One of my most memorable dining experiences of 2018 was at Bavel in Downtown Los Angeles. That may have been partly because it was a celebratory dinner (our wedding anniversary!) with my husband, but in all honesty the food and atmosphere stole the show. Offering a similar chic, downtown vibe to their previous hit, Bestia, chefs Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis truly blew us away with this Middle Eastern gem. Both chefs have family roots in Israel, Morocco, Turkey, and Egypt, which is evidently clear in their dedication to creating inspired, yet traditional, flavors. I absolutely loved the mix of fresh ingredients and slow cooking techniques, as well as the variety of flatbreads and spreads, veggie-focused small plates, and larger format meat and fish dishes. Carbs with dips are always a highlight for me, and the delicately fried pita served with smoky babaganoush was divine. I’d heard from multiple people that we just HAD to order the slow roasted lamb neck shawarma, and being the dutiful diners we are, that is just what we did. Just wow. The lamb was fork tender and literally melted in your mouth, and I couldn’t stop creating the perfect bite with a bit of lamb, tahini, and pickled veggies all wrapped up in the chewy laffa. By the way, the sommelier was super helpful in guiding us toward a full bodied, yet well-balanced biodynamic wine to pair with dinner. I loved the giant jug it was decanted in too! Never one to skip dessert, even after being extremely full, we went for the roasted fig tart. The baharat spiced semolina crust was super unique and nicely complemented by the brown butter cream. What a sweet treat and perfect ending to a truly memorable meal. Both my husband and I are plotting a return trip soon!
I love all things seasonal, and therefore I love all things pumpkin! I will admit, however, that pumpkin pie can be a bit mundane at times. I love to spruce it up by adding more textures and flavors, both in the crust as well as toppings. Speculoos (aka Biscoff) cookies make for a much more exciting crust than traditional dough in my opinion- I’m obsessed with their spicy flavor! I also prefer a high crust to filling ratio, so it’s not like you’re just eating a bowl of custard. Candied ginger adds a nice zingy complement to the creamy pumpkin filling, and candied pepitas top these babies off with the perfect crunch! By making them in individual tart shells (mine are technically crème brûlée dishes), everyone gets their own mini pie, and you don’t have to worry about the crust crumbling when trying to remove it from the dish. Just grab a spoon and dig in! I got to bake these with one of my fave bloggers, Camille Styles, when she was in town from my home state of Texas. We had such a blast and now I’m super pumped for all things holiday! If you’re still looking for the perfect Thanksgiving dessert, these tarts would be the perfect addition to your dinner table! Be sure to check out the feature on her blog as well! Enjoy :)
Mini Speculoos Pumpkin Tarts with Candied Pepitas:
1 can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup cane sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp salt
1 can coconut milk
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup candied pepitas (pumpkin seeds), for topping
1/2 cup candied ginger, for topping
whipped cream, for serving
Preheat oven to 350°. Process cookies in food processor until fully crumbled. Add coconut oil and pulse until well combined, then spread the mixture evenly among the tart shells, making sure to push some up the sides as well. It should be nice and thick! Place tarts shells on a baking sheet, then bake for about 8 minutes. Set aside to cool. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine pumpkin, both sugars, spices, and salt, and cook for about 5 minutes until thick and smooth. Remove from heat, and add coconut milk and eggs, whisking until fully incorporated. Allow mixture to cool for a few minutes. Pour pumpkin mixture into prepared tart shells. Bake at 350° for about 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from baking sheet and cool completely on wire rack. Top with candied pepitas and ginger, and serve with whipped cream. Enjoy immediately or chilled.
*To make this dairy-free, sub coconut oil for the butter in the crust, and serve with whipped coconut cream.
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There are so many things I love about summer. The sunshine, beach getaways, and carefree attitudes are all great, but one of my favorite things about late summer in particular is stone fruit. Plums, peaches, apricots, and more are all at their peak ripeness at this time, and you can find them all over the farmers market here in NYC. While they taste super sweet and juicy all on their own, stone fruits can lend themselves to a seriously delicious dessert as well. I love halving them (to show off their beautiful colors) and baking them up in a tasty, yet simple tart. I've used some nice hearty plums here, but feel free to substitute whichever stone fruit you please!
Plum & Almond Tart:
- 10 plums, halved and pitted
- 3 tbsp Cointreau
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract (or almond extract)
- 1 cup almond meal
- 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
- whipped cream or ice cream, for serving
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled & cubed
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- iced water, if necessary
Marinate the plums in the Cointreau with 2 tbsp sugar for at least two hours, preferably overnight. For the pastry, mix the butter into the flour in a mixing bowl with your hands (or use a food processor) until it's a course, crumbly mixture. Add the egg yolk, sugar, and salt, and mix until the dough comes together into a ball. Add a bit of iced water if the dough seems to dry and crumbly. Wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill for at least one hour. You can make this ahead of time, or if you're in a hurry, use a store-bought pastry dough.
Coarsely grate the pastry into a 9-inch tart shell, and spread it out with your fingers. This method gives the pastry a rustic, flaky texture. Chill the prepared tart shell for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 F, and prick the tart's base with a fork. Cover with parchment paper, weigh it down with dried beans, and par-bake for 15 minutes.
Whisk butter and 1/2 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg, vanilla, and any juices from the plums until mixture is well combined. Stir in almond meal and flour, careful not to over-mix. Pour this into tart shell and push plums in, cut-side up. Reduce temperature to 300 F, and bake for about 1 hour. Cover with foil if edges start to brown too quickly. Allow to cool, then serve with whipped cream or ice cream, if desired.
I love how beautiful this tart is- it looks so complicated, but in reality, it's quite simple. Just rich and creamy chocolate ganache, a coconut and nut crust, and fresh raspberries! It's full of healthy, raw ingredients, but still tastes super decadent! I get a ton of inspiration from Oh, Ladycakes. There are tons of delicious recipes on her blog, and this is one of them! I prefer to top mine with Fine & Raw Chocolate, which was started in my local neighborhood of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and is SO addicting. You can't go wrong with any of their flavors- sea salt, coconut chunky, or lucuma & vanilla are all faves!
Raw Chocolate Raspberry Tart:
- 1 cup raw coconut flour
- 1 cup raw almonds
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1 cup medjool dates, pitted
- 2 tbsp raw almond milk (preferably homemade)
- 1/2 cup raw cacao powder
- 1/3 cup unrefined coconut oil
- 1/4 cup raw honey (or maple syrup, raw agave)
- 1 pint fresh raspberries
- Fine & Raw chocolate bar, chopped
Line the bottom of a 9″ tart pan with parchment paper and rub with coconut oil. Pulse the flour, almonds, and salt in a food processor until crumbly. Add the dates and pulse until combined, then add the almond milk, pulsing until the dough gets sticky. Press dough into the prepared tart pan and set aside.
In a mixing bowl, stir together cacao powder, coconut oil, and honey until well combined. Once fully incorporated, pour mixture evenly into tart shell. Top with raspberries and chocolate pieces, then transfer to the refrigerator to set for 2-3 hours. Enjoy! Makes 8-12 slices.
*Adapted from No-Bake Chocolate Raspberry Tart by Oh, Ladycakes.
Photo by Zoltan Tombor