Moving Day

It's happened - olivejuiced has moved! And also changed it's name to something a bit more cookie connotative.

To Dunk & Crumble you go! (www.dunkandcrumble.com)

...What? I like cookies. See you over there.


You Say Tomato, I Say Summer

It's not really summer yet, you know. I mean yes, it's hot, and yes, my hair is extra frizzy, and YES, it feels perfectly okay to replace lunch with frozen yogurt. The shorts are short and the coffee is iced and the subway smells like subway. And there are cherries at the market. Summer!

But the tomatoes are green. It's only almost summer. Almost time for barbecues and popsicles and sunsets on the beach.

It's getting close. I'm stocking up on sunscreen and skirts. And, for now, green tomatoes will do just fine.

Green Tomato & Honeydew Salad

Green tomatoes and honeydew might sound like an odd pairing, but this salad is bright and fresh and full of flavor. It's also gorgeous. An edible study in shades of green.

  • 3 green tomatoes, chopped into bite sized chunks
  • 1/2 honeydew melon, chopped into bit sized chunks
  • 2 limes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1 bunch scallions (about 4-5 scallions), sliced into thin rounds
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled

In a large bowl, combine chopped green tomatoes and honeydew melon. Squeeze the juice from the limes over the fruit, and drizzle the olive oil on top. Throw in the cilantro, scallions, salt and pepper, and toss everything to combine. Sprinkle the feta cheese on top, and serve chilled or at room temperature.

This serves 2 people as a main course for lunch, or 4 as a monochromatic side dish, maybe to grilled chicken or a smoky BLT.


Things and Happenings

So. Things are happening, you guys.

First, my littlest sister graduated from college. College, people. There she is, cute little Wisconsin badger ball of sass, in her cap and gown. If you see her, shout out some congratulations and then give her a teaching job.* And maybe a light punch in the arm, from me.

Secondly, I made carrot cake. I used this recipe, and I ate two pieces. I’d highly recommend doing the same, if you’re into carrot cake and need something to help alleviate the feeling of extreme oldness in light of your little sister’s college graduation.

Thirdly, fourthly and fifthly, I took a road trip, found inspiration in the form of some new friends in Minneapolis, and, oh yeah, am planning a redesign of this here nook of the internets.

See? Things. Happening.

I'm working with my lovely and talented friend Val to give this place a bit of a face lift. And by face lift, I really mean face transplant (they can do those now, I'm told). So, faithful reader, get ready for the new and improved olivejuiced, which will not in fact be called olivejuiced, but something else - a new name, one that makes me want to eat cookies. With milk. Excited? Me too.

So cheers, then - to triumphant ends and new beginnings. And all the cake we'll eat along the way.

*Since this post, Casey has been given a job. A really good one. I can only assume by one of my readers. Nicely done, team.

Peach Bellinis with Fresh Blueberries

Yes, this is a girly drink. So what? I'm a girl. Besides, it's delicious. And it's especially fun to sip one of these when you have nothing to celebrate, because it feels like, all of sudden, you do.


1 part peach juice or nectar

3 parts cold, dry prosecco or champagne

fresh blueberries


Pour peach juice one third of the way up a wine glass or champagne flute. Then fill the rest of the glass with prosecco or champagne, and toss in a few blueberries. Sip, sigh, repeat.


Frittata For Your Mama

Excuse me, hi. Yes, is this thing on? Yes. Hi.

I think we should talk about something. Caramelized onions. Can we just agree right now that they smell of heaven above and bring happiness, justice and tranquility wherever they go?

Well. I made that stuff up about justice and tranquility. But the happiness part, and also the heaven scented bit, those are true. Empirically and emphatically true. The smell of onions caramelizing in a pan, that powerfully sweet yet grounding smell, the one that fills kitchens and minds with hints of something good to come -- is there any smell much better than that?

New babies, maybe. Or unicorns. I guess.

These particular onions, those ones right up there, ended up in a frittata. A caramelized onion frittata with feta cheese and herbs.

Frittatas, for those of you who are curious (or perhaps tend to skip brunch), is sort of the Italian version of an omelet. Made with eggs and usually some kind of vegetable or meat (frittatas are prime real estate for leftover meat and veggies), frittatas are different than omelets in that they're cooked through in the oven, instead of on top of the stove, and they're often served at room temperature, sliced into wedges or squares. An easy dish to throw together and one that takes well to being prepared ahead of time, the frittata is like a pocket Ace for a thankful kid on Mother's Day. Keep this one up your sleeve.

Caramelized Onion Frittata with Feta Cheese and Herbs

Some frittatas are made in a skillet (cast-iron works beautifully), started on the stove top and finished in the oven, but I poured my eggs right into a nonstick square brownie pan and baked it entirely in the oven. It came out beautifully - slightly blistered and crispy on top, soft and smooth inside.

  • olive oil, to coat the bottom of skillet
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 6 small yellow onions, sliced thinly
  • 8 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk or cream
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese (or 1 good handful)
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • fresh chives, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

Coat the bottom of a medium large skillet with olive oil over medium heat, and add the butter. Once the butter has melted, add the sliced onions, and stir to coat with fat. Once the onions are coated and beginning to look translucent, season them with a pinch of salt and pepper, and turn the heat down to low. Cook the onions slowly, over low heat, stirring occasionally, until they begin to turn brown, or caramelize, about 30 minutes. Don't rush the onions. It takes time for their natural sugars to come out and develop that deep, sweet flavor.

Once the onions have caramelized, remove them from the heat and let them cool to room temperature. Once cooled, arrange the onions in an even layer at the bottom of an 8-inch square brownie pan (if the pan is NOT non-stick, be sure to coat the bottom and sides with butter or cooking spray).

Crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk them vigorously, at least 30 seconds. Season them with salt and pepper, and add the milk or cream, shredded cheddar cheese and herbs, mixing well to combine. Pour the egg mixture on top of the caramelized onions, and top with the feta cheese (and one more sprinkling of herbs, if you're so inclined).

Bake the frittata in the oven at 400ºF for 20 - 30 minutes, or until the top has browned slightly and the center is just slightly jiggly when you shake the pan.

Let the frittata cool before cutting into squares for serving.

Makes 16 small frittata squares, or 9 large ones.


Like A Big, Fat Matzoh Ball

photo by my lovely cousin, Ben Fenton

I live life in rhythms. Some might say phases, but I think rhythms is nicer.

When I was little, I collected stickers. I got into a sticker rhythm. Puffy ones, fuzzy ones, scratch n' sniff. And those awesome, blueish greenish oily stickers. Remember those? Those guys were the emperors of the (very rigid and well known) hierarchy of stickers.

When I realized stickers weren't all that fun, I started a candle collection. Nearly burned down our house in seventh grade. Actually, it was my friend Jessie Olson who almost burned down our house with my candle collection in seventh grade, but I would never tell anyone that.

Recently, I've been in a cookies and soup rhythm. The rhythm goes like this: it's a steady hum of cookie dough, of little mounds rising in the oven, of crunchy, chewy oatmeal chocolate chips. A gentle swell of soup, of chopping leeks and stirring broth, and steam rising from the big silver pot. It's a nice rhythm to be in, I think. No matter the weather, or the day of the week, I want cookies and soup. Sometimes in that order. It's a rhythm, alright, and I like it. It feels soft and round and perfect, like a big, fat matzoh ball.

photo by Ben Fenton

I'm sure this rhythm will change eventually, maybe into a new found love for surfing. Or, more realistically, for berry tarts. For now, though, I'll stick with my soup, and with my cookies. You can keep your oily stickers; I'm no longer in the market.

photo by Ben Fenton

Aunt Lissie's Matzoh Ball Soup
Adapted from Ina Garten and Streit's Matzoh Meal

This soup. It makes me want to hug someone. It has a deep, chickeny flavor, which is offset by sweet carrots and mild, pillowy matzoh balls. It's just so full of love. It's warming and hearty, without being heavy or rich. Thanks to the recipe on the box of Streit's matzoh meal, Lissie's matzoh balls are lighter than air and fluffier than a blow-dried Pomeranian. They're substantial enough to fill you up but won't leave you with that heavy, hibernation-seems-like-a-nice-idea feeling.

photo by Ben Fenton

We ate this soup last Monday night, at our family's Passover seder, and I wondered why we don't eat matzoh ball soup year round. Actually, this is something I wonder every year. This year, I plan to eat more matzoh ball soup. For reals. I'm convinced this soup could spawn world peace, if people would just let it. Won't you let it?


For broth:
  • 1 whole chicken
  • 2 medium onions, quartered
  • 3 carrots, unpeeled and chopped
  • 4 stalks celery, with leaves, chopped
  • 2 parsnips, chopped
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • 1 bunch fresh dill
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, unpeeled & smashed
  • 2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt
For matzoh balls:
  • 1 cup Matzo Meal (Aunt Lis uses Streit's)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • pinch ground pepper
To serve soup:
  • 1 1/2 cups carrots, chopped (you can also use whole baby carrots)
  • 1/2 cups celery, chopped
  • 1 tablespoons minced fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • reserved chicken meat, shredded into bite-sized pieces
  • salt and pepper, to taste


To make the stock, put the whole chicken, stock veggies, herbs and seasonings in a large stock pot. Add enough cold water to cover everything, and put it over high heat to bring to a boil. Once the water comes to a boil, lower the heat and simmer the stock, covered, for 40 minutes. Carefully, using kitchen tongs, remove the chicken from the pot. Let the chicken cool for about 20 minutes, until it's cool enough to handle. Remove the meat from the chicken, and place the bones and carcass back into the pot. Refrigerate the meat until ready to finish the soup.

Continue simmering the soup gently for two hours. Make sure that the soup doesn't come to a full boil, or else it will be cloudy. After two hours, remove the soup from the stock and strain it through a fine sieve or cheesecloth. Remove the solids and discard.

At this point, the broth can be put back on the stove (to finish the soup), or it can be left to cool and refrigerated, up to a week.

To make the matzoh balls, beat the eggs vigorously in a large bowl. Add water, oil, salt and pepper. Mix well. Add the matzoh meal and stir thoroughly to combine. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, and up to 1 hour.

Partially fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil. Moisten hands with cold water and form matzoh meal mixture into balls, about 1 inch in diameter. Drop the matzoh balls into the water, and boil for 30 minutes. Drain on a paper-towel lined cookie sheet.

Note: At this point, the matzoh balls can be flash frozen, right on the cookie sheet (just remove the paper towels first). They store well in a zip-top bag in the freezer. To reheat, just drop them, frozen, into simmering stock and cook for about 20 minutes, until warmed through.

To finish the soup, reheat the stock in a large pot, bringing it to a simmer. (If you've refrigerated the stock and it's cold, skim off the layer of fat on top before adding the stock to your pot). Add carrots, celery, matzoh balls, and salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer the soup until the matzoh balls are warmed through (about 20 minutes, if they've been frozen). Add the reserved shredded chicken and simmer a few minutes more, until chicken has warmed. Add the fresh herbs, and serve immediately.

Makes about 4 quarts of soup, and 10-12 matzoh balls.


Not Hard To Eat

Cream scones.



Today, I made some. I then ate approximately 4 of them, in rapid succession, and then felt approximately ill. But really, what was I supposed to do? My mother and her friends were sitting around our kitchen table, planning my cousin Laura's wedding shower and gabbing away about save the dates and "party flow" and napkin schemes. I love a good party, and I love Laura, but when it comes to bridal shower crockery, apparently I'm at a loss. Party flow. napkin schemes. What else could I do but shove warm cream scones down my gullet?

They're not hard to eat, these scones. They're fragile and flaky, and studded with tiny berries, bright and beautiful, like jewels in the sand. They smell of toasted butter and, though light and crumbling, feel satisfyingly heavy in your palm. That cream. And with a smear of soft butter and jam? You can forget all about napkin schemes. Which is just fine by me.

Berried Cream Scones
Barely adapted from Gourmet, March 1990

Cream scones are traditionally made with dried currants, I believe. I found a blend of dried berries at Trader Joe's called "Golden Berry Blend" with golden raisins, cherries, cranberries and blueberries, and found the resulting berry scones to be mildly awesome.

  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar, plus additional for sprinkling the scones (I used turbinado sugar for sprinkling)
  • 1/2 cup dried berries (I used a mixture of dried cherries, cranberries, blueberries and raisins)
  • 1 rounded teaspoon lemon zest
  • 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing the scones
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (if you don't have a stand mixer just use a medium-sized bowl), mix together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar.

Add the dried berries and lemon zest, and mix to thoroughly combine.

Add the cold, cubed butter, and used the paddle attachment (or a pastry cutter or just two knives) to incorporate the butter into the flour mixture, until the butter pieces look about the size of lentils (or a bit larger).

Combine the cream, egg, and vanilla in a small measuring cup or mixing bowl. Pour the liquid into the flour butter mixture, and mix gently, until just combined. The dough will be shaggy and a bit crumbly - this is good. If you over-mix the dough, your scones will come out dense and tough, instead of light and flaky.

Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured counter top, and form it into a square about 3/4-inch thick. Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into squares (I got nine), and gently place the squares onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.

NOTE: At this point, the scones can be put in the freezer, uncovered and right on their baking sheet, if you don't want to bake them immediately. I froze mine overnight and baked them off the next morning, from frozen. They work beautifully and this step saves you from having to wake up early to impress brunch guests.

Before baking, brush the scones with cream and sprinkle them with sugar. Bake at 400 degrees for about 12 - 16 minutes, or until golden brown.

Serve warm, with soft butter and jam.

Makes about 9 scones.


Easy to Overlook

Never gave much thought to parsnips. I mean, why should I? Parsnips. Albino carrots, really. With skinny tails. Easy to overlook in the root vegetable department.

Y'know? What's a parsnip ever done for me?

Parsnips don't do my laundry, or help with good hair days, or pay my taxes, or remember to DVR American Idol. They don't take good photographs, or vacuum the rug, or sing at all prettily, and they don't help make dinn-- oh.

They do. Turns out they make an excellent dinner.

Leek and Parsnip Soup

Leeks give this soup a gentle but flavorful base, and the parsnips do the rest. Sweet and earthy, with a touch of richness from the addition of Parmesan cheese and a scant glug of cream, this soup is one of the better ways to eat albino carrots. I mean parsnips. Squeezing in a touch of lemon juice at the end of cooking gives the soup a cheery brightness that elevates its status from soup to, well soup.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter (I like to use unsalted)
  • 2 large leeks, white and light green parts only, washed well and chopped thinly
  • 2 lbs parsnips (about 10-12), peeled and chopped roughly into small chunks
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • big pinch kosher salt
  • 6 -7 cups chicken stock
  • 1 small chunk of fresh parmesan cheese (about 1 or 2 inches square)
  • splash of heavy cream, to finish (about 1/4 cup)
  • juice from half a lemon
  • chopped scallions or chives, to garnish

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil and melt the butter over medium high heat. Add the leeks and stir to coat them with oil and butter. After the leeks have been cooking for about 3 minutes, add the chopped parsnips and cook until softened ever so slightly, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes, be careful not to burn, until the garlic is soft and fragrant. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper.

Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Gently simmer the soup for about 20 minutes, until the parsnips are soft all the way through. Add the chunk of parmesan cheese and stir it around to help it melt into the soup.

Using an immersion blender or food processor, puree the soup until smooth (but still a bit thick). Stir in the heavy cream, the squeeze of lemon juice, taste the soup and adjust the seasoning.

Serve piping hot, garnished with a sprinkle of scallions or chives, and a hefty crust of bread.

Makes about 8 cups of soup.


The lines are long and the price tags are high, but it's tough to beat a lunch like this.

soppressata, prosciutto, fresh basil, avocado, marinated artichokes, sliced tomatoes, Anjou pear, fresh burrata

also wine, some grainy bread, jam, and a bit of light reading


Thanks for the picnic, Eataly. Nice of you to set up shop around the corner.


Just Because

Because it's getting warmer out, and because I can't in good conscience give you another cookie recipe.

Because I love olives, and hope you do, too.

Because burgers made with turkey don't have to taste like cardboard.

Because the phrase tomato jam just sounds so cozy and delicious.

Because the Katies and Perri and I ate them together, with pearl barley salad and wine. And wine. And wine. And wine.

Because I care about you.

Just because. Turkey feta burgers with olives. And tomato jam.

Turkey Feta Burgers with Olives & Tomato Jam
Adapted from Bon Appetit (August 2008)


  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 cup red onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • big pinch salt
  • pinch black pepper
for tomato jam:
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 1 28-oz can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • pinch salt
  • pinch black pepper

To make the tomato jam, heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan, and add the onion, cooking until soft and fragrant. Once the onions are translucent, add the garlic and cook for a minute or two, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add the tomatoes with their juice, the sugar, thyme, salt and pepper, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Simmer the mixture over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated and you're left with about 2 cups of tomato jam. Remove the jam from pot and let cool.

To make burgers, place the ground turkey in a large bowl. Throw in the onion, feta, olives, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper, and mix gently, just until everything is combined. While mixing, try not to squeeze and mash up the turkey meat too much -- overworking the meat will result in tough, dry burgers.

Gently form the turkey mixture into six medium-sized patties, pushing your thumb in the center of each patty to form a small indent (burgers puff up in the center when cooked - making indents ensures a nice, flat patty, instead of a round burger that looks like a meatball).

Heat up the grill (or, if you live in a tiny apartment like me), grill pan, to medium-high heat, and brush the grill (or grill pan) with olive oil. Grill the burgers until slightly charred and completely cooked through, about 5 minutes per side.

Serve with fluffy rolls and tomato jam. And maybe a big scoop of ricotta, because it's damn good and that's the way I roll.

Makes 6 burgers and about 2 cups of tomato jam.


A Little Smackerel

"Well," said Pooh, "what I like best—" and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called.

From A. A. Milne, of course. Silly old bear.

I don't have a lot to say today; I just wanted to leave you with a little smackerel of something to taste.

Chewy Brown Butter Chocolate Pecan Blondies

These are a sort of specialty of mine. I've tested and re-tested this recipe a dozen times, and I'm pretty confident saying that these are the blondiest of blondies. They're moist, toothsome, and full of deep, rich flavor. Make them when you're in a brownie state of mind, but are feeling a bit devious. Like, brown butterishly devious. Go on. It's just a little smackerel.

  • 1.5 stick unsalted butter, plus extra for pan
  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 4 ounces chopped pecans


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and line a 8x12x2 inch baking pan with parchment paper, letting 2 inches of paper hang over the side of the dish. Butter the lining, too.

Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.

Brown the butter in a medium saucepan, using medium heat and stirring often. When it’s finished, it should be a rich golden-brown color.

While the butter is browning, mix the two sugars in a large bowl, and break up any big lumps in the brown sugar. After the butter has browned, let it cool a bit and then pour it into the bowl with the sugars and whisk the butter and sugar together until combined.

Crack the eggs into a small bowl and then add them to the butter/sugar mixture. Add the vanilla and whisk until the mixture is combined. Add the flour and mix until just incorporated. Fold in the chocolate chips and pecans and transfer the mixture to the prepared pan.

Bake for 27 minutes or until the top cracks slightly and is firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the center comes out with moist pieces clinging to it. Remove bars from pan using the parchment paper, and, once completely cool, cut them into 2-inch squares.

Makes about 20 to 25 blondies.


Depends How Good You Live 'Em

How Many, How Much
By Shel Silverstein

How many slams in an old screen door?
Depends how loud you shut it.
How many slices in a bread?
Depends how thin you cut it.
How much good inside a day?
Depends how good you live 'em.
How much love inside a friend?
Depends how much you give 'em.

You didn't think I'd leave you without chocolate on Valentine's Day, did you?


Chocolate Heart Sandwich Cookies with Whipped Espresso Ganache


For the cookies:
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa (I like Droste brand)
For the ganache:
  • 2 cups milk chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
  • pinch salt

Preheat oven at 350ºF.

To make the cookies, first whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder and espresso powder in bowl and set aside. Using the paddle attachment, mix together the butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla and cocoa in mixer. Turn off the mixer and add the flour mixture, then mix until smooth. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least a half hour.

Roll out cookie dough on floured counter or between sheets of parchment paper until it's about 1/4-inch thick. Use a cookie cutter to cut out large heart shapes from the dough. Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 8 to 11 minutes, until the edges are firm and the centers are slightly soft and puffy.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

While the cookies are cooling, make the ganache by mixing the cream and espresso powder together in a saucepan until smooth. Heat the cream mixture until it just starts to bubble and simmer at the edges of the pan, then pour the hot cream over the chocolate in a medium bowl. Let the mixture sit for a minute, and then gently use a whisk to emulsify the ganache - it will look smooth and shiny. Let the ganache cool in the refrigerator for about an hour. Once cooled, but still a bit runny, transfer the ganache to the bowl of a mixer set with the whisk attachment. Whip the ganache until it has thickened and lightened in color (it will take about a minute or two) - it will look a bit like buttercream when it's finished.

Spread the ganache thickly on the flat side of half the cooled cookies, and top with the remaining cookies to form sandwiches.

Serve with tall glasses of milk, and maybe a kiss for your Valentine.

Makes approximately 25 sandwich cookies (depending on the size of your cookie cutter).


I'll Think It's Pretty Cute

I can't decide how I feel about Valentine's Day.

On the one hand, it's the most annoying day on the planet. I mean, what's fun about a tidal wave of cringe-inducing jewelry commercials and a slew of fussy and overpriced prix fixe "lovers" menus at every restaurant in town?

If you're single, Valentine's Day is an exercise in eye rolling - through endless public displays of affection and a general onslaught of cheesiness, usually in the form of some sort of romantic movie marathon on TV. If you're coupled, Valentine's Day is an exercise in obligatory romantic creativity -- intense pressure to find the perfect, adorable-yet-not-at-all-cliché expression of affection for your Valentine. Flowers? Chocolates? Please.

On the other hand, I like flowers. And chocolate, and John Hughes/Rob Reiner movie marathons. And if you ask me to be your Valentine, I'll think it's pretty cute. Just make sure you're ready for this jelly.

Blood Orange Jelly Hearts

These jellies are made with agar (instead of gelatin), so, in addition to being awesome and adorable, they are both vegan and gluten-free.

Agar is a natural vegetable gelatin counterpart, made from algae or seaweed. It's sold as a powder, and you can usually find it at health-conscious or vegan food stores (I believe it's sold at Whole Foods) and most Asian markets.

Fruit purées, such as the blood orange purée called for here, are sold frozen in many specialty stores, as well as online (Amazon carries it, as well as a site called perfectpuree.com). If blood orange isn't your thing, flavors like pomegranate, strawberry or cassis are delicious and would yield nice red colors for your Valentine.

We make these little guys at Liddabit Sweets, the Brooklyn-based candy company where I work. So if you don't feel like making your own batch, by all means, let us make them for you.

  • 50 grams agar
  • 1020 grams sugar, plus extra for rolling
  • 820 grams water
  • 880 grams light corn syrup
  • 820 grams frozen blood orange purée, thawed

Make sure you have a deep-fry or candy thermometer at the ready. (One like this works perfectly here.)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the agar and the sugar. Put the water in a saucepan with tall sides, and begin to heat it on the stove top. Once the water has warmed, whisk the sugar/agar mixture into the water, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Add the corn syrup and stir gently. Latch the thermometer to the inside of the pot and bring the mixture to a boil. Cook the jelly mixture until it reaches 106º CELSIUS. Once it reaches 106ºC, turn off the burner and let the mixture cool to 90ºC.

Remove the mixture from the stove and add the fruit purée, stirring to combine. Pour the warm jelly mixture into a greased (Pam works well) half sheet pan (half sheet pans are essentially cookie sheets with dimensions 18"x13"x1").

Let the mixture cool in the half sheet pan for at least an hour, during which time the jelly will firm up. Test the firmness by pressing the jelly gently with a finger - it should feel just firm and slightly jiggly in the center. Once set, use a cookie cutter to cut shapes from the jelly, and place them on a cooling rack. Let the jelly shapes dry out for an hour on the cooling rack before rolling them in sugar to finish.