Saturday, October 31, 2009

I love this book.


The library is a great resource for cookbooks, for a number of reasons. Buying cookbooks can be a tricky science. There is no good way to tell, at least for me, if a new cookbook will be good or bad. In my cookbooks, I like a friendly tone, but one that errs on the side of expert-- I want to be learning something new from someone. The author has to be able to convince me she or he has something to offer. The library allows you to test run a coobook before making a commitment to it. It is a really undervalued resource, in my opinion. One of the cookbooks I borrowed the other day will be added to my cookbook wishlist! It's called The South American Table by Maria Baez Kijac. It's filled with wonderful recipes from all over South America, tidbits about the food's history in the context of a various cultures, and no photos, but really well-written descriptions. This book is truly educational, and the recipes, what I look for most in a cookbook, are inspirational, and open to a lot of flexibility.

I adapted my Bolivian Tamales from this book, and I urge you to check the book out. These Bolivian tamales are not only great as a meal but, come Passover, I will revisit them, as the starch is quinoa, which is kosher for passover. Also, unlike more well-known tamales, which are wrapped in banana leaves or corn husks and steamed that way, these are not tamales, per se, but one big baked tamal, not wrapped, which saves a lot of fuss.

BAKED TAMAL (adapted from Kijac's The South American Table)
1 c cooked quinoa
2 T butter
1 onion, diced
1/2 c evaporated nonfat milk
3 beaten eggs
pinch salt
1 t agave
1/2 t fennel seeds, lightly toasted in a dry skillet until fragrant
1/2 t cinnamon
1 T peri peri sauce (or other hot sauce)
4 oz diced jack or Chihuahua cheese (found at Latin markets)

In skillet, cook onion in butter until translucent. Combine with quinoa, milk, eggs, salt, sugar, fennel, cinammon, Peri Peri, and cheese in a food processor. Process until mixture resembles an airy dough. It will be rather liquidy, but thick, goopy. Pour into a greased 9x9 dish. Bake for 45 min, until top is golden brown, on 350 degrees. Allow to cool a bit (say, 10 min out of the oven). Then serve.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Caldo Verde


That's right. It's green. It's mean--I mean, it's meanly delicious! And nutritious! I love dino kale, and I love love potatoes. This soup combines both of those things, and it is super easy to make. I even figured out an ace method for trimming my kale: a pizza cutter! The rolling-wheel-knife of a pizza cutter makes shredding kale lengthwise super easy before you slice with a chef's knife into inch-long pieces, or so. Seriously, the whole soup requires minimal effort, and it can be made vegetarian, vegan, or meaty. I strongly recommend the variation with sweet chicken sausage, but white beans work almost just as well.
For those of you who read my blog and are afraid of cooking, trust me, you will not be disappointed with this. I had it for dinner tonight with light, homemade Bolivian quinoa tamales, but a slice or two of good crusty bread (such as this) will do just as well.

Let me know what you think! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

CALDO VERDE
10 c vegetable stock or water, or a combination of the 2
2 lb potatoes (creamier=better, so yukon gold is good), rough chopped
1 onion, rough chopped
salt and pepper to taste
6 c shredded kale, or another hearty green, into about 1"x 1/4" long pieces
2 T extra virgin olive oil
a bit less than 1 lb sweet chicken sausage, sliced into 1/4" pieces and browned, OR white beans, if you're going veg

In a large saucepan, bring stock/water, potatoes, onion, salt, and pepper to boil, until potatoes are very very soft (test one with a fork, after about 20 min). When ready, drain liquid from potatoes into another vessel (a 2nd large pot works well), and mash potatoes and onions in original pot. Now pour cooking liquid/stock into mashed potato-onion mixture. Bring to boil again and simmer anywhere between 15-40 min. The longer it cooks, the richer the flavor becomes, but if you want to be done quickly, 15-20 min is just fine. Add olive oil and kale, and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and serve immediately.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Granola Bars


I love to eat. And I am always thinking about food. Eating, cooking, baking, reading about, and buying food are some of my favorite activities. Whether I'm in class or at work, on any given day, my mind is filled with food thoughts: What can I make for dinner? I must go to the library to take out some more cookbooks! I wonder what I should do with that fennel I just got from my CSA? When will I have time to read more in my Harold McGee book? Sometimes, my thoughts are simply: Must Eat Now. And since I love to snack, I feel the urge to munch quite often!

So one of the things I'm always trying to figure out is what can I eat a lot of, during the day, that will fill me up for a little longer, but not substitute a meal. Finding healthy snacks can be tricky. On principle, I do not like the idea of buying (or eating) energy bars; they are expensive and I tend to go by the rule, if I cannot fathom how the thing is produced, I will try not to eat it. It's hard to stick by these "rules" when you are super busy during the week--hey, a girl's gotta eat, right? Well, this week I will be testing out a new healthy snack: homemade granola bars. I made them yesterday, and I think they will last me about a week. I am hoping they will be just what I need to keep my snack craving at bay. And they are amazingly delicious, too.

Granola Bars
3 c oats, toasted in the oven at 375, for just about 5-8 min
1 c dried cranberries
2/3 c crushed almonds (I used lightly salted roasted almonds)
1 T sesame seeds
1/4 c sunflower seeds
scant 1/4 T canola oil
1/4 c honey
2 T brown rice syrup (or 1 T honey)
2 T brown sugar

1. Mix oats, cranberries, almonds, and seeds together. I use the bowl of the mixer, as it makes mixing in the sticky sweeteners much easier.
2. On a low speed (or by hand), mix in remaining ingredients. Mix well until everything is well-coated with the wet and sticky ingredients.
3. Pour granola bar mixture into lightly oiled pan; I used an 8x8 glass dish.
4. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.
5. When completely cooled, cut into bars.

Monday, October 12, 2009

OK It's Cold in NY. Now What?


As soon as you can feel Winter in the air, as if the air particles are tinged with ice, it's time for soup. Now, I know what you're thinking. It's not even November, yet, and the air is freakin cold! What's going on? It's supposed to just be Fall!! Summer just ended, why, a matter of weeks ago. Well, not that Mother Nature is particularly cruel--I'm sure we'll have some warm[er] days in the next few weeks before the icy chill sets in for good, but I must say, I'm not too unhappy being forced into wearing woolly sweaters and sipping on steamy stews.

I found this recipe online, actually, at a site I had never before visited. I adapted my recipe from this Design Sponge Online page. Having grown up eating a lot of Mediterranean food, I'm familiar with the concept of red lentil soup. But, I tell you, this soup is different! Now, I love red lentil soup. Squeeze of lemon, black pepper ever-present--who wouldn't love it? And I do love it. However, this soup has flavors I had never thought of putting in lentil soup before. With lemongrass and red curry paste, it's exciting to my cortex as idea AND as taste.

I also made my rendition of the bread in the link above. Simple, crusty, and a great accompaniment to the thick, stew-like soup.

Soup
2/3 lemongrass stalk (see how to prepare here), minced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 yellow onions, diced
1 mounded T red curry paste
1 inch fresh ginger, minced
2 lbs potatoes, peeled, large diced
2 1/2 c rinsed red lentils
8-10 c vegetable stock (recipe here)
1 15-oz can peeled, diced tomatoes
salt & pepper to taste

1. Over medium heat, saute lemongrass, garlic, onions, curry paste, and ginger, about 5-10 min.
2. Add potatoes, lentils, stock, and tomatoes. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer, 40 min. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Super Easy Baguettes
2 1/2 c luke warm water
1 package dry yeast
4 c white bread flour
1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
3 T salt

  1. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook, sprinkle yeast over water. Let sit 5-10 min, till it starts to bubble.
  2. Add flour and salt, mix on medium speed, until well mixed but not letting dough to climb hook.
  3. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, let sit about 2 hrs.
  4. Line a pan with parchment paper lightly sprayed with oil. Flour a surface. Dump sticky, not-too-well-mixed dough out onto flour. Divide into 3 equal portions.
  5. Twist each portion of dough into oblong baguettes. Slash each with a knife.
  6. Bake at 480 for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 300 and bake for another 13-15 min. Allow to sit on pan, cooling, without being cut, for about 10 minutes. Serve with butter and bowl of soup!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Too many zucchini?


I have the solution. According to the calendar, summer is gone. As sad I am to see the warm weather fade, I have to admit: I'm sick of summer squash! And ready for the real thing!

So what to do with a fridge full of the vegetable I've had way too much of in the past three months? Instead of being wasteful, or feeding it to the dogs, muffins are an enjoyable and tasty way to get rid of the stuff, and fast.

I consider myself a baker, for sure, but I am also very much into holistic health, and that extends into my baking. If I can use alternative flours and sweeteners successfully, I feel as if I've completed a self-imposed challenge. And then I feel better about eating the stuff. I feel even better if I can get non-believers (those who think using alternative ingredients is a waste or purposeless) to eat the products without noticing any difference.

Anyway, tonight's recipe was definitely an achievement. Hey, I'm proud!
If you have any leftover summer squash, give these bad boys a shot. You won't be disappointed.
And if you don't have access to alternative sweeteners, using sugar, a little bit more to compensate for the less-sweet brown rice syrup, will yield very similar results.

2 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c oat flour
2 t baking powder
pinch salt
1 1/2 c milk
1 egg
1/4 c oil
1/3 c brown rice syrup
3 t agave syrup
1 1/2 c grated zucchini, strained in a sieve for 20 min
  1. Preheat oven to 375. Grease 2 muffin tins (holding 12 each).
  2. Mix dry ingredients together in large bowl.
  3. Mix wet ingredients separately.
  4. Add wet to dry, stir until just incorporated. Then add zucchini.
  5. Pour batter into muffin tins; bake 20 min.
  6. Let cool in tins for 5-10 min, then cool on rack.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

"Moussaka"

I've never actually had "real" moussaka. I see it on menus at Greek restaurants, sure, but as I didn't grow up eating meat, I'm still not completely comfortable with trying foreign meat items on menus. Still, I love potatoes, especially in their mashed form, and I need a recommendation from SOMEONE, anyone, who knows where, in NY, I can get a good authentic moussaka.

Anyway, without knowing what moussaka is
supposed to taste like, I attempted low-ish fat, vegetarian moussaka tonight (hence the quotation marks in the title), with Voluptuous Vegan as a guide. Note, my rendition is NOT vegan, but I admire people who take the time to create entire menus of vegan cuisine. It can be quite tricky. My end result was remarkably tasty (ask my parents!), but I'm not sure it would actually qualify as moussaka if served to a blindfolded contestant asked to Name That Dish!

Regardless, for a filling but not-too-heavy meal with protein and veggies galore, check out below!

Vegetarian "Moussaka"

Here's how this is going to go. We're gonna end up assembling as a bottom layer eggplant, then a layer seitan/mushroom, then potatoes. Then layer zucchini, layer seitan/mushroom, then potatoes. Then a pour of bechamel, if using, and a heavy sprinkling of breadcrumbs. This is a good recipe to make when you have more than just your lonesome self cooking in the kitchen, because with a possible 5 separate jobs, each person can do something, and not get in each other's way.

1st Job
1 lb baby eggplant, sliced lengthwise, 1/4" thick, salted (to remove bitterness) and placed in a colander to drain, for about 20 min
3 zucchinis, sliced lengthwise, 1/4" thick
salt
olive oil
pepper

2nd Job
5 small russet potatoes, washed but not peeled
1 c organic milk
scant 1/4 c olive oil
salt
white pepper
black pepper

3rd Job
8 oz "chicken style" seitan (or plain if you can't find chicken style)
2 destemmed portabello mushrooms
3/4 large onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, diced
pinch cinnamon
1 t cumin
15 oz can whole peeled plum tomatoes, chopped or squeezed by hand, juices reserved

(Optional 4th and 5th jobs)
breadcrumbs*

bechamel*

1. Ok. Job 1 is farely simple. Dab the wetness off the salted eggplant. Brush olive oil on the front and back of each slice. Do the same for the zucchini. Layer both (should fit together on one parchment-lined baking sheet) on pan, add sprinkle of salt and pepper. Cook in oven on 375 for 25 min. Set aside.

2. Job 2 is also quite easy, hands free. Wash your potatoes. Throw them in a pot of water. Bring to boil. Boil for about 30 min, or until soft. Drain water. Mash potatoes with 1 c milk, olive oil, and salt and peppers, to taste. Set aside.

3. Job 3 takes more effort. Begin to cook onion in oil in cast-iron skillet. Sautee until translucent. While onion cooks, pulse mushrooms and seitan to itty-bitty pieces i
n a food processor. Add this mixture to the onion, and sautee about 15 min. Add the rest of the ingredients under Job 3. Mixture will be quite liquidy to start. Cook on medium-high heat until most moisture has evaporated and mix has thickened, about 25 min.

Jobs 4+5 are optional, but tasty.
Breadcrumbs were made by food processing 3 old whole wheat pitas with some olive oil, 2 cloves garlic, and herbs de provence, yielding me about 2 c seasoned bread crumbs. 1 c was sprinkled on top of the last layer of potato, the other half is in a container in the freezer, for later.

Bechamel is also very optional. In fact, you can look up your own recipe or just ignore this step. I ended up using very very little of mine and, if anything, I think it only added moisture. If you think your dish will be dry, make you potatoes wetter, or something.

Assemble as directed above (funny instructions, I know), and bake at 350 for 30 min. Rest 10 min. Serve. Enjoy!