Big Sur, California

Big Sur. CA |A Brown Table

I've been meaning to share photos from my trip to Big Sur for a while but never got to it until now. With groundhog day done, it seems this is the best time to talk about spring and summer travel. Big Sur is a magnificent natural treasures that you must try to visit at least once if you can. In an ideal situation, you have one person to drive while you stare through the car seat window across the massive and spectacular stretch of land that meets the ocean. Big Sur is dramatic and colorful. From the plants that cover the landscapes, to the whales that you might see far into the deep blue ocean or the condors soaring in the sky, Big Sur is every bit a jewel of the west coast. 

Though, we didn't spend the entire weekend at Big Sur, there are plenty of places you can rent and stay the entire weekend. We did however, make a mandatory stop at the famous Big Sur Bakery and we were glad we did! We had a small snack at the bakery and later ate dinner at the restaurant. We ordered the steak with shaved wasabi root, the shishito peppers and sea bass with risotto. You know your fish is cooked to perfect when it falls off like a soft buttery flake. For dessert, I got the lemon ice cream pie, it's very lemony and citrusy with a delicious pistachio crust. 

Just a little tip, even though we made reservations online at the Big Sur Bakery's website, their kitchen was closed when arrived for lunch. I highly recommend trying to call them up to make sure they actually have their kitchen open for the hours you want to visit . We did call in advance but couldn't seem to catch a hold of them but they were very apologetic and nice. We ended up staying there for dinner which as I said before was well worth it! I'm going to stop talking and let you take a look at Big Sur.

Big Sur. CA |A Brown Table
Big Sur. CA |A Brown Table
Big Sur. CA |A Brown Table
Big Sur, CA |A Brown Table
Big Sur, CA |A Brown Table
Big Sur Bakery, CA |A Brown Table
Big Sur Bakery, CA |A Brown Table
Big Sur Bakery, CA |A Brown Table
Big Sur Bakery, CA |A Brown Table
Big Sur Bakery, CA |A Brown Table
Big Sur Bakery, CA |A Brown Table
Big Sur Bakery, CA |A Brown Table
Big Sur Bakery, CA |A Brown Table
Big Sur Bakery, CA |A Brown Table
Big Sur, CA |A Brown Table

winter black lentil salad with spicy cilantro dressing

winter black lentil salad with spicy cilantro dressing | A Brown Table

I must make a confession, I'm not the best at naming recipes and at times, I struggle with what to call some of my recipes. Since most of the dishes I create and share are often not traditionally Indian and in some way are inspired by my environment and emotions, it's can get difficult. I don't like to name my dishes as "Indian ___" as it sounds odd. Those kind of names bug me as much as as I hear the word "chai ___" but when you go through the recipe there is no chai (tea) present. If I called this salad dressing as Indian spicy cilantro dressing, I'd be uncomfortable. I call this my "noun-adjective paradox" because it can .  So I usually defer to the much more simpler method of labeling my dishes with the prominent ingredients I use in them, I did it this time too. This delicious salad dressing today had me up for hours, wondering whether I should call it an Indian-inspired dressing or an Indian green goddess dressing. Whatever it might be called, this is one tasty and spicy green salad dressing to enjoy!

One of the best things I've finally tasted in 2016, is the pink lady apple. I'd heard of them before but never eaten one until recently. These ladies are a game changer, a life changer, they look good and they taste good. Their texture is crisp enough to dump it into a salad and if you slice them thin enough, it gives you just the right amount of sweetness and crispy texture to each bite you consume. Overall this salad is pretty "wintry", I put purple/red and regular good old green curly kale leaves, some cooked black lentils, avocado (not so winter) and the lady apples. It's a hearty salad and the dressing is very, very guilt free. I use Califia's unsweetened almond milk to make the base of the dressing, fresh cilantro leaves for flavor and color, add lime juice for acidity and fresh thai chilis and ginger for a kick. But to make it thick and give it body, this dressing needs some fat and plain almond butter does the trick here making it creamy enough to hold.

winter black lentil salad with spicy cilantro dressing | A Brown Table
winter black lentil salad with spicy cilantro dressing | A Brown Table
winter black lentil salad with spicy cilantro dressing | A Brown Table
winter black lentil salad with spicy cilantro dressing | A Brown Table

Here are some of my kitchen tips that you might find useful when preparing this salad,

  • Any type of kale will work here, just shred it well and toss the midrib out. 
  • If you can't find lady apples use Granny smith apples the tartness works well.
  • If you cut the apples and don't want them to brown. Soak them in an ice cold water bath with 2 tablespoons of fresh lime or lemon juice. Drain the slices before you add them to the salad.
  • I like to presoak my lentils as it does make them cook faster when it comes to boiling. 
winter black lentil salad with spicy cilantro dressing | A Brown Table

winter black lentil salad with spicy cilantro dressing

yields: 4 servings

ingredients

for the salad

1 cup cooked black lentils

4 cups shredded kale leaves (I used a mix red and green varieties)

1 large avocado, diced

1/2 cup red onion, diced

1 pink lady apple, thinly sliced

1/4 cup pepitas, toasted

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1. Place all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. And toss to combine. Keep aside refrigerated until ready to serve with the salad dressing. Salad dressing can be added and tossed with salad or served on the side . 

spicy cilantro dressing

yields: about 1 1/2 cups

ingredients

1 cup Califia unsweetened almond milk

4 tablespoons almond butter, unsweetened

1 tablespoon fresh ginger root, peeled and chopped

1 cup packed cilantro leaves

4 tablespoons lime juice, fresh

6 black peppercorns

1 teaspoon thai chili peppers, chopped

1 teaspoon fine grain salt

1. Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend until completely smooth. Serve with the winter salad. 

 

 

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Califia Farms but all opinions expressed are solely my own.

tea and ginger infused lemon tart

tea and ginger infused lemon tart | A Brown Table

There are several things about winter that make it interesting after Christmas and the holiday season has passed. Citrus is a big one! From blood oranges to big, bright and yellow Meyer lemons, there are a lot of interesting colors to spot in what might otherwise be a pretty drab and cold season. So every winter, I make myself some sort of lemon or orange curd. A jar or two! 95% of the time it ends up in tart or a bar because that's one of my favorite ways to eat it. 

In many ways this filling is an ode to Indian tea, one specific version that is my favorite and includes freshly grated ginger root. It's perfect on a cold wintry day and it goes beautifully, in this lemon tart. I infused the lemon curd with freshly grated ginger root and black darjeeling tea in an odd way. The tea is made up in a concentrate (which is not your normal way to make tea) but it helps to control the water volume in the final ratios when you prepare the lemon curd. The strands of shredded ginger give this filling a nice little kick in every bit but you can strain it out, if you prefer a smooth and even texture. 

I had some issues baking a complete nut crust solely made with sugar, butter and nut flour. The longer you bake the higher the risk for the fat to melt out and drip. The water in the lemon curd starts to get absorbed by the nut and the end crust becomes soggy. To be honest, I'm not completely satisfied with this crust either, it tastes good but the issues I experienced testing different versions made me a little curious. My goal was to make an only nut flour based tart crust but my final version of this recipe ended up with oat flour to act as a binding agent. There's something to be said for the texture and taste of sweet toasted coarsely ground walnuts with lemon curd, it's delicious. The texture of this crust still needs a lot of work and perhaps, I can get some suggestions and help from you. I added oat flour to absorb some of the oils and liquid but waterproofing the  tart base with melted white chocolate is one trick I use often with pies and tarts. A thin layer will work well in this tart without compromising the taste of the lemon curd. My other issue with the only-walnut tart crust, was trying to release it from my tart pan after I chilled it. It's easier to release the tart from the pan while it is at room temperature rather than when it's chilled. 

So far, my experience with nut based crusts has been OKAY! Taste wise excellent but in terms of how it releases from the tart pan or how it absorbs liquid, has me curious. For those of you that bake with nut crusts, do you have any suggestions or tips or even a favorite recipe you like to use. Leave a comment below and I will check it out! I'm going to revisit this crust recipe in the near future because there has to be a way to make it work perfectly! 

tea and ginger infused lemon tart | A Brown Table
tea and ginger infused lemon tart | A Brown Table
tea and ginger infused lemon tart | A Brown Table
tea and ginger infused lemon tart | A Brown Table
tea and ginger infused lemon tart | A Brown Table
tea and ginger infused lemon tart | A Brown Table
tea and ginger infused lemon tart | A Brown Table
tea and ginger infused lemon tart | A Brown Table
tea and ginger infused lemon tart | A Brown Table

Here are some of my kitchen tips that you might find useful when preparing this dessert;

  • Use fresh ginger root. If you don't care for the texture of fresh ginger, strain the lemon curd once it is cooked and use the strained curd for the filling. 
  • This is not a normal method to prepare tea but I prefer to use this method to get a concentrated form of the flavor and in a small volume. 
  • You can use any tart crust you want. I add the oat flour to bind any liquid that might be present in the walnut dough while the sugar not only sweetens but also helps bind the crust together. 
tea and ginger infused lemon tart | A Brown Table

tea and ginger infused lemon tart

yields: one 9 inch tart

ingredients

for the lemon curd

1/4 cup boiling water

4 darjeeling tea bags

1 tablespoon cornstarch, powder

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (I used the meyer variety), squeezed

4 large eggs

1 cup superfine sugar

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, fresh

1 teaspoon grated ginger root, fresh

1/2 stick butter, chopped and softened to room temperature

for the crust (or you can use your favorite/preferred tart crust)

14 ounces whole walnuts

1/4 cup oat flour

4 tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature + a little extra for greasing

4 tablespoons fine sugar

a little confectioners sugar to dust (optional)

1. Pour the boiling water over the darjeeling tea bags in a cup and let it steep for 10 minutes. Squeeze the bags and discard. Place the extracted tea liquid in a small saucepan and reduced the volume to 2 tablespoons. It will be very dark and concentrated. Cool completely. Once the liquid is cooled, whisk in the cornstarch to form a slurry and keep aside.

2. Prepare a pot of boiling water. Place a large glass bowl over the pot, the level of the boiling water must be an inch below the base of the glass bowl. This allows the steam to heat the eggs evenly. Place the eggs and sugar in the bowl and using a hand whisk or handheld electric whisk, whisk at high speed for about 5 minutes until the eggs become pale yellow and light and fluffy. Whisk in the lemon juice, lemon zest, ginger, butter, and tea-cornstarch slurry. Whisk continuously, until the mixture transforms into a thick custard. Remove from heat and transfer to container. Keep aside until ready to use. The lemon curd can be prepared a day ahead in advance and refrigerated until ready to use.

3. To prepare the tart crust, place a wire rack at midlevel in the oven and preheat to 325F. Pulse for a few seconds to grind the walnuts along with the sugar in a food processor to form a coarse powder. Remove the ground walnuts and transfer to a medium-sized mixing bowl. Fold in the oat flour and butter and mix using your hands to form a dough. Lightly grease a 9" fluted tart pan with a little butter. Line the base of the pan with parchment paper cut to size. Place the dough in the center of the pan and spread it out to cover the pan and the edges in an even layer, using your fingers. Place the prepared tart pan in a baking tray lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat, remove and bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and pour the lemon curd into the tart shell. Level the filling using a small offset spatula. Return the tart to the oven and bake for another 8 to 10 minutes, until the edges of the filling start to get firm while the center of the filling jiggles slightly when shaken gently. Remove the tart pan from the oven and allow to cool completely to room temperature before releasing it carefully from the tart pan. Refrigerate  to chill the tart for at least 3 to 4 hours before serving. Dust with a little confectioner's sugar if desired.