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Archive for May 29, 2014

RECIPE: Gingerbread Lemon Cinnamon Buns

Ginger is a traditional holiday flavor, but you can eat it year-round. In fact, if you’re a ginger lover, it’s a shame not to. “Ginger is a flavor powerhouse that never goes out of season,” says Hannah Kaminsky.

And, it’s a nutritional powerhouse, considered one of the world’s healthiest foods.

So how about gingerbread-lemon buns for a weekend brunch dessert?

“I’ve got one killer dessert recipe burning a hole in my pocket and I can’t wait to share it much longer,” says Hannah. Never mind the unattractive appearance, because this baked delight has inner beauty hidden within every fold.

“Singing out with the depth and soul that only dark, sticky molasses can bring to the table, these are not your average plain Jane cinnamon rolls. Boldly spiced, with ginger taking the clear lead, cinnamon is still invited to the party; but it is no longer the sole center of attention.”

A final tip from Hannah:



Cinnamon buns with a big hit of ginger. Photo © Hannah Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog.


“Don’t confine yourself to just orange or lime zest. Use grapefruit, tangerine or any other fresh citrus you have at hand.”


Ingredients For 9-12 Buns

For The Gingerbread Dough

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cube fresh yeast or 1 packet ((1/4-ounce) active dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Pinch freshly cracked black pepper
  • 3 to 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon Vital Wheat gluten*
    *Wheat gluten is used to help the stretchiness of the dough.



    It’s easy to grate fresh ginger. Photo
    courtesy Microplane.


    For The Lemon-Sugar Filling

  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Zest of 1 lemon

    1. HEAT the milk in a microwave safe bowl for a minute to warm, but do not bring it to a boil. Stir in the yeast and let is sit for about 5 minutes until frothy and active. Once re-awakened, pour the yeast mixture into a stand mixer, along with the sugar, oil and molasses. Mix to combine.

    2. WHISK together in a separate bowl the first 3 cups of flour, spices, optional wheat gluten and salt. Make sure that all the dry goods are thoroughly distributed and there are no large pockets of unblended spices remaining.


    3. ADD the dry ingredients into the bowl of wet ingredients. Beginning at the lowest speed, use the dough hook to slowly combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to keep everything incorporated, until the dough forms a cohesive ball. If it still seems excessively wet, add up to 1/2 cup of flour.

    4. CONTINUE to knead the dough with the mixer for about 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. You could also knead it by hand; just take 15 minutes to do so. Place the dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic, and let rest in a warm area for about 1-1/2 hours, until doubled in size.

    5. PUNCH down the dough and turn it out on to a well-floured surface. Roll it out into a rectangle of about 14 x 18 inches. Brush generously with the melted margarine. Combine the sugar and zest in a small bowl before sprinkling the mixture evenly over the entire surface. Starting from one of the shorter ends, roll the rectangle up as tightly as possible, pinching the seam shut when you reach the other end.

    6. CUT the roll into 1-1/2-inch pieces, using a very sharp knife. Fit them into a lightly grease 9 x 9-inch pan, spacing them as evenly as possible. Begin preheating your oven to 350°F; allow the rolls to rise for 45 to 60 minutes before putting them in the hot oven.

    7. BAKE for 25-35 minutes, until golden brown all over. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before digging in.


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    FOOD FUN: Grilled Potato Skewers

    As much fun as the country fair, but tastier:
    your own grilled potatoes on a stick. Photo
    courtesy Stix Mediterranean Grill | New York


    Grilled potatoes on a stick: What fun!

    We expanded on this idea from Stix Mediterranean Grill in New York City and created this recipe, which was a hit on Memorial Day.

    Stix flavored the skewers Greek-stye, with crumbled feta cheese and oregano (shown in the photo).

    We made them more colorful, alternating the potato slices with copacetic ingredients: grape tomatoes, gherkins and olives. You can add whatever you like, from colorful bell pepper strips to pearl onions. For kids of all ages, how about frankfurter chunks?

    We left the skins on the potatoes: better nutrition and no peeling time!



  • Yukon Gold or other small potatoes
  • “Alternates”: cherry or grape tomatoes, gherkins, hot dogs, olives (pitted), pearl onions (parboil for softeness)
  • Seasonings: cracked black pepper, minced chives, oregano, red pepper flakes, smoked salt
  • Optional dip (we mixed Greek yogurt with grainy mustard)
  • Preparation

    1. BOIL potatoes to an al dente consistency.

    2. DRAIN and set aside. When cool to touch, halve the potatoes and thread onto skewers, alternate potatoes with cherry tomatoes, gherkins, olives, etc.

    3. GRILL and serve hot, with or without a dipping sauce.


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    TIP OF THE DAY: Chinese Chicken Salad

    Since we were a mere tot, we’ve loved Chinese chicken salad. This American invention combines Asian ingredients into a delicious fusion.

    There are variations on the name, but the rules are neither hard nor fast: “Mandarin” refers to the mandarin segments in the recipe. Chinese Chicken Salad uses mandarin or pineapple plus fried chow mein noodles. Thai chicken salad substitutes rice noodles (shown in the photo) for the chow mein noodles. Asian chicken salad, the most generic term, indicates a sesame-soy-ginger vinaigrette or peanut dressing.

    We recently had this “Mandarin” chicken salad at Cafe SFA, the restaurant in Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City. It’s easy to whip up. Using fresh mandarin segments instead of canned makes a huge difference, as does fresh ginger instead of powdered ginger in the dressing.

    If you don’t like ginger or peanut dressing, use plain vinaigrette of rice vinegar and vegetable oil, with a touch of sesame oil (taste it—some varieties are very strong, others are on the light side).



  • Roasted chicken strips
  • Mandarin segments or pineapple cubes
  • Shredded carrots
  • Sliced radishes
  • Rice noodles or Chinese fried noodles


    They call it Mandarin; we call it Thai because of the rice noodles and peanut dressing. Photo courtesy Café SFA.

  • Peanuts (any type—we used both raw and honey roasted; you can substitute cashews)
  • Spring salad mix
  • Shredded red cabbage (you can substitute white cabbage)
  • Green peas, sugar peas and/or edamame
  • Sesame dressing or peanut dressing (recipes below)
  • Optional garnish: black and white sesame seeds (we toasted them)


  • 4 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger (or 1 teaspoon powdered ginger)
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil or other salad oil
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon honey
  • 2/3 cup olive oil

    1. PLACE all ingredients in a blender and blend on high.



    This variation, from Bullock’s tea room in
    Sherman Oaks, California, substitutes shrimp
    for chicken. Photo courtesy




  • 1/8 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1 shallote, quartered
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons peanut butter (you can substitute tahini)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds (preferably toasted)
  • 1/2 cup sesame oil

    1. PLACE all ingredients in a blender and blend on high.
    How To Toast Sesame Seeds

    Stovetop toasting: In a large frying pan, heat the sesame seeds over medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally. They are ready when they darken and become fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes.

    Oven toasting: Preheat the oven to 325°F. Spread the seeds on a baking sheet and bake until the seeds darken and become fragrant, about 15 minutes.

    Allow the toasted seeds to cool; then store in a covered jar at room temperature.


    Raw salads are not traditional fare in Asia; Chinese salads are typically made of parboiled or stir-fried vegetables. There are different types of cold chicken salads, mostly from Szechwan, such as pong pong (or bong bong) chicken: shredded chicken and bean sprouts dressed with a peanut butter, red pepper and garlic sauce.

    We checked our favorite source,, for the scoop on the emergence of the Asian/Chinese/Mandarin/Thai chicken salads we know and love today.

    According to American food historian Sylvia Lovegren, Chinese ingredient-inspired salads and dressings originated by the 1930s. But these early “Oriental” salads were nowhere close to what’s on menus today. One recipe circa 1923 consisted of diced prunes, dates, figs, chopped nuts, diced pineapple topped with “one cup salad dressing,” a vinaigrette or spiced mayonnaise.

    The “modern” recipe seems to have been introduced in California, and was made popular at Johnny Kan’s restaurant in San Francisco, a Cantonese restaurant that opened in 1953 (and is still operating). It combined shredded iceberg lettuce, strips of cold roast chicken and crispy chow mein noodles, fried noodles made from a combination of wheat and rice flours. The salad was tossed with a slightly sweet sesame oil-tinged dressing with flecks of hot red peppers or pepper flakes.

    The Asian-inspired salads that we know today evolved in the mid-1960s, adding more ingredients (mandarin segments, pineapple, vegetables) and more complex dressings, including the popular ginger-soy-sesame and peanut recipes.

    Asian-style salad dressings—soy sauce, ginger and sesame oil—were promoted in the 1980s as healthier alternatives to mayonnaise-based dressings for green salads. Thai flavors were introduced in the 1990s, with the growing popularity of Thai cuisine.

    Recent additions include edamame, borrowed from Japanese cuisine. Play around with it and create your own signature Asian salad. It will generate a huge demand!


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