daikon + zucchini noodles with a ramp tahini, crispy shiitakes + quick pickled ramps …… and a spiralizer giveaway!

daikon + zucchini noodles with a ramp tahini, crispy shiitakes + pickled ramps | what's cooking good looking

About 10 years ago, if you would have told me that a tomato was a summer veggie (fruit), I would have looked at your funny. I didn't have much of a grasp on seasonal foods back then, and why it is important to eat seasonally. I did, however, know that those tomatoes were hard and flavorless in the winter, especially compared to the ones that I would eat in the summer, but a tomato was something I thought I was okay to enjoy all year round, because the grocery store sold them, and if the grocery store sell them then that means it's all good. (As I'm sure you've guessed, I've since become much much more skeptical of what is on the average grocery store's shelves. )

I distinctly remember my first realization that there was a very specific season for certain foods. It was in the springtime when I started shopping at whole foods more often instead of the run of the mill stop and shop, and all of a sudden fresh peas and fiddlehead ferns started taking over the shelves pushing out some of the root vegetables. It also was around the time that farmers markets started to pop up where I lived, and I became much more aware of the change in season based on what was coming into the markets at what time. If I wanted a really tasty peach, I had to be patient and wait until late summer, same thing went for that juicy tomato. Nowadays, I wouldn't be caught dead buying a tomato in the dead of winter. It just feels wrong. 

Spring is my favorite season for veggies because it is exciting to see a spring veggie after months of roasting root vegetables.  Spring also feels shorter than the other season, like a fleeting moment. If you don't slow down and savor it, it is gone and we're onto those summer veggies. Ramps are the prefect example, because they are here for such a short period of time that when you see them you have to grab as many as you think you can eat, and turn them into pickles and pesto so that you can enjoy them for a little longer than there are here for. 

A few days ago I found ramps for the first time, and snatched up three bundles. Just enough to get my ramp fix, but I want to leave some behind for other ramp enthusiasts to enjoy too. Determined to use them all right away (because they can turn limp pretty quickly)  I decided to make a quick pickled ramp, a ramp tahini, and I also saved a few on the side to enjoy in their deliciously pungent raw form.  I whipped out my spiralizer, made some veggie noodles, tossed them with the ramp tahini and finished them with the pickled and fresh ramps, and threw on some roasted shiitakes for an umami kick. I sat outside, with my ramp-heavy, raw pasta, and I was so happy. It was now officially spring. 

 

For the SPIRALIZER GIVEAWAY!

Friends, I am giving away 2 spiralizers to two separate readers! This is the one I use at home, and I love it! It is well designed and it comes with three different attachments to make different shaped veggie noodles. 

To participate, please sign in right below here and then leave a comment telling me what you would love to make with your new spiralizer! Contest closes one week from today (4/30/15). Good luck! 



daikon + zucchini noodles with a ramp tahini, crispy shiitakes + pickled ramps | what's cooking good looking
daikon + zucchini noodles with a ramp tahini, crispy shiitakes + pickled ramps | what's cooking good looking
daikon + zucchini noodles with a ramp tahini, crispy shiitakes + pickled ramps | what's cooking good looking
daikon + zucchini noodles with a ramp tahini, crispy shiitakes + pickled ramps | what's cooking good looking
daikon + zucchini noodles with a ramp tahini, crispy shiitakes + pickled ramps | what's cooking good looking
daikon + zucchini noodles with a ramp tahini, crispy shiitakes + pickled ramps | what's cooking good looking

daikon + zucchini noodles with a ramp tahini, crispy shiitakes, + pickled ramps

If you cannot find ramps near you or if they are no longer in season, you can leave out the ramp pickle, and sub green onion in the tahini. It will not make much of a different (except it might not feel as exciting as using a ramp ;). 

SERVES 2

INGREDIENTS

for the pickled ramps:
about 10 ramps, trimmed, white parts only (green parts reserved), chopped
about 2-3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar

for the crispy shiitake's:
3.5 oz (about 1/2 cup) of shiitake mushrooms, stem removed, and sliced thin lengthwise
tamari + sunflower oil

for the ramp tahini:
1/4 cup of water
3 tablespoons of tahini
1 tablespoon of tamari
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1 tablespoon of sesame oil
1 scant tablespoon of shallots
10 ramps, the green parts only (the white parts reserved for the pickle), chopped 
** feel free to reserve a few of the green parts to sprinkle on top

for the noodles:
2 large yellow zucchini
1 large daikon

additional toppings: gomasio, microgreens

METHOD

Pickle the ramps:

  • Place the sliced ramps (white parts) into a small bowl and cover with the vinegar. Set aside until you're ready to serve. 

Roast the shiitake's:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 425º. 
  • Place the sliced shiitake's onto a baking sheet and drizzle lightly with tamari. Then drizzle with a little sunflower oil and toss to coat evenly. 
  • Bake the mushrooms for about 15-20 minutes, until they are brown and crispy. Remove, and set aside until you're ready to assemble the noodles. 

Make the ramp tahini:

  • Place all of the ingredients for the tahini (except for the ramps) into a food processor and blend until smooth.  Pour into a small bowl, and stir in the ramps (green parts). Set aside until you're ready to assemble. 

Lastly, make the noodles:

  • Using a spiralizer, or a julienne peeler, turn the zucchini and daikon into long noodles that resemble spaghetti. Place the veggie noodles into a large bowl. 

Assemble the dish:

  • Toss the veggie noodles with the ramp tahini.  Add about a teaspoon of the pickled ramp (strained from the vinegar). Top with the shiitakes, and any additional toppings that you like. 

roasted baby artichokes with gremolata + a za'atar lemon yogurt

roasted baby artichokes + za'atar lemon yogurt | what's cooking good looking
roasted baby artichokes + za'atar lemon yogurt | what's cooking good looking

It's no secret that one of my favorite vegetables of spring (and of all time) are artichokes. My artichoke obsession started at a young age because my mom used to make big batches of stuffed globe artichokes and keep them around as snacks for us for when we got home from school. Not your usual after school snack, but I am thankful that she was more inclined to feed us vegetables as snacks instead of junk. Don't get me wrong, I ate my fair share of fruit roll ups, but if you gave me the choice between the artichoke and the fruit roll up I would have always chosen the artichoke. 

I used to think artichokes were limited to being stuffed with italian bread crumbs and steamed, but since I have made it a point to make a new artichoke recipe for the blog every single year, I've learned that artichokes may have more versatility than you'd probably think. These marinated and grilled artichokes were  my gateway into alternative artichoke recipes, and still remain one of my favorites.  Last year I got real wild with this artichoke and smashed pea dish which is more of a meal than an app or a snack. This year I wanted to revisit the baby artichokes, because it's been a while since I've made them, and I forgot how much I love these little flavor bombs. 

A few things that I know for sure, artichokes love lemon, and lemon loves garlic, and lemon + garlic love olive oil … AND lemon, garlic + olive oil love salt + pepper, so if you make sure your artichoke involves some kind of lemon, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper combo you are winning. 

So with that, gremolata was the first thing that came to mind. Gremolata is a fancy Italian word for a condiment with lemon zest, fresh garlic, and parsley. In other words, it's basically a bomb of flavors that was meant to be sprinkled over roasted baby artichokes.  Flavor bomb plus flavor bomb …and  …… there is a lot of things adding up in this recipe, all of which will be really good (and I haven't even mentioned the lemon za'atar yogurt yet which just send this over the moon). So let's just go and make all the baby artichokes and sprinkle them with gremolata and dip them in za'atar yogurt until spring turns into summer and there are no more artichokes to be eaten. 

roasted baby artichokes + za'atar lemon yogurt | what's cooking good looking
roasted baby artichokes + za'atar lemon yogurt | what's cooking good looking
roasted baby artichokes + za'atar lemon yogurt | what's cooking good looking
roasted baby artichokes + za'atar lemon yogurt | what's cooking good looking
roasted baby artichokes + za'atar lemon yogurt | what's cooking good looking
roasted baby artichokes + za'atar lemon yogurt | what's cooking good looking

roasted baby artichokes with gremolata + a za'atar lemon yogurt

MAKES about 2 dozen baby artichokes

INGREDIENTS

for the artichokes:
about 12 baby artichokes
1/2 of a lemon, juiced
olive oil
salt + pepper

for the gremolata:
a small handful of parsley, minced
1 large garlic clove
the zest of 1 lemon

for the za'atar lemon yogurt:
7 oz of plain greek yogurt
1 tablespoon of za'atar
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon of paprika
a pinch of salt
pepper
about a tablespoon of chives, chopped (optional)

METHOD

Make the gremolata:

  • In a small bowl, add the minced parsley. Then, using a microplane, grate the garlic clove over the parsley (mince the remaining garlic that gets too small to grate). Zest the lemon over the parsley and garlic, and the give it a stir to combine. Set it aside until you're ready to use. 

Make the za'atar yogurt:

  • In a small-medium bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the yogurt, and stir to combine. Cover it and keep it in the fridge until you're ready to serve. 

Prep + roast the artichokes:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 400º. 
  • Prepare a medium sized bowl with water, the juice of 1/2 a lemon, and some ice. This will keep the artichokes from oxidizing. 
  • Pull off and discard the dark green outer leaves until you get to the tender, inner yellow ones.  Cut off the top 1/4 inch (where the prickly bits are). Trim the bottom of the stem. Then, using a paring knife, shave off the rough edges around the base of the artichoke. Slice the artichoke in half and place it in the bowl of lemon water. Repeat until all of the artichokes are done. 
  • Drain the artichokes from the water and place on a small baking sheet. Toss with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. 
  • Bake them for 15 minutes. Remove then and flip them over, and then bake for other 5-10 minutes until they are tender and crispy. 

Assemble and serve:

  • Place the artichokes in a bowl and sprinkle the gremolata over them. Serve immediately (warm) with the yogurt. 

 

spring pea miso soup + crispy wasabi chickpeas + dandelion pesto

spring pea miso soup + wasabi chickpeas + dandelion pesto | what's cooking good looking
spring pea miso soup + wasabi chickpeas + dandelion pesto | what's cooking good looking

I made this soup the other day with the door open a crack. It felt amazing to let a little fresh, slightly warm but still brisk air in. Spring hads been super slooooooooow this year to arrive in nyc, but little by little it is making it's way here. There is a light at the end of this cold, dark tunnel. 

When I lived in Florida, I missed the seasons so much. Down there, each season blends into the next, and christmas and easter do not have much to differentiate themselves except for the decor. Living in nyc, there are very defined seasons, dictated by weather, the clothes you wear, and the food that you find at the market. As much as I dislike winter and I get sick of cooking with root vegetables, there is something about enduring those frigid few months that makes you appreciate the sunnier, warmer, spring-vegggie filled days so much more. Since this winter has been particularly cold and long, I am really really anxious for spring to get here already, and even more anxious to get my spring veggie cooking on.  

That first pop of green on a tree-lined street, the first time you see an artichoke or a fiddle head fern at the market, the first day you do not have to wear your winter coat …. it's like coming-out of hibernation (or jail, depending on how bad the winter). 

It's right around this time where the weather cannot make up it's mind, that I find that a spring soup is most appropriate. It is still brisk enough here to warrant a warming dish, but I was determined to give my soup a little pop of spring. Fresh peas, which are just starting to come around, are one of the first signs of spring here  ……. but the great thing about peas is that if you cannot find the fresh ones (or if you're feeling too lazy to de-pod them) there are no shortage of bags of frozen peas in the freezer section. 

By the title, this soup may sound fancy and ambitious, but there are more words in the recipe title than there are in ingredients in the soup. The soup itself only uses four ingredients and it's so simple, it only takes about 20 minutes to prepare. The pesto and chickpeas are totally optional but totally recommended, as they elevate this soup and the whole soup eating experience. You might know me well enough by now to know that I will never share a soup recipe that does not have toppings, textures, and a swirl of something delicious. I like to enjoy my soup more as meal than an appetizer, and there is nothing more satisfying to me than a seasonal soup with layers of texture and flavor for lunch or a light dinner. 

spring pea miso soup + wasabi chickpeas + dandelion pesto | what's cooking good looking
spring pea miso soup + wasabi chickpeas + dandelion pesto | what's cooking good looking
spring pea miso soup + wasabi chickpeas + dandelion pesto | what's cooking good looking
spring pea miso soup + wasabi chickpeas + dandelion pesto | what's cooking good looking
spring pea miso soup + wasabi chickpeas + dandelion pesto | what's cooking good looking

spring pea miso soup + crispy wasabi chickpeas + dandelion pesto 

Just a little note about the wasabi chickpeas. I tested them a few times, and found that the way I share them below (by tossing them with the paste) worked best, but was not perfect. The wasabi flavor is faint, however, I still like the subtle hint of wasabi flavor over the regular roasted chickpea. If you want to play it safe then feel free to ditch the wasabi and just make this a regular roasted chickpea by tossing them with some olive oil, salt, and pepper. Enjoy!

SERVES 4

INGREDIENTS

for the pea miso soup:
1 large leek, sliced
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups of peas (fresh or frozen will do)
3 tablespoons of chickpea (or sweet white) miso, dissolved in a couple of tablespoons of water
2 1/2 cups of filtered water

for the chickpeas:
1 15oz can (organic, no-sodium) chickpeas
1 tablespoon of wasabi powder
1 tablespoon of sunflower oil (or a neutral oil)
1 teaspoon of tamari
black pepper
1 tablespoons of water

for the dandelion pesto:
about 2 cups of dandelion greens, loosely packed
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon of salt
pepper
about 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil

additional toppings: mircogreen, gomasio

METHOD

Prep + roast the chickpeas:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 400º. 
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the wasabi powder, oil, tamari, black pepper, and water and whisk to combine. You should have a thick paste, but if it's too thick add a little more water. Then add in the chickpeas and toss to coat them evenly. 
  • Spread the chickpeas onto a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 35-45 minutes, until they are brown and crispy. Take the pan out every ten or so minutes and shake them so they do not burn on one side. 

Prepare the soup:

  • In a medium sized heavy bottom pot, heat the oil over medium-low and then add the leeks. Cook while stirring (to prevent burning) for about 7 minutes. You want the leeks to be soft but be careful they do not burn or else they will taste bitter. 
  • Add the garlic, and cook for another two minutes. Then add the peas, and the dissolved miso. Give it s stir and then add the water. You want to add just enough water so that the ingredients are covered. I found that 2 1/2 cups was perfect. 
  • Simmer on low heat for about 15 minutes while you prepare the pesto. 

Make the pesto:

  • Bring a small to medium sized pot of water (that's filled a little more than half way) to a boil. Have a small bowl with ice water nearby. Add in the dandelion greens to the boiling water and blanch for just under 60 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the greens to the ice bath. 
  • Squeeze the excess water from the green, then add them to a food processor along with the garlic, salt, and pine nuts. 
  • Pulse a few times until everything is chopped, then add in the olive oil in a continuous stream while the food processor is running. You will have to scrape down the sides about half way through. You want this pesto to be on the thicker side, so stop adding the oil when you feel like it's at the consistency you prefer. 

Blend the soup, and assemble:

  • When the soup is done simmering, blend it either using an emersion blender or a high-powered blender such as a vitamix. I like to puree about 3/4 of the soup, to leave a little texture, but go ahead and blend as little or as much as you like. 
  • If you've only blended partially, add the blended soup back to the pot and stir to combine. Then ladle the soup into individual bowls. Top with a spoonful of the pesto, and swirl it to incorporate. Then finish with a small handful of the chickpeas, a pinch of micro greens, and a pinch of gomasio. 

crispy avocado tacos + roasted radishes + sriracha smashed beans

crispy avocado tacos | what's cooking good looking

After one helluva crazy year, and an intense week last week for me on the internet ….. I was beyond thrilled (and a bit teary-eyed) to learn about my nomination for the most DELICIOUS food blog by Saveur magazine (!!!!!!!), for the second year in a row. WOW. Just wow. As soon as I found out I literally screamed at Michael and then immediately started to cry (tears of joy, of course). A totally over-dramamtic reaction, but I was so very happy, and I easily cry at happy moments. That scream was a new one for me though. 

I think the reason for my overly emotional reaction was definitely in part because it is one of the most (or second most) exciting moment in this little blog's life. But it is also emotional because last year when I was nominated, the excitement was overshadowed by my mom getting sick and going to the hospital almost immediately after. I feel like the universe is giving me a second chance to enjoy a little celebration for all this …… so let's pop some bubbly and make some tacos!!!!!!!!!

I am so thankful for my readers (hello, you) who follow along, comment, and make my recipes. There are times as a blogger you wonder why it is you spend hours and hours coming up with recipes and taking photos,  if anyone is ever going to get to enjoy it at the other end.  Your comments, emails, tweets, and 'grams make me feel like someone is there on the other end, and that is what makes this all worthwhile ….. and this nomination is just the (dairy-free) icing on that cake.

If you've enjoyed following along as much as I've loved making recipes for and with you … then, I would love your vote! It just takes a minute, you can only vote once,  for one blog in each category.  There are so many other talented blogs in my category, as well as all of the other categories, so hopefully you will find a few new favorites in there too (I certainly did). To get to the voting page, click the Saveur link in the sidebar ------------> and then to find me you have to scroll alllllll the way down to the bottom to the most delicious food category. 

So, onto our celebration TACOS. What better way to celebrate this or any occasion than with tacos, stuffed with crispy, baked, avocado, some roasted radishes, some spicy smashed siriacha beans, and some crunchy bits. When I made these, I was kind of just playing around with the idea of crispy avocado. I wasn't sure how I would feel about a warm and crunchy avocado (I like my avocado, cool and creamy) but ….. I have to say, I feel really really really good about warm, crunchy avocado, especially when it's  in a tortilla. with lots of other delicious stuff. 

These tacos are very easy to throw together, so they are perfect for a fun, simple weeknight meal, or great if you want to invite some friends over for a taco party. Less time cooking, more time celebrating and partying is what I am all about right now. 

crispy avocado tacos | what's cooking good looking
crispy avocado tacos | what's cooking good looking
crispy avocado tacos | what's cooking good looking
crispy avocado tacos | what's cooking good looking
crispy avocado tacos | what's cooking good looking

crispy avocado tacos + roasted radishes + sriracha smashed beans

MAKES
about 8-10 tacos 

INGREDIENTS

about 1 cup of butter radishes, quartered
a drizzle of olive oil
salt + pepper
3-4 avocados, that are on the firm side 
1/4 cup of bread crumbs (gluten-free if you want to make this gf)
1 can of (organic, no-sodium) cannelloni beans, drained
2 tablespoons of your favorite sriracha
about 1 cup of purple or green cabbage, shredded (sliced very thin)
about 10 tortillas (I like to use Ezekiel gluten-free sprouted tortillas)

*additional (optional) toppings: micro greens, pain yogurt, sautée onions

METHOD

Roast the radish:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 400º. 
  • Place the sliced radish onto a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. 
  • Roast for 10-15 minute until the radish is soft. Remove and set aside until you're ready to assemble the tacos. 

Prepare + bake the avocado:

  • Turn the oven heat up to 425º. 
  • Slice the avocados by halving them, remove the pit, and then using a spoon, gently separate the avocado from the skin (keeping it in one piece). Then slice each half, lengthwise, into three slices. Each avocado will yield 6 slices. 
  • Pour the bread crumbs onto a plate or flat surface, and one by one, dip the avocado into the bread crumbs so they are completely coasted on both sides. Then place them onto a baking sheet (season with salt and pepper if your bread crumbs are not seasoned). Do this until all of the avocados have been coated. 
  • Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes, until the crust has become light brown. 

While the radish and avocados are baking, prepare the beans:

  • Place the drained beans into a bowl with the sriracha, and mash it all together with a fork. Do this until they are all roughly mashed. 

Assemble the tacos:

  • Place a spoonful of the sriracha beans onto the center of the tortilla. Then top with 2-3 slices of avocado, and a couple of rashes. Fishish with a pinch or two of the cabbage and any other additional toppings that you like. 


 

chocolate cupcakes + spiced cherry filling + chocolate ganache | vegan

chocolate cupcakes + spiced cherry filling + chocolate ganache | what's cooking good looking
chocolate cupcakes + spiced cherry filling + chocolate ganache | what's cooking good looking

( I want to thank all who participated in last week's giveaway! I had so much fun reading  all of the thoughtful, funny, and interesting comments on how you feel about grains … the ones you already love, and the ones you want to love. The comments were so wonderful, I wish I could give everyone a book! I did pick three winners - at random - and they have been notified. Congrats to those who won, and thank you so much for your enthusiastic participation.) 
 

For a very long time, I've  been searching for the perfect cake recipe that I could whip up for birthdays or special occasions for my family and friends. Since March and April are two very big birthday months in our family, I figured this was the year and month I was going to find and master my go-to cake recipe. Because everyone needs a go-to cake recipe in their back pocket, and I've been long overdue for mine. 

As you may have guessed, my perfect cake recipe would have a few requirements (restrictions or guides, depending on how you look at it). My perfect cake would have no dairy (milk, or butter) , no refined sugar, and would either be glulten-free or use a better digested flour than an all-purpose white. My perfect cake would not use processed ingredients like vegan butter or tofu to achieve a non-runny frosting. My perfect cake would be so delicious you would have no idea that it had these kind of restrictions attached so that anyone and everyone can enjoy it and lick the frosting and every last crumb off their plate. 

In searching for my perfect cake, I didn't have to look too far ever since Amy Chaplin's book:  At Home in the Whole Foods Kitchen, made it's way into my home. It has quickly become my favorite cookbook for it's approach to whole foods cooking, expansive knowledge, and recipes that are just perfect in every single way. Not surprisingly, Amy has created the perfect cake recipe. The first ever cake where I read the recipe once over and said … WOW…… this is it. This is the ONE. This cake is MY perfect cake. 

Since discovering this recipe, I have made the cake three times, and tested it as a cupcake twice. The two layer vegan cake it out of this world … but the cupcakes, which are made with the exact same proportions, were more suitable for baking with my niece, and for bringing to share with my mom's nurses for her birthday a couple of weeks ago. If I've learned anything from this past year, it's that every single birthday and achievement needs to be celebrated, and we now have our perfect cake (or cupcakes) that we can do it with. 

chocolate cupcakes + spiced cherry filling + chocolate ganache | what's cooking good looking
chocolate cupcakes + spiced cherry filling + chocolate ganache | what's cooking good looking
chocolate cupcakes + spiced cherry filling + chocolate ganache | what's cooking good looking
chocolate cupcakes + spiced cherry filling + chocolate ganache | what's cooking good looking
chocolate cupcakes + spiced cherry filling + chocolate ganache | what's cooking good looking
chocolate cupcakes + spiced cherry filling + chocolate ganache | what's cooking good looking
chocolate cupcakes + spiced cherry filling + chocolate ganache | what's cooking good looking

chocolate cupcakes + spiced cherry filling + chocolate ganache | vegan 

This recipe is ever so slightly adapted from Amy Chaplin's chocolate cake with chocolate ganache recipe in her book: At Home in the Whole Foods Kitchen. In her book, Amy shares this recipe as a two-layer cake, using two 8" round cake pans that are greased and lined with parchment. The cherry filling recipe is doubled, and the cake is stacked with a layer of frosting and the cherry filling in the middle, and then covered entirely in the delicious chocolate ganache. This cupcake recipe below uses the exact amount of batter that she uses for the cake and ganache, and results in about 24 cupcakes. Feel feel to make this recipe into a cake if you choose, by dividing the batter equally amongst the 2 cake pans.  One last note is that it is best to make the frosting a day in advance, or at least several hours, to give it plenty of time to set and firm. 

MAKES 
about 24 cupcakes

INGREDIENTS

for the chocolate ganache:
2 - 13.5oz cans of full fat coconut milk
1/4 cup of maple syrup
5 tablespoons of agar flakes
pinch of sea salt
3.5 oz of dark chocolate (70% cacao), broken into pieces
1/2 cup of fresh orange juice
4 teaspoons of vanilla extract

for the cake:
2 cups of toasted hazelnuts (skins removed), roughly chopped, divided 
2 cups of spelt flour, divided
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 cup of cocoa powder
1 cup of boiling water
1/4 cup of ground flax seeds
1/2 cup of extra virgin coconut oil, melted (plus more for greasing)
1 1/2 cups of maple syrup
1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon of salt

for the spiced cherry filling:
1 cup of dried cherries
1 tablespoon of maple syrup
a pinch of cinnamon
a pinch of sea salt
2 teaspoons of water
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/4 cup of unsweetened black cherry jam

METHOD

Make the ganache:

  • In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, add the coconut milk, maple syrup, agar flakes, salt and stir. Bring to a boil over high-heat, while whisking frequently. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20-25 minutes (while stirring every once in a while). You're done when the agar has dissolved. Make sure there are no agar flakes visible (be sure to look closely at the mixture to tell). 
  • Remove from the heat, and add in the chocolate pieces. Stir, and cover for two minutes. Then whisk again to make sure the chocolate is fully dissolved. 
  • Pour the mixture into a shallow bowl, and set aside to cool. When the mixture has cooled and stopped steaming, place it in the fridge to set for about 1.5-2 hours. 
  • Once the mixture has completely set, cut it into cubs and place it into a food processor with the orange juice and vanilla. Blend until completely smooth. Scrap down side and check for unblended lumps. If the mixture is separating, keep blending until it becomes homogenous. This can take up to 5 minutes. Transfer to a container and keep it in the fridge for a minimum of 1 hour, or unit you're ready to frost the cupcake. 
     

Make the spiced cherry filling:

  • In a small pan over medium-low heat, add the cherries, maple syrup, cinnamon, salt, water, and vanilla. Cook, while stirring, for about 3-5 minutes, until the cherries are soft. Remove from the heat and fold in the black cherry jam. 

Make the cupcakes:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 350º and line a 12 cup muffin / cupcake pan with cupcake liners. 
  • Place 2/3 cup of the toasted hazelnuts into a food processor and pulse a few times. Then add in 1/4 cup of the spelt flour, and blend until finely ground. Place it in a medium bowl. Sift in the remaining spelt flour, baking powder, and baking soda. 
  • In a large bowl, whisk the cocoa powder and boiling water until smooth. Add the ground flax, coconut oil, maple syrup, vinegar, vanilla, and salt and whisk to emulsify. Add in the flour mixture to this wet mixture, and whisk until everything is combined. 
  • Spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling halfway, then adding a small spoonful (about 1 teaspoon) of the cherry mixture. Then add another spoonful of the batter on top, until it is just almost reaching the top. Do this until all of the cupcake liners are full. If you do not have two cupcake pans, then you will have to bake these and repeat with the second set.  
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a tookpick inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool slightly, then remove the cupcakes from the pan and set aside to cool almost completely before frosting. Repeat this process, if need be, until the batter is done. 

Once the cupcakes are cooled, frost the cupcakes:

  • Place the frosting into a pastry bag, or a plastic bag with a hold cut into a corner. Frost the cupcakes making a circular motion from the center, out. Top with some of the chopped toasted hazelnuts, and spoonful of the spiced cherries (you should have a little leftover).
  • If yo do not plan to enjoy immediately, you may want to wait to frost the cupcakes until right before you are ready to serve so that the frosting does not get runny, or so that you do not have to refrigerate the cupcakes with the frosting. To store any extra cupcakes that are frosted, keep them in an air-tight container in the fridge.