Azucar (Revisit)

I LOVE Azucar. They have delicious desserts for good prices, the staff is always super friendly and in addition to fancy desserts their Cuban snacks and pastries plus coffee are on point.

Divina Cake - Vanilla Cake, Passionfruit Curd, Raspberries and Toasted Marshmallow Topping

Divina Cake – Vanilla Cake, Passionfruit Curd, Raspberries and Toasted Marshmallow Topping

I used to go to OB more often but now I rarely find an excuse to go. This time we were heading to Pizza Port and so obviously had to make an obligatory stop at Azucar, even though I was too full to eat dessert. Fortunately I could take these babies to go.

Azucar Cakes

Azucar Cakes

My favorite thing at Azucar are their mini cakes. Instead of buying a huge slice of cake you can buy little mini cakes (for $4 to $6 dollars). They are all complex and lovely with a lot of them showing a Cuban influence in the use of tropical fruits or dulce de leche. Some stand outs include the Divina (pictured here) with passion fruit and marshmallow, the cheese flan with coconut, the cinco leches cake, mango cheesecake, rum coconut cake….amongst so many.

The Divina cake is one I always get. I ADORE passion fruit, and this is the perfect combination as passion fruit’s tartness takes so well with super sweet foods like marshmallow or white chocolate. The Divina is a super moist vanilla cake filled with passion fruit curd, fresh raspberries and topped with toasted marshmallow. Amazing.

Divina Cake

The other cake I got was called the Havana I think. It is also vanilla cake (you can always see the black specks of real vanilla in their cakes, always a plus in my book). But this one is filled with a thick layer of dulce de leche and topped with vanilla frosting and crystallized sugar. Sweeter than the Divina and a little sweet for my taste but my sister loves it. This is for her which is why I left the plastic layer around it (sorreez). I was afraid that if I unraveled the plastic covering all that dulce de leche would just ooze out…For a picture sans plastic see my old post on Azucar here.

Havana Cake

If you want something simpler than a cake they also have fantastic pastries; scones (including a gluten free option), flaky pastries filled with guava and cheese, brownies, bars, cookies (try the Mojito cookie or the peanut-butter-white-chocolate Tiger cookie), caramels (dark chocolate with sea salt), muffins and even coconut almond granola. They also have some Cuban inspired salty snacks like croquettes and papa rellenos. As far as real food goes they have inventive sandwiches like the Cuban in Paris (brie, ginger spread, arugula, pears), Berto (serrano ham, manchego cheese, arugula, drizzle of extra virgin olive oil) and the Havana (oven roasted turkey breast, cream cheese, guava marmalade). And lastly the many coffee options are all great.

But I would definitely order a cake.



Just sayin’.


Azucar

4820 Newport Avenue (Ocean Beach)
San Diego, CA 92107
619-523-2020

www.iloveazucar.com

Impossibly Creamy Hummus

So I have attempted to make hummus several times. It seems so easy. Canned chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon, whiz everything in a food processor. And every time its been disappointing. Sometime ago I finally pinpointed the crux of my too lumpy hummus, chickpea skins. I didn’t even realize chickpeas had skins until as instructed I pinched those little buggers and a little thin film peeled away. And most vexing of all is that I could find no shortcut for pulling those stupid little skins off, there was no trick or shortcut, you just had to peel the skins off the chickpeas…one by one. So needless to say I didn’t try to make hummus again for a long time. Until I found myself with too much time on my hands, a can of chickpeas, lemons I had to use and a tahini jar I forgot I had.

Hummus

Super Creamy Hummus

After seeing Joy the Baker’s recipe for Creamy Avocado Hummus and her honest account of it taking 20 minutes to peel 2 cups of chickpeas I decided that maybe just making a smaller portion of hummus was the answer. Ultimately ended up making the whole can of chickpeas because didn’t really have any plans for the rest of the chickpeas anyways…and I’d say it took a solid 15 minutes.


Anyways I don’t mean to sound discouraging. It’s not something I would do after a long day of work but if I was having people over for dinner / bringing it to someone else’s house I wanted to impress / going all out and making an intense Mediterranean dinner I would set aside the 15 minutes to peel the chickpeas and do it right. After all we were quite pleased with the results. The end product is velvety smooth and tastes so creamy that you’ll feel like you’re eating something super buttery and rich instead of fairly healthy chickpea puree (with protein and fiber!…well some of the fiber was probably in the chickpea skins but still).


RECIPE:

IMPOSSIBLY CREAMY HUMMUS:

1 can of chickpeas
1/4 cup tahini
2 lemons, juiced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 cup ice cold water
1/4 cup plain fat free greek yogurt
salt to taste
good quality olive oil
Optional: cayenne pepper, paprika and parsley to top with

1. Peel the chickpeas by lightly pinching each one until the filmy layer comes off. Have a bowl filled with water nearby where you can dip your fingers in after peeling the chickpea so that the skin will easily float off in the water as they can start sticking to your fingers.
2. Once all peeled put the chickpeas in a food processor until smooth.
3. With the processor still on add in the tahini, greek yogurt, lemon juice, garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
4. Lastly drizzle in the ice water. Process until very smooth.
5. Taste and if necessary add more salt (1/4 teaspoon at a time) and lemon juice.
6. Transfer to the container you want to serve out of, top with cayenne/paprika/parsley if desired and then generously drizzle with olive oil to finish.

Pita Chip with Hummus

Pita Chip with Hummus

This was loosely based on this lovely Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi’s Basic Hummus. In this recipe they actually don’t peel the chickpeas but instead cook them from dry with baking soda. Which although is less labor intensive than the peeling takes a lot longer with soaking the chickpeas overnight and then cooking them for 20 – 40 minutes. Another big difference is that in this recipe, as in most traditional hummus recipes, there is no greek yogurt. I added in the greek yogurt to sub in for some of tahini as tahini is very caloric. One cup of tahini has 1,424 calories! So by decreasing the amount from 1/2 cup to 1/4 and subbing the rest of the volume with plain fat free greek yogurt we save 326 calories from the final product.

Tahini is ground sesame seed paste if you are not familiar with it, and despite its intense fattiness you definitely need some tahini for richness and for the flavor in the hummus. If you are going for full flavor and not particularly caring for calories go for the full tahini volume. I will say that I did not really miss it in the lightened version and the greek yogurt definitely imparts its own creaminess.

All you need are some pita chips, maybe a tabbouleh salad and definitely some pan-fried halloumi cheese and you have a fantastic Mediterranean appetizer spread…

And yes I ate the hummus before taking any of the pictures.

And yes I ate the hummus before taking any of the pictures.

FYI the final product has around 1,050 calories for the entire bowl (provided you didn’t go too crazy with the olive oil) which adds up to about 28 calories per tablespoon! It easily serves 4-6 people as an appetizer.

Azuki Sushi

Azuki Sushi is in Banker’s Hill and from the outside it’s an unassuming little house but when you walk in the inside is surprisingly nice. The decor is simple but trendy-ish with accent lighting and they project movies on one of the walls, then past a narrow corridor they actually have a large covered patio area. Oh and the sushi ain’t bad either.

Azuki Sushi

Azuki Sushi

While I love pricier sushi options like Hane Sushi (a couple blocks up the street, see a review on it here) and Sushi Ota in PB sometimes you just want yummy sushi that’s affordable. But not too affordable like the gross discount stuff filled with cream cheese they peddle at so-so places like PB Sushi or god-awful places like Yakimono’s by the Vons in UTC/La Jolla. It’s closed now but has anyone ever been there? Every underage UCSD student used to go there because they did not card at all but the sushi was SO BAD.

Anyways Azuki has turned into our go-to stop; really good sushi at good prices and great happy hour specials. They have really good traditional nigiri and sashimi as well as creative entrees and super creative (and delicious) rolls.

Azuki Sushi Rolls

Azuki Sushi Rolls

Azuki Menu

Azuki Daily Specials

Normally we come for happy hour because they have great deals on sake and beer as well as appetizers like the huge super-garlicky Garlic Edamame for $3 and their amazing Tuna Tataki with ponzu and jalapeño for $6 dollas. However this would be a great Valentine’s Day stop (HAPPY VALENTINE’S CHILDREN) because sushi in general is a much better idea than overpriced red wine, steak and chocolate lava cake dinners. We did that last year for Valentine’s and afterwards you feel like a beached whale and you just want to lie comatose on the couch and watch Netflix…which is perfectly fine every other day of our lives but perhaps not the best way to spend Valentine’s. Sushi on the other hand is sufficiently fancy and very delicious but also light and you feel great afterwards. Sprightly even.

APPETIZER: To start with we got their Root Vegetable Fries. These are super thinly cut super crispy strips of carrot, green beans, zucchini, and potatoes that are tempura-fried and served with a creamy aioli.

Root Vegetable Fries

Root Vegetable Fries

Of course we finished all the aioli before I remembered to take a picture. Yum emulsified oil and egg.

ENTREES: We’ve tried so many of their rolls and they are all awesome but a favorite is the By the Border Roll which has spicy tuna and avocado inside and seared albacore, sliced jalapeño, signature ponzu and spicy aioli on the outside.

By the Border Roll

By the Border Roll

The avocado, ponzu and jalapeño are a great way to add flavor to the tuna so that it’s a good roll for sushi neophytes who are not yet crazy about raw fish. At the same time you get a very decent serving of tuna and albacore and their fat little dot of spicy aioli makes it the perfect amount so its not one of those rolls that is swimming in mayo.

By the Border Roll

By the Border Roll

Me on the other hand, am all about the raw fish, no accoutrements necessary. I went with the Adventurous Nigiri course that comes with (from back to front, might have some mistakes): chu-toro (medium fatty tuna), saba (mackarel), sake (salmon), kanpachi (amberjack), ebi (black tiger shrimp), hamachi (yellowtail) and snow crab. The snow crab actually should have been uni but I hate uni so I asked to sub in ankimo (monkfish liver, tastes like foie gras, is awesome) but they said they couldn’t substitute that in so I left it up to the chef. I got fresh snow crab and I was pretty happy with that because it was delicious.

Adventurous Nigiri

Adventurous Nigiri

This was amazing and I love the way they do their nigiri here with only a small amount of rice and a nice huge slice of fish that drapes over both ends of the rice. I’m constantly picking out rice from rolls that have too much rice but this is never necessary here.

Perfectly Draped Sushi

Perfectly Draped Sushi

Overall it was a great dinner, as always at Azuki (alliteration). The only disappointment was that on OpenTable I mentioned it was our anniversary dinner so I was hoping for a free dessert but no one read the notes or asked if there was an occasion so no dessert for us. Our waitress misheard me when I ordered the Adventurous Nigiri and thought I ordered the Adventurous Sashimi and that was brought out then had to be sent back so I felt bad being all ‘hey its an arbitrary personal milestone for us give us a thing for free’. Nonetheless, can’t wait to be back.

CHECK:
– Root Vegetable Fries $6.95
– By the Border Roll $13.50
– Adventurous Nigiri $28.00
– TOTAL (w/ tax) $52.48

Azuki Sushi

2321 5th Avenue, San Diego, CA 92101
619.238.4760

http://www.azukisushi.com/

Amazing Banana Cashew Coconut Smoothie

I love smoothies as both delicious + filling snacks as well as convoys for healthy food that you might not want to eat by itself like spirulina, maca powder or flax seeds. This recipe handily combines both those aspects with a thick and creamy banana cashew coconut smoothie that has tons of flax seeds for healthy omega-3 oils and drinks like a milkshake.

Banana Coconut Cashew Smoothie

Banana Coconut Cashew Smoothie

This is a perfect afternoon snack; I am always starving after I get back from work and craving something sweet but at the same time don’t want to overeat and then ruin my appetite for actual dinner. This smoothie has become my go to post-work pre-dinner snack and the best part is that its only 210 calories.

Banana Coconut Cashew Smoothie

This recipe is completely vegan, gluten free, paleo and I imagine if you use raw coconut flakes and raw flax seeds it can easily be made raw too…(almond milk is raw right?)

Banana Coconut Cashew Smoothie

Banana Coconut Cashew Smoothie

Banana Coconut Cashew Smoothie

As always I like to make my smoothies with unsweetened vanilla almond milk because its super creamy, tastes amazing and is only 30 calories per cup.

Almond Milk

Almond Milk

Almond Milk

For the bananas you only need half a banana, you can use more if you want it thicker but I just save the other half for the next day’s smoothie (or to top granola with).

Bananas

Bananas

Bananas

I used raw cashews because that’s what I happened to have on hand but feel free to use toasted ones. Although for snacking I prefer toasted cashews the raw ones have a lighter, creamier taste to them thats perfect in this smoothie.

Raw Cashews

Raw Cashews

Raw Cashews

I used sweetened coconut shreds from Trader Joe’s but you can use coconut flakes as well, doesn’t matter as they are going to be blended.

Shredded Coconut

Shredded Coconut

Shredded Coconut

Lastly the flax seeds were added mostly for their omega-3 content but turns out they actually added a nice nutty, toasted flavor to the smoothie.

Flax Seeds

Flax Seeds

RECIPE:

Makes one smoothie.

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup of almond milk
1/2 banana, sliced
1 tablespoon shredded coconut
1 tablespoon raw cashews
1 tablespoon flax seeds
Sweetener to taste (I added Splenda but stevia, agave or honey would work as well)

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Add everything to a blender.
2. Blend until smooth.
3. Taste and blend more if the texture of the flax seeds is too gritty.
4. Drink up.

Banana Cashew Coconut Smoothie

Banana Cashew Coconut Smoothie

Banana Cashew Coconut Smoothie

Banana Cashew Coconut Smoothie

Although I found it unnecessary cinnamon could be a yummy addition to this smoothie or some cocoa powder too. One thing to note is that I think the vanilla flavor in the almond milk makes it so much better so if you are using plain almond milk definitely add a dash of vanilla extract in.

Banana Cashew Coconut Smoothie
Banana Cashew Coconut Smoothie

Nutella Swirl Cocoa Brownies

For a long time whenever I made brownies I would always use a boxed mix. Even though I rarely used cake mixes and love making cakes, cookies, and all kinds of other pastries from scratch with brownies it was always Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker. This wasn’t because I was particularly lazy about brownies but because in my opinion the box always tasted BETTER. Whenever I tried different brownie recipes some turned out too cakey, others too liquid-y, others didn’t have the crackly surface on top and so on. That is until I found Alice Medrich’s Cocoa Brownies Recipe.

Nutella Swirl Brownies

Nutella Swirl Brownies

Basically Alice Medrich found out that the way to create a perfect brownie in terms of texture and a crackly top is to control the amount of fat which determines the texture and the amount of sugar which creates the candy-like crackly top. So by omitting chocolate which has cocoa fat, emulsifiers and additional sugars and having only fat from butter and sugar from granulated sugar you can create a perfect brownie. The end results are super chocolatey, very fudgy and perfectly crackly every time. Whenever I make these they are a hit and the recipe adapts wonderfully to any kind of nuts/marshmallows/thingsyoumixintobrownies you want to throw in when you are in the mood for something more flamboyant than plain chocolate brownies. It’s grown up dark chocolate brownies but sweet enough that anyone will enjoy it. I have made these plain, with coconut, swirled with crunchy peanut butter, topped with white chocolate + crushed peppermint candies, and with chocolate ganache. However this iteration with fat swirls of Nutella might just be one of my favorites in terms of how easy it is to make vs. how delicious it is to eat.

Nutella

Nectar of the Gods

The best part of this recipe is that you can do it all in one pan with no need for whisks or multiple bowls. This is particularly lovely if like me you have no dishwasher. Also known as one of the downsides of living in an authentic albeit renovated 1930s style apartment…on the plus side with ceilings like this I can probably have a 13 foot Christmas tree if I do please. Note that in the original recipe you combine all the ingredients in a bowl set over a double boiler. This seemed extraneous and unnecessary and I’ve always done it in a pan over the stove and it turns out wonderful so….yeah. INGREDIENTS: ALICE MEDRICH COCOA BROWNIES WITH NUTELLA SWIRLS Makes 16 large or 25 smaller brownies 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter 1 1/4 cup sugar 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process) 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 2 cold large eggs 1/2 cup or 2.5 ounces all-purpose flour 2/3 cup of Nutella (or more if you are wild at heart) 1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides. 2. Combine butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a pan over low heat. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. 3. Turn off the heat and wait until the mixture is only warm, not hot. 4. Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. 5. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring after each one. 6. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. 7. Spread evenly in the lined pan. 8. Plop somewhat evenly spaced spoonfuls of Nutella over the batter in the pan. 9. Take a knife and then swirl these into the batter. Swirl enough there is Nutella over the entire cake but make sure the little rivulets of Nutella are thick enough that you will be able to taste them. When in doubt, add more Nutella. 10. Bake until a toothpick in the center emerges only slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes. 11. Let cool completely on a rack. Cut into 16 or 25 squares. Keep in an airtight container and keep them out of the fridge, these are better served room temperature or slightly warm.

SO MANY PICTURES OF BROWNIES.