grapefruit vanilla bean trifle

Image: Olaiya Land

In the dreary days of February, my mind turns to spring dreams. Green grass and tiny daffodils elbowing their way up through the soil. The season's first asparagus stalks and baby morels. Raspberries. Strawberries. Apricots! Easter hams and rhubarb pies.

All of which leaves me feeling rather let down when I come back down to Earth and remember we’re still sailing through the mid-winter doldrums.

Image: Olaiya Land

This is a time of year that requires extra creativity in the kitchen. The novelty of autumn’s bounty of apples, pears and squash is long gone. Tender spring things are still weeks away. And Kale, popular and Instagram-friendly as it is, can only take you so far.

Luckily, this is the month we are given citrus.

Image: Olaiya Land

Jewel-toned citrus in all its shapes and forms is the answer to the culinary blues. Bright and subtly floral, it’s the winter ingredient that tricks our palettes into thinking spring is nearly here. 

Sweet-tart grapefruit is my very favorite member of the citrus family. It's annual appearance at the grocery store never fails to brighten my day. Sort of like a beloved uncle who comes around once a year with bad jokes and pocketfulls of candy. 

Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land

It’s difficult to improve upon a perfectly ripe grapefruit section scooped straight from the rind. But as I looked around our kitchen at the mounting piles of grapefruit, I decided it was time to kick things up a notch and transform my winter citrus bounty into something a touch more fancified. 

Which leads us to this Grapefruit Vanilla Bean Trifle. It’s a delicious pile of controlled chaos--towering layers of cake, cream, meringue and citrus that collapse into a fluffy, creamy mess when you scoop them into your bowl. This is the sort of dessert that will help you shake off a winter funk. The sort of dish that will make you forget winter all together.

At least until you reach the bottom of the trifle dish.

Image: Olaiya Land

Grapefruit Vanilla Bean Trifle

  • 5 large, ripe grapefruit (I used a mix of red, pink, gold and white grapefruit)
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 recipe Grapefruit Curd, chilled (see below)
  • 1 recipe Vanilla Bean Meringues (see below)
  • 1 recipe Grapefruit Olive Oil Cake, cooled completely (see below)


*Note: This trifle is most beautiful right after you assemble it, before the citrus can release any juices. But it is about a gazillion times more delicious the next day. I recommend you make this a day in advance and store it covered in the fridge until you’re ready to serve it. Leave off the last layer of meringue crumbles until right before you serve it so they stay crunchy.

- Almost all the components of this trifle can be made in advance. The cake can be baked up to 2 days in advance. The curd can be made up to a week in advance. The merengues can be baked a week or more in advance if you bake them fairly dry and store them in an airtight container. 

Image: Olaiya Land

Remove the skin and pith from the grapefruit. Cut the flesh into supremes over a medium bowl so you catch all the juices. (Here’s a video on how to do it.) Set aside.

Place the cream in the bowl of a stand mixer along with the sugar and beat to stiff peaks using the whisk attachment. (You can also use a hand beater or a wire whisk and a mixing bowl.) Take care not to over beat the cream--you want it stiff, but not grainy. Gently fold the chilled grapefruit curd into the whipped cream until only a few faint streaks of yellow remain. 

Cut the cooled cake into roughly 1-inch pieces. Arrange the cake pieces in the bottom of a trifle dish or large bowl in a tight layer. Depending on the size of your dish, you may not use all the cake pieces. You can freeze them for another use, or--my favorite option--snack on them alongside your afternoon cup of coffee or tea. 

Spread half the grapefruit cream mixture over the cake. Arrange half the grapefruit sections over the cream. (Take care to lift them from their juices with your fingers or a slotted spoon so the trifle isn’t too wet.) Crumble a layer of meringue pieces over the grapefruit. Spread the rest of the grapefruit cream over the meringue and top with the rest of the grapefruit sections. Crumble additional pieces of meringue over the trifle just before serving.

Serves 8-10.


Grapefruit Curd

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon finely grated grapefruit zest (from 1 large grapefruit--grate an additional 2 teaspoons zest for the olive oil cake, below)
  • ¾ cup freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice 
  • ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 5 large eggs 
  • 4 large yolks (save the yolks from your meringues for this)
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces


Set a fine mesh sieve over a medium bowl and set aside.

Place the juices, zest, sugar, eggs and salt  in a medium heavy saucepan. Whisk well to combine. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring often with a heatproof spatula, until just warm to the touch. Add 1 piece of the butter and cook, stirring constantly with the spatula to prevent scorching, until the butter is almost melted. Repeat with the remaining 9 pieces of butter. 

Continue to cook, stirring often until the curd has thickened and is beginning to bubble, about 1 minute longer. 

Strain the curd into the bowl and discard the zest and any bits of cooked egg. Cool for 15 minutes then place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd (to prevent a skin from forming) and chill in the refrigerator until very cold, at least 4 hours.

The curd will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for a week or frozen for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator before serving.

Makes about 3 cups.


Vanilla Bean Meringues

  • 9 oz superfine sugar (about 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons)
  • 1 vanilla bean (I used a Tahitian vanilla bean since they are beautifully floral)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • Pinch salt
  • 6 oz egg whites (from about 5 large eggs)--reserve the yolks for curd
  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar


Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 250° F. Line a rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper. 

Place the sugar in a small bowl. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with a paring knife. Add the vanilla seeds to the bowl with the sugar. Using your fingers, rub the seeds into the sugar; this will keep the vanilla from clumping together in the meringues. Add the cornstarch and salt. Whisk to combine and break up any clumps.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites at medium speed until soft peaks form, 2-3 minutes.

Increase the speed a little and slowly sprinkle in the sugar mixture. It should take you about a minute or more; adding the sugar too quickly or before the eggs form soft peaks will result in a less stable meringue that might spread or weep. A minute or so after all of the sugar mixture has been added, add the vinegar. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to whip until the meringue forms very stiff peaks, 5-8 minutes longer. You will know the meringue is stiff enough when it will hold the whisk attachment perfectly upright with no other support.  

Spoon the meringue into 6 heaping mounds, each about 4 inches wide on the parchment-lined sheet pan (be sure they aren’t touching). If you want drier, crunchier meringues, use the back of a spoon to flatten each meringue a bit so they are thinner. If you like more marshmallowy meringues, leave them as fluffy mounds.

Bake the meringues until they are crisp and dry to the touch on the outside but still white (not golden or cracked), about 80-90 minutes for flat meringues and about 2 hours for thick ones. Check on the meringues periodically to make sure they aren’t coloring or cracking. If they are, rotate the sheet pan and reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees.

When the meringues are done, turn off the oven and let the meringues cool completely in the oven. If you're not using them right away, store the cooled meringues in a tightly sealed container (I like a large mason jar). They will keep for a week or two, depending on how dry they are cooked, in a well-sealed container.

Makes 6 large meringues.
 


Grapefruit Olive Oil Cake
Adapted slightly from Yossy Arefi

  • 1 cup (200g) sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups (225g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (175ml) fruity olive oil
  • 1/4 cup (55g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated grapefruit zest
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (240ml) whole-milk kefir or buttermilk, at room temperature (I used kefir)


Follow this recipe, omitting the rosemary and substituting 1 tablespoon finely grated grapefruit zest for the lemon zest.



keep going. it gets better.

Image: Olaiya Land

Hello and Happy 2018!

I know this is a little late in the month to be wishing you well for the new year, but I decided I needed to step away from the blog for a minute to do some New Year’s reflecting.

I turned 43 over the holidays. There’s a piece of me that thinks I should not be posting that information to the internets. But given the current epidemic of sexism and discrimination in this country, there’s a piece of me that feels it’s more important than ever to stand up and be who you really are. 

As I was thinking about all this and whether to “out” myself as over 40, I realized reaching this point in my life has some distinct advantages. Like the fact that I finally accept and love myself. But, good lord, has it been a long road getting here!

Image: Olaiya Land

As a chubby bi-racial kid growing up in white America, I always believed I had to be better-than to get by. So I stayed vigilant. I demanded straight A’s of myself from the first grade on. I wanted to be beautiful, skinny, popular. So I worked multiple after-school jobs to buy myself the “right” clothes. I joined the pom pom squad so boys would notice me. I got up 3 hours before school to straighten my hair. I started dieting and jumping rope in our basement late at night for hours each week like some sort of brown, female version of Rocky Balboa. When dieting didn’t work as flawlessly as I’d hoped, I started making myself throw up. 

Attending the hallowed (and uber-privileged) halls of Yale University didn’t help things. I excelled at school by white-knuckling my way through every class, obsessively pushing myself to study just a little harder. On the outside, I looked like I had my shit together. I had friends. I was getting good grades. My professors liked me. On the inside, I was a self-hating wreck with abysmal self-esteem and a crippling eating disorder.

Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land

Twenty years later, talking about this time in my life still makes me cringe inside. But I’m sharing this because I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in having felt this way. There are thousands of other women out there, if not more, who have at some point felt the same pressure to do it all. To be beautiful and sexy and capable and smart and strong and independent and earn money hand over fist. I look around me and I see women silently pushing themselves to the point of cracking under the pressure for perfection and fear of judgement. I’m pretty sure social media isn’t helping. 

So I’m writing today with some advice for anyone out there feeling this way: Muster as much self-kindness and love as you can and keep going. It gets better. 

Stand Up and Be Who You Are-43.jpg
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land

For some of us, happiness is a gift we’re born with. But most people have to work at it. That’s another thing I’ve learned in these 43 years; happiness takes work. 

It involves trying lots of things. And failing miserably at some. And forgiving yourself when you fall down. I think of it like a spiral staircase. We want to take an express elevator from the ground floor to the penthouse. But life doesn’t work that way. Instead, we take a verrrrrry long spiral staircase, looping around and around making the same mistakes many times over, but learning something new with each time around and always finding ourselves a little higher than we were before.

Image: Olaiya Land

At 43, I feel more creative and engaged with my own life than ever. I’m excited about the possibility each day holds. I care less about what people think and so I’m free to like myself the way I am. I’ve learned how to say no to toxic people and pointless obligations. I’ve learned how to trust myself. 

Which doesn’t mean I’m walking around Cloud 9 with a shit-eating grin on my face. I make mistakes and get mad about things that aren’t important. I swear like a sailor. Sometimes I’m jealous of what other people have. My feelings get hurt. But at most moments of most days, when I think about my life, I am happy.

Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land

For a while now, I’ve been feeling the need to pivot this blog towards something more meaningful than new recipes. Because I am who I am, there will always be food. I still think cooking for others and gathering friends around your table is one of the most life-affirming things you can do. And taking the time to feed yourself delicious, nourishing food is deeply satisfying.

There will also be posts on how to travel better and more often. Experiencing new cultures and connecting with people who are different from us, leaves us more open-minded. Shaking off our day-to-day routines provides fresh perspectives and insights. Tasting new flavors and seeing unfamiliar sights leaves us creatively energized and we come home our best selves, refreshed and inspired to try new things.

Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Stand Up and Be Who You Are-25.jpgImage: Olaiya Land

There will be posts on making your house (or apartment or RV or yurt) feel like a home. There will be posts on engaging with the beauty of art, design, fashion and nature. There will be ideas for how to take better care of your body, mind and soul. 

Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land

Going forward, I’m envisioning this blog as an offbeat lifestyle magazine devoted to helping foster meaningful human connections through food, travel, art and design. 

I’ve got a new name in the works to reflect the shift. I’m also dreaming up ways this space could feel like more of a community and help like-minded people come together for discussion, friendship and inspiration. I’m thinking: forums, meet-ups, dinners and retreats devoted to sparking the creative genius inside all of us. 

Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land

This blog would be nothing without all of you. So I want to hear back in the comments from every single one of you (yes, my fellow introverted lurkers, even you) about what sorts of topics, events, workshops and retreats would bring more joy to your life this year! 

Because I want to devote this space to helping women from 23 to 83, and every perfect age in between, design a beautiful, creative, more satisfying life.

Image: Olaiya Land

toasted buckwheat granola with tahini and dark chocolate

Buckwheat Granola with Tahini and Dark Chocolate // Image: Olaiya Land

Hello people!

Today’s the day! It's the final post in the holiday blognanza I put together for you with Megan from Cream + Honey! In case you missed them, you can check out our previous posts here:

Every year, I like to share an easy last-minute edible holiday gift recipe with you. This year, I’ve got this Buckwheat Granola with Tahini and Dark Chocolate. This one goes out to all the procrastinators among us (including myself) who are scrambling for a last-minute homemade gift idea. And to all you overachievers who want to spread a little extra holiday cheer! Whichever camp you fall into, you most definitely need to make this granola.

Buckwheat Granola with Tahini and Dark Chocolate // Image: Olaiya Land

In an effort to switch things up this year, I dialed back the oats in my go-to granola formula and decided to throw in a generous amount of lightly toasted buckwheat groats. This turned out to be a pretty good move on my part (thank you Alison Roman for the inspiration) because the buckwheat lent an earthy complexity to this granola and made it extra crunchy and sog-proof. 

I hate getting hungry halfway through my morning, so to make this more filling, I added protein-packed quinoa to the mix. I’ve got hazelnuts in there too because, duh, I AM OBSESSED WITH HAZELNUTS. (I might lay off the hazelnuts in the new year. Can’t make any promises though…). 

Lastly, I’ll admit that the super sexy tahini + dark chocolate combo could be considered showboating (mostly by people who eat bran flakes for breakfast). In my defense, however, it elevates this way beyond your basic bulk-bin affair and turns it into the sort of granola your brunch guests will ooh! and ah! about and your children will fight over. (Don’t blame me, blame the chocolate.)

Buckwheat Granola with Tahini and Dark Chocolate // Image: Olaiya Land
Buckwheat Granola with Tahini and Dark Chocolate // Image: Olaiya Land

This takes about 15 minutes of active time plus 50 minutes in the oven, which gives you just enough time to whip up a batch of Megan’s Amaro Sprtiz Punch and kick the holiday weekend off in boozy style!

I myself will most likely be subsisting on handfuls of this granola over the next 48 hours as I attempt to distribute the last of my holiday baked goods, prep the house for our AirBnB guests (so nerve racking!) and pack my bags for Paris.

Buckwheat Granola with Tahini and Dark Chocolate // Image: Olaiya Land

I’m not sure if I’ll have time to post before the new year, so I’ll take this opportunity to tell you how immensely grateful I am to all of you who joined my workshops, followed my adventures on Instagram and stopped by to read this blog. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! Your kindness and support over the past year mean so much to me. 

I wish you a beautiful, restful and delicious holiday and I can’t wait to see you in 2018!

XOXO!

Olaiya


Toasted Buckwheat Granola with Tahini and Dark Chocolate

  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ vanilla bean
  • 2 cups raw buckwheat groats
  • 3 cups rolled oats (not instant)
  • 1 cup raw hulled sesame seeds
  • 1 cup raw hazelnuts, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • ¼ cup avocado oil, refined coconut oil (or other neutral-tasting oil)
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • ¼ cup rice bran syrup or agave
  • 6 tablespoons tahini
  • 1 cup (4 oz) shaved dark chocolate (I used Callebaut 60%)

*Note: There are two kinds of buckwheat groats--raw (or lightly toasted) and darkly toasted (also known as kasha). For this recipe you want raw or lightly toasted buckwheat groats since they're going in the oven for quite a while. These will be green or light brown and shouldn't have much of a scent to them. It's pretty easy to distinguish from kasha which is dark brown or reddish brown and has a nutty, toasted smell to it. If you can't find raw buckwheat groats where you live, feel free to substitute more oats or a mix of other dry ingredients like flax seeds, raw sunflower seeds, spelt flakes, etc.

 

Buckwheat Granola with Tahini and Dark Chocolate // Image: Olaiya Land
Buckwheat Granola with Tahini and Dark Chocolate // Image: Olaiya Land

Preheat your oven to 300° F.

Place the sugar in a small bowl. Using a paring knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise and use the sharp edge of the knife to scrape the seeds from the pod. Add the seeds to the sugar and use your fingers to rub the vanilla into the sugar, breaking up any clumps. Place the buckwheat, oats, sesame seeds, hazelnuts, quinoa, cardamom and salt in a large bowl. Add the vanilla sugar and stir to combine thoroughly.

Combine the oils, syrups and tahini in a medium bowl and whisk well to combine. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir until all the dry ingredients are completely coated.

Divide the granola between two parchment-lined sheet pans. Spread the granola out and place the pans in the oven. Bake for 50-60 minutes, rotating the pans and stirring the granola every 15 minutes or so. You want to remove the granola from the oven when it's golden brown. Don't worry if it's not completely dry; it will crisp up as it sits. Place the sheet pans on wire racks to cool. When the granola is completely cool, stir in the shaved chocolate. 

Transfer the granola to an airtight container (I like a big mason jar) and store in a cool dry place. Tightly covered, the granola will keep for several weeks.

Buckwheat Granola with Tahini and Dark Chocolate // Image: Olaiya Land