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Easy Turksih Coffee Pudding. No cooking required. Find the recipe here: http://westofpersia.wordpress.com/2009/11/13/easy-turkish-coffee-pudding/ Photo by Stacey Young.

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Did you know the cookie was actually invented in ancient Persia (now Iran) in the 7th century, A.D.? My Vegan Biscotti with a Persian twist are a much more recent addition to the cookie lexicon.

Up until a few days ago, I’d never made biscotti at home. I don’t know what switch got flipped in my brain, but suddenly it seemed like a great idea. Plus, adding a Persian twist (Persianizing, as my friend My Persian Kitchen says)  would be a way to get creative. What if I upped the ante and tried to make them vegan? Hmmm, now that’s a thought.

By the way, did you know that the cookie dates back to Ancient Persia? From WikiAnswers:

The earliest cookie-style cakes are thought to date back to 7th century Persia A.D. (now Iran), one of the first countries to cultivate sugar (luxurious cakes and pastries in large and small versions were well known in the Persian empire). According to historians, sugar originated either in the lowlands of Bengal or elsewhere in Southeast Asia. Sugar spread to Persia and then to the Eastern Mediterranean.

With centuries of culinary history behind me, you’d have thought my cookies would be perfect on Take One. Ehhh, not so much. My first attempt looked promising, but ultimately ended up overbaked. It was totally due to miscalculations and wrong assumptions on my part.  I thought the cookies weren’t done, so I kept baking them. I swear they looked undercooked. Almost raw in spots.

Thankfully they didn’t burn, and still tasted fine when dunked in tea and allowed to soak, but unless soaked a bit, they were a hazard to my dental work, and that of anyone else who ate them. Lesson learned.

The very next morning, I made another attempt. Humbled, I learned from past mistakes, followed the recipe to the letter, and got perfect biscotti:

Biscotti jazzed up with pistachios, cardamom, and dried cranberries. Sour cherries would work well, too!

I made two types– for half of the biscotti I added pistachios, cardamom powder, and dried cranberries to the dough. For the other half, I did sour (tart) cherries, almond extract, and slivered almonds. Tart cherries were on offer at my local Trader Joe’s this week, by the way. Love that, because they’re not always there, and their dried bing cherries get a thumbs down from me. Sorry, TJ’s. I call ‘em like I see ‘em.

The Cherry Almond Biscotti were, taste-wise, my favorites. They're in the foreground, on the the plate. The Pistachio Cardamom Cranberry biscotti were quite good as well, and more photogenic.

Taste-wise, the sour cherry biscotti were my favorites. But the pistachio cranberry cookies, while no slouch in the taste department either,  were notably more photogenic. This is probably due to the interplay of the green pistachios against the dough and in contrast to the jewel-toned dried cranberries.

So yes, while the combo of tart/sour cherries and almonds was my personal favorite, the cool thing about biscotti is how easy it is to customize them to fit your own tastes and pantry. Next time, by the way, I think I might just have to dip these biscotti in chocolate. And/or add in some vegan chocolate chips. That would be awesome. But I’ll make sure to stay true to the recipe’s general directions! Wouldn’t want to disappoint my ancestors too much, after all. ;-)

Persian Biscotti

Adapted from a recipe on RecipeZaar.com  http://www.recipezaar.com/Vegan-Almond-Biscotti-32416

Makes 30-40 biscotti

Ingredients:

3 cups of flour (I used equal amounts of organic pastry flour and all purpose flour)

1 Tablespoon baking powder (Yes, a Tablespoon!)

1/2 teaspoon of salt

3/4 cup of agave necar OR 3/4 cup of granulated sugar

3/4 cup of smooth unsweetened applesauce or apple butter

1-3 Tablespoons neutral tasting oil of choice (I used coconut oil; Use more oil for softer biscotti, less oil for crunchier biscotti)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

For Sour Cherry and Almond Biscotti: 1/2 cup tart (sour) cherries AND 1/2 cup almonds

For Cranberry Pistachio and Cardamom Biscotti: 1/2 cup cranberries AND 1/2 cup pistachios AND 1 teaspoon of ground cardamom

Directions:

1. Preheat your oven to 325 F and lightly oil one large or two smaller cookie sheets.

2.  In a large bowl, whisk together flours, salt, baking powder, and cardamom powder if using.

3.  In another bowl, mix together the agave or sugar, applesauce, oil, and extracts. (Use more oil for a softer biscotti, less oil for a crunchier biscotti)

4.  In thirds, gently add and stir sugar mixture into the flour mixture. Batter will be very thick. Add the nuts and fruits. Finish the mixing with your hands.

5. With floured hands, shape the dough into two 3-inch wide “logs” about 3/4 inch thick, with the ends squared off. (Measure if you have to; I did!)

6.  Bake the logs for about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven, and cool on a wire rack. As they cool, drop the oven temp to 300 F.

7.  Cool the logs on a rack for 15 minutes. Cut the logs carefully with a sharp knife straight across into 1/2 inch wide slices.

8.  Place the slices cut side down on the cookie sheets and bake for 5-10 minutes more.

9.  Turn the slices over and cook 5-10 minutes more, or until golden on bottom. NOTE: The biscotti might look under-cooked. They almost certainly are not. They will harden up as they sit.

10.  Cool on racks, then store in an  airtight container for up to two weeks.

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Biscotti with a Persian flair. Pistachios, dried cranberries, and cardamom. Recipe to follow later this week.

In the foreground is another Persianized biscotti flavor: Sour Cherry and Almond biscotti. Both recipes are vegan and will be posted soon :-)

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First a rose, then scroll down for a video of me showing you how to make chocolate dipped figs and dates. Easy, quick, and on the healthy side.

The Grand Finale is to our West of Persia Chocolate Week is finally here. My gift to you? Video!

Yep, it’s video of today’s recipe, Chocolate Dipped Dates and Figs. Of all of the chocolate recipes I’ve featured this week, this is the easiest, fastest, and perhaps the healthiest. Please note that while I do use the microwave in this video, and am indeed squatting by it in the screen shot below (LOL!) I no longer use it at home. (This video was shot a while back). Why do I now skip the micro? Health reasons. Plus, I wanted more room for my tea collection ;-) I’ll write  in detail about all of  that at another time.

For now, just know that melting the chocolate over low heat in a non-reactive saucepan should work just fine, as long as you don’t walk away and keep that spatula or spoon moving.

I figured posting this on Friday would be perfect for those of you who might have waiting until the last minute ;-) to gather ingredients for any Valentine’s Day sweets you might be making. You may very well have the ingredients on hand for this recipe. For now, let’s roll that tape. I mean, video ;-)

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Not your average Chocolate Volcano Cake. Oh no, this one has a hint of cardamom, a splash of orange blossom water, and the teensiest bit of pepper in the batter. Perfect served warm. Bonus: The recipe is dairy FREE and uses minimal flour.

Our Chocolate Week here on West of Persia continues, ya’ll!

It’s pretty tough to improve upon quality chocolate’s velvety flavor. But lately I have been finding that a bit of cardamom in my Persian Hot Chocolate, or added into chocolate-based cookies, or even mixed into plain old melted chocolate tastes quite amazing.

The flavors of chocolate and cardamom play off of each other nicely in a way I can’t quite describe. They’re sort of like that couple you think of as mismatched who, when you spend time with them, all of a sudden seem perfect together. Harmonious in ways you never would’ve dreamed of. Hmmmm, perhaps we have a case of opposites attract on our hands here?

A closer view of this flavor explosion. Don't mind the mess. It's all good!

So much like the couple who meets in the most random of ways, I often find my recipes in the most random of places. Today’s recipe is adapted from the book Cook Yourself Thin Faster, by Lauren Deen. During the course of my travels around New York City, at some point I ran into a promotional postcard for this book that had this recipe featured on the back. It looked delicious, so I took a look at the ingredients and instructions and figured I’d could adapt it to my specifications. Then I stashed it at home and promptly forgot about it for about two seconds. ;-)

I’m happy to report that on the first try, I was able to get rid of all of the dairy,  the granulated sugar, and even added in my own twist with cardamom, orange blossom water, almond extract, and a dusting of pepper. The result? An amazingly decadent cake. Ooey and gooey. Not something you’d ever associate with being on the healthier side. Stealth health, I like to call it. So here’s my adaptation:

Chocolate Volcano Cakes with a Middle Eastern Flair

Recipe adapted from Cook Yourself Thin Faster

Ingredients:

Cooking spray

Cocoa powder for dusting muffin tins

2 1/2 Tablespoons Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread (soy free)

1/3 cup Agave nectar

2 Large eggs plus one egg white

1/3 Pastry flour (all purpose flour works too; pastry is what I had on hand)

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate in chips or cut into chunks

1 teaspoon cardamom powder

2 teaspoons orange blossom water

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground peppercorn mix (optional)

1/2 teaspoon of Turkish coffee powder (optional)

For garnish: Confectioner’s sugar and/or decorative fruits and nuts of choice

Directions:

1. Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Warm a non-reactive saucepan, using very low heat. Add the chocolate chunks and stir gently to encourage melting. This doesn’t take long, so don’t walk away. When chocolate is mostly smooth (a few chunks can remain), take it off of the heat, and put it into a bowl. Set aside.

3. Line 6 standard sized muffin tins with wrappers. Spray inside of muffin tins with cooking spray.  Dust with cocoa powder. Tap out excess cocoa powder and place tins on a baking sheet.

4. Using an electric mixer, cream the Earth Balance and the agave nectar until fluffy and smooth. This takes about a minute.

5. Add the eggs and egg white one at a time, beating the mixture well after each addition.

6. Lower the mixer speed to low, and slowly add in the flour, one-third of the mixture at a time. Beat until just combined. Add in the spices and extracts and beat again lightly to combine.

7. Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared muffin cups.

8. Bake just until the tops of the cakes no longer jiggle when you shake the pan lightly, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, and remove from the baking sheet. Place on a cooking rack and let cool for 5 minutes.

9. Meanwhile, prepare any garnishes you might use.

10. To plate, carefully peel off the muffin wrappers and gently lower onto a plate. Mostly likely the cakes will crack or even bust open a bit. That’s good–the oozey stuff is the best part. Garnish as desired and enjoy!

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Chocolate Drops with Sour Cherries and Pistachios. We enjoyed these at Christmas. Why not again for Valentine's Day? Photo by Stacey Young.

It’s Chocolate Week here on West of Persia. Yep, nothing but chocolate recipes. Hooray!

So Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and is as perfect an excuse as any to hold a Chocolate Week. Any holiday that involves chocolate and love is fine by me.

Ever gotten a half-eaten box of chocolates as a gift? I have. I was more bewildered than angry. Ha!

Let’s get one thing out of the way right off the bat: sometimes it’s easy for forget that LOVE isn’t just romantic. There are so many corny movies and songs out there and other goofy messages from society that tell us that romantic love is the most important type of love. Sure, it’s a big deal  and undeniably wonderful, but it’s not the end-all be-all of love.

As I’ve been telling my Yoga students lately, there are many kinds of love. Love of family, love of friends, love of a hobby or a place, to name a few. And of course, there’s the love of chocolate. Yes, this chocolate is one food I truly love like no other. Chocolate and I have had a long and sometimes tumultuous relationship, I gotta tell ya. Never a dull moment. I just can’t walk away ;-) Even when chocolate’s bad, it’s still pretty good. Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!

So with adoration of chocolate and this expansive definition of love in mind, perhaps you can make one of this week’s chocolatey treats for someone you love–a friend, a family member, or sure, a sweetheart ;-)

Persian Hot Chocolate has luxurious flavors of saffron and cardamom blended into a velvety dark chocolate.

I have a few different chocolate recipes planned, all with a Persian and/or Middle Eastern flavah twist:

  • A new chocolately cookie
  • A frozen chocolate “shot”
  • A gooey melted chocolate mini cake
  • A raw cacao dessert

Let me tell you, life is rough when you have to test and perfect and perform such strict quality control tastings on all of these chocolate recipes. So rough! ;-)

For now, I’ll leave you with linkage to a couple of West of Persia’s most popular recipes, both of which are easy to make and fun:

Persian Hot Chocolate

Chocolate Drop Cookies with Sour Cherries and Pistachios

Enjoy!

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In my memories, halva looked like this, and tasted amazing--like a milder, drier peanut butter with a warm sweetness. I've since learned that there are many flavors and styles of halva. All delicious, I'm sure! Photo courtesy of http://de.academic.ru

One of my Yoga students and I were talking recently about found objects. He was rocking a sweater that he’d lost for two years. He’d come across it recently, buried deep in a closet. He was slightly thrilled to have pulled it from the abyss. It was there waiting for him all along, it seemed, even though he’d long ago written it off as lost.

“Finding something like that is kind of like finding an old friend, isn’t it?,” I asked. He agreed.

The same concept can certainly apply to food, I think. One of my most precious lost-then-found foods? Halva.

Years ago, as a kid visiting family in Iran, I remember eating this pasty, thick, energizing treat with breakfast. As a kid with not too many culinary points of reference, I remember it reminded me of a mild peanut butter, with a drier texture. One of the many things I liked about it, even then, is the way it was sweet, but not too sweet.

Turns out I was right–it was indeed a nut butter, and one that was sweetened, but not aggressively so. Well, technically, the one I remember was a seed butter. Of sesame seeds in particular. . .But let me not get ahead of myself.

The type of halva I remember from childhood was made from a sesame see base. In Arabic, it's called halawa. It's all based on an Arabic root word, halwa, that means sweet.

Many years passed, and I sometimes was reminded of that amazing food, but never thought to ask anyone what it was, or even where I could find it. I’d only had it a few times, but I’d find myself missing it from time to time. But halva was somehow locked away in a time warp, a part of my past I’d allowed to slip away.

More time passed, and one day, after moving to New York, a friend casually shared some with me. At first, I didn’t think it could possibly be the treat I’d enjoyed so many years ago at my aunt and uncle’s house, eating a breakfast spread out on a tablecloth on the floor, surrounded by cups of steaming tea and chattering  family and love.

But it was. “What is this stuff called?,” I asked. Because you see, I’d never known its name.

Halva,” he replied.

Pistachios are one of many types of nuts that can dress up halva.

Memory has a funny way of distorting things. It’s easy to idealize or demonize the past. In the many times I’d wondered about  halva, I’d also thought, in the very next moment, that there was no way it could possibly be  as delectable as I remembered.

I was so, so wrong. It was even better than I remembered.

Ok guys, don’t laugh. I have to admit that tears sprang to my eyes when I ate that first bite of halva after so many years. It was like being reunited with a long lost friend. With a past that still lives in my heart and with the family I haven’t seen in so very long. With my childhood memories. Unbelievable.

The fact that I could walk down memory lane via halva? Kinda crazy, I know. That I can walk to a nearby store and actually buy this stuff still boggles my mind. For that reason, I don’t eat it all the time. It seems too precious for that, somehow. So I buy it occasionally, and really savor every rich, dreamy bite.

I suppose I could learn how to make it, but I haven’ t yet bothered. I’ve since learned that one could have an entire department store devoted to halva. The kind I had was only one of many versions. There are flour and semolina-based versions. There are halvas based on lentils and even vegetables like pumpkin.  Every country and region and probably even province from Greece to Afghanistan seems to have its own take on halva, with the spelling variations to match ;-) . Which is wonderful, and I hope to try as many as possible.

For now, though, I’m content with the minor miracle of having halva back in my life in the first place. And yes, I sometimes even still tear up a bit at that first bite. Which I suppose is somehow appropriate–Only as an adult did I learn that halva is a traditional food at funerals in Iran. Passing into the next life with something sweet, nourishing, and light for those left behind to enjoy? There could be worse things, I suppose.

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Today’s post is in honor of my sister Mona, who, recently went to work at Godiva. Ahh, yes, I can now honestly say that I have family in the chocolate business. Hey, I never realized how much I wanted to say that until right this second!

Hot chocolate has to be one of my favorite drinks on the planet. It’s decadent, creamy, and lightly energizing. It never gives me the borderline violent jolt of coffee, but it does offer a bit of a lift. It always tastes decadent and warming to me, especially when made with high-quality ingredients.

Hot chocolate with a Persian twist. A bit of saffron and cardamom flavor this drink.

Plus, it’s flexible. Sometimes I experiment with the flavorings, as in my Persian Hot Chocolate. I figured, why not? Hot chocolate is so luxurious, and saffron, quite possibly the most important flavoring in Persian cuisine, is certainly luxurious in its own right. Why not put the two together, and throw in some cardamom for good measure?

A touch of saffron in my Persian Hot Chocolate takes the drink to the next level.

Not to mention that using a high quality chocolate and spices of your own is much less pricey than paying $10 or more for a package of pre-flavored drinking chocolate mix.  Or paying close to $4 per mug if you’re buying it as a single serving.  Sure, if you only drink it once every now and then, then $4 a mug isn’t so bad. But, if like me, you like to drink it several times a week ;-), learning how to make your own is cost effective.

A word about the chocolate you use. I long ago stopped using milk chocolate in my hot chocolate. In both chocolate eating and drinking, I much prefer the deep, dark and rich flavor of dark chocolate. Plus, without the milk to mask or overpower the spices, you can really taste any creative flavorings you might add in.

I go out of my way to get unsweetened cocoa, and then sweeten it to my liking. Some days it tastes great to me with no sweetener at all, so I like to keep all options open by using unsweetened cocoa from the get go. This is the stuff I prefer for my hot chocolate:

The cocoa powder I keep on hand at home. I've tried many others, but this one seems to have the richest flavor, and the price, while not cheap, isn't over-the-top.

I find that adding in a bit of powdered raw cacao adds a nice earthiness to the chocolate, but if you can’t find it, feel free to use the high quality cocoa powder or meltable drinking chocolate of your choice.

To make the recipe vegan, simply read the labels to make sure there are no milk products in the chocolate you use, and use an alternative to milk, such as almond milk, rice milk, or coconut milk, as your liquid.

Persian Hot Chocolate

For one serving:

8 ounces milk of choice

2 generous teaspoons cocoa powder

1 generous teaspoon raw cacao powder (optional)

1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder

1 pinch of saffron, finely ground and dissolved in 1 Tablespoon of hot water

1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Sweetener of choice (stevia, agave nectar, sugar, etc)

Directions:
1. Warm a non-reactive sauce pan under low heat. Add in chocolate and cardamom powder, and lightly “toast” for 20-30 seconds over low heat to bring out the flavors.

2. Add in one-third of the milk and whisk until chocolate is lump-free and well-dissolved into the milk.

3. Add in the rest of the milk and whisk again. Do not boil, but cook on low heat until the edges of the milk start to bubble.

4. Stir in vanilla and saffron and remove from heat.

5. If using sweetener, sweeten to taste and enjoy!

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My holiday gift to you: Chocolate and Sour Cherry Drop Cookies topped with pistachios. Photo by Stacey Young.

Today’s recipe is a fabulous holiday cookie, with a Middle Eastern twist. It’s loaded with some of my favorite ingredients: chocolate, sour cherries, and gorgeous green pistachios. But get this: it’s also dairy-free and uses very little flour.

Now don’t get it twisted and start thinking I’m trying to spring health food on your around the holidays. Not at all! The taste of these babies? Absolutely decadent. The texture is brownie-like, with extra little bursts of flavor from the cherries, pistachios, cardamom, and chocolate chunks.

Back in the day, my friends and I used to hold holiday cookie baking parties. It was such a blast, and everyone got to take home a big batch of several different types of cookies. The idea was to package the different varieties of cookies into gifts.

Something tells me that not many of those cookie gift packets made it out the door once we all got safely home with our respective cookie stashes. ;-) I haven’t thrown, or been to, such a party in awhile, but the next time I do go to one, you know these cookies will be my contribution.

Before we get to the recipe itself, her are a three of today’s key ingredients:

Pistachios can be pricey, especially if you buy them already shelled. I went ahead and splurged for this holiday cookie recipe. The time saved was worth it to me.

Dried sour cherries are my favorite dried fruit. They bring back memories of Iran, where I used to eat soooo many of these!

In my recipe, I used chocolate chunks, but chips will do. Just be super watchful as you melt them. On my stove, it took all of a minute, maybe even less, on LOW heat.

Now, for the recipe.

Note: Adapted from  a recipe in the December 2009 issue of Body + Soul Magazine.

Chocolate Drop Cookies with Sour Cherries and Pistachios

Prep time- 15-20 minutes

Cook time- 8 minutes Max

Yield: 5 dozen (or slightly less if you like cookie dough as much as I do)

Ingredients:

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

1/4 cup all-purpose flour (I used pastry flour, and it worked perfectly)

1 scant teaspoon cardamom powder

3 egg whites (save the yolks for another use. Perhaps for a custard or for feeding a pet)

Small pinch of salt

2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chunks or chips, melted and cooled (If you are avoiding dairy, check the ingredient list to make sure there are no milk products in the chocolate chips/chunks).

Generous 1/3 cup chopped, dried sour cherries

Generous 1/3 cup toasted pistachios plus approx. 2-3 Tablespoons more for garnishing tops of cookies

Generous 1/3 cup chocolate chips or chunks, NOT melted

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 F.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the cocoa and flour and cardamom powder.

3. With a hand mixer, or a stand-up mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and salt at medium speed until frothy. (You’ll see bubbles). With the mixer running, slowly add in the confectioners’ sugar. When all of it has been added, raise the speed to high, and beat until the egg whites are the consistency of marshmallows. (This took me about 5 minutes with the hand mixer. Yes, I’m low-tech like that. The gorgeous Kitchen Aid stand mixer has yet to make an appearance in my life. Santa, are you listening?) Now beat in the vanilla.

4. Reduce the mixer speed to medium, and beat in half of the melted, cooled chocolate. Then beat in half of the cocoa-flour mixture, scraping the sides of the bowl to incorporate all ingredients. Repeat with the rest of the chocolate and cocoa-flour mix. Stop the mixer.

5. By hand, gently fold in the cherries, pistachios, and chocolate chips or chunks. Let sit until thick enough to scoop, about 5 minutes.

6. As dough sets, prepare parchment paper and place on cookies sheets.

7. Now it’s time to scoop the cookie dough onto the cookie sheets. Scoop by the level teaspoonful. Leave about an inch in between cookies. Try to keep the cookies the same size to ensure they cook evenly.

8. Garnish cookies with whole and/or pistachio pieces. Looks so festive and pretty!

9. Bake 6-8 minutes, until cookies are a bit cracked on the outside. (I personally like my cookies on the soft, moist, and chewy side, so 7 minutes was plenty of time for mine in my particular oven. If, like me, you prefer softer cookies, remember, they might look slightly undercooked when first taken out of the oven).

10. Remove from oven and let cool. This is the part where recipes always say to cool the baked goods on a wire rack. Well, I don’t own any wire racks, so mine just cooled on the sheets, and no one’s complaining.

Approximate Nutrition facts from Body + Soul Magazine:

Note, my version is probably a bit more caloric, due to my heavy hand with the cherries, pistachios, and also due to the fact that I added in extra chocolate chips :-)  Hey, it’s the holidays! :

Per cookie:

30 Calories

1 gram protein

4 grams carbohydrates

1.5 grams of fat (0.7 saturated)

0 grams of fiber


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First, a disclaimer: Turkish coffee deserves its own entry. It will get one eventually. Today, it’s a supporting player to a ricotta pudding with a Middle Eastern flair.

One of my quirks–I adore the smell of coffee, but never really warmed up to the taste; I’m much more of a tea drinker. Which is just as well. Even the de-caff me is pretty revved up, so a daily coffee would probably send me through the stratosphere!

turkish coffee and cup

Turkish coffee in its standard form. What if we took some of this wonderful flavor and added it to a pudding? Well, it would be delightful, that's what!

Still, at one point, I was pretty good at making Turkish coffee, with its thick texture and cardamom-laced flavor,  for loved ones and friends. Well, either I was good at it or they were too polite to tell me otherwise ;-) Lately, I’ve fallen off that wagon. Not to worry; I have another use for Turkish coffee up my sleeve. How about taking that rich flavor and putting it in a dessert?

About that dessert: I’ve been avoiding dairy lately (long story), but every now and then, I make an exception. (Paging my friends Ben & Jerry!)  On the homemade front,  this super simple ricotta pudding would be worth bending the rules every now and then. I’ve made it a couple of times when having friends over for dinner, and it’s always a big hit.

It’s incredibly easy and fast to make, too!

This recipe is inspired by a similar ricotta pudding made by Giada de Laurentiis. Hers has espresso and vanilla as the flavoring. (I love Giada’s show AND her recipes. When I want to cook Italian, I turn to her or Lidia Bastianich for guidance.)

Giada’s recipe was fab, and I love it just as much (maybe more?) with a Middle Eastern flair: Turkish coffee powder flavored with cardamom instead of espresso powder, and rosewater instead of vanilla.

cardamom pods

Cardamom pods.

rose on stem

Rose water made from the petals of roses and is used in pastries and desserts in many cuisines--including Persian, Arab, Turkish, Indian, and Greek. It's great in tea. Find it online (Amazon carries it) or in specialty shops. Some grocery stores carry it now too. It's made from the distilling of rose petals. The culinary version is actually a by-product of the perfume-making process. It can be used in food and cosmetically. I sometimes like to splash a bit of chilled rosewater on my face. So refreshing in the summer!

Easy Turkish Coffee Pudding

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon of rose water

3 cardamom pods OR 1/2 teaspoon of ground cardamom powder

1 (15-ounce) container ricotta cheese (can use part-skim)

1/2 tablespoon Turkish coffee powder

1 to 2 Tablespoons of pistachio halves or slivers

Directions: If using whole cardamom pods, remove pods, and run seeds through a spice mill until very finely ground. Place the sugar in a food processor or blender. Add cardamom powder and Turkish coffee powder. Turn the machine on and blend until finely ground.

Place the ricotta and rose water in the machine.  Blend until incorporated. Stop the machine. Then scrape down the sides with a spatula. Blend for about another minute, until ingredients are integrated. Spoon the mixture into 4-8 small coffee mugs. (See note).

Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.

When you’re ready to serve, top Turkish coffree pudding with pistachio slivers and sprinkle with a tiny splash of rosewater on top.

NOTES: If you want bigger portions, use bigger cups. If you really want to imitate true Turkish coffee style service, use cups that are petite–like espresso cups, and serve with small spoons.

This recipe can easily be doubled. That’s what I do when hosting more than 3 or 4 for a dinner party.

I use a blender, because currently I don’t own a food processor.

Many varieties of Turkish coffee are flavored with cardamom, but I really wanted the cardamom flavor to come through, which is why the pods or a dried powder are called for.

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