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

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!