Clementine and Olive Oil Muffins


Everyone has their favorite candy from their childhood. I have several. There was the luscious Galaxy milk chocolate bar. It was more expensive than others, so it was a rare treat. There were the pink and white individual marshmallows, so intensely sweet that they burned the back of my throat. But there was one sugary treat that I always loved. It was a mandarin-flavored hard candy that came in a pack of around ten of them. It was tantalizingly tart and sweet and it had this perfect, completely artificial mandarin flavor that I adored. It seems to have completely disappeared from the market. I wonder if I tried it now, decades later, if I would still enjoy the chemically-created taste that I used to love.dsc05322

You don’t need to worry about any artificial flavor with these muffins. They get theirs from clementine zest and juice, so it’s a lot more subtle than a hard candy. I had seen this recipe for olive oil muffins on David Lebovitz’s website and when I opened the fridge and saw a few clementines that needed to be eaten soon, I decided to adapt the recipe to use them instead of an orange. The result is a moist, not too sweet muffin, with a subtle taste of clementine. The slight bitterness and sweet tartness of the clementines combines really well with the olive oil. If I hadn’t made them myself, I would have had a hard time guessing what that mysterious flavor was when I bit into them.  They are nothing like my childhood favorite candy, and that’s a good thing.

Clementine and Olive Oil Muffins – Adapted from David Lebovitz

Makes 12 muffins


1 1/3 cups (185g) flour
1 cup (200g) sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder, preferably aluminum-free
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup (180ml) fruity extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup (180ml) whole milk
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 tablespoon freshly grated clementine or tangerine zest
1/3 cup fresh clementine juice


1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Put liners in a 12-muffin pan.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, olive oil, milk, eggs, zest, and juice.

3. Add the dry ingredients in the wet ingredients. Stir them together with a flexible spatula until they are just combined but do not overmix. There may be some minor lumps in the batter, which are fine.

4. Fill the muffin molds 2/3rds to 3/4ths full of batter and bake until they just feel set in the center and the tops are golden brown, about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool a bit before serving.

Blueberry Lemon Muffins


One of the most common questions people ask me when I tell them that I love to cook is “what type of food do you like to cook the most?” I am always flummoxed by the question. There were times in the past when I would have been easily able to answer it, like the time in my life when I was obsessed with Chinese food or the period when I explored French cooking. But the truth is, I no longer have a favorite type of food or cuisine that I enjoy the most. I usually choose what to make based on a few simple guidelines. Sometimes, I try a new recipe because I am intrigued by its ingredients or because it uses a method I’ve not used before. Other times, I cook or bake something that I am craving, like passion fruit ice cream because I really want its mysterious tropical flavor, or my mom’s pastitsio because I miss the flavors of my childhood.DSC05179

But most often, I really like to cook with what’s in season. After all, there’s no better time for squash soup than the fall and no better time for peach pie braided bread than late summer. When it comes to berries, fortunately the season lasts a long time. Though it’s supposed to be over by early summer, we still have delicious blueberries and raspberries for sale. And nothing goes better with blueberries than lemon. These muffins are perfect for breakfast. They are mildly sweet and a little tart. The addition of cornmeal makes them hearty and less cake-like. And of course, there are the blueberries. You could make these muffins with frozen blueberries any time of year, but take advantage of the fresh ones out now. They make the muffins so much better.DSC05187

Blueberry Lemon Muffins

Makes 12 muffins


1½ cups all purpose flour
½ cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup sugar
1 lemon
1 cup milk
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon vanilla
turbinado sugar, optional; for topping


Preheat your oven to 425°F. Lightly grease the cups of a standard 12-cup muffin pan. Or line the cups with muffin papers.

Whisk together the flours, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Add the blueberries and gently mix with a spoon. This will prevent the blueberries from sinking to the bottom of the muffins.

Place the sugar in a large bowl and using a microplane, zest the lemon over the sugar. Use your fingers to rub the zest into the sugar until combined. Add milk, oil, eggs, lemon juice, and vanilla and whisk together until thoroughly combined.

Dump the dry ingredients over the wet ingredients. Gently fold together with a spatula. Careful not to overmix. The batter will be lumpy with a few streaks of flour left.

Fill the cups of the muffin pan three-quarters full. Sprinkle tops with turbinado sugar, if desired.

Bake the muffins for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of one of the center muffins comes out clean. Remove them from the oven, and as soon as you can handle them turn them out of the pan onto a rack to cool.

Vegan Chocolate Banana Muffins


Our friend Lisa visited us from Florida last weekend. She’s my formerly omnivore friend who became vegan and broke my heart (though, of course, I still love her to death). We have been friends since our college days and we hung out over the weekend with yet another college friend, Brad, who lives in NY with his partner Denny. Even though we’ve known each other for 23 years, we still never run out of things to talk about. On Saturday, we took the train to the New York Botanic Gardens to see the cherry trees but we were a little too early. The majority of them were still bare, though a few were in full bloom, resplendent in pink and white flowers. We walked around, took pictures and then hopped in a cab to go back to our apartment for Mai Tais and dinner.DSC05041

With everyone’s help in the kitchen, I prepared a full vegan meal that ended up being very satisfying, even for the non-vegans among us. I started us off with crispy broccoli in black vinegar and then served a sweet potato, kohlrabi, and peanut stew, topped with some Korean gochujang paste and crushed peanuts. We finished with freshly baked vegan chocolate chip cookies. I tried the recipe from Ovenly for the first time and though we ended up eating two cookies each, I will just say that I will stick with my favorite non-vegan chocolate chip cookie recipe in the future.

But the real hit was breakfast. I saw this recipe for vegan chocolate banana muffins many months ago on Chocolate & Zucchini and saved it for Lisa’s next visit. I finally made them last Friday and we ate them throughout the weekend. I can’t believe I’m going to say this about a vegan baked good, but these muffins are amazing! They are just dense enough that they feel substantial and not cake-y, but they are delightfully moist and tender. The flavor is pure banana and chocolate, along with some deeper notes from the coconut sugar that I added to the recipe. And the turbinado sugar on top adds a playful crunch to each bite. Altogether, they are really irresistible.

Vegan Chocolate Banana Muffins – Adapted from Chocolate & Zucchini


130 grams (1 cup) all-purpose flour
130 grams (1 cup) rice flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
50 grams (1/4 cup) white sugar
100 grams (1/2 cup) coconut sugar
150 grams (5 1/3 ounces) good-quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
3 very ripe bananas, (about 350 grams or 3/4 pound without the skin)
60 ml (1/4 cup) vegetable oil
60 ml (1/4 cup) virgin and unrefined coconut oil
2 tablespoons brandy or cognac (substitute with apple juice if you do not want to use alcohol)
1/4 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar for topping


Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a 12-muffin muffin pan with muffin liners (or lightly grease and flour the muffin pan).

In a medium bowl, combine the flours, baking soda, salt, sugars, and chopped chocolate. Stir well to combine. Set aside. In a second medium bowl, use a fork to mash the bananas with the oils, brandy/cognac, and vinegar until thoroughly combined.

Add the wet ingredients into the dry ones and use a spatula to mix together until no trace of flour remains, without overmixing.

Scoop into the muffin molds, and sprinkle the tops with the turbinado sugar. Bake for 30 minutes, until the tops are nicely browned. Let cool on a rack before serving.

Lemon Cornmeal Pistachio Muffins


Every now and then, I’ll see a recipe title and I will know, instantly, that not only will I make that recipe, but that I will love the end result. That is exactly what happened with these muffins. Their recipe comes from Baked Elements: The Importance of Being Baked in 10 Favorite Ingredients, the amazing cookbook by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. The first time I leafed through the book, as soon as I saw the words “lemon,” “cornmeal,” and “pistachio” together in the title, I immediately bookmarked it.


If I remember correctly, it was the first recipe I tried from that cookbook and I wasn’t mistaken. The end result was indeed as great as I thought it would be. These are not super sweet muffins. They are not giant, moist, cakey muffins, like those you’ll find at your grocery store. They are almost hearty. They are slightly tangy, with a satisfying crunch from the cornmeal and a finishing nuttiness from the pistachios on top. They make a great breakfast but an even better snack in the afternoon with some hot tea.


Lemon Cornmeal Pistachio Muffins – From Baked Elements: The Importance of Being Baked in 10 Favorite Ingredients

Makes 12 muffins


1/2 cup shelled pistachios
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons lemon juice
zest of 1/2 lemon
3 oz unsalted butter (3/4 stick), melted and cooled
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder


In a food processor, pulse the pistachios until they are coarsely chopped. Remove 1/4 cup of the chopped pistachios and set aside. Continue to process the remaining pistachios in the food processor until they are almost powdery.

Preheat the oven to 400º F. Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin pan (or use paper cups to line it).

In a medium bowl, lightly whisk the eggs. Add the sour cream, the lemon juice, the zest and the butter and whisk them until they are combined.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour cornmeal, sugar, salt, the powdery pistachios, and the baking powder. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients in it. Fold everything together until just mixed. Don’t overmix them.

Fill each muffin cup about 3/4 full and sprinkle the tops with the coarsely chopped pistachios. Bake for about 12-15 minutes until the tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Transfer the pan on a wire rack and let it cool for 10 minutes. Take the muffins out and serve immediately or let them cool completely and store them in an airtight container or wrapped in plastic wrap for 2 days. They also freeze very well.

Persimmon Muffins


I don’t like Halloween. There, I said it. I kinda hate it actually. The fact that everyone looks different and acts weird just freaks me out. I don’t like sudden changes in my environment and Halloween turns everything upside down. Not to mention that being dressed up in a costume becomes an excuse for so many people to get drunk and belligerent, as if a wig and a mask makes it alright to be an asshole all of a sudden.


Before you start calling me the Grinch that stole Halloween, let me clarify that I don’t like Halloween for adults but I love it for little kids. Kids are adorable when they are in their costumes (adults are just creepy). Back in the 90s I lived in a sparsely populated town in New Jersey and every year I would go buy candy and get all excited for all the kids who’d come knocking at my door, not realizing that no kids lived in our neighborhood. So every year, not a single kid came by and I ended up eating that candy for weeks afterwards.


Growing up, we didn’t have Halloween but there was Carnival, which is pretty much the same thing. I hated it. My parents always did the best they could to dress us up and take us to these carnival kids parties, where we had to socialize with kids I didn’t know who were also wearing strange costumes. It made me dread these parties. I really didn’t want to go but my parents insisted that we should go and that we should play with the other kids there. I think they just wanted time to talk to the other parents, while I navigated the weird social jungle of kids dressed in strange outfits.


The only fun memory I have of Carnival as a kid was the first one I can remember. I must have been 4 or 5 years old and my mom dressed me up as a prince. It was a homemade costume (did she make it? I don’t remember), with a paper crown, satin shorts, and a puffy shirt. But the best part of it was the cape. An orange cape that tied around my neck. Man did I love that cape. I have a distinct memory of being at one of those godforsaken kids parties and walking away from everyone to an open space where I proceeded to run around in circles just so that I could feel my cape billow out behind me. It felt like flying and I loved it. That cape was the best Carnival/Halloween experience of my life. Nothing ever matched it.


So, in the spirit of Halloween today, I give you a dessert in disguise. It is now persimmon season, a fruit I never really knew or paid much attention to, until I got The Breakfast Book by the legendary Marion Cunningham and tried her recipe for persimmon muffins. When they came out of the oven, looking like dark hockey pucks, I though I’d have to throw them out. But then I took a bite and realized, that even though on the outside they wore the costume of an ugly, stale, and dense fruitcake, inside, they were the most delicious, moist pieces of tasty goodness I had made in a long time. I guess a stick and a half of butter will do that to you.

So happy Halloween to you all. Just stay out of my way tonight as I rush back home from work and shut the door to the crazy, weird things happening outside, waiting until everything returns to normal tomorrow morning.


Persimmon Muffins – Adapted from The Breakfast Book

Makes 16 muffins


  • This recipe works best with Hachiya persimmons (the heart-shaped ones). Just make sure you use really ripe ones. They should be really soft to the touch, feeling like they are  past their peak ripeness. If they are hard, you can’t use them because they are still really astringent. If you use Kaki or Fuyu persimmons (the apple-shaped ones), you will also need for them to be ripe enough that you can mash them.
  • I’ve tried this recipe with coconut oil instead of butter. The muffins came out almost exactly the same. The only thing missing was the delicious taste of butter. But if you are concerned about the fat content, you can use coconut oil or a mix of the two.


1 cup persimmon puree (from 3 very ripe hachiya persimmons)
1 teaspoon baking soda
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon each: cinnamon, vanilla
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons brandy, (substitute with 2 tablespoons of apple juice if you prefer not to use alcohol)
1 cup pecans, broken into pieces
3/4 cup dried cherries


1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease muffin tins. Put persimmon puree into a small bowl and stir in baking soda. Set aside. The persimmon puree will harden.

2. Put butter in a mixing bowl and beat, slowly adding sugar, until mixture is creamy and smooth. Add eggs and beat well. Add flour, salt and cinnamon and mix. Break up the hardened persimmon puree with a fork and add it to the bowl, beating until well blended. Add vanilla, lemon juice and brandy. Stir in pecans and cherries.

3. Fill each muffin cup three-quarters full. Bake 45 minutes, or until a wood pick comes out clean when inserted into the center of a muffin. Remove from the muffin pans and let cool on racks.

Cranberry Orange Crunch Muffins

I was reading Molly Wizenberg’s blog Orangette the other day. First, let me just tell you that Molly is one of the best food writers currently out there. Scratch that. She’s one of the best writers. Period. If you haven’t read her blog or her book, go read them now. I strive to emulate her knack for blending personal stories with spot-on, yet unorthodox, descriptions of food and cooking. For me, she is the heir to Ruth Reichl (not that Ruth has abdicated her throne yet).


Anyway. Molly was writing about repetition in cooking. About how she tends to go back to the same recipes and make them over and over again. Don’t we all? There’s comfort and safety in familiar recipes. When you have one that works, that’s not to hard to make, that results in food that’s exciting or satisfying or impressive, why wouldn’t you go back to it repeatedly?


In fact, a big reason why I started this blog was to share exactly those recipes that I find myself reaching for again and again. Nobody can deny the thrill of trying out a new recipe, one that caught your eye while reading Bon Appétit or your favorite food blog. But like any unexplored territory, an unfamiliar recipe can hide unseen dangers. Despite the assurances of the writer, your cake never rises beautifully like in the photograph, or your leg of lamb comes out tough, almost crunchy, like cartilage.


Not that tried-and-true recipes don’t offer themselves to some adventure. Over time you may start replacing ingredients (either on purpose or because you forgot to buy the cranberries). Or you may start adding things you suspect would improve it. But most of the time, you just stick to the plan, knowing that, like an old friend, they’ll never let you down.

One of those recipes for me is the one I’m sharing with you today. I make these cranberry orange crunch muffins year-round. They are the perfect muffin. Their slightly crisp exterior gives way to an incredibly light interior. They are almost spongy, though not unpleasantly so. The mildly sweet crumb is bracketed by tart cranberries and the toasted sweetness of the pecan topping.


Fresh cranberries will soon be everywhere. It’s one of the joys of fall (along with butternut and acorn squashes and apples). But you can easily use frozen cranberries to make these. No need to thaw them. Just chop them and use them as you would with fresh cranberries. I bet that once you’ve made them once, you’ll make them again. And again. And again.


Cranberry Orange Crunch Muffins – Slightly Adapted from King Arthur Flour


2 cups (8 7/8 ounces) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/3 cup (2 3/8 ounces) sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) vegetable oil
3/4 cup (6 ounces) 2% milk
1/4 cup (2 ounces) fresh squeezed orange juice
1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange peel
1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) coarsely chopped fresh or frozen cranberries

1/4 cup (7/8 ounce) finely chopped pecans
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) brown sugar, dark or light, firmly packed
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon


Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly grease 12 muffin cups or line them with muffin paper cups.

Batter: In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt, then toss the cranberries in the mix and stir to coat.

In a separate bowl, or in a large measuring cup, whisk together the egg, oil, milk, orange juice, and orange peel. Gently and thoroughly fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Do not over mix

Using a muffin or cookie scoop, or a 1/4-cup measure, pour the batter into 12 lightly greased muffin cups, filling them about 3/4 full.

Topping: Combine all of the topping ingredients. Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of topping over the batter in each muffin cup.

Baking: Bake the muffins for 20 minutes, or until they’re nicely domed and a cake tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean. Remove the muffins from the oven, and run a knife around the edge of each one to separate it from the pan. Carefully tilt each muffin in its cup so steam doesn’t collect underneath as they cool. After about 5 minutes, transfer them to a rack to cool completely.