist or at least like a good challenge!); 2) It is sweet and decadent (Divide it in less than sixteen portions at your own risk!); and 3) This is not a quick endeavor. (It’s not laborious, but unless you’ve already pre-made the components, the start to finish time takes a couple of hours.)
Good things can happen when you set aside your doubts – like how good can a French sauce based on butter really be without the butter. Pretty darn good, it turns out.
I blame it on the pasta. I’m sure the scallops, proscuitto, and asparagus would have been magical enough on their own, but I wanted pasta. And the pasta was whispering to me, “you know what would taste really good with this…” So, there you have it.
Pan-seared Scallop, Proscuitto, and Asparagus Pasta with Beurre Blanc Sauce
I first experienced bhajia in Mombasa, then as pakora in India, and then as dhaltjies in Durban. I love finding food that has traveled from one continent to another and in one bite recognizing a taste of the original with a new twist you maybe weren’t expecting but find just as pleasurable.
These bhajia, stuffed with broccoli and cauliflower, are really just another variation on the theme. I ran out of garbanzo bean flour and wondered what would happen with canned chickpeas. You can pan fry or deep fry them if you want that street food feel, but since the ingredients are so healthy to begin with, it seems a shame to coat them in oil.
I can never decide which chutney I like better, so I usually end up dipping one side of the bhajia in a cilantro mint chutney and the other in a tamarind date chutney.
Long before the tv wars and neighborhood cupcakeries, a different battle raged … for king of the lunch box. Whether it was Hostess, or Tastykakes, or whatever brand controlled the market in your hometown, it was a special treat. The one you begged your mom for at the grocery, promising to share the two-pack with your brother or sister. The one she tucked into your lunch box on a special occasion, hidden in with the apple and PB&J, and there was no way you were going to trade it for your buddy’s oatmeal raisin cookie. Sorry raisins, but if I have to decide between you and chocolate, there can be only one winner.
Faux Hostess Cakes