Sunday, June 29, 2008

Woo hoo!

Hey, everyone! I'm super pumped about all the nice comments from everyone. I'm going to leave town for the next few days (my first vacation since I had my son almost 2 years ago!) and since I take 99% of the pictures around here, I don't think we'll be updating until I get back. Expect a new post on Wednesday! Wheeeeeeeee!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

simple vegan pancakes with homemade syrup.



I like to pride myself on being a good pancake maker. After making them quite frequently for my three-year old for the past couple of years, I know just what a good batter should look like, how hot the griddle should be, and just when to flip them to make them look perfect. It wasn't always this way though. When I first started making my own pancakes, I was vegan and had no idea how to spot a good dairy/egg-free recipe. My batter was usually quite thick and my pancakes were squished down to nothing and either way too light-colored or black and burned (usually the latter). It took a lot of practice with many different recipes to get to where I could finally make a good pancake.

These days I still prefer making vegan pancakes, mainly because they use less ingredients and because I have never liked the taste of eggs (somehow I can always taste them in regular pancakes). My two staple recipes are the one I am sharing today, which comes from The PPK and one that comes from the beautiful Candle Cafe Cookbook. The secret to making these ones nice and fluffy is the use of carbonated water, something I had previously never used in baking.

Also, even though I usually use real maple syrup, every once in awhile I will make a batch of pancake syrup from scratch. It comes in handy when I am out of the "good stuff", but still want some pancakes. I cannot remember where the recipe comes from- it sure makes a good-tasting pancake topping though.



Vegan Pancakes: from The Post Punk Kitchen

Ingredients:

1 1/3 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup soy or rice milk
1/3 cup carbonated water (I use Pellegrino or club soda)
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp vegetable or canola oil

Directions:

Preheat a griddle or frying pan over medium heat. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together the soy milk, carbonated water, sugar, and oil. Combine the two and mix until combined.
Grease your griddle or pan with margarine or a little oil. Pour some batter on and flip when it is bubbling.
Serve pancakes with syrup and fresh berries.
*Note: if you want thicker pancakes, use less liquid; thinner, use more.

Pancake Syrup

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup corn syrup
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

Combine the ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Boil for 3 minutes. Remove from heat, let cool, and pour into a bottle. Store in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Corn salsa. (Salad?)

cornsalsa6

Is this technically a salsa? I looked up salsa and it just means sauce, I guess. I don't really think of this as being a sauce, though. It's like a... dip? Salad? I guess it's a salad.

This is a super easy (like, think Rachael Ray easy. No, think "Semi-homemade with Sandra Lee" easy. Eughdughhhh.) side dish that I like to throw onto a taco plate when the mood strikes me. I usually think it's kind of silly to post about recipes that call for prepackaged foods, but it's not like we're making kraft mac n' cheese or anything- this is really tasty.

You need:
1 or 2 good sized poblano peppers
a can of black beans
a bag of Trader Joe's Fire roasted corn.
A couple of avocados
A red onion
Handful of cilantro
Limes/lemons
Uh... salt & pepper? That's it.

cornsalsa

First thing's first, turn your oven on to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper, and trim and oil your peppers. Stick them in the oven for a few minutes until the skin puckers up and you get a few nice charred spots. Put them aside to cool while you finish prepping the rest of your stuff. Rinse and drain your black beans and throw them in a nice big bowl. Add about half the bag of fire roasted corn (get the fire roasted stuff if you can, it's AMAZING considering it comes out of a bag). You can thaw it beforehand or just let it thaw in the bowl, it doesn't retain that much water, so it's not going to make it soggy.

Now, dice your onion! I know I'm not the first person to post an onion-chopping how-to, but why the hell not, right? Recently I came across an onion chopping tutorial (hi, I'm a dork) that made a light bulb go off in my head. I'm insanely lucky to be married to a dreamy culinary school graduate, and I picked up most of my knife work over the last few years from him. He showed me how to butt my knuckles up against the blade so I won't cut myself, and he showed me how he likes to cut an onion.

cornsalsa2

It's pretty simple. After trimming the root and stem ends, cut the whole onion in half vertically (slicing across the ends you already cut, not through the fat middle part) and then run over to the sink and rinse the whole thing with cold water. The water bonds to the gasses that cause your eyes to water, and it helps keep you from crying. I also breathe through my mouth and not my nose while I'm cutting onions, that helps too- but nothing helps like rinsing.

After you have your halves, use the lines on the onion as a guide for slicing. don't slice all the way through, though. You want it to all be one piece so you can hold onto it later.

Here's the part that made me smack my head and go DUHHHH- the horizontal slice! Once again, not slicing all the way through, do a quick horizontal slice across where you already cut. If your onion is big, do 2 of them.

cornsalsa3

Then, just chop off the ends and they will be perfect little squares of onion!

cornsalsa4

When you get to the bit that was holding the whole thing together, it should be thin enough that a few quick chops will take it down to diced size easily.

cornsalsa5


That's pretty much it. Peel and chop your roasted poblanos and then mix everything together in a big bowl. If you're having a party, you can just put this out with a bag of chips and people will go apeshit. It owns the hell out of regular salsa and it literally takes a few minutes to make- even less time if you buy roasted peppers at the store. (But where can you buy roasted poblanos? They have an amazing flavor that other peppers can't match!) Tonight I served it on a big plate of taco fixins, and instead of mixing the avocado in, I just dropped it on top- I didn't want to have leftovers with mushy avocado in it. I'll just add more when I eat some more tomorrow.

cornsalsa7

apple crostada.



I am in love with all things apple. It really doesn't matter what time of year it is (I know most people associate apple desserts with autumn)- I am almost always in the mood for them. One thing I have learned when baking is that it is very hard to mess up an apple dessert. As long as you have the combination of either brown or white sugar, butter, cinnamon, and apples, it will almost always be good. I love them in all forms: pies, cobblers, turnovers, cakes, crisps, breads... you get the idea.

Yesterday morning I decided to make a recipe that I posted on Design is Mine awhile back that just looked so delicious and beautiful: an Apple Crostata by one of the cooks I trust most, Mrs. Ina Garten. Her recipes, especially her baking ones, always seem to come out perfect, and this was no exception. It was quite fun to make and turned out absolutely delectable.





Apple Crostata: by Ina Garten

Ingredients:

For the pastry (2 tarts)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated or superfine sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 pound very cold unsalted butter, diced
For the filling (1 tart)
1/2 pounds McIntosh, Macoun, or Empire apples
1/4 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated or superfine sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1/2 stick), diced

Directions:

For the pastry, place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and toss quickly with your fingers to coat each cube of butter with the flour. Pulse 12 to 15 times, or until the butter is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the 1/4 cup ice water all at once through the feed tube. Keep hitting the pulse button to combine, but stop the machine just before the dough comes together. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured board and form into 2 disks. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate one of the disks for at least an hour. Freeze the rest of the pastry.
*Note: You can also do this without a food processor, like I did. Just combine all the ingredients except the cold water in a bowl with a pastry blender or two knives. Slowly add the cold water and form a dough.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Roll the pastry into an 11-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Transfer it to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
For the filling, peel, core, and quarter the apples. Cut each quarter into 3 chunks. Toss the chunks with the orange zest. Cover the tart dough with the apple chunks, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border.
Combine the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and allspice in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Pour into a bowl and rub it with your fingers until it starts holding together. Sprinkle evenly on the apples. Gently fold the border over the apples, pleating it to make a circle.
Bake the crostata for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the apples are tender. Let the tart cool for 5 minutes, then use 2 large spatulas to transfer it to a wire rack.

butter cookies.



The other morning I was sitting at our small cafe table drinking my morning cup of coffee and suddenly had a craving for some French butter cookies (yes, I am a cookie-for-breakfast kind of girl). I absolutely love butter cookies, especially as a morning treat.



French Butter Cookies: adapted from Joy of Baking

Ingredients:

1 stick plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Egg Wash:
1 large egg
1 tablespoon water

Directions:

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy (2-3 minutes). Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat just until incorporated.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, knead the dough a few times to bring it together, and then divide the dough in half. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm (at least an hour).
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Remove one portion of the dough from the refrigerator and place on a lightly floured work surface. Roll out the dough until it is 1/4 inch thick. Using a lightly floured cookie cutter, cut out the cookies, placing them on the prepared sheet. Place the baking sheet of cut out cookies in the refrigerator for about 15 -20 minutes to chill the dough. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the egg with the water for the egg wash. Remove the cookies from the refrigerator and brush the tops with the egg wash. Then, with the tines of a fork, make a crisscross pattern on the top of each cookie. Bake cookies in the preheated oven for about 12-14 minutes (depending on size of cookie) or until golden brown around the edges.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

edible weed flatbreads.



After purchasing the April issue of Martha Stewart Living, I fell madly in love with an article on edible weeds. My vegetable garden is frequently overflowing with weeds, all of which usually get thrown in either the compost bin or the yard waste bin, so I was quite excited to learn that some of these could be used in cooking. The recipes in the article include jams and cordials, which all sounded wonderful, but there was one recipe that caught my eye immediately: Flatbread with Sorrel Pesto and Edible-Weed Salad. It was one of those recipes that I just couldn't wait to try.

I have recently become rather infatuated with the beautiful bunches of sorrel at our local farmer's market, so I picked up a couple last weekend. During the week, I suddenly realized that I had all too many vegetables to use in my vegetable drawer, so I decided to make some sort of a vegetable feast for family. The menu included: the edible weed flatbreads, mini tofu quiches with red onions and broccoli, honey-roasted carrots, beet salad with fresh feta, thin sweet potato fries, and sugar snap peas with oregano. The star of the meal was the flatbread which turned out to be one of the most delicious foods I have eaten in awhile. I think I could easily have them all the time.



Flatbread with Sorrel Pesto and Edible-Weed Salad: from Martha Stewart Living

Ingredients:

For flatbreads
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm water (110 degrees)
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
Coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for bowl and drizzling
For topping
1 1/2 cups (1 3/4 ounces) loosely packed sorrel leaves, stems trimmed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (if you want to make this vegan, use vegan Parmesan, which I did)
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Coarse salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
4 cups assorted edible weeds, such as chickweed, purslane, or lamb's-quarters (any tender greens can also be used)

Directions:

To make flatbreads: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine yeast and water, and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Stir well.
Pulse flour and 1 teaspoon salt in a food processor to combine. Add yeast mixture and oil. Process just until dough forms. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for 1 minute. Shape into a ball. Place in an oiled bowl, and turn to coat. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
Punch dough. Divide into 4 pieces. Shape each piece into a 6-inch disk. Drizzle with oil. Sprinkle with salt. Place flatbreads on an inverted baking sheet.
Bake, without turning, until both sides of each flatbread are golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool completely on sheets. Cut each flatbread in half crosswise.

To make pesto and salad: Process sorrel, Parmesan, pine nuts, lemon juice, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a food processor until coarsely ground. With machine running, add oil in a slow, steady stream until mixture is emulsified. (Pesto may be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.)
Spread 2 tablespoons pesto on each flatbread, and top with 1/2 cup edible weeds. Drizzle with oil, and sprinkle with salt. Serve immediately.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

guest blog : mom's artichokes & arrabiata.

My mom came to stay with us a couple of weeks ago and ended up cooking a wonderful meal of two foods I remember with great fondness from living at home: stuffed artichokes and pasta with arrabiata sauce (which she has recently perfected). I took some pictures and asked her to share the recipes, which she kindly has contributed. Thanks mom!


(photo by me)

"My Italian nonie used to make these every Sunday. They are very filling, but she would serve them as an appetizer, followed by a large meal of pasta, meatballs, sausage, and whatever else she decided to cook that day. To this day, I can’t get enough of artichokes and often enjoy it as a meal. She would never serve hers with mayonnaise, just the olive oil and garlic that she cooked it with."

Stuffed Artichokes

Ingredients:

1 artichoke per person
Stale bread (preferably Italian or French) *About 2 pieces per artichoke, broken up
Stem from artichoke, peeled and chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
Fresh parsley
Oregano
Parmesan or Romano cheese, lots of it
Olive oil

Directions:

Wash and and cut off tops of the artichokes, about ½ inch across to get rid of the prickly ends, and cut stem off and save.
Put all other ingredients in bowl and drizzle with enough olive oil to moisten. Add tablespoons of water as needed to moisten. Stir all together.
Turn artichokes upside down on flat surface and press down gently with a rocking motion. This will open up the leaves. Turn over; pull leaves gently apart to form a bowl-shaped area to stuff, and stuff.
In a large pan, cover bottom with olive oil and brown 2-3 cloves of garlic. Let cool, add one cup of water to oil and put artichoke(s) in pan. Bring to a boil, and then turn heat to medium and cover. Artichokes will steam in pan, but be sure to check every 15-20 minutes to be sure water has not evaporated. Keep adding water as needed. Cook for one hour. Artichoke leave should pull off easily when done.

Serve with melted butter or oil and garlic. *I recently served an artichoke on a beautiful plate with olive oil dotted with Balsamic vinegar and sprinkled with pepper, and a scoop of mayonnaise whipped with some horseradish. It was wonderful!



"I really do enjoy a good arribiata, or “angry” sauce. The problem I had was trying to make it hot, or angry enough. I accidentally found the answer a few years back. My husband had a bottle of Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce for his Asian recipes. As I was making my arribiata using crushed red pepper flakes, I kept tasting it and just could not get it hot enough. I grabbed the chili sauce and gave it a couple of squirts. It was just perfect."

Arrabiata Sauce (or "Angry Sauce")

Ingredients:

Two 28 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes (My nonie crushed and bottled her own tomatoes. I stick to really good imported tomatoes in the can, crushed with added puree, but feel free to peel, seed and crush your own fresh ones)
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 small onion, chopped fine
Fresh basil
Salt
Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce

Directions:

Drizzle olive oil in a large pot, enough to cover the bottom, and lightly brown garlic and onions (don’t burn). Let cool, and add crushed tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then simmer and add some fresh chopped basil and salt to taste. Add chili sauce to taste. Usually two good squirts is enough to make the sauce hot enough. Cook for about 30 minutes.

Make pasta of your choice. Penne or Rigatoni is great with this sauce. Put pasta in bowl, toss with sauce and sprinkle with Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese.

rosewater cupcakes.



Last week, I purchased my first ever bottle of rosewater. I felt excitement as I pulled the beautiful bottle out of my grocery bag and set it in my cupboard, just dreaming of the tasty concoctions I could create. I adore the idea of combining flowers with baking and cooking, and really, the recipes just sound lovely (Violet & Rosemary Sorbet, Lavender Fudge, Rose Salad, etc.).

After my sad first attempt at using rosewater a couple days ago, I decided yesterday that I would make something simple where the rosy taste could shine through. I remembered the Pistachio Rosewater Cupcakes recipe in Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, and although I was lacking pistachios, I chose to go for it anyway, sans pistachios (I am not really the hugest fan of nuts in baked goods anyway). The result was a moist and flavorful cupcake, although not overpowering at all. They were topped off with a rosewater buttercream I threw together and crystalized rose petals (which tasted like flowery candy). Delicious.

Also, I am quite in love with the photographs Alice took of the cupcakes. Putting rosewater cupcakes inside of a rose bush? A stroke of genius, I must say.





Vegan Rosewater Cupcakes: Adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World

Ingredients:

1/2 cup vanilla or peach soy yogurt
2/3 cup soy milk
1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons rosewater
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin pan with 12 cupcake liners.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the yogurt, soy milk, oil, sugar, and rosewater. Sift in flour, cornstarch, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Mix until large clumps dissapear. Fill liners three-quarters of the way.
Bake 20 to 22 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely before frosting.

Rosewater Buttercream

Ingredients:

1/2 cup (1 stick) soybean margarine or Earth Balance
1 tablespoon soy milk
1 teaspoon rosewater
2-3 cups powdered sugar

Directions:

Using an electric mixer, beat the margarine at medium speed until creamy. Add the soy milk, rosewater, and 2 cups of powdered sugar and beat at low-medium speed until light and fluffy. Add more powdered sugar to arrive at the consistency you prefer.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

lavender shortbread.



Oh, this lavender shortbread. I really had such high hopes for it. I had been eager to try this one recipe out for awhile, but somehow never seemed to have all the ingredients on hand. Today, however, I had both rose water, lavender, and some home-blended powdered sugar, so I was excited to make a go for it. Sadly though, other than being quite beautiful and smelling like flowers, I was not too impressed by the final product. The texture was crumbly and not very "shortbread-like" and the taste was way too flowery (not in the good way) and not sweet enough. So, this being said, I am not going to post the recipe.

I couldn't resist posting about it though because I am just so in love with these photographs Alice took. The lavender flowers, the bottles of milk, the tiny violets... so, so lovely.





If you would like to try a recipe for lavender shortbread, here are a few other I found online:
Renee's Garden, Food Network, Dessert First, and All Recipes. If you end up trying any of these, please let me know how they turn out!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Harissa (semi-failure.) edit: redemption!

Before we get into anything, can we take a moment to admire these unmarred, brand new, lovely cutting boards I just purchased at Ikea the other day?

newboards

I love them. I haven't used them yet. Ha! Finally oiled up and ready to go, I had to replace some of my old smaller wooden chopping boards, they were getting a little funky. And god bless you, Ikea- these were only five dollars. Okay! Onto the minor humiliation.

harissa

First of all, before you read any of this and come back 2 hours later weeping, scrubbing your hands frantically- LIME JUICE WILL TAKE THE STING OUT. Kind of. But don't bother, just wear gloves, like I should have. Now that we have that out of the way- HARISSA. Harissa is an African chili paste that is currently the culinary darling of Portland. I first saw it on the menu at Toro Bravo, 2007's (well-deserved) restaurant of the year (and chef of the year, and blah blah blah) and one of Portland's most outstanding restaurants. The other night it popped up at Lauro, in the form of harissa ketchup. Jason said he'd had harissa ketchup at Clyde Common, too- the fancy schmancy joint attached to the Ace Hotel downtown. Every nibble of deep fried potato coated in spicy ketchup had me craving some of my own, so I got a bug up my butt and started hunting down recipes.

harissa2

Like curry blends, it seems like everyone has their own version of harissa- though I did notice a theme- a combination of equal parts coriander, cumin, and caraway. Every recipe I looked at had this trio. Some recipes called for dried mint and fresh cilantro, some called for roasted red peppers. It was so hard to find one that I was sure would be THE BEST, that I just said screw it and started messing around with my own combinations. I don't know if I'm even pleased with my own creation yet, because I just made it a few minutes ago and I'm waiting until dinnertime to try it. It smells fantastic, and I did mix a bit with ketchup and give it a taste- whew! It was atomic, to say the least.

harissa3

One thing that was kind of annoying is that every recipe had it's own ideas about prepping the chilies, and none of them explained why they called for a certain way. I am here to say: IGNORE THE RECIPES THAT TELL YOU TO SOAK AND THEN SEED THE CHILES. Seed them while they are still dry! I tend to screw up new recipes when I'm trying them for the first time. I try not to let it get to me too bad, but I get really bummed out when I'm trying to do something I'm excited about and I keep messing it up. Case in point- the first recipe I picked out called for 3 oz. of birdseye chilies. Hey, did you guys know that those chilies are REALLY TINY? Yeaaah. So, the first thing I did was pour them into a bowl and cover them with warm water. Then I was like "oh, crap- shouldn't I take the seeds out first?" So I drained the bowl and got to work (this part took a million years.) and then I realized that they were already partially rehydrated, and the dumb seeds kept sticking to everything. It was really frustrating! I remembered that we had a handful of larger dried red chilies in the cupboard so I busted those out and started seeding them. When they're nice and dry it's easy! You just crack them in half and roll them between your fingers kind of like a cigarette, and the seeds just fall right out. I ended up using all of those and as many as I could stand of the smaller ones. I ended up with about a cup of chilies. At that point, I realized that since I didn't know the exact measurement of my chilies, I was going to have to wing it a little. Why the hell not?

Based on a mishmash of all the other recipes I looked at, here's what I came up with (and I DO NOT NECESSARILY RECOMMEND THIS RECIPE, Y'ALL.):

3 cloves of garlic
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. caraway (I DIDN'T HAVE GROUND, SO I USED WHOLE. LAAAME. buy it ground, or get a mortar & pestle.)
1 tsp. coriander
a pinch of fresh cilantro
1 cup or so of seeded rehydrated red chilies. (Soak them in a bowl of hot water for 30 minutes, then drain)
Edited to add: later on I added about a tablespoon of tomato paste and it's a whole new chili paste now!

Throw it all in a food processor and blend the hell out of it with some olive oil until a paste consistency is reached. Spoon into a clean jar and cover with a thin layer of olive oil.

harissa4

As you can see, my harissa paste didn't get that bright red glow that all the others I've seen pictures of. Is this because I omitted using any tomato or red pepper? Probably, I'm guessing. I think I'm going to add some tomato paste later and see if it improves the overall quality. My chilies lost a lot of color when they were rehydrated, booo.


harissa5

Overall I can't say I'm completely disappointed with the way it turned out, but I know all the things I'm going to do differently next time-
1. I'm going to find a recipe online that is very specific and I am going to follow it to a T.
2. I'm going to buy an effin' mortar and pestle
3. Oh, I guess that's it.

If you want to try making this stuff, go ahead. I might just head to the African market and pick up a can of the pre-made stuff. Why the hell not? Harissa ketchup, here I come!



Edit: After adding some tomato paste I could tell just by smelling it that it was going to taste better. Now I'm hunting down recipes to use it in! Hooray!

Monday, June 16, 2008

allergen-free cinnamon cake.



One of my dearest friends, Sharin, is vegan and allergic to gluten. After hearing that she would be able to make it over to our house tonight for a tiny fondue party, I decided it would be the perfect opportunity to try out a new allergen-free dessert recipe. Baking gluten, dairy, and egg free can be quite a challenge, mainly because the regular ingredients used in them are ones I never really use- xanthan gum, garbanzo bean/fava bean flour, white/brown rice flour, and potato starch, to name a few. It is quite difficult to remove all the ingredients that usually bind a recipe (eggs, milk, and flour) and create a good-tasting and moist final product.

New York City's Babycakes Bakery is known for mastering this task. They are a fully vegan, gluten-free, and refined sugar-free bakery, so they know their stuff- which is why I chose one of their recipes tonight. This cinnamon swirl cake (or "Cinnamon Toasties" as they call it) came out very moist and the same texture as any good cake one might eat. My friend seemed to be quite impressed by it and almost could not believe how perfect it was.



Cinnamon Swirl Cake (or Cinnamon Toasties): from Babycakes NYC Bakery

Ingredients:

1/2 cup canola oil, plus more for pan
1 cup garbanzo and fava bean flour
1/2 cup potato starch
1/4 cup arrowroot
1 1/4 cups unrefined sugar, divided
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/3 cup store-bought unsweetened applesauce

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Brush a loaf pan with oil; set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, potato starch, arrowroot, 1 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, xanthan gum, and 1 tablespoon cinnamon. In a medium bowl, stir together oil, applesauce, and 1 cup hot water. Add oil mixture to flour mixture; stir until well combined. Measure out 1/3 cup of batter and place in a small bowl. Pour remaining batter into prepared loaf pan. Stir remaining 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon cinnamon into reserved batter. Add to loaf pan, swirling to combine.
Transfer to oven and bake about 20 minutes. Brush top of loaf with oil and continue baking until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack before unmolding.

Fondue: A Guest Blog?

fondue

Does it count as a guest blog if I'm blogging something I didn't actually cook? I know it can seem kind of unclear how things work around here, but here's a quick rundown: Summer is the bones of the operation. She does 99% of the baking, which ends up getting featured the most for a few reasons- for one thing, baked goods are just so lovely to look at! For another, she lives in a beautiful, colorful, stylish home which makes for a much more attractive background. Better lighting at her house, too. So, how it works is, she'll message me in the morning to tell me what she's baking that day, and I'll swing by her house (only a couple miles away from mine) whenever I get a chance and photograph the food while our kids play. Not a bad arrangement! The only thing that sucks about it is that sometimes, I'll end up photographing a few things in a row and then there's a ton of stuff to get blogged. Plus, she maintains her design blog daily, so it can get to be a bit much. So, tonight when I was hassling her to blog at least one of the 3 things we have backlogged, she told me to go ahead and blog the fondue. Woo hoo!

fondue2

I can't say I've ever had fondue before. I've received a few fondue pots as gifts, but none of them ever came out of the box. (Sorry, Mom!) I like cheese, but HOLY MOLY! A whole pot full? So, when Summer invited me over for fondue tonight, I agreed so I could take pictures, but I was a little apprehensive about wolfing down so much cheese. I don't think I have to explain what makes fondue fun- it's kitschy, it's goofy, it's extremely versatile, and come on! Long skinny weird fork things! A pot over a flame! Copious amounts of melted cheese!

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Because I am a dork, and also because I do not want to say something stupid about whatever I've cooked, I like to look up the foods I'm blogging on wikipedia and do a little reading beforehand. I would feel like a total dum-dum if I said something totally wrong about a certain kind of food, plus- it's fun to learn about foods! If you have a moment, check out the fondue wiki page to catch a little fondue history. I especially like the little bit about fondue "etiquette" at the bottom, "In longstanding Swiss tradition if a nugget of bread is lost in the cheese by a man he buys a bottle of wine and if such a thing happens to befall a woman she kisses the man on her left."


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Summer's fondue recipe came from good ol' 101cookbooks.com. She told me she recently dined on an absolutely TO DIE FOR plate of gruyere mac n' cheese at The Victory Bar down the street from her house, which inspired her craving for gruyere fondue.

Classic Cheese Fondue:
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lb. Gruyere cheese, shredded (or 1/2 lb Gruyere + 1/2 lb Emmental cheese)
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
A splash or two of kirsch (opt)

Toss the cheese with the flour. Rub the interior of a medium saucepan with the peeled garlic. Place over medium heat and add the wine. Bring to a simmer and add the cheese mixture, one handful at a time. Stir in the nutmeg.

Stir over low heat until smooth and cheese is melted and bubbling. Add a splash or two of kirsch (opt). Continue stirring until it starts to bubble just a bit. Transfer the cheese mixture to a fondue pot and you are ready for dipping. Continue to stir frequently.


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The possibilities for dipping are endless, but here are some of our highlights: pan-roasted asparagus and zucchini (from the farmer's market, yum!), a sliced warm baguette, apple slices, oven-roasted potatoes, steamed broccoli, and hunks of kielbasa. I would love to dip bits of roasted brussels sprouts, bits of any kind of cured meat (pancetta? sopressata? oh, yes.), grilled chicken, grilled veggies like large spring onion, roasted beets, I could go on and on and on. I'm making myself hungry!

Of course, there are also tons of options for the dip itself, too. Fontina is a nicely melting cheese, and Summer tantalized my tastebuds (haha, ew- that sounds weird, right?) telling me all about a sharp cheddar and dark beer fondue she made awhile ago. Then of course, you can go the chocolate route- though, OH DAMN, I don't know what kind of PMS I'd need to have that would convince me that a big ass pot of melted chocolate was a good idea. I'd probably have to be pregnant, haha.

Just like the tartlettes, fondue is a rad party food, simple to throw together and sure to impress your homies. Now that summer is finally starting to kick off, why the hell not throw a garden party? (Or if you live in a 2 bedroom upstairs joint like me, a dining room party, haha!) Call some of your buddies, pick up a bottle of nice wine and a half-rack of a seasonal summer ale, and make some party food! Invite me, please.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

savory tofu tartlets.



I always have high hopes for the summertime. I have started constantly daydreaming of picnics, movies in the park, berry picking, and most of all, summer parties. It is not that I frequently throw them, but I usually always try for one nice warm weather get-together. We have plans this year to get our backyard together, so I keep thinking about white holiday lights, soft music, and our table outdoors with candles all over it. I really cannot wait.

Another one of my favorite things about throwing parties is the food. I adore tiny finger foods, both savory and sweet. I love the idea of big beautiful plates covered with dozens of miniature delicious hors d'oeuvres. On Friday, I was flipping through cookbooks and suddenly felt like making something small and party-like. After flipping through ideas with Alice, we both agreed on me making some tiny tofu quiche tartlets made with fresh zucchini and asparagus from the farmer's market. And oh, these were good.

This recipe can easily be altered to your taste. Feel free to use whatever vegetables you have on hand or are in season- broccoli, mushrooms, roasted peppers, sundried tomatoes, spinach, eggplant. etc. Also, you are more than welcome to add cheese to this. I kept them vegan, except for a curl of fresh parmesan on the tops.



Spinach-Asparagus Tofu Tarlets:

Ingredients:

For the pastry shells
9 tablespoons of butter or margarine, cut up into small pieces
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons ice water
2 teaspoons olive oil
For the filling
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 small zucchini, finely chopped
5-6 asparagus spears, finely chopped (remove tough ends)
1 tablespoon chopped green onions
Fresh black pepper
1 12.3-ounce package firm silken tofu, drained of water
1/4 cup milk or soy milk
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 teaspoon tahini or nut butter (preferably cashew or almond- I wouldn't recommend peanut)
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

Directions:

For the pastry shells: Combine flour and salt in a large bowl. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in the butter or margarine until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add the ice water and the olive oil and work into a loose dough. Knead gently until smooth. Shape into a flat disk and refrigerate for about an hour.

When chilled, break off small a ball of the dough and flatten into a small circle. Push into an ungreased mini muffin tin. Repeat. At this point, you can also crimp the molds to your liking.



For the filling: Heat the tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet on medium-high heat. Add garlic, asparagus, and zucchini and saute for about 5 minutes. Add the green onions and black pepper and remove from heat. Blend the remaining ingredients in a blender until very smooth. Add the tofu mixture to the warm vegetables and stir until completely combined.

Spoon the filling into the pastry shells. Bake at 375 degrees F for about 15-20 minutes until the filling appears to have set and the crusts appear golden. Top with shaved cheese, roasted tomatoes, or fresh herbs.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Tostada night

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I know I've been leaving the posting up to Summer, mostly. I'm on a MAJOR health kick right now. It's been like 2 weeks and I've been taking really good care of myself, eating lots of salads and nonfat yogurt, and bananas, and brown rice, and stuff like that. So, while it makes my body feel pretty good, most of those things aren't really spectacular food blog fodder, you know?

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Added to that, I'm having one of those weeks where my husband's been called away for work on way too many occasions to count, and I feel like I've been cleaning the same spot in my kitchen over and over again to no avail. Seriously, I clean and clean and clean and it still looks like a bomb went off, I don't know. But hey! Complaining aside, tonight I was in the mood for something easy as... well, pie's not very easy. I started digging around in my fridge and cupboards and pulled out the following ingredients:

Corn tortillas
A perfectly ripe avocado (woo hoo!)
One small white onion
A red bell pepper
One can of whole pinto beans
Half a cucumber
A handful of cilantro from my mom's garden
And, the bottom of a bag of spring salad mix from Trader Joe's.

Not a bad haul for dinner, if you ask me.

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I think you can guess where things went from there. 5 tortillas (2 for me, 2 for hubby, and one extra, just in case.) were brushed lightly with vegetable oil, salted, and placed on a baking sheet in a 400 degree oven for... oh, a few minutes. I actually burned my first batch, whoops! Check often, haha.

Pintos were rinsed and heated in a pan (nothing fancy tonight), cucumber was diced and placed on top of a small bed of spring greens and covered with chopped cilantro, and the onion and bell pepper were sliced and sauteed briefly with a palmful (like a tablespoon? less?) of cumin, some garlic powder, and some chili powder. Everything was plated, and then a generous squeeze of lime juice over everything to finish.

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The best part is that (HALLELUJAH) the sun finally peeked out a bit today, so this light meal went perfectly with the newfound summer weather. It probably would have gone well with a Dos Equis and some lime wedges, in hindsight. Oh well, I have the rest of the summer to enjoy light fresh meals with light beers. Hopefully the weather will cooperate!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

vegan sour cream banana cake.



Yes, another cake. I never used to really like cake very much, but now it seems to be something I am baking on a weekly basis (at least!). My favorites always seem to be the ones that include fruit and spice with little to no frosting, the kinds you can eat with coffee for breakfast without feeling all too guilty. Plus, there is something greatly satisfying about getting fresh fruit, mashing it into a smooth and sweet pulp, and adding it to a sweet and spicy batter.

In my opinion, this is a perfect cake and is very impressive for being completely dairy and egg-free. I have made it about five times now and have always received such wonderful compliments. The taste of cinnamon and nutmeg come through the pleasant banana flavor and the not-too-sweet dusting of powdered sugar is absolutely perfect for it. It's divine.



Sour Cream Banana Cake: from Vegan Yum Yum

Ingredients:

1/3 Cup Canola Oil
1 Cup Tofutti Sour Cream
1/3 Cup Soymilk
1 tsp Vanilla
3 Medium Ripe Bananas, mashed
2 cups All Purpose Flour
1 1/4 Cups Sugar
2 Tbs Cornstarch
1 1/4 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Nutmeg
1/2 tsp Cinnamon

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Whisk all the wet ingredients together in a medium bowl until smooth. Set aside. Whisk dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Spray your bundt pan with cooking spray, or lightly grease. Flour the bundt pan with some of the dry mix, pouring excess back into the bowl when finished. Mix wet ingredients into the dry, adding a tablespoon or so of soymilk if needed. Batter will be thick but not dry. Pour evenly into the bundt pan and bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely before removing from pan.
Serve with powdered sugar and fresh strawberries.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

escarole soup.



Escarole was always a major staple in my household while I was growing up. My mom cooked it weekly, usually throwing it together with a whole lot of garlic, olive oil, and white beans. Sometimes it would be in a broth, sometimes it would be mixed with pasta, but it would always be tasty. We would eat leftovers for days, almost until she made it again.

At the farmer's market on Sunday, I bought the biggest and most beautiful head of escarole I have ever seen. In typical Portland fashion, it was a June rainy day and I was craving soup, so I chopped up my lovely head of it and made a very delicious escarole soup from the June 2004 issue of Bon Appetit. It tasted so fresh and healthy and completely hit the spot on this very un-summery day.



Escarole Soup with Garbonzo Beans and Pasta: from Bon Appetit

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 14 1/2-ounce cans vegetable broth
2 cups (about) water, divided
1 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice with Italian herbs
1/2 cup farfallini or other small pasta (I used alphabet pasta!)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram
1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
5 cups thinly sliced escarole
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Heat oil in pot over medium-high heat. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Add broth, 1 cup water, and tomatoes with juice; bring to boil. Add pasta; cover and boil until pasta is tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally, about 7 minutes. Add marjoram, beans, then escarole. Simmer until escarole is tender, about 5 minutes, adding up to 1 cup water if pasta absorbs broth. Season with salt and pepper.
Ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.