Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Coconut pancakes

I have a TA session on Tuesday nights, so I spend the day until midafternoon or so at home. This morning I made myself these pancakes. The recipe is from the January 2011 issue of Bon Appetit. They're nice and coconutty without being very sweet. They also kept me full for a while, which is nice. As you can see, I topped mine with fresh blueberries, chopped hazelnuts, and a little agave nectar. I meant to plop some yogurt on it but forgot. Bon Appetit suggests a tropical fruit salad with mango, pineapple, and banana.

Have I ever mentioned that I used to think I didn't like coconut? I have never really liked coconut cake or coconut cream pie, and the sweetened shredded coconut that might accompany jelly beans at Easter is not exactly food. But like so many things in my life that I used to think I disliked (Mozart, I'm looking at you), there started to be exceptions. "I don't like coconut, but I like the curry at that restaurant." "I like the tom yum soup at that place." "I thought I wouldn't like the mung beans and greens in coconut milk, but it turned out delicious." I began to realize that the coconut dishes I liked were not the exception. I just don't really like sweetened shredded coconut. Now that I've realized I do like coconut, I've been making more coconut milk curries and soups and using shredded coconut in my granola. I haven't gotten around to it, but I'm also interested in experimenting with coconut milk ice cream and jus alpokat. I'm really glad that I was adventurous enough to try things I thought I wouldn't like because boy, coconut is good!

Coconut pancakes

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (mine was kind of the texture of coarse bread crumbs-I don't know if that was the intended texture, but it worked well)
3/4 tsp allspice
3/4 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 can (about 14 oz) coconut milk
1 1/4 cups warm water
1 tbsp vanilla extract (I used some homemade by my cousin and given to me for X-mas!)
2 tbsp agave nectar (recipe called for maple syrup, but I didn't have any)

Mix dry ingredients together. If your baking powder is super old like mine, try to break up the clumps. Biting into a chunk of baking powder is not very fun. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir/whisk until the batter is somewhat pourable. I accidentally forgot the water at first, and since I had already mixed it quite a bit when I poured the water in, it was a little lumpy. Even if you do it correctly the first time, these will probably be thicker than your standard pancakes.

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium. When skillet is hot, pour about 1/4 cup of batter on it and spread it with the back of a spoon until it's a normal pancake size. When the bottom is golden brown to brown and the top has little bubbles on it and has partially dried out, flip the pancake and cook the other side. Repeat.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Tahini-miso sauce/dressing/dip

What do tahini and miso have in common? They are both pastes that I almost always have in my fridge and don't use nearly as much as I should. So the other day I was making some soba noodles and trying to decide what to have on them. I was going to make this miso-basil salad dressing, but at the last minute I decided to see if Mark Bittman had any more ideas for me. I stumbled upon a really easy tahini-miso dressing, so I decided to make that. (I also had a surplus of tahini because a friend who was moving gave me half a jar of it.) The dressing was stupidly simple, but miso is such a complex flavor, and sesame is so nutty and rich, that it works really well. The only issue I had was that my tahini was kind of old and a bit dessicated at the bottom, so it took a lot of effort to get it smooth. I have had the sauce on a couple different soba noodle salads, and I think it would be fantastic on a dense green vegetable like broccoli, asparagus, or green beans. It could also make a good dip for crudites.

Later this week I hope to make some tahini-based cookies. Yum!

Tahini-miso sauce (from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman)

1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely minced or pressed
1/4 cup miso paste (I used white)
1/2 cup tahini
1/2 cup water

Whisk together using a fork or whisk. If your tahini is being stubborn, let it sit for a while. The water will help soften up any lumps.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Tortilla soup

As promised, I made this last Thursday, and it sure warmed up my snow day. I took the leftovers to a snow day soup party at a friend's house, and it was well received there too. I don't often use TVP (textured vegetable protein), which is why I had TVP in my pantry. I must have bought it in 2005 or 2006, thinking that since I was a vegetarian and cooking for myself, I would be using it all the time. That was a long time ago, before I knew much about cooking. I had relied on processed meat substitutes for a lot of my meals in college, so I kind of assumed that "from scratch" vegetarian cooking must use those too. Ah, how young and innocent I was! I have nothing against TVP, but I just don't use it very much. TVP has a somewhat meatlike texture, and I actually found it a very welcome addition to this soup. I was very glad to get it out of the pantry, too.

In this recipe I also call specifically for Arizona Dreaming seasoning. I buy most of my spices in bulk, but I do love going to the Penzey's store, so when I got a coupon for this new seasoning, I went out and got some. It's in the chili powder genre, but it's more complex and has more of a sour taste than most chili powders. I don't actually use that many spice blends, so I keep forgetting that I have this one, but I'm really glad I used it this time. The sourness was just what I wanted for this soup. I wanted it to be not just spicy and vegetal, but to have a little of an acid bite. Of course, the lime juice at the end helps with that too. I also really liked the hint of lime zest in there.

We got Friday off of school for ice. Houston has tons of bridges and overpasses, so precipitation+freezing temperatures makes for a dangerous commute in a lot of the city. My apartment isn't well designed for getting heat downstairs, and my room is the only area that gets tolerably temperate when it's really cold outside. I spent most of my snow day huddled in my room with my laptop working on my thesis. I could barely stand to go downstairs to eat. I'm glad it rarely gets below freezing here.

Tortilla soup

Vegetable oil for sauteing
1 onion, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup frozen corn
2 cups cooked pinto beans
1 14 oz can tomatoes (I used a can that had japalenos and garlic too)
1/2 cup TVP
1 tbsp Arizona Dreaming seasoning or other chili powder
1/2 tsp lime zest

Chopped avocado
Crumbled queso fresco
Corn tortillas, cut into strips and fried
Lime juice or wedges

In a large soup pot, saute onion, celery, carrot, and garlic in vegetable oil until soft. Add corn, beans, tomatoes, TVP, Arizona Dreaming, and lime zest and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes. Ladle into bowls and garnish to your heart's content.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Onion soup

It has been quite a week. Our classes are cancelled for the rest of the day for impending "wintry mix," so since I don't have seminars and choir practice, I figured I'd post a soup recipe instead. Since my last post, my diet has gotten back on track, and I feel lighter and more chipper. I have eaten a lot of good soup since then. This is an onion soup I made because I had some lightly sparkling wine that went flat and didn't taste very good, and of course I always have onions around. The wine imparted a nice sweetness and acidity to this onion soup. In this picture, I served this soup with bread that had cheese melted on it and some leftover roasted buttercup squash. It was a great cold weather meal.

Yesterday I went to the grocery store for the first time since January 18. This is probably the longest I've gone between grocery shops since I started grad school. (I did spend a few days in Chicago in the middle there, and I was in Dallas last weekend, so it's not quite as impressive as it sounds.) My freezer had gotten to an untenable place. I think with Jon gone, I get it in my mind that I should make lots of food, freeze the leftovers, and then eat those when I don't have time to cook. It makes sense, except that cooking is an important part of my day, and I am just in the habit of making time for it. So the leftovers accumulate in the freezer until I can't open it without a rain of tupperware. I decided that I needed to stop stockpiling and eat through the leftovers. Since January 18th, I have eliminated 1 quart of sweet potato soup, 1 quart of butternut squash soup, 2 cups of corn chowder, 1 1/2 quarts of pineapple rice pilaf, 2 cups of other rice pilaf, and 1/2 poud of tofu from the freezer, along with some frozen vegetables. (That's not all I've eaten; there were leftovers in the fridge too.) I have also discovered the amazing stay-fresh-ability of lettuce. I bought a head of red-leaf lettuce on January 18, and I'm still working through it. (I haven't been eating quite as many salads as usual; maybe one every other day.) I feel very accomplished now, but I'm also yearning to cook. Tonight I'm making a tortilla soup-like concoction. I shouldn't say tortilla soup because I'm not frying tortillas and adding them. But it's a Southwest flavor soup with pinto beans and tomatoes, garnished with queso fresco and avocado. If it's good, I'll write about it here. Now for your regularly scheduled soup recipe.

Onion soup
Makes about 4 servings

2 tbsp butter
6 cups thinly sliced white onions (1 1/2 large ones; my supermarket has really big onions)
1 cup white wine
1 quart vegetable broth
Thyme and oregano sprigs
2 bay leaves
parmesan cheese for garnishing, optional

Melt butter in a large soup pot over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until they are caramelized and soft. I think this took about 30 minutes for me. It's OK if they get a few burnt bits, but don't let them burn completely. Deglaze the pan with wine, add the broth and herbs, and bring to a boil. Simmer until you're ready to eat. I don't think it really matters how long. Garnish with grated parmesan if that is your desire.