بسملة Sacred Moroccan spice.


There are few sacred things. Food is one of them.


Good friends are sacred too. Last night I made dinner with a friend who recently returned from studying in the middle east. He spent most of his time abroad in Morocco and, from the look of his fringed, woven scarf, he’s still there.

I’m glad he came back to North Carolina for a bit and brought ginger, cumin, cinnamon, and saffron with him. I’m also glad he hasn’t rejected alcohol like most of Morocco and took up bartending instead.

Before eating, we blessed the food with بسملة (basmala): “In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.” After you try Morocco’s combination of saffron, cumin, and cinnamon, you’ll be saying the same thing too.



Moroccan Lemon Tagine

Serves 6.

2 medium onions
1 green pepper
2 potatoes
3 roma tomatoes
2 lemons
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 pinches salt1 tsp each of ginger, cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, red pepper flakes, ground red pepper
cilantro, for garnish

Fish Marinade

1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lemon, juiced
Pinch of salt and pepper
1 tsp each of saffron, ginger, turmeric, red pepper flakes, and cinnamon
2 tsp cumin 4 large fish filets (Tilapia or Ling Cod works well)

  1. Combine marinade and spread on fish. Cover and let sit in the fridge for 1 hour.
  2. Slice all vegetables, including lemons 1/2 inch thick. Fill the bottom of a large tagine or cast-iron pot (I used a Le Crueset) with 2 Tbsp olive oil. Mix spices and salt, and dredge potatoes in mix. Layer onions, then peppers, then potatoes, then tomatoes, then lemons, then fish. Spoon remaining marinade over fish and vegetables.
  3. Cover the tagine or pot and let cook on medium-low heat, about 1 – 1 1/2 hours. Test potatoes; when soft, tagine is done.
  4. Garnish with cilantro and serve warm with salad and plain yogurt.



Chocolate hazelnut and gluten-freedom.


At a party the other night, a friend asked me, “If you’re stuck on a deserted island and could only bring Nutella or peanut butter, what would you bring?” Scoff. I’ll have both, and stay on this island forever.


My family moved to Australia when I was five and I discovered new friends with Nutella-wonderbread sandwiches in their lunchboxes. Lucky me, Aussie children are crazy about American egg salad. At school, I traded my Power Ranger lunchbox for the sweet, nutty chocolate in a shady cafeteria corner. I was hooked.

Since Australia, I squirrel Nutella in to everything I can: smoothies, frostings, spoonfuls, and now cookies. These aren’t just cookies with Nutella. No, they are the hazelnut chocolate makings of Nutella in cookie form. And they’re gluten-free.

More to come on peanut butter love affairs…


(Gluten-free!) Nutellettles

About 45 cookies
Recipe by Terresa Murphy of La Cucina di Terresa and David Lebovitz

1 1/4 cups hazelnuts, toasted and skinned
1 cup rice flour (or all-purpose flour)
3 1/2 ounces butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
1. Put the hazelnuts in the bowl of a food processor and pulse them until very fine; they should be the consistency of coarse polenta.

2. Transfer the ground nuts to a bowl and add the rice flour. Cut the butter into pieces then add the butter, sugar, and salt to the dry ingredients. Use your hands to mix all the ingredients together until the butter is dispersed and completely incorporated. The dough should be very smooth and hold together. If not, knead it until it does or add a tiny, tiny bit of water.

3. Divide the dough into three equal pieces and roll each piece until it’s 3/4-inch (2cm) round. Try to get them as smooth as possible, with no cracks. If the dough is too long to work with as you roll them out, you can cut the dough at the midway point and work with it in batches or use plastic wrap to compress the dough in to ropes. Chill the dough logs until firm on a small baking sheet or dinner plate lined with plastic wrap or parchment paper in the freezer for 15 minutes.

4. Preheat oven to 325ºF and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

5. Working with one length of dough at a time, keeping the others in the refrigerator or freezer, cut off equal-sized pieces using a knife. Once you’ve cut a length of dough, roll the pieces into nice little balls the size of a marble and place them on the baking sheet, slightly spaced apart.

6. Bake the cookies for 10 to 14 minutes, rotating the baking sheets in the oven midway during cooking, until the tops are lightly golden brown. Let the cookies cool completely.

7. Melt the chocolate until smooth on microwave medium heat or in a double boiler. Put a chocolate chip-sized dollop of chocolate on the bottom of one cookie and take another cookie, and sandwich the two halves together.

Storage: The cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.

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Granola, crunchy and crunchier.


I finally found it. The best granola recipe in the world.

There’s a lot of granola out there. And it’s mostly over-priced, overly-sweet, and overly-processed. Being a college student with a yoga mat, nose ring, and kombucha scoby, I am well acquainted with the art of homemade granola. But before a couple of days ago, I wasn’t able to create a crunchy yet dense wafer of honeyed oat goodness. Before, most granola batches either turned out slightly soggy or almost burnt. Granola needs to stick together. With independent oats, your milk and granola breakfast becomes a soupy mess; granola is a little like people.

The secret to granola “bark” is in the spatula. After you pour coated oats in to a rimmed baking sheet, firmly compress the mixture with the back of your spatula. Don’t stir the granola while it’s baking. Instead, just turn the pan around a couple times while in the oven.


Despite its association with the crunchy, health-food types, granola really isn’t that healthy; it requires a dessert-worthy amount of fat and sugar. Thus I have two versions for you. One is sticky, coconut-oil rich, and sweet. It’ll taste more like the granola you buy in the store and it’ll also have just as many calories. The good part is it won’t have all the chemicals. The other version has modest amounts of fat and sugar and tastes great. But because there’s not much fat, the oats won’t stick together.


Spiced Coconut Granola, Two Ways

Makes 6 cups.

Rich, sweet version

(Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated‘s Almond Granola.)

1/3 c maple syrup
1/4 c packed light brown sugar
4 teaspoons vanilla or almond extract
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup coconut or vegetable oil
5 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup sweetened, shredded coconut
1 tsp spice of choice (ie cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice)
2 cup (10 ounces) raw nuts, chopped coarsely, like almonds, pecans, or walnuts
2 cup dried cranberries, raisins, or other dried fruit, chopped

Or, the low-fat, low-sugar version

1/3 cup maple syrup
4 tsp vanilla or almond extract
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup coconut or vegetable oil
5 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup sweetened, shredded coconut
1 tsp spice of choice (ie cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice)
2 cup (10 ounces) raw nuts, chopped coarsely, like almonds, pecans, or walnuts
2 cup dried cranberries, raisins, or other dried fruit, chopped

  1. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Whisk maple syrup, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in large bowl. Whisk in oil. Fold in oats and nuts until thoroughly coated.
  3. Transfer oat mixture to prepared baking sheet and spread across sheet into thin, even layer (about 3/8 inch thick). Using stiff metal spatula, compress oat mixture until very compact. Bake until lightly browned, 40 to 45 minutes, rotating pan once halfway through baking. Remove granola from oven and cool on wire rack to room temperature, about 1 hour. Break cooled granola into pieces of desired size. Stir in dried fruit. (Granola can be stored in airtight container for up to 2 weeks.)


Sunshine lentil soup.

When I’m lonely, I like to fill the space with spices and soup. I’m back at school, but haven’t been able to keep Seattle and my brother off my mind. It’s probably rainy in Seattle right now. And likely a bit lonely.

IMG_7572On quiet, drizzly days in January, nothing is more comforting than a bowl of soup and a house that smells like an Indian mother’s spice cabinet.  But aammaa India who cooks the best curry in town wouldn’t have a cabinet. Instead she’d have a tin filled with her favorite spices.


To chase away the clouds, I made a super easy lentil soup that takes 20 minutes to cook. Seriously. While at yoga school in India, I picked up a technique for toasting spices in oil to bring out their fragrance and flavor. Just one disclaimer: get ready for smells. Toasted coriander or cumin or mustard seed is the friend that lingers for an hour at your house even after you yawn, “well this was a fun party,” or “it was great to see you; when’s your bedtime?” I still smell the cumin seeds I toasted for last week’s curry when I sit on the couch.

Second disclaimer: get a pressure cooker. It will cook anything in five minutes, I swear. Pressure cooked food retains more nutrients than steamed food. And, hey, every person on the Indian subcontinent and her sister (or, around half the world population) has a pressure cooker to make traditional lentil soup, daal, in five minutes. After returning from Nepal and India two Christmases ago, the only thing I wanted was a pressure cooker (and to rid myself of the intestinal parasite I picked up during fieldwork research in a dusty village; but that’s another story.)





Coconut Lentil Soup

Serves 4.

1 can coconut milk
1 cup red lentils
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth or water
Generous pinch of salt
2 Tbsp coconut or peanut oil
1 onion, diced
Fresh cilantro, for garnish

Choose 3 of the following to create your own curry powder:
1 tsp red pepper flakes, 2 tsp if you like it hot
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp fenugreek
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp mustard seed
1 tsp ground cumin or cumin seed
1 tsp ground coriander or coriander seed

  1. Cook lentils until soft in broth with salt. If you’re using a pressure cooker, let the lentils cook on low heat for 5 minutes after the pressure  goes off.
  2. As the lentils cook, caramelize the onions with a bit of fat and salt. When browned, take out of pan and put aside.
  3. In the same pan, heat oil on high and let spices fry until barely browned. Turn off heat and add onions.
  4. When lentils are done, add onion-spice oil mix and coconut milk. Let simmer on low heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring often.
  5. Serve with lime, a dollop of greek yogurt, vinegary cucumber salad, and naan toasted in butter and minced garlic.


Ode to coffee.

mocha espresso, Cafe Vivace.
caffe macchiato, Espresso Vivace.

Seattle claims 9,368 coffee shops within its city limits. Somehow more coffee shops crop up every day.

The city’s coffee addiction is understandable. Seattle’s weather forecast for two-thirds of the year is “drizzly cold” and the only thing you want is a hot drink to cradle and imbibe. Preferably with caffeine to keep you from staying in bed all day. To stay out of bed, I’ve sipped my way around the city. And I haven’t had a bad sip yet.

So then why, in the midst of Coffee Shop Eden, is everyone here is obsessed with Starbucks? Why is there one on every block (totaling to at least 424.) Why does a Seattle woman named Beautiful Existence feel she has to prove her undying Starbucks love and consume only Starbucks items for a year?

Why?? As the Seattlite Tom puts it, “We’re addicted to caffeine. Starbucks sells candy caffeine.”

To the Starbucks on every corner,

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Love, Robert Frost and Jessie


Top 3 coffee shops from the road less traveled:

Arabica Lounge: this artsy fartsy joint created by multimedia artist Jojo Corväiá is “a place for the stimulation of all senses…to revisit the fact that good quality of life is always within reach.” You’ll probably agree if your idea of the good life is sipping fantastically thick coffee next to a montage of nautical prints. Or if you like a man with a beard and dark-rimmed glasses because he will serve your coffee. Or if you want to make conversation difficult with loud alternative jazz. It’s a cool spot, a bit too cool for heartfelt social interactions. But if you want the best cappuccino in Seattle, Arabica Lounge is your place.

Caffè Fiorè: the best eco-roasters in town. As you sip in the dark, cozy coffee tavern feel sustainable with your organic bean coffee. Order the Sevilla, mocha coffee with orange zest. It rings up at a hefty $4, but the unique taste experience is splurge worthy.

Espresso Vivace: as Vivace’s name tells, the cafe brews espresso in its liveliest, creamiest, most wonderful form. Espresso Vivace’s secret is in the foam they coax from brewed coffee and milk. Foam holds complex flavor while lightening texture. My favorite is the barista-recommended caffe macchiato, coffee with a dollop of milk foam. It tastes like coffee cocoa and cream. For those with sweet teeth, the White Velvet will make you swoon.


cappuccino, Arabica Lounge.

cappuccino, Arabica Lounge.


How to cook a crumpet.


What is a crumpet, you might ask, and how can I try one? Well…

the Seattle Public Library.

the Seattle Public Library.

Crumpets are a traditional British tea-time snack. The Brits lightly slather butter, jam, or marmite on these babies. But I say, ‘Merica! Let’s make crumpets economical and multicultural and throw a bunch of stuff on top so we can eat them anytime of the day! The Crumpet Shop in Seattle takes the American approach. For breakfast, savor a crumpet with eggs, peppers, and ricotta cheese or my Caramelized Egg Crumpet (see below.) For desert, nom on a crumpet dripping in melted nutella, crushed peanuts, and banana slices. Be patriotic and try your own crumpet mixology. What flavors would you combine?




Caramelized Egg Crumpet

serves 2

obtain a couple crumpets or make them yourself
1 onion, sliced
1 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp cooking oil
2 eggs
3 oz cheddar (Kerrygold Dubliner is an inexpensive favorite)
fresh herb for garnish (optional)

Caramelize the onion first. On medium-high heat, add onions with 1 Tbsp oil, a pinch of salt, and baking soda. Stir continually until onions are golden and tender, about 5 minutes.

Fry two eggs to preference and toast crumpets with cheese or butter. Assemble crumpets and garnish with a fresh herb (dill and/or parsley is fantastic.) Serve hot with a cup of English Breakfast tea.IMG_7773

Seattle and the crumpet.

Oh 2013. Where shall I begin?



My brother and I arrived in Seattle on New Year’s day. Within an hour of getting off the plane, the sun decided to peak her head through the clouds. It stayed that way for four days; we’re basking in unseasonal, auspicious light.

My brother Ben, who everyone calls Bud, is moving to Seattle to get technical with Amazon’s Kindle team. He’ll live in a tiny apartment above Seattle’s best coffee shop (so the city’s foodie polls say) for the next couple years. And since I want to write, bake, and do locavore activism full-time, I have two post-graduate housing options: live in an Ikea box or live with my awesome, loving brother. I think I’ll take the fraternal option and that apartment with luscious coffee scents. Bud, I promise I’ll do all your laundry.

Now I just have to go back to North Carolina and graduate from Davidson…


I love how a new year and a new place asks us to pause and recollect the past, meditate on the changes, and experience the momentum of life. I am feeling movement as I write to you from the corner nook of a coffee shop. Water beads on the window pane and I cradle a warm mug.

And this is where the crumpet comes in.


To celebrate the new year, my brother took me to The Crumpet Shop. The morning was so cold it tasted bitter and wind from Puget Sound battered our Georgia “winter” coats. We arrived at the shop with pink noses and were greeted by a warmth that smells like ginger tea and orange marmalade. We ordered a crumpet with green eggs and ham from a hand-painted menu. Cats dotted the walls and crocheted snowflakes hung in the window.

It was my first crumpet and, from the first bite, I decided I would love crumpets for the rest of my life and that Seattle would be my new home. Each cranny of the spongy, irresistibly dense bread was a glimpse in to the new year. A new year including mountains, seagulls, fixies, men with beards riding fixies, Asian seafood markets, and Seattle. The city rolled off my tongue like honey atop a crumpet.

One regular got up to leave and a young guy kneading dough behind the counter exclaimed, “Happy New Year! It’s going to be the best one yet.” Yes, it will be.