Thursday, December 25, 2008

Faux-Foods-R-Us!

I've never been one of those people who claims that fake crab tastes like crab, or that a seitan fillet is a dead ringer for chicken breast, but I don't see any problem with creating alternative versions of certain foods. No copyright issues there - just a bit of imagination. So, this Christmas, I'm going for the real fake thing, and I'm doing it in style: hijiki caviar and tofu sour cream. (both recipes from the Natural Gourmet School)

Hijiki Caviar

1/2 cup hijiki
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2-3 tablespoons shoyu
2 shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
sea salt
lemon juice
2 tablespoons grated ginger, squeezed through cheesecloth to make juice

1. Soak hijiki in water for 15 minutes
2. Remove hijiki from water and saute in sesame oil for 3 to 5 minutes. Add water to cover, bring to a boil, add shoyu and cook until all liquid is evaporated.
3. In another pan, saute shallots and garlic in olive oil for 5 minutes
4. While shallots are sauteing, finely chop the hijiki
5. Season with shoyu or sea salt, lemon juice and ginger juice to taste. Serve with tofu sour cream...

Tofu Sour Cream

12 ounces soft tofu, blanched
juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon EVOO
2 tablespoons water
1/2 bunch dill

1. Blend tofu, lemon juice, salt, olive oil and water until smooth and creamy
2. Add dill and blend for 30 more seconds

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Hijiki-tiki-wonka-wonka

After my sea vegetables class last week, during which our instructor informed us of the rejuvenating benefits of essentially sitting in a bathtub of miso and seaweed soup (if anyone feels like trying this, please do share!), I felt inspired to do something tasty with the most intense of all the seaweed varieties: hijiki (pronounced hee-JEE-kee). This can be served as a warm or cold salad, and should definitely be paired with something sweet (ie: mango chicken salad?) to counterbalance the tight saltiness of the dish - or, to make this into a balanced main dish, you can toss in some pan-fried tofu cubes and try cooking the hijiki in apple juice rather than water, which yields a lovely sweet-and-savory effect. You can find many varieties of seaweed at the health food store, always dried and vacuum sealed in a plastic bag.

I admit, seaweed sounds kind of scary and gross, but in light of the upcoming new year, now's the time to try something different. (And for the record, I am not condoning bungee jumping or anything like that... just a bit of culinary pluck!)

Hijiki Salad

-
1/2 cup dried hijiki
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 onion, diced small
- 1 carrot, grated or julienned
- water (or apple juice) to cover
- 1/4 cup shoyu (soy sauce)
- 8 ounces tofu, cut into slices and lightly fried (optional)

1. Soak dried hijiki in warm water until it absorbs water and doubles in size, about 30 minutes
2. In a large skillet, saute the onion in very hot oil until lightly browned, then add the carrot and cook about 5 minutes longer, stirring frequently.
3. Add the rehydrated seaweed to the pan, stirring to coat with onion mixture. Add water or apple juice to cover, then cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and let seaweed simmer in liquid.
4. Keep cooking, covered, until all the liquid is almost absorbed. Then uncover and stir in shoyu and tofu slices, if using. Serve warm or allow to cool and refrigerate for a few hours.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Indian in me

Yes, friends, it's me again. The new job, on top of cooking class, has me running circles around myself, so the posts have become infrequent as of late (as I warned they would). But I continue to cook! So here's one fleshed out recipe and a few other thoughts that have emerged from my kitchen.

All credit for the harshi roti (sp?) goes to Mrs. Kaushik, mother of my good friend Vinitha and the woman who contributed to raising me on solid Indian cooking. This was my favorite dish to eat while I was growing up across the street from the Kaushiks, and I've made a valiant effort here to recreate it. It's not exactly "authentic" but it comes close. And I can't even express how happy it makes me to smell these familiar smells in my own kitchen.

*photo credit to Kat Cheng and her shutter skills!

Harshi
Roti
(adapted from the kitchen of Mrs. K)


- 1 cup brown rice flour
- 1/2 cup chickpea flour (besan)
- 3 peeled and grated carrots
- 1 knob ginger, peeled and grated
- 1 green chili pepper, seeded and diced small
- 1 small red onion, chopped
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt
- 2 tbsp. oil
- salt

Mix the dry ingredients together, then add in the wet. The mixture should have the consistency of pancake batter, pourable but not runny.

Cut a square sheet of tinfoil and spoon about 2/3 cup of the mix onto it. Smooth the batter out into a circle with the back of the spoon and push aside the middle to make a silver-dollar sized hole.

Heat a large pan with oil and wait until a drop of water will sizzle when dropped in. Then turn the prepared batter onto the skillet, leaving the tinfoil to cover for the first few minutes of frying. Remove tinfoil once the bottom of the roti is pretty solid. Add a few more drops of oil to the perimeter and in the center of the roti, and flip once the bottom is well browned. Fry a few minutes on the other side, then remove onto a plate and serve with butter, chutney pudi, raita (yogurt-based condiment) and, my other fave, Indian peanut stew (sounds like "goj") - or any combination therein.

Other things I've churned up (the Cliffs Notes edition):
- Barley with roasted garlic, olive oil, chopped fresh mint, and cumin
- Curry split pea soup (with cardemom, fenugreek, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, etc.)
- Chicken soup with wild rice & quinoa (made with my Thanksgiving turkey stock)
- Black-eyed pea tomato stew with mushrooms and cinnamon

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Testing, testing...

For the most part, I rush to post my cookery on this blog before the specifics of ingredients and amounts fly from my brain like so many tiny grains of salt. But this time, I actually wrote down the recipe and tested it, not only once, but twice. (It's a good thing I'll be starting work on Monday, huh? Not a moment too soon...)

This cornbread (or is it cake?) was created with the help and creativity of my friend Trevanna Grenfell. She is an amazing person who has most recently been learning about herbal remedies and taking classes at the Maine Primitive Skills School (nifty stuff, check it out). So when the apocalypse comes, you all know who to call...

But while you wait, eat cake!


Vegan Corn Cake

- 1 cup whole cornmeal (medium grind)
- 1 cup whole wheat pastry (or unbleached all-purpose) flour
- 1 tbsp. baking powder
- pinch salt
- 1 tbsp. nutmeg
- 1 tbsp. cinnamon
- 1 tsp. cayenne
- 1/2 tsp. ginger

- 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
- 1/2 cup virgin coconut oil
- 1 tbsp. vanilla
- walnut milk: 1/2 cup walnuts and 2 cups water, well blended
- egg sub: 2 tbsp. ground flaxseed whisked with 3 tbsp. water

- 1/2 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together the ground flaxseed and water in a small cup and set aside to puff up.
2. In a medium bowl, mix together dry ingredients. In a small bowl, mix wet ingredients, pour in the egg replacement, and add to the dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated. Add the corn kernels and pour into a greased 8x8 (or thereabouts) cake pan.
3. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

A (cran)Berry Happy Thanksgiving to You!

As promised, here is the cranberry sauce recipe I mentioned, just in time for the big GobbleFest. Now seriously folks, who of you out there looks forward to Thanksgiving for the turkey? Turkey with gravy - okay, maybe I'll buy that. But we're all really in it for the sides. They can be sweet, salty, colorful, crunchy, earthy, buttery, leafy - you name it! Turkey is, more often than not, just dry. Of course, nothing beats the carnal satisfaction derived from tearing into a huge drumstick with your canines! (Howls emphatically for effect)

But on with the show...

This recipe is originally from the New York Times, but I've altered it somewhat to yield more of the stuff and to give it a bit of a zing (the orange zest). Hope you like!


Cranberry and Walnut Relish (adapted from the NY Times, 11/12/08)
Makes 8 cups

- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- 2 leaves fresh sage
- 1 tablespoon butter, unsalted
- 1 small yellow onion, diced small
- 2 cups dried cranberries (look for fruit juice sweetened)
- 2 cups apple cider
- 1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (plus 2 tablespoons of its zest, chopped small)
- 1-1/4 cup Demerara
sugar (type of unrefined evaporated cane juice)
- pinch salt
- 16 oz. fresh cranberries, rinsed, dried and roughly chopped
- 2 cups walnuts, toasted and chopped

Tie the rosemary and sage together with kitchen twine and set aside. Place a medium saucepan over medium-low heat and melt the butter. Add the onion and cover to cook, stirring occasionally, till tender but not browned (about 5 minutes).

Add the rosemary and sage, dried cranberries, apple cider, orange juice and zest, sugar, and salt. Simmer until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the fresh cranberries and simmer, stirring frequently to prevent burning, till the relish is thick and sticky, about 15 to 20 minutes. Taste and adjust sugar as necessary. Add the walnuts and let cool. Allow the relish to chill overnight before serving.

* To make ahead: Prepare and freeze in an airtight container for up to three months

Monday, November 24, 2008

To My Superstar Readers...


Ahem, ahem, announcement: I have procured a full-time job!

With respect to the blog, this is bittersweet news, because a steady 9-5 will keep me out of the kitchen during my brightest hours of inspiration. So this is a formal heads-up that blog traffic might slow considerably within the next few weeks.

But hey, maybe now I'll be finally invent some time efficient (wot??) recipes!

Next up: Cranberry-Walnut Sauce...!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Another satisfied customer

This is the face of satiety that inspires me to cook:

(Kat is a true joy to nourish)

Ah yes, life is good. And here's one of the many reasons why this is so: Stuffed cabbage. Some may get heartburn from it, but I get heartache for it, with considerable frequency, as the temperature outside drops. My original thought had been to create stuffed cabbage bathed in mushroom gravy, but after throwing together an on-the-fly Near East-inspired pilaf, I knew that my Eastern European-esque sauce would result in cultural chaos of the first degree. And so, I gathered my weapons and went in for the kill on a simple tomato-based sweet and sour sauce.

Before I get into specifics, I must apologize for my lack of accurate measurements here; on this culinary occasion I more closely resembled a mad scientist than a careful chef. So what follows here is more of a felicitous happening than a tested recipe:

Not Your Grandma's Stuffed Cabbage:

Make the filling:
Saute 1 yellow onion, chopped, in oil until translucent and soft. Add 1 cup brown rice, stir until it becomes glossy, then add 2-1/4 cups water, bring to a boil, and simmer about 40 minutes, till rice is tender and water is absorbed.

Allow the rice to cool a bit, then fold in some raisins, pistachios (
toasted and roughly chopped), shredded fresh mint, all-spice, cinnamon, and salt to taste and set aside.

Prepare the cabbage:
Place 1 head of cabbage in salted water to cover and simmer until leaves start to separate. Drain and set aside to cool. Once cool, separate the leaves, setting aside the largest ones to use.

Stuff the cabbage leaves:
Overlap two cabbage leaves on a flat surface and place a few tablespoons of pilaf towards the edge of the upper leave. Roll the end of the leaf over the pilaf, then fold the two sides in (as if you were making a burrito!), finish rolling, and position the package seam side down in a large baking dish.

Make the sauce:
Bring some water (maybe 2 cups?) to a boil, add a few tablespoons of tomato paste (try to find 100% tomato paste, extra stuff), the juice of one lemon, demerera (or some other unrefined cane) sugar (2 tbsp.), a few squirts of shoyu (or other soy sauce), and salt and pepper to taste. Let the sauce simmer for a few minutes, then remove and pour over the cabbage rolls into the baking dish.

Bake the dish (we're almost there!):
Bake covered at 400 degrees for 45 minutes, then uncovered until the cabbage rolls are puffed up and the sauce is slightly reduced.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Easy Beans

As some of you may already know, my favorite source for recipe inspiration these days is Heidi Swanson's blog 101 Cookbooks. Every single photograph on her site makes me salivate and sends me spiraling off on a heady bout of simultaneous food envy and adoration. I wish I could try every recipe she posts; but alas, one day contains a mere 24 hours and each week a slight 7 days, leaving me with no other option but to pick and choose.

Her simple Vibrant Tasty Green Beans Recipe fell right in step with my overabundance of laziness and fresh dill.

*I made only one revision to the original recipe below: I substituted butter for EVOO. Admittedly, not a horribly healthy swap, but I was feeling bone-chilly and butter-deprived.

Vibrant Tasty Green Beans Recipe (by Heidi Swanson)

- 4 leeks, washed thoroughly, ends trimmed, sliced lengthwise into quarters and then chopped in 1/2 inch segments
- 1/3 cup fresh dill, chopt
- 3/4 lb. green beans, ends trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
- EVOO *
- sea salt

Heat a large skillet on medium-hi heat and add a generous splash of olive oil (or butter), a large pinch of salt, and the leeks. Stir until the leeks are coated. Let cook, stirring regularly, till the leeks are becoming golden and crispy (about 7-10 minutes). Now add the dill and the green beans and cook a few more minutes, till the beans brighten and lose their raw edge. Transfer to a platter and get munching!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

FYI:

You can now subscribe to my blog and have updates emailed to you. Easy-peasy. Hold the cheesy.

And I think it's about time I told you all: Thanks for reading :)

The side that demands the main stage

This salad went with a rather glitzy main dish (prosciutto-wrapped codfish smeared with sun-dried tomato pesto - nom nom) but I've chosen to write about this simple, fresh side instead. The beauty of this combination of grains, greens, and lime lies in its irony: while the barley and wild rice provide the starchy comfort you'll need during the coming months of hibernation, the lime juice adds a zing that will have you tasting the days of summer gone by.
Lime-Kissed Wild Rice Salad

- 1 cup wild rice
- 1 cup barley

- 1 large bunch baby arugula

- juice of 1 lime
- 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 c. toasted pepitas
- salt + pepper to taste

Cook the grains in well-salted water: bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer covered until the wild rice grains have split and the barley is tender and chewy. Drain, rinse with cold water, and set aside to cool.

Once the grains have cooled completely, mix together the lime juice, vinegar, EVOO, and salt + pepper and toss into the grains.

In a dry skillet over high heat, toast the pepitas, shaking and tossing often, until fragrant and golden. Stir into the mix.

Just before serving, add the arugula, toss well, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

My Sunday ritual


For the past few months, since returning to New York, I've travelled up to Washington Heights every Sunday to make a meal with my friend Genevieve Chavez. Genna is arguably the most avid and consistent reader of my blog, so it's shameful that I have not yet mentioned this amazing friend who is also my esteemed sous-chef and recipe-tester!

Today we made a yummy (and healthful) brown rice risotto with broccoli, goat cheese, and some toasted sunflower seeds. This was a total improv that, to our delight, tur
ned out to be quite delicious - especially with a splash of fresh lime juice to finish (I find that goat cheese and lime juice make a lovely couple).

For all you risotto purists out there, I've gotta say: arborio rice is BO-RING! Brown rice has a great nutty quality and even barley is particularly pleasing in the form of risotto. I promise, once you change it up, you'll seldom go back to the boring white stuff.

Brown Rice Risotto with Goat Cheese and Broccoli


- 2 tbsp. olive oil (or butter!)
-
2 yellow onions, diced
- 1 generous glug of white wine
- 1 cup brown rice, rinsed
- 2 boxes of veg/chicken stock, or enough water to do the job (or a mixture)
- 1/4 cup goat cheese
- 1 head broccoli, trimmed into florets and stem slices, and steamed
- 1/2 cup sunflower seeds, lightly toasted (in a dry skillet)
- salt and pepper to taste
- juice of 1 lime (about 2 tbsp.) and lime slices to garnish

Pour the stock into a large pot and set to boil.
Alongside this, heat the oil in a large skillet and add the onions. Add some salt and cook slowly, stirring often, until fragrant and soft. Pour in the white wine, turn the heat up, and cook that booze off. Once most of the liquid has been cooked off, stir in the rice until each grain is coated with the oily onion mixture, and then add two ladle-fulls of the (now boiling) stock. Stir the rice and stock, keeping it at a slow simmer, and work on keeping the grains from sticking to the sides of the pan. Stir stir stir (this dish is labor intensive, by the way)!
When that helping of stock has been absorbed by the rice, add some more and continue in this way, adding stock, stirring, and adding more, until the rice is tender, not crunchy. For me, this takes 4 to 5 stock refills.
When you've decided the rice is done, remove from eat and stir in the goat cheese while everything is still hot, so that the risotto becomes creamy. Add the steamed broccoli and the sunflower seeds. Squeeze in the lime juice and serve hot, with thin lime slices as garnish.

Friday, November 7, 2008

I am my own Italian grandmother

Not having come from a longstanding culinary tradition (my mother and grandmother almost died laughing when I told them I wanted to be a cook), I usually have to make my own "old country" fun; this time I chose to channel the spirit of la nonna to whip up some broiled polenta cakes with sun-dried tomato pesto and maple-walnut biscotti!

Broiled Polenta with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto

To make the polenta:

In a medium saucepan, mix 1 cup corn grits (polenta) with 2 cups water and a dash of salt. Whisk until smooth and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly, until thickened. Once at a boil and quite thick, slowly stir in another 1 cup of water. Now cover the pot and simmer for about another 20 minutes, stirring often (and carefully - polenta likes to bubble and pop in a scalding way). Mix in 1/2 tablespoon umeboshi vinegar. Transfer polenta mush to a baking pan, mix in 1/2 cup grated parmesan, and spread out evenly across pan with a spatula. Put in the refridgerate for at least 30 minutes to cool and harden.

Once set, lightly oil a baking sheet and turn on the oven broiler. Cut out your polenta cakes (you can use a knife to make squares, the rim of a glass to make circles, even cookie cutters - be creative!) and place them on the baking sheet. Bru
sh with olive oil and put under the broiler until golden and crisp. Flip them over with a spatula, brush the other side with olive oil, and broil again. Remove from baking sheet and spread out on a serving platter.

To make the pesto:

In a food processor, combine 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, 2 cloves pressed/minced garlic, 1 cup fresh basil leaves, and 1 tbsp. sea salt. Pulse until well blended. Serve in dollops on top of of hot polenta cakes, with a small basil leaf or sun-dried tomato as garnish.

Maple-Walnut Biscotti

Truth be told, any real Italian grandma would probably scoff at my using whole wheat flour to make my (vegan!) biscotti, but I tell ya: they'sa goooooood!
Start out by preheating the oven to 350 degrees and lightly oiling a baking sheet. In a large bowl, mix together 2 cups whole wheat flour, 1 tbsp. baking powder, and 1/2 tsp. salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup pure maple syrup, 1/2 cup applesauce, 2 tbsp. extra virgin coconut oil, and 1 tsp. vanilla extract. Toast and rough chop 1 cup walnuts. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry and add the nuts. At this point, the dough will be impossible to mix with a spatula/spoon, so just use your hands.

Now de-stick your hands by wetting them with cold water and shape the dough into a log of about 12 inches by 3 inches by 3/4 inch thick, with the ends squared off. Put on baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, till the top is firm and the bottom is slightly browned. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes. Now cut the log across in 1/2-inch wide slices and place the slices cut-side down back on the baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden on the bottom. Turn the slices over and bake another 15 minutes. Cool on racks and store in a sealed container for up to two weeks.

*Side note: My maple-walnut biscotti were inspired by some delicious pecan biscotti I recently tasted, made by the two awesome ladies of Tall Order, a Brooklyn-based catering company that offers "a unique and healthy approach to cooking, entertaining, and living"!

Buenissimo!



Thursday, November 6, 2008

Looks good enough to eat!


I just received magnificent flowers from my very exceptional, not-so-secret admirer, and although this blog is indeed dedicated to the edible arts and will henceforth resume as such, I had to share with you all the splendor of these beauties...



Le sigh...


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Croquet Mallets and Millet Croquettes

Well, actually, croquettes have not a thing to do with the fashionable game of croquet. And millet ain't a kind of mallet. Who knew! These come out of the oven moist on the inside, crunchy on the outside, and tasty all over.

Baked Millet Croquettes (adapted from a Natural Gourmet Institute recipe)

- 3/4 c. millet
- 2 c. water
- a generous pinch of salt
- 6 tablespoons whole wheat panko
- 1/2 bunch scallions (5-6), minced
- 1/2 bunch parsley, minced
- 1-1/2 tbsp. tamari
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cook millet as follows: Wash the grain thoroughly, drain, and dry toast on high heat, stirring constantly, until the grains are dry and fragrant. Add the water and salt, cover, and bring to a boil. Simmer about 40 minutes, till water is absorbed.

Put the cooked millet in a bowl with the breadcrumbs and let cool. Squeeze mixture until sticky. Mix in the scallion, parsley and tamari.

Form the mixture into small patties by squeezing about 2 tablespoons-worth between palms of hands, and place on a lightly oiled sheet pan. Bake 20-30 minutes, till golden and slightly hard on the outside. Remove from oven and allow to cool before removing from tray.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Cool beans! (and vegetables)

Ahem, an incantation:

"Beans, beans, the magical fruit,
The more you eat,
The more you..."

...FLATULATE??? No ma'am, not if you know how to properly cook the stuff!

Magic trick #1: Soak the beans a good looooong time (like, overnight)
Magic trick #2: Cook beans in water with one of the following additions (depending on recipe): kombu (seaweed), cumin, or a bay leaf.
Magic trick #3: For really hard to cook beans (like soy beans, or those dried beans that have been sitting in your pantry since mastodons roamed midtown Manhattan) add a large pinch of baking soda to the water. This will ensure that the beans get cooked all the way to the center.
Magic trick #4: I know some people are really into their low-fat living, but for cryingoutloud add some fat to your beans (coconut oil, EVOO, lard, whatev.) - it's a digestive aid that'll help you not only to fart less but also to absorb all the nutritious stuff in the beans.

Okay. Enough Beans 101. Time to get cooking:


Black-Eyed Pea Salad (copyright (c) Jenny Matthau, Natural Gourmet Institute)

- 1 c. black-eyed peas, soaked (measure them out pre-soaking, not post)
- 3 c. water
- 1 tbsp. mustard
- 2 tbsp. lime juice
- 1 tbsp. cider vinegar
- sea salt to taste
- 1/4 c. EVOO
- 1/2 c. reconstituted & chopped sundried tomatoes
- 3 scallions, minced
- 1/4 c. parsley, minced

Drain those beans, rinse 'em, then put beans and water together in a pot and bring to boil. Lower the heat and cook until the beans are cooked through but still have a bite (salad beans are tough - keep at it, and err on the side of overcooked cause talk about gas...). Once finished, drain beans and place in a large bowl to cool.

Mix together the next 5 ingredients and pour over the warm beans.

When the beans are cooled, toss with the vegetables and serve.

******************************************************************************************************
Bonus picture:


Holy brussel sprouts, Batman!

I've been gleefully toting these magical wands of MMM! home from the Union Square greenmarket. Talk about whole foods!

Monday, October 20, 2008

A birthday feast

My dear friend Vinitha had a birthday this past Saturday, so tonight I gave her the gift of nourishment and, for probably the first time ever, I spent as much time stewing (side note: I probably shouldn't use food metaphors on a food blog, huh?) over the presentation as I did over the yum-factor. Much to my delight, both taste and appearance weighed in pretty well!

Here is a picture of the main plate:


Down the center of this bad boy I put pan-seared sea scallops, first dredged in whole wheat flour, cooked in olive oil, then topped with a roasted garlic-parsley-white wine sauce and placed on a nest of spinach fettuccine. On the left are ginger and tamari braised carrot slices and on the right is a puree of slightly cooked carrot (so they still had a bite), garlic, and a bit of yogurt to fluff it up.

For dessert I made a pumpkin custard found in my Moosewood Low-Fat Restaurant Favorites book that was essentially a healthier version of pumpkin pie (sans crust, no refined sugar, less fat, etc.) - and it's quite WHOA. This is a Turkey Day show-stealer if I ever saw one!

Pumpkin Custard

- 1 16-oz. can cooked pumpkin
- 1 12-oz can evaporated skimmed milk
- 2 eggs
- 3 egg whites (I used just 2 and it was fine)
- 3/4 c. maple syrup (I think 1/2 c. is enough)
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp. ground ginger

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Arrange
eight 6-oz ramekins (or a pie dish, or whatever other oven-proof vessel you happen to have lying around - the shallower the better, though) in a shallow baking pan. Mix everything in a blender and pour into the cups. Pour boiling water into the baking pan. Bake for 45-60 minutes, till custard passes the knife test. Remove the cups from the water and refrigerate (after letting them cool a bit on the counter first).

Friday, October 17, 2008

Grown Up Baby Food

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I am obsessed with my blender. I mean deeply emotionally tied to this glorious producer of delightfulness. Its sleek blade has once again whipped up a masterful mush. Read on...

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

- 2 medium sized butternut squashes, split in half lengthwise and salted
- 1 head garlic
- 1 onion, sliced
- 2 tbsp. + 1 tsp. olive oil
- 1 c. white wine
- 2 c. vegetable stock
- salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

With 1 tbsp. of the oil, grease a sheet pan and lay the salted butternut squash halves on the pan, skin side up. Bake for 45 minutes, until flesh is fork tender.

Cut off top part of head of garlic and sprinkle the exposed insides with 1 tsp. olive oil and salt. Wrap in foil and bake in oven with the butternut squash, also about 45 minutes or until very fragrant and audibly sizzling.

In a saucepan, cook the sliced onion on medium-low heat with the rest of the olive oil until soft and translucent. Then add the white wine, turn the heat up, and let the alcohol cook off and reduce. Next add the stock, bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes.

When the butternut squash and garlic is done roasting, remove from pan/foil and let cool. Scoop out the insides of the butternut squash and dump into blender. Squeeze the garlic pulp out of its skin and also put in blender. Now pour the stock mixture over the vegetables into the blender, cover, and puree until totally smooth. Wait a few seconds before taking off the cover to avoid getting hot squash splatter in the eyeball (trust me, it sucks).

Season with salt and pepper to taste and ladle into serving bowls. Garnish with crumbled goat cheese. (My pictured soup has a dollop of fresh chili curry on top - gives the soup a nice zing)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Ask and you shall receive





Some folks have been asking to see me in the chef uniform I wear to school, so here I am for you to feast your
curious eyes on!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Fishy business

I'm breaking out with a non-vegetarian recipe (I think this may be the first for my blog) that I found in the NY Times and enhanced with a slightly nutty twist. I'm also violating another trend: My first human subject makes an appearance (not as food!!! don't be sick), Mr. Daniel J. Pogash, my most trusted recipe-tester (and a damn good coffee roaster, among other extraordinary attributes). You can see him here enjoying Friday night's menu: Steamed flounder with mustard greens and a baked squash sandwich!

Steamed Flounder with Ginger-Garlic Mustard Greens (adapted from Wednesday's NY Times)

- 1 tbsp. canola oil
- 1 tsp. sesame oil
- 3 minced garlic cloves
- 1 1-inch thick slice peeled ginger root, minced
- 2 sm. bunches mustard greens, cleaned, stemmed and torn into pieces
- 1 tbsp. tamari
- 2-3 flounder fillets

- S&P
- cashew halves


First, heat the oils in a big skillet and add the garlic and ginger and saute until fragrant and translucent. Add the mustard greens, soy sauce, and 3 tbsp. water, and saute until the greens begin to wilt.

Spread the greens out in the pan. Season the flounder with salt and pepper and lay them on top of the greens. Cover the pan, reduce heat, and let the fish steam till cooked through (time will totally depend on the size of the fillets. For thicker ones, give them 5-6 minutes. For very thin (4 oz.) fillets, 2-3 minutes should do it).


Uncover the pan and carefully transfer fish to a serving plate. Turn heat to high and cook off excess moisture from the greens. Serve greens on top of the fish, sprinkled with cashew halves. Serves 2.

Note: if you can't find mustard greens, any other dark leafy green, like kale or spinach, will work here.



Baked Squash Sourdough Sandwich (inspired by Chef Jay Weinstein, one of my instructors at the Natural Gourmet School and author of The Ethical Gourmet)

- 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, and cut into 1/2-in. half moon slices
- 1/2 fresh sourdough loaf, sliced
- 1 yellow onion, sliced
- 6-10 sage leaves

- 2 tbsp. butter
- 1-1/2 c. vegetable stock
- 1 egg

Preheat oven to 350.

Heat butter over medium heat in a skillet and add the sage leaves. Fry these until the butter turns slightly brown and fragrant. Remove leaves with a spatula and set aside. Add the onion and cook slowly, stirring often, until soft and translucent (try not to brown).

Spray a medium sized baking dish with oil and put down a layer of bread. Next lay the squash slices on top. Spoon the cooked onions on top of this, then add another layer of squash. Finish with a layer of bread.

Mix the egg and stock in a beaker and pour over the baking dish, making sure it is evenly distributed throughout. Bake in the oven 50-60 minutes, till the top layer of bread is golden and the squash feels soft.

Serve as you would lasagna, in square cuts, with a fried sage leaf as garnish. Makes a great appetizer.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A Taste of Tuesday

Is there anything that tops a dinner get-together with old friends? Don't think so. Wait: maybe my grandma playing the drums. That's pretty special.

Anyway, it was a lovely affair and I just wanted to share the culinary highlights:

The wine: Red Bicyclette Pinot Noir 2006, under $10, but definitely top-shelf taste.

The hor d'oeuvres: Momentarily blanched carrot and broccoli crudité served with miso-tahini dip & drunken goat cheese with walnuts and whole grain crisps.

The mains: Spicy chickpeas with coconut-oil simmered onions and tomatoes, seasoned with cumin, cayenne, cinnamon, homemade cilantro pesto, and fresh mint from my windowsill. Cumin-scented brown rice pilaf tinted with turmeric.

The dessert: Pears poached in apple cider with cinnamon sticks and star anise.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Messing with the classics


The burrito and pesto - pretty straightforward, one would think. Think again:


Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burrito (from Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites)

- 4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 2 teaspoons canola/veg. oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 4 large garlic cloves, minced
- 2 fresh chiles, minced (I like red for color contrast and taste)

- 4 tsp. ground cumin
- 4 tsp. ground coriander
- 4-1/2 cups cooked black beans (or three 15-oz. cans, drained)
- 1/2 bunch cilantro leaves
- 2 tbsp. lemon juice
- salt
- 8 eight-inch (whole wheat) flour tortillas

1) Put sweet potatoes in a saucepan with salt and water to cover. Cover and boil, then simmer till tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and put aside.
2) Meanwhile, warm the oil in a saucepan and add the onions, garlic, and chiles. Cover and cook on medium-low until the onions are soft and translucent. Add the cumin and coriander and let that sweat 2 to 3 minutes longer, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and set aside.
3) In a food processor (or if you don't have one, with a potato masher - I actually prefer this method, it makes for a more interesting texture), combine the black beans, cilantro, lemon juice, salt and cooked sweet potatoes and puree until smooth (or mash until you're satisfied). Put into a large mixing bowl and add in the cooked onions and spices.

4) Now put a few big spoonfuls in the center of the heated tortillas, wrap, and eat with red salsa or...

Cilantro Pesto!

- 1 bunch of cilantro, leaves and stems and all
- 2 large garlic cloves
- 1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 c. toasted sunflower seeds (you can toast them in a dry pan on high heat, shaking continuously)
- 1 tbsp. miso paste
- 1-3 tbsp. water, depending on desired texture

Whir it in a food processor or blender and serve on top of your Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burrito - or wherever you would use conventional pesto!

(I never seem to remember to take the picture before everything gets devoured! Pity, I guess I'll just have to make it again...)

Friday, October 3, 2008

Poached pears and other endangered species

I promised you pears, and what lovely pears they were. I didn't get a proper picture of the finished product because my friends and I gobbled them up. I do have a meanwhile photo, though:

This gets a little technical, but here goes:

- Grab a few bosch pairs, peel 'em, slice 'em in half lengthwise, and use a melon-baller to scoop out the
seeds. You can also use a paring knife to cut out the thread that runs from the seeds up to the stem. I like to leave the stem in for show.

- Dump some apple cider into a saucepan and turn up the heat. You can also add some spices, like a cinnamon stick and star anise (I love this combination). Here's where we get fancy: break out your handy-dandy candy thermometer and start monitoring the juice temp. When it's hovering between 160 and 180 degrees (meaning there are no rolling bubbles, just a bit of crackling here and there), you can add your pear halves. It's important that they stay fully submerged, so what you can do is cut a piece of parchment paper to cover, leaving a hole in the middle to stick the thermometer in.


- Keep monitoring the temperature and poaching along until the pears give a bit when poked. You want them to be slightly softened but still have a nice bite to them. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool off.

- Now crank the heat up all the way and start reducing the apple juice. This could take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes, depending on how much you have. You want the juice to become a syrupy glaze. When you've accomplished this, turn off the heat, pour the sauce over the pears and - VOILA - you've got yourself a sweet, juicy healthy dessert.

And to demystify the second part of my post title:

Ambiguous Animal Cookies
(adapted from today's recipe on 101cookbooks.com)


I found this random cookie-cutter in one of my dad's piles of junk and couldn't figure out what the hell it was. After having made some two-dozen cookies with it, I'm still not really sure - but I've narrowed it down to either cat or cow. Meeeoooooo.

So you wanna get:

- 1 c. whole wheat pastry flour
-1/4 c. walnut or almond meal (just run the nuts through a cuisinart)
- 1/2 c. unsweetened finely shredded coconut
- 1/4 c. extra virgin coconut oil, softened
- 2 tbsp. agave nectar
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 large egg, beaten

Mix together the flour, ground nuts, and coconut flakes. In a separate bowl, beat together the coconut oil, agave, and salt. Add the egg and beat until uniform. Add in the dry mixture and mix until incorporated.

Knead the dough once or twice, separate in half, and wrap the two balls and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Roll out dough on floured surface 1/8-inch thin, cut out animals, and place them 1 inch apart on cookie sheet. Bake until just beginning to color at the edges, 7-8 minutes. Remove and cool on racks.

And if you think your powers of observation are superior to mine and you can definitely discern what these creatures are, please do share!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Kitchen Remix

No, no, everybody: I am not going to break out with some fresh beats. This post will include variations on two familiar themes: sweet and sour, and peanut butter and jelly.


Sweet and Sour Lentils (adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites)

- 1-1/2 c. brown lentils
- 2 c. unsweetened apple juice/cider
- 2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
- 2 c. water
- 1 c. chopped onions
- 3 minced garlic cloves
- 1 c. peeled and diced carrot
- 1 tbsp. canola/veg. oil
- 1 c. broccoli florets
- 2 tbsp. tamari
- 2 tbsp. rice vinegar


Rinse the lentils and put in a saucepan with the juice, ginger, and water. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer uncovered for 30-40 mins, till lentils are tender. (You can add water to prevent lentils from sticking if need be.)

Meanwhile: saute onion, garlic and carrot in oil until onions begin to soften. Add the broccoli and cook on low 5 more minutes, till tender. Stir in the tamari and vinegar.

When the lentils are done, combine with the veggies and serve on brown rice, topped with chopped scallions.


Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies

*pretty yummy photo by Kat Cheng!!!*

- 1 c. natural peanut butter
- 1/3 c. vegetable oil
- 1/3 c. maple syrup
- 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
- 1-1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
- 1-1/2 c. rolled oats
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- all-fruit (no sugar added) jam

Preheat oven to 375 deg.

In a small mixing bowl, beat together dry ingredients. Combine wet ingredients in a larger bowl, add dry to wet, and mix well. Drop spoonfuls of cookie dough onto parchment-lined cookie sheet. Make thumbprint in each and fill with jam. Bake 13-15 minutes - till jam sizzles and cookies are golden-brown.

Next up: some very traditional (but never boring) poached pears!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Sautasia

Recently, at cooking school, I learned a slightly bad-ass way to refer to the act of thickening a sauce: "tighten that up." And since this is a natural and healthy culinary institute, rather than use cornstarch as our slurry, we use kuzu (Japanese arrowroot), which is also pretty rad. Having always been frustrated by the watery after-effect of sauteed veggies, I jumped right on the kuzu wagon and tried making something...tight.

Here is a shot of the finished product: chinese eggplant sauteed with garlic, ginger, green onion and black sesame seeds with some oil and tamari. Black sesame seeds are highly pleasing (to see and taste) on stir-fried vegetables.

By the way, that's my mint plant in there too, which I've misleadingly named Basil because it has such a nice ring to it. I'd say he's quite content living on a southern-facing windowsill in midtown Manhattan.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Basta Pasta

Who knows what brought on this pasta field day, but here I now stand with oodles of funky-shaped noodles. (Specifically: sweet-potato ravioli and some cavatelli for good measure.)

I have yet to boil the little buggers - which I am somewhat hesitant to do for fear that they'll disintegrate and prove once and for all that I am not and will never be La Maestra of my kitchen elements - but once I do, I would like to share them. So, if you're in or around NYC, please help me eat my raviolis! Can't you hear them calling out to you, with their tiny dough-pinched voices?? "Meeee...eat meeeee."

Okay, freaky personification of this pasta aside, here's how I did done it:

- Sift together 1 cup semolina flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary.

- Make a well at the center and add in 3 egg whites or 2 eggs, well-beaten. Gradually incorporate the flour from all sides of the bowl into the wet middle with a fork. When the dough gets too stiff to mix with a fork, dig in with your hands and start gathering it into a ball.
- Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead the dough until smooth, just 1 minute or so. Then cut the ball in half and roll each piece out thin (but watch that the edges don't get too thin), to about 1/8" thickness.

-Meanwhile (I know, I'm a pain): peel and quarter one large sweet potato and put on the stovetop with water to cover, plus: a tbsp. of maple syrup, a squirt of lemon juice, a tsp. of nutmeg, and some salt. Bring to a boil and continue to simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes, till tender. Drain off liquid, transfer to a bowl to cool, and mash with some olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. "This is the filling!" proclaimed Captain Obvious, dutifully.

- Now turn to the rolled-out dough once more (this is the fun part!): brush it with water so that the dough sticks to itself, and space out heaping teaspoons of the filling on the two slabs of dough until you've run out. With a sharp knife, cut out the pieces of dough surrounding the filling and roll the dough into raviolis however you please. Here's one example:

Yep, it's hamantash-shaped ravioli. Happy New Year?? Whatever...

- Continue rolling and pinching the dough
into weird shapes around your dollops of filling. Let the raviolis dry for at least 30 minutes until boiling them in salted water for 5-8 minutes. Enjoy simply with butter and freshly ground pepper, or go wild and make zucchini-miso pesto (random idea. might be gross. I'll let you know.)






Et...voila! You are now a ravioli rockstar.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Transition cake

I made this slightly adapted version of Moosewood Restaurant's Applesauce Spice Cake (less sweet, more whole) to celebrate/lament (circle one) the autumn equinox. Yes, the last post was a dessert also. C'mon people, I'm trying to make new friends! New Yorkers big and small shall shun me if I don't offer them cookies and cake, pronto.

Anyway, the shape is pleasing, as is the taste.

Applesauce Spice Cake:

- 2-1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1-1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
- 1-1/2 cups rolled oats
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1-1/4 cups pure maple syrup
- 5 egg whites
- 1-1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce

Oven to 350.

Sift the dry stuff (not oats, duh), then stir in the oats and set aside. Cream the oil and maple syrup for at least 3 mins, then add egg whites and beat on high speed for another 5 mins, till all fluffy. Add the applesauce. Slowly add the dry stuff, mixing as you go.

Lightly oil 10-inch Bundt pan and pour in the batter. Bake 45-55 mins until you get a clean knife test.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Cookies (and finger condoms)


First order of business: I must report on the delicious cookies I made, from Heidi Swanson's blog, comprised of the most intriguing (and satisfying) cast of characters I've ever had the pleasure to work with together.

Mashed bananas, vanilla, unsweetened carob chunks, rolled oats, coconut f
lakes, almond meal, coconut oil, & cinnamon! Click here for the recipe.

Now, you may be asking yourself, WHO TOOK THAT BEAUTIFUL PHOTO??? Why, that would be none other than my newly official and always amazing food photographer, Kat Cheng! In these hard economic times, one must sometimes work on a barter system, so: Fotography 4 Food! (or just Food cause I love Kat lots...) Anyway, my friend Kat is a great shot. Check out her other (mostly) non-edible stuff at www.katcheng.com.

Next on the agenda: My new knife set. Made my Mercer. Totally rad. Look:


These knives are really something. Imagine your best kitchen knife. Now infuse it with super powers. Welcome to my knife set.

Of course, without the proper training and concentration, the super powers of my knives can turn evil. For this, we chefs have another tool:

That's right, friends. The finger condom!

And with that, I bid you all a good night...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A new chapter

Yesterday was my first day of culinary school at The Natural Gourmet School. General impression: KICK! ASS! I can't wait till Saturday, when I get to suit up in my new chef's jacket and houndstooth pants, gather my hair up in my nifty chef cap, tie on an apron, and get chopping (Knife Skills part I - now perhaps I'll stop Edward Scissor Handsing my fingers every day).

So terribly inspired was I (by cooking school and the continued abundance at the greenmarket) that I made two dishes:

Farm-Fresh Gazpacho:
- 3 ripe beefsteak tomatoes, peeled and cored
- 2 sweet red pepper
- 4 shallots
- 1 ciabatta loaf
- EVOO + red wine vinegar
- S + P

Directions in onomatopoeia: Whiiiiiiiir. Plop. Slurp. Mmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Puttanesca sauce:

- EVOO + 2 cloves minced garlic + 2 chopped shallots (sizzle sizzle)
- 1 28-oz. can peeled tomatoes, drained (snap crackle pop)
- 1 cup halved black olives and 1/4 cup drained and rinsed capers (stir stir)
- 1 tsp. minced lemon zest (tuk tuk smoosh)
- red pepper flakes (shht shht shht)
- S + P (...)

Serve on a bed of wilted arugula and whole wheat spiral pasta



Monday, September 15, 2008

Beans & Blinis

2 creations to report today: Bean Burgers and Polenta-Yogurt Blinis, both laced with cayenne and other spicy stuff.

First, the burgers: I made a wet mixture of 2 cans of squashed kidney and pinto beans, minced red onion, cooked corn kernels, 1 egg, and some oats. I spiced it up with cayenne, chili powder, cumin, and salt, and made patties that I sauteed in a pan with some veggie oil till they were browned on both sides.



Next came the blinis: 1/2 c. chickpea flour (gram), 1/2 c. cornmeal, 1/4 tsp. baking powder, 1 tbsp. salt, 2 eggs, 1/2 c. yogurt, 1/2 c. milk - makes a thin batter that you can make silver dollar cakes with in a dry non-stick skillet over medium heat.

Sandwich a bean patty between two of these blinis with a bitter green and some avocado and BLAM, welcome to Yum City.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

There's a hummus among us!

This is far and away the best hummus I've succeeded in making (there have been many strange and dissatisfying versions; the weirdest had peanut butter instead of tahini - kinda good, but not quite there). I used roasted yellow peppers in this hummus so that the unassuming nibbler won't suspect anything until they shove the stuff in their mouth. Ha!

Roasted Pepper Hummus

- 2 cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 roasted pepper, peeled, cored and seeded - plus its reserved juice
- 2 tbsp. tahini
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- cumin
- salt

Blend it and serve in a bowl with some garbanzos scattered about the top. This stuff is definitely spoon-worthy.

Compulsive (greenmarket) shopping

Not the worst affliction possible, admittedly. I'm just so jazzed up about the bountiful harvest that abounds at all the NYC greenmarkets nowadays.

Oh, and I've recently returned from Paris where I saw this sculpture in a brasserie:
Gave the place a cool underwater effect.
Anyway, as my life attempts to get itself back to normal (and I fight it every inch of the way), I'm busy buying eggplant and peppers and squash and peaches and tiny little banana-blueberry loaves and cipollini onions and...and...etc. etc.

Yesterday I gathered my (vegetable) acquisitions and I roasted 'em! And did some other stuff; check it out...

Veggie-Grainy Bowl of YUM:

I recently ate the Dragonbowl Z at Curly's Lunch down by Union Square and was inspired to make my own version of it. First I roasted a whole big fat red pepper at 500 deg. F for about 30 minutes, till it was all scorched and sizzling. Then I put it in a covered bowl to cool before I peeled, cored and seeded it.

Meanwhile, I roasted one sliced and salted eggplant and some cubed squash with garlic at 425. The squash was done after about 30 minutes, the eggplant needed more time to sizzle, up to 45 mins.

Another
meanwhile: I combined barley, brown rice, and quinoa, strained it, threw it in a pot with enough water to cover plus an inch or two, and set that to cook for about 40 minutes (boil, then simmer covered till water is absorbed and grains are fully cooked).

Oh, and another step: I threw the roasted red pepper flesh into my cuisinart, gave that a whirl, poured it into a bowl, and swirled it around with olive oil and red wine vinegar (and of course some salt) to create a gorgeous looking red-pepper vinagrette.

And finally, the assembly, on a big serving platter:
1) bed of arugula;
2) few scoops of the grains;
3) the roasted veggies, all chopped up and mixed with the juice of 1/2 meyer lemon and freshly chopped mint and basil;
4) crumbled goat cheese and toasted sunflower seeds; and
5) the red-pepper vinagrette drizzled on top.

It's good at room temp or cold. And mmmm!