Chocolate Fig Ricotta Pie

28 Sep

It will be FIG season for exactly 2 more minutes– hurry up and make this super-easy pie that got good reviews from many normal eaters. Alternatively, try this Raspberry FIG Challahcrowd-pleasing FIG appetizerFIG tartFIG scones, or FIG jam. I love ’em all.


Chocolate Fig Ricotta Pie


  • pie crust of your choice (I used GF)
  • 2 c Ricotta cheese
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out (or substitute 2 tsp vanilla extract… but bean is really best here).
  • 2 TBS sugar (I used coconut sugar) + more for sprinkling on top
  • 4-8 TBS grated dark chocolate (this is somewhere between a 1/2- 3/4 bar)- I used this sugar free kind and no one could tell the difference
  • 15 dried figs, sliced in half lengthwise.
  • 2/3 c liqueur of your choice (I used Godiva chocolate)
  • about 9 fresh, ripe figs, sliced


  1. Preheat oven to 400F. If using premade pie crust, use a fork to poke holes throughout the bottom of crust. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until just golden brown. When done, set aside.
  2. Throw the dried figs in a small pot and cover with liqueur. If they aren’t almost all the way covered, add water until they are. Bring to a simmer and let cook for about 10 minutes, or until soft and fragrant. Do not burn! Once soft, remove from heat and set aside to cool.
  3. Combine the ricotta, vanilla, and sugar until just combined. Do not go nuts mixing this.
  4. Sprinkle about half the grated chocolate throughout the cooled crust. Spoon half of the ricotta mixture over the chocolate and spread evenly. Push the dried figs into the ricotta layer, cut side up, distributing them evenly. Cover the figs with second half of the ricotta and spread evenly. Arrange the fresh figs as you’d like, sprinkle with sugar.
  5. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until crust is golden, figs are a bit caramelized, and center is set. Take out of oven, sprinkle with remaining grated chocolate, and place back in over for 2-3 more minutes, until chocolate is a little melted.
  6. Allow to cool, then serve.

Two Timely Books

26 Sep

Presented with minimal comment: two absolutely phenomenal novels that, although set nearly 200 years ago, contribute immensely to the conversation of residual racism and racial violence in America.

The Underground Railroad- Colson Whitehead

Image result for colson whitehead underground railroad book

I have loved Whitehead since The Intuitionist, and was thrilled to find he had a new novel coming out. The Underground Railroad is a book that commands your attention from sentence one: “The first time Caesar approached Cora about running North, she said no.” What follows is a freedom struggle that’s as bold as it is devastating. Whitehead loves to veer his readers right to the border of fantasy and reality, and uses his penchant for the bizarre to blur the lines between the shocking realities of life as a slave and events so strange you can’t help but wonder if they’re true. Jumping through time and characters, Whitehead delivers a cat-and-mouse chase so fraught with generational guilt and ancestral entitlement even Javert might have opted out. The ending feels just a little too made-for-the-big-screen, but still delivers the visceral punch of a tremendous story told by a tremendous writer–Ana Duvernay, if you’re reading, PLEASE consider adapting this for your next movie! I would absolutely call this a must-read in 2016.

Homegoing: A Novel– Yaa Gyasi

Whew lordy, where to start? Gyasi is a Ghanian-born writer who moved to Alabama in her teens and, after graduating with her MFA from Yale, chose to take on the nearly impossible: tracing a direct line from the slave trade to modern systemic oppression using the stories of only two families. Not impressed yet? She does it by devoting just a single chapter to each generation’s character. And, for her final trick, she makes you care deeply about almost each of those one-offs as if their story had spanned the entire novel, not just a short chapter.

There is a lot to love about this book–it’s character driven, beautifully written, and never looks away from the cruelty of the slave trade and its lasting implications. One story branch follows an Asante family as alliances shift and colonial capitalism takes root in West Africa; the second branch follows the descendants of a kidnapped, enslaved, and tortured Fante woman through several decades in America. I couldn’t get enough of the West African  stories–Gyasi does such justice to the customs, character, and culture of a people usually mis-represented as primitive, hapless, and uncalculating. The chapters that take place in America, while just as interesting, lack the self-possesion Gyasi allows their counterparts in modern-day Ghana. There’s a bit of symbolism attached to the American chapters– we are meant to understand that each of the characters is representing something, drawing a line from past to present. A powerful point, to be sure, but there are a few chapters that feel just a bit contrived as a result.

This book is a wonderful insight into the struggle to be free, the systems that hinder progress, and the generational melancholy of people who are black in America. Gyasi’s command of history is tremendous, and her carefully-crafted characters become beloved tour guides to America’s dark side. Please let me know when you’ve read it!

Friday 5: Cookbooks I Love

23 Sep

It’s Friday, school’s back in session, and I’m looking forward to the weekend–so today, we’re talking cookbooks. For a more substantial read, check out this not-new-but-really great essay from Brit Bennett.

Plenty- Yotam Ottolenghi

This book is worth it just for that cover recipe- but, seriously, here’s a man who knows how to treat a veggie. For more of his genius, search “Ottolenghi” on this blog and see the million ways he’s changed my life.

Run Fast, Eat Slow- Shalane Flanagan & Elyse Kopecky

Everyone and their brother is eating the Superhero muffins from this book– what could be better than zucchini, carrots, nuts, and cinnamon all wrapped up in the perfect pre-run muffin? The amazing American marathoner Shalane Flanagan teamed up with a college teammate to create a book dedicated to athletes and the fuel that nourishes them. Lots of the book is gluten free, most of the book is sugar-free, and all of the recipes are DELICIOUS. In just this week I’ve made the aforementioned delicious muffins, zucchini-quinoa risotto, cherry tomato and shrimp pasta, and a sweet potato salad that might have changed my core character– I’m obsessed.  The best part about this book is that they’ve given a purpose to each recipe– sweet potato fries are “whole foods carb0-loading,” giddy up energy bites are “for preworkout energy,” and the Greek bison burgers are just perfect “for pumping iron.” Makes meal planning painless.

The Complete Book of Greek Cooking- Rena Salaman & Jan Cutler

NePaKef found this for me in the bargain bin at Books a Million (tells you how long I’ve had this book, DC people!), and I was highly skeptical of a book about Greek food written by two people with very unGreek last names. HOWEVER. Some of my favorite Greek recipes come from this book- this twist on the old spinach pie classic, a surprisingly good pine nut tart, and this sausage-meatball hybrid that’s quickly become MrKef’s favorite that I really need to share on this blog. Unlike many Greek cookbooks, there’s no discussion of tea cups for measurement– the recipes are easy to follow and their success is easy to replicate. My copy is well-loved, and I bet yours would be, too.

The Whole 30- Melissa & Dallas Hartwig

I missed the Whole 30 train –but I love this dang book. It’s filled cover to cover with grainfree, glutenfree, dairy free, sugar free recipes that are quick, easy, and delicious. The sweet potato salmon cakes are a staple in my lunchbag these days, and MrKef is loving the grilled curry-coconut chicken. I love not having to dream up substitutes for sugary sauces. All the flavor, none of the crap–totally my bag.

Cake Love: How To Bake Cakes from Scratch- Warren Brown

This was my first “grown up’ cookbook wayyyyy back in my Bryant Street days, when GrewUponASoybeanFarmKef and I would try to make the Swiss Meringue buttercream ten times in a weekend before we finally got it to set up correctly. Brown’s recipes aren’t simple– these are day-long, sometimes full-weekend baking projects–but the payoff is huge: a mojito cake with fresh mint and a rum buttercream icing? Yes please. If you want to learn about the art of cake making, I love this approachable, clearly-written, gonna-be-delicious-even-if-you-eff-it-up cookbook as a starting point.

Thanks to Courtney, Cynthia, and Mar for coordinating the Friday 5 Link Up!




The Best Ice Cream I’ve Ever Made (Or: Why Your College Roommate is the Best Person To Keep in Your Life Forever)

25 Aug

Sometimes you gotta let the world know: something INSANE just came out of your kitchen. So, here I am telling you- this ice cream is gonna change the whole game. And I’m not talking about a pickup soccer match cut short for rain– this ice cream is a game-changer on the level of an epic Cricket battle that has gone into days-long overtime. That’s how good it is. OH- and it’s vegan, refined-sugar-free, and off-the-charts easy to make.

You already know- SO not my picture. Thanks to the Tasting Table for this recipe and picture!

But before we get to that, a word from our sponsors. As I’ve written about before, QueijoKef and I spend a lot of time texting/emailing/’graming each other delicious things we’d like to cook or eat. It’s just one of the reasons she is so great (see also: our quick trip to Miamithe epic bike ride inspired by our friendship’s soundtrack, the gnocchi we both die for, and her signature non-dairy creamy sauce). She has an excellent track record of picking awesome recipes (this matcha gingerbread cookie is a fan favorite), so when she sent me this turmeric-cardamom-coconut milk ice cream, I knew she was on a mission to keep her streak alive.

This ice cream has a seriously complex flavor profile (how’s that for food blogger lingo?) that is somewhere between sweet and savory. In another life when I never have to go to school again, I would make grainless graham crackers, slather this ice cream between ’em for an ice cream sandwich, and make my millions selling them on Georgia Ave. A girl can dream.

I followed this recipe exactly, and you should all go over there to give credit where it’s due and support The Tasting Table with all the clicks you can muster. Because I love this recipe so much and would be devastated if it ever went away, I am reproducing it here for posterity (because if Cooking Up Kefi can outlast Gawker, clearly I’ll be here long after The Tasting Table is gone).

Golden Milk Vegan Ice Cream from The Tasting Table


  • 3 c coconut milk
  • ½ c cream of coconut (here on amazon)
  • One 1-inch piece ginger, grated
  • ¼ c honey
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp ground cardamom
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped (I used 1-1.5 tsp vanilla extract)
  • Chopped candied ginger, for garnish (optional)


1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together all the ingredients, minus the candied ginger, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Let cool completely, then refrigerate overnight. Make sure you freeze the bowl of an ice cream maker during this time.

2. The next day, strain the base into the bowl of the ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s directions. Scrape into a shallow dish and freeze for at least 4 hours. Scoop the ice cream into bowls and drizzle with honey. Garnish with chopped candied ginger, then serve.

A 600 Page Book to Rip Your Heart Out

19 Aug

One of these days, I’m going to recommend an uplifting book. That day is not today.

We Are Not Ourselves is Matthew Thomas’ epic novel (some 620 pages) following one Irish-American family over the course of four decades. We first meet Eileen Tumulty in 1950s Queens, daughter to “Big Mike” Tumulty, an Industry man and pub favorite. We spend most of the book with her as Eileen O’Leary, wife of Edmund, mother of Connor, and pain-in-the-ass neighbor to many. Her story is one of a changing city, and her fatal flaw is her inability to see change as anything other than an impediment to her happiness, which is always one upgrade out of her reach. If only they had a child. If only Edmund would take that promotion. If only they lived in a big house in the suburbs. Then she would be happy. Then she would be Eileen, self-possessed woman in her own right.

The first ~75 pages of this book are tender and telling as we watch Eileen come to understand that there is a world outside her father’s five-block fiefdom. Next, we spend an awfully long time with Eileen and Edmund in the early days of their marriage, during which Eileen is largely unhappy because her husband is not nearly as interested in class mobility and conspicuous consumption as she is. These are still enjoyable, slice-of-life pages, but meandering enough that I had to go back to the NYT review of the book to remember where in the hell this story is going.

Turns out, Hell is more or less the O’Learys’ destination–Edmund develops early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease, and Eileen must come to terms with her new role as caregiver, breadwinner, and navigator of unthinkable terrain. What’s heartwrenching about this book is its painfully-true-to-life depictions of a brilliant mind and beloved man lost to a terrible disease; what’s beautiful about this book is the justice it does to the complexity of caregiving. For much of the book, Eileen isn’t exactly likable–she is painfully preoccupied with the perceptions of others and never fully rids herself of the idea that happiness is an item for sale in a place where “store” is spelled “shoppe.” Her cringe-worthy moments of overstep are many, and sometimes forced this reader to wonder whether Matthew Thomas willingly wrote her as such or if perhaps his Y-chromosome has confused him into thinking “shrill” is either appropriate or a compliment. Where Thomas falters in painting a full picture of this character as a young woman, he more than makes up for in the second half of the book: he deftly depicts a woman who is both selfishly human in her pursuit of the “finer life” and selflessly superhuman in her endless commitment to her husband during the most difficult portion of both their lives.

Certainly, Thomas could have pared this book down by about 150 pages–but that didn’t stop me from sitting in a corner of the couch during a beach weekend and reading the last 400 pages of this book over about 15 hours. Thomas’ prose is clean and uncomplicated, and he carefully guides readers to a conclusion that’s almost uplifting. Almost.

You might remember that I have a deep love for old people, and that a woman I really love had Alzheimer’s– if you, too, want more old people to live out their days happily, at home, and able to retell the hilarious story of her first date for the 1000th time, you can donate to the Alzheimer’s Association by clicking here.

The Kefs are headed out on vacation next week, so I’ll be reading a ton– on the list: Homegoing: A Novel, Running: A Love Story, The Underground Railroad, and Underground Airlines. What are you reading?

Other books I’ve read this year:

Two Books to Blow Your Hair Back

A Book I Loved and One I Sort of Liked

A Book I Read, a Book I Dropped, and  a Book I am Dying for you to Read


Weekend Overachieving: Coconut Curry Chicken and a Record Run

8 Aug

It’s been a minute since I’ve had a happy surprise on the running front, and even longer since I made my dear husband something nutritious that he would also call delicious. Great news-I did both this weekend!

Let’s start with running- I have been doing my long runs with the Arlington Road Runners Club for the past couple of Saturdays, and it has been just the kick in the pants I need to remember that the hole is not actually that deep.

I had 90 minutes planned for the run, which probably would have been about 10 miles in the stank heat and humidity that Saturday showed up with. Around mile 6, Courtney pointed out that it was time to either take an uber home or make the decision to run the rest of the route with her… the rest of the route being ANOTHER TEN miles. Previous to that morning, the longest I had ever run was 13.5 miles, but I was feeling great and thought to myself, “Let’s see what the ol’ girl can do” (and that’s a direct quote–things have been weird in Kef-landia lately).

Long (run) story short- I finished the route, very much thanks to the AWESOME ARRC volunteers who set up life-changing water stops at miles 7 and 11 and Courtney for being the world’s BEST run-buddy-cheerleader. I’ve been living in a world where I didn’t believe I could ever run that far and, lo and behold, I did it without even planning to. How do you like them apples?

Annoyingly, I forgot to turn my watch back on after a water fountain break and missed some mileage on my watch. Whatever.


Anyway, I worked and napped and ate and Hoodwinked with SummitKef for the rest of Saturday. I woke up on Sunday ready to kick more ass. I cooked a week’s worth of food in 3 hours, a nice reversal of my usual Sunday routine, which is to eat a week’s worth of food in 3 hours.

This curry chicken took ~20 to put together, made enough for him to eat all week, and got big thumbs up from MrKef. It is based off a Whole30 recipe, but I had to punch up the spice for my audience.


Coconut Curry Chicken


  • 1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 medium potatoes, rinsed and chopped (sweet potatoes if you’d like!)
  • 3 TBS olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 TBS curry powder
  • 1-2 TBS hot sauce of your choice
  • 1/2 can diced tomatoes, fire roasted
  • 1/3 c coconut milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 1 lime, sliced


  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Heat olive oil in a saute pan over med-high heat. Add onion and cook until soft, 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Add curry powder and cook another 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and hot sauce. Stir well, and simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Transfer contents of pan into blender or food processor. Puree until smooth. Add salt, pepper, and coconut milk and blend again.
  3. Arrange chicken and potatoes in a casserole dish, Pyrex pan, or any high-rimmed oven-safe dish. Pour the curry sauce over the chicken and potatoes, and distribute so everything is covered. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear.

‘Pouzi Pizza

12 Jul

My love for watermelon runs deep- MamaKef has been known to stare into a fridge with three full melons and lament that there won’t be enough for the whole weekend once I get home. So ChampagneOnlyKef knew exactly what she was doing when she rolled up to the 4th of July ‘Ganza with an innovative watermelon dessert.

This ‘pouzi pizza (watermelon=karpouzi in Greek) is delicious and full of dairy decadence. I love the combo of sweet ricotta cheese and mint, and the cold watermelon base makes you forget you’re eating a Heart Attack flavored dessert. Many thanks to ChampagneOnlyKef for bringing this guy into the repertoire!

‘Pouzi Pizza


  • 1/2 c ricotta
  • 1/4 c cream cheese
  • 1 TBS honey
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • Watermelon
  • Berries, for garnish
  • Fresh mint, for garnish


  1. Slice watermelon longitudinally.
  2. Mix together cheeses, honey, and vanilla until well combined. Spread over watermelon rounds.
  3. Cut covered rounds into “slices.” Garnish with mint and berries. Chill before serving.
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