Sunday, August 24, 2008

Extra Corny Cornbread

I created this cornbread as an attempt to make a dent in the many ears of beautiful corn that were handed to me at the end of dinner with dear friends last night (get ready for a corn-themed week, dear readers). As usual, I skipped the sugar; in this case, the sweetener is the corn itself: big juicy kernels of Connecticut's finest. There wasn't any baking powder in the house, so I used only baking soda as my raising agent and used plain yogurt, which works wonderfully in quick breads anyway. The vanilla extract may seem a little odd, but it adds some nice depth to the flavor of the bread.

And it goes:

- 1-3/4 cup stone ground cornmeal

- 3/4 cup whole wheat (bread) flour

- 1-1/2 tbsp. baking soda

- 1 tbsp. salt

- 2 eggs

- 1 cup (low-fat) milk

- 1/2 cup (low-fat) yogurt
- 3 tbsp. neutral oil

- corn kernels, cut off the cob

- 1 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and grease a 9 inch pie dish. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, yogurt, oil and vanilla.
3. Add the wet to the dry ingredients and blend well. Toss in the cooked corn kernels. Pour the mixture into the pie pan and bake 15-20 minutes, until it passes the clean-knife test.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Beet-Corn Confetti Salad

Today I am in Litchfield, Conn. discovering the local goodies. I set off on my bike this morning and found an impressive farmers market in the parking lot of the town's high school. Sometimes I'm moved to pick my produce in terms of pleasing color combinations, so today I went for purple, yellow and green: beets, corn and basil.

This simple salad is great served with brown rice and a sprinkling of goat cheese - or, as my mom discovered, cottage cheese.

- 4-5 medium sized beets
- 2 ears of sweet corn
- 10 large basil leaves
- 2 tbsp EVOO
- coarsely ground pepper
- finishing salt (I like fleur de sel)

1. I like the easy, dry-roasting method of cooking beets, which works well when you are dealing with a small amount. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Simply chop off the beet greens, place the beets on a piece of tinfoil, add a scootch (precise measurement, folks) of olive oil, and a couple of crushed garlic cloves if you like, and fold the ends of the tinfoil up and together to create a neat little pouch. Bake about 45 minutes, or until a knife easily slides into the beets. When done, remove from the oven, open the pouch, and allow to cool before sliding them out of the peel and chopping into bite-sized pieces.

2. Meanwhile, cook the two ears of corn. Since ears fit awkwardly into smaller pots, and bigger pots of water will end up using an excessive amount of energy to bring to boil, just stick the shucked ears into a baking dish, add a tablespoon or two of water, cover with plastic wrap, and nuke for 4 minutes (2 per ear). You may need to turn the ears and microwave for another minute after. But this method gets the corn perfectly tender. Let the ears cool and cut the corn off the cob.

3. Now sliver your basil leaves, and toss with the beets and corn. Add olive oil, pepper and salt, and enjoy naked or with the above-mentioned accoutrements.

** Shout out to my beloved cooking buddy, Sally, who introduced me to the excellent beet and basil combo. Good luck in SF!! I'll miss our kitchen adventures muchly.

Monday, August 18, 2008

and I'mmamamaterial girl

I love Tupperware. And I'm pretty involved with my Cuisinart mini-food processor. Today I'll be highlighting these two useful products by showing how they facilitate and heighten the preparation and storage of my two most recent creations.

NOT!!!!! (Anyone else grow up on Wayne's World? Brilliant.) Actually, food's my thing. SO let's get on with our show:

~Peach-Tomato Gazpacho~

- Get ready, cause this one's a doozy: Load up the food processor with the Tomato & Peach Summer Salad from my August 7th post, and let 'er rip. Done. Finito. Moving on...


This next recipe is adapted from the Amazing Black Bean Brownies recipe posted on
Heidi Swanson's blog. I wanted to make a no-bake version that was lower in fat. So I used over-ripe banana in place of the eggs and cocoa powder heated with vegetable oil instead of melted baking chocolate (only because I didn't have any of the latter, really). Because the banana lends so much sweetness, I cut out most of the agave nectar too, only leaving a little bit to thin out the banana mush. In the end, this is a MOUSSE rather than a brownie, and that's just fine with me. It's actually an absolutely decadent mousse, and trust me, I was surprised!

~Black Bean Chocolate Mousse~

- 2 cups cooked black beans (canned is perfect)
- 1 cup walnuts
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder and 4 tbsp vegetable/canola oil (or just use 8 oz. 100% baking chocolate)
- 1 over-ripe banana, nuked and mushed up
- 2 tbsp agave nectar
- 1 tbsp vanilla
- few generous shakes of cinnamon
- pinch of sea salt

1. In a food processor, blend together the beans, walnuts, chocolate, and salt.
2. In a small bowl, mix together the mushed banana, agave nectar, and vanilla. Pour this, plus the cinnamon, into the food processor and blend into the bean mixture until totally smooth. Using a rubber spatula, transfer the stuff into a glass dish or bowl, cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving. Or stick it in the freezer for 30 minutes.

This would also be pretty serve as a pretty slammin' pie crust filling, I would wager.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Chilly Cuke Soup

Let's just cut to the chase:

- 2 medium cucumbers
- 1 ripe avocado
- 1 cup plain (low-fat) yogurt
- 2 cloves garlic
- fresh dill
- cold water and ice cubes

Now: get blender happy and voilá! It's slurp-tastic.

Olympic Luncheon

Moving to New York in less than a week means I have to stop making so much food and focus on actually eating it! After a very long stroll all around Cambridge, I returned home with an appetite of heroic proportions. So, I flipped on the tube to find women's rowing and put together a well-balanced plate fit for an Olympian:

- Wild arugula salad with tofu-yogurt-black bean-garlic dressing (just blend all ingredients in food processor - use silk tofu)
- Whole wheat pasta sauce left over from Go Stuff It.
- A reheated slice of Popeye Quiche.
- A tall glass of iced apricot green tea.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Popeye Quiche with Olive Oyl Crust

(A dumb joke but a damn good pie!)

This spinach quiche came out quite well - much better than the last, most likely due to the fact that I made the crust out of just whole wheat flour rather than spelt and whole wheat. Spelt is finicky stuff, not recommended for delicate baked goods such as pie crusts. So now we know.

Since this attempt produced quite a decent quiche crust, I'll disclose the recipe now:

- 1-1/4 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup cold water, plus more for desired texture

This is what you do: Mix together the flour and salt, then drizzle in the olive oil and stir it around till it's sort of the consistency of crumbled cornbread. Then add in the water and use a rubber spatula to collect the dough into a ball. Add more water if this is proving to be difficult. Then wrap the ball in some plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to facilitate rolling.

Roll the refrigerated dough out real thin on a lightly floured surface, arrange it in a greased 9" pie pan, and follow the pre-baking instructions outlined in my first quiche post. This time I made a more traditional spinach quiche with grated Jarlsberg, sauteed onions, a dried spice mix of chive, tarragon and parsley, and of course salt and pepper. For the egg mixture, I used eggbeaters again, and skim milk.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Almond Joy, you've met your match!

I founds this recipe yesterday in my favorite cooking blog, I made a few minor changes to suite my no-refined-sugar tastes, and this is what I got:

Coconut-Chocolate Clusters

- 2-1/2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut flakes, toasted (with cinnamon, at 325 degrees for 5 minutes) and cooled
- 1/2 cup toasted almonds, chopped
- 7-8 oz. 100% baking chocolate
- 1/4 cup agave nectar
- scant sprinkling of finishing salt

Combine the cooled coconut flakes and almonds in a large bowl. Simmer a few inches of water in a small saucepan and place the chopped chocolate in a glass mixing bowl on the saucepan. Stir as the chocolate melts, then mix in the agave nectar. Pour the melted chocolate over the coconut/almond and mix to combine. Let it cool a few minutes before spooning it onto a baking sheet into clusters. Put a few grains of salt on top of each. Pop in the fridge to set into hard clusters of decadent deliciousness.

These make my roommates moan a little.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Go stuff it

I found a recipe in the New York Times last Wednesday for Tomatoes Stuffed With Pasta Salad, and seeing as I've never stuffed anything in my life but my own belly, I decided to give it a whirl!

I've modified the recipe a bit since four large tomatoes were not nearly enough to use up all the pasta salad (but the stuff is good on its own, so no real loss there). I used green pepper and yellow tomatoes instead of yellow pepper and red tomatoes, so feel free to play around with your veggie color palette - that's often the best part of cooking.

Tomatoes Stuffed With Pasta Salad

- 6 large tomatoes
- salt and pepper
- 1 pepper, minced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 pound whole wheat spaghetti
- 12 black olives (nicoise), pitted and chopped
- 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed in warm water
- 12 basil leaves, chopped
- pinch of dried oregano
- 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 425 deg. Slice off top third of each tomato. Scoop out the center and chop it, along with top third. Salt inside of the tomatoes and turn them upside down while you continue.

2. Cook pepper in a tablespoon of oil with half the garlic, until soft. Break spaghetti into bits and cook in salted boiling water until tender. Drain and rinse in cold water.

3. Mix together the chopped tomato, cooked pepper, spaghetti and all other ingredients except mozzarella. Stuff tomatoes with cheese first, then tomato mixture. Put in an oiled baking dish and bake for about 15 minutes, till hot.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Still life with quiche

Ladies and Gents: I have created my first quiche!

I won't even bother putting down my weird crust recipe - it was a mixture of spelt and whole wheat flour with olive oil that stubbornly refused to take on the appropriate doughy texture and shape until I had well exceeded the standard amount of added water (a few sprinkles? are ya kidding??)

So, let's stick to the filling, which ended up being really good (although many of my pro-whole milk friends out there will certainly grumble):

- Once you've pre-baked the crust in a pie dish for about 10 minutes at 425 deg. F (weigh the center down with dried beans or grains), take the pan out and turn the oven down to 350 deg.
- Grate some (low-fat) cheddar cheese and cover the bottom of the pie crust.
- Spread some black bean puree on top of this (pre-cook your beans and puree in a food processor, with a bit of olive oil if necessary)
- Saute fresh corn kernels and chopped sweet onion in some olive oil with salt and pepper (easier if you do this ahead of time) and scatter this over the beans. Make sure you still have a good one-third of pan height left to fill.
- Now pour in egg(beater)s mixed with (skim or low-fat) milk - ratio should be 3 eggs to 1 cup milk.
- Sprinkle the top with cilantro leaves, salt and pepper, and pop in the oven for about 45 minutes, until the egg is totally set and a knife stuck into the center comes out clean.

* This recipe was inspired by my friend's spectacular zucchini-rosemary quiche. Thanks for the tips, Kevi!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

An Odd Couple

Tomatoes and peaches: okay, that doesn't sound like too out-there of a combo. But peaches and red onions?? Yes, my friends, it's incredible. And all three together, with just the right dressing, is simply divine. You can get all the main ingredients at the local farmers market, which I highly recommend you do. Here we go:

Tomato & Peach Summer Salad

- First, arrange some baby arugula on a large serving dish.
- Now slice up a couple of big heirloom tomatoes (I love Cherokee Purples), halve the slices, and lay them over the arugula.
- Next halve, pit, and slice a few ripe peaches and arrange over the tomato slices.
- Now slice half a red onion and scatter the separated rings over the peaches and tomatoes.
- Next sprinkle a handful of cilantro leaves over this.
- Mix together 1 part olive oil, 1 part lemon juice, a couple minced cloves of garlic, S & P and drizzle the dressing over the salad.
- Try not to drool onto your plate as you serve yourself this colorful delight!

(This salad was inspired by an article in the NY Times)

The Kitchen as a Chemistry Lab

This is going to be a short post since I'm at work...

I can easily attribute a good chunk of my love for cooking to an intense grade-school passion for chemistry. I really enjoyed working in the lab, but since I have more of an inclination to make the experiment up as I go rather than follow it strictly to the letter, I gave up the business of chemistry once I hit college.

And now I've found another outlet for my mad scientist tendencies... in the kitchen! Here is a link to a recent NY Times article by "The Curious Cook" that draws an explicit connection between the experimental method and culinary explorations. I'll be trying this out at some point (whenever I get my hands on 1+ lbs. of kosher salt!) but I wanted to share it right away:

"In the Summer Kitchen, the Thrill of the Chill" by Harold McGee