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!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

writer's block does NOT equal cooking block

Lately I've been negligent of my blogging duties (which are, of course, self-imposed - still, I apologize), mainly because I just moved back to NYC and have been busy getting settled in.

I've also been patrolling the green markets, which are in full-swing. I've taken to wearing a drool-bucket around my neck when I visit Union Square in particular. Well, not really. The samples of melon and peaches that I nibble along the way keep my mouth occupied.

I tried two new recipes out which went well: Shredded zucchini pancakes made with some whole wheat flour-egg batter, red onion, and lemon basil; and a huge red pepper that i halved and stuffed with a barley-corn-zucchini-basil salad, spiked with EVOO, lemon, cumin, and crushed red pepper. Dan and my bro Paul gobbled it up (hence no picture), along with the peach gazpacho I've been tooling around with. And then there was more quiche (these days, there's always quiche).

Anyway, here's a promise (mostly to myself): When I'm in Paris this next week, I'll try to snap some food shots to post. And upon my return (and the start of culinary school at the Natural Gourmet Institute - wee!) I'll re-commit myself to the bloggage.

A bientot!!