Friday, November 21, 2008

Pumpkin Brown Rice Pudding

Tonight, I had a regular Shabbat meal with my family and some of their friends. Translation: a whole lotta food. Sadly, I didn't help out too much with the main meal, but I did contribute a side dish and a delicious dessert.

I figured since it is fall (though I'd think it's winter with it snowing in the mornings) I'd make a fall dessert. I've always loved rice pudding, and most custards, for that matter. But rice pudding has always taken the cake. It's been my favorite since I don't know when, but it's an ultimate comfort food for me.

I decided to experiment with a pumpkin flavored brown rice pudding, which worked out wonderfully considering my overload of leftover cooked brown rice in the fridge. Fortunately the experiment was a total success, with the dinner guests serving themselves 3+ helpings. I plan on having some with milk for breakfast tomorrow.
Pumpkin Brown Rice Pudding

1 12 oz can organic pumpkin puree
3/4 c sugar
1.5 c unsweetened, unflavored soy milk (optional; you can also use all whole milk)
2 c whole milk
2 eggs
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t ground cloves
1/4 t ground ginger
1 t vanilla

3 c cooked brown rice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, mix pumpkin and sugar with a whisk. Add milks and two eggs; continue to beat with whisk. Add spices and vanilla, mix until completely blended. Add the rice, and mix with a wooden spoon.
Pour mixture into a large casserole dish (it is also possible to pour into individual ramekins).
Place in oven and bake for close to one hour on 375, or until set.

I was shocked the dish turned out so well, but it was really really good! The dinner guests and my parents were all really into it, and I encourage you to try it some time. The pumpkin definitely made it a good "autumn" dish. I will definitely make it again some time.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Purple Pancake Eater

This week's CSA brought baby beets and knobby, gnarly carrots, some broccoli romanesco, and radicchio. I had already eaten some of the beets sliced super thinly (by my mandolin) atop some Whole Foods Harissa Hummus spread on Organic Mixed Grain bread from the Bread Alone bakery (which is superb). So I knew the beets were a treat. They taste amazingly sweet and fresh and earthy when RAW, so I could just imagine how the flavor might have been enhanced if they were cooked just a touch.

So I embarked upon a journey through the interweb to find a recipe that would let me use the beets in a new way (I usually go raw or roasted individually wrapped in foil). I found this recipe on for beet and carrot pancakes; the recipe is obviously not written by a heeb such as myself, or the author would have automatically named the recipe Latkes, not pancakes. These lightly fried discs of sweet root vegetable resemble latkes more than pancakes, but at least the name pancake sounds better in the title of this post...

Here is my version of the recipe, to be served with plain yogurt (I used Seven Stars Farm organic low fat plain, but any would do). I also think a yummy raita would compliment the sweetness of the pancakes, as well. Or maybe a cucumber salad. I was just too hungry to wait and try those compliments tonight. I also think in the future I could mix in some cottage cheese or ricotta either instead of or in addition to the egg... We'll just have to see next time.

Here it goes:

1 c shredded peeled beets
1 c shredded carrots (I choose not to peel if they are fresh or organic-- the "skin" is delicious!)
1/2 a medium onion, sliced very very thinly and chopped into pieces no longer than 1"
1 beaten egg
salt and pepper to taste (I say a pinch of salt and 1/8-1/4 t pepper)
2 T whole wheat flour

Preheat pan on low-medium heat and oven on 300 degrees F. Mix the veggies in a bowl. Add beaten egg, salt and pepper. Add flour, and stir till well mixed. Grease the pan with veggie or olive oil. Using your hands (they will already be pretty dirty-pink-from the beet shredding session), scoop out about a palm-full of the mixture, and press into a patty. Place in pan, and cook for about 5 minutes on each side. You cook as many at a time as can fit in your pan, with room to flip. When each one is done, place it in your preheated oven.

I really enjoyed these because even though they are "cooked", the veggies still taste really fresh and not overdone at all. Their flavors are still pretty bright, especially when contrasted to the tart plain yogurt. Definitely something I will try again, maybe next time with shredded potatoes, as well.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Black Banana Bread

The name of this recipe does not refer to the color of the bread, rather it describes the color that the banana peels should be before using. The banana peels should be so black that you probably wouldn't want to eat them raw, because the flesh is more brown than light. However, bananas of this condition are PERFECT for baking with!
As with most of my cooking, I also experiment with baking. I try to push myself to use creativity along with or instead of a recipe. And if the end result is bad, so what? We all make mistakes, and move on from there.
This is a recipe I created last night. Fortunately it turned out better than expected. It uses an alternative sweetener, agave, which contributes a sort of maple-smokiness along with being sweet (sweeter than sugar, even). I also used pecans, which I don't usually do. Add nuts, that is. I'm not sure if pecans actually taste buttery naturally, or if I'm so used to eating them in butter pecan ice cream that I just associate them any time as buttery, but either way, the richness pecans lend to this bread is wonderful.
Finally, I decided to use whole wheat flour, because I just think it tastes better than white. Actually, the very fact that it has a flavor is more than I can say for white flour. It's sweet and distinctive, and works very well in this recipe.
Here it is:
Preheat oven to 325 and lightly grease a loaf pan.
In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients together:
1 3/4 c whole wheat flour
1 t salt
1 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder

In a second bowl, mix wet ingredients together:
4 black bananas, peeled and mashed to an almost homogeneous consistency (fewer lumps)
1/2 c agave nectar
1 egg, beaten
1/2 T vanilla
1/4 c vegetable oil

1/2 c roughly chopped pecans

Add banana mixture to dry ingredient mixture, and stir until completely incorporated. Add chopped pecans, and stir. Pour mixture into greased pan, and pop in the oven for about 45-55 minutes. Check your loaf after about 45 minutes. It should be nicely browned and, when a toothpick or pairing knife is stuck down the center, it should come out *mostly* clean. Some goo is okay- it can either be banana goo, or if you like your loaves moister, this is okay. However, there should not be raw dough visible on the toothpick (or knife). If there is, keep it in the oven for longer, perhaps checking every 5 minutes.

Remove from oven, and when the loaf pan is warm enough to touch, invert it to release the bread onto a cooling rack. Cool completely before cutting, otherwise bread may dry out (yuck).

Friday, November 14, 2008

Potato-Kale-Acorn Squash Gratin

For my last birthday, I was lucky enough to be given the item at the top of my kitchen-tool wishlist: a mandolin. I wanted a mandolin for so long, but now that I've had one for the past two and a half months, I've sadly done too little with it.

Fortunately, tonight I was able to put it to great use. This week's organic CSA goodies included lots of yellow-fleshed potatoes and kale, among other things. In past weeks, I also received some winter squashes, which have been piling up in the pantry. Tonight I sliced potatoes and one acorn squash as thinly as possible, and layered the slices, along with kale, in a greased square pyrex dish. I then poured in some melted butter and milk, grated some manchego cheese on top, and popped the dish in the oven for 40 minutes on 375 degrees.

When the dish was almost done, I soft boiled two organic eggs, which I cut open atop a serving of my delicious gratin.
This dinner is simple and very tasty.
The sweetness of the squash, plus the slightly-rich potatoes and earthy kale combine beautifully. The soft boiled egg, seasoned generously with salt and pepper, only adds to the amazing boldness of flavors.

Party in my mouth!