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


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"!


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...