Thursday, November 1, 2012

Pork and mashed potatoes

We ate an early dinner (~5:00 pm) and we ate food I would associate with grandparents. We had pork and green peppers stuffed with mashed potatoes. I was a little out of practice because we rarely make meat at home. I was happy with how it turned out.

3 Pork sirloin cutlets about 4 oz each

The topping
As usual measurements are approximate
2 Tbsp dijon mustard
1/4 tsp molasses (honey would be great too)
1 tsp diced dried rosemary 
1/2 tsp red wine vinegar (other vinegars would be good too)

Spread a little of the topping on each side. Cook 1 minute on each side on a high to seal in the juices. Lower temperature and cook about 3 more minutes per side adding a little more spread each time you flip.

Healthy Mashed potatoes

2 lbs potatoes

1/2 tsp butter
1 medium onion

1/4 tsp butter
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp diced dried rosemary
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp better than bullion
1 cup water 

1/4 cup heavy cream 

Dice the onion. Heat a pan with 1/2 tsp butter and add onion. Caramelize the onion. While the onion is caramelizing boil potatoes until ready for mashing.
While this is going melt 1/4 tsp butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for a about 2 minutes. Add the rosemary and cumin, mix and cook for 1 minute. Add the water and better than bullion. Simmer until everything else is ready, perhaps adding a bit more water if much of it boils off. 

Mash potatoes with broth and heavy cream. Add in the caramelized onion and enjoy.

I put the mashed potatoes in halved green peppers which I had pre-cooked a bit, topped with cheddar and cooked on 400 for about 20 minutes. I think it would be even better with tomatoes, but the tomatoes at the grocery store were very under-ripe.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Creamy tropical green smoothie

This is my first green smoothie with coconut milk in it. I used all the tropical fruits I had, plus some kale, and it was pretty darn good. Not too much to say about it, really. This would probably be good with mint or cilantro, or maybe even Thai basil, but I didn't think of it until after I drank it. Maybe next time.

Creamy tropical green smoothie

1 banana
1/2 cup orange juice
3/4 cup frozen mango
1/2 cup frozen pineapple
1/4 cup coconut milk
2 kale leaves


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Farro cakes on a bed of kale

I've been wanting to make a farro-based main dish for a while, but usually I just use it in salad, and it's been too chilly for me to get excited about a cold dinner. I played around with the idea of this farro cake for a while before going for it. I've made grain cakes before, and I just kind of made this one up. It's awesome, if I do say so myself. The farro is nice and chewy, and the liberal use of parmesan gives them a really nice deep cheesy flavor. It took me a little fiddling to get them to hold together. First, I just added one egg, but it was kind of just a dry-ish mash. I added a second egg, and it was too wet, but then I threw in some Panko crumbs, which absorbed just enough egg to get the cakes to hold together well. The kale complements the cakes nicely, but I have a pro-kale bias.

Farro cakes on a bed of kale
Makes about 10 cakes. I had 2 at dinner, and Jon had 5. So it serves 2-5 people, I guess.

1 cup farro (or a little less; you want 2 cups cooked in the end)
2 cups vegetable stock

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
8 grape tomatoes, quartered
1/2 tsp ground marjoram
1/2 tsp dried thyme

.65 oz grated parmesan or asiago cheese (I just got an electronic kitchen scale! If you don't have one, it's probably 1/3 cup grated by a microplane.)
2 eggs, well beaten
1/4 cup Panko or bread crumbs

4 kale leaves

Cook farro by combining farro with broth in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer, and cook for about 25 minutes, or until water is absorbed and farro is tender. Set aside.

Heat oil in a medium frying pan. Add onion, then a few minutes later, garlic, tomatoes, marjoram, and thyme. Saute until everything is soft. Set aside.

Place 2 cups farro in a medium mixing bowl. Add vegetable mixture and cheese. Stir in eggs and Panko or bread crumbs.

To cook the cakes, heat a crepe or nonstick pan over medium heat until it is very hot. (Add a little oil if your pan needs it; ours doesn't.) Take a big spoonful of farro mixture, plop it on the pan, and mash it down with the back of the spoon so it's even and fairly flat. Cook for 3-5 minutes, or until the bottom is golden brown. Carefully flip it and cook on the other side until that side is done as well. The cakes didn't seem very liable to burn, so you don't need to be too worried about them getting overcooked.

In the leftover oil from the vegetable pan, saute the kale. Serve farro cakes on top of a bed of kale.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


I like Rubens and Flemish painting in general. I also love the Reuben sandwich. I have my own ideas on it which I will now share. I like to make my Reubens on the skinny side. This makes it easier to balance ratios, not get super messy and reasonable for an any day lunch. I am trying to find the best reuben in our neighborhood, and so far mine wins. (Salonica is the best restaurant reuben we've found so far.)

For this recipe I do not heat the sauerkraut or corned beef ahead of time. It improves the sandwich a bit if you do, but I usually don't want to take the time (I am often already hungry). As usual measurements are approximate.

Best Reuben in Hyde Park

4 slices of Corned beef
2 slices seeded rye (a pumpernickel rye might be even better)
2 oz or so sauerkraut
3 slices swiss cheese
Thousand island dressing (1/2 oz?)
a little mustard

Put the mustard on one slice of bread and top with the corned beef. Put the cheese on the other. (This will insulate the bread from the liquids.) On top of the corned beef put the sauerkraut and top that with the dressing. Close the sandwich.

Melt butter in a pan over medium heat. Put the sandwich on. Put a weight on the sandwich (like a heavy pot). After a couple of minutes remove the sandwich and melt some more butter in the pan. Put the other side of the sandwich down. Put a weight on the sandwich. Cook for a couple of minutes and then serve. I like to serve it with a pickle spear (Hyde Park Produce's deli section has good pickles) and chips.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Deconstructed guacamole quesa-jitas

I have been threatening to make deconstructed guacamole for a while, and on Saturday I finally followed through. I used it as the key ingredient in dinner, which was something between a quesadilla and fajita. I used up some leftover tofu in it too.

For fellow southsiders, Hyde Park Produce tends to have good avocados at a reasonable (maybe even cheap) price.

Deconstructed guacamole

2 firm avocados, chopped
1/2 tomato, chopped
Corn, optional
Cilantro, optional

Juice of 1/2 lime
1 healthy shake arizona dreaming or other chili powder
1 shake chipotle powder
1 shake cajun seasoning or seasoned salt
2 pinches cumin
1 pinch coriander
1 shake tabasco

Combine ingredients.

I served this on tortillas with sautéed onions, dry fried tofu, tomato slices, cheese, sour cream and jalapenos. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Pineapple matcha smoothie

This is a green smoothie, but the green is from matcha (powdered green tea) instead of bona fide greens. It's a delicious way to start the morning, mostly sweet with some bitterness from the tea.

Pineapple matcha smoothie

1/2 banana
1/2 cup orange or pineapple juice
3/4 cup frozen pineapple pieces
1 tsp matcha

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Rice-stuffed peppers

I made some stuffed peppers. The stuffing is basically risotto, but made less fussily than we usually do. The measurements below are approximate, but they should give you an idea of what we did. When I make them again I will cook them with plenty of space and rotate occasionally so the whole pepper gets roasted and not just the top. And I'll add some fresh herbs.

Rice-stuffed peppers

Green peppers cored, with seeds removed

1/2 tbsp butter

1 cup Arborio rice

3 cups broth

1/2 large onion

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tomato, chopped

2 leaves swiss chard, chopped

1/2 ball mozzarella

Heat the broth. In another pot put in the rice with some butter over a low heat. Add one cup of broth to rice, stir and simmer. As the broth gets absorbed add about 1/2 cup of broth at a time to the rice to keep it just submerged. Stir occasionally.

Saute onions about 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook about two more. Add tomato and cook until done, about 5 more minutes.

When the rice is done mix with the chard to help wilt the chard slightly. Mix in the sauteed vegetables and mozzarella.

Stuff the peppers.

Cook on 400 for about 30 minutes.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Crepe envelopes with mushroom-chard filling

Jon was away last weekend, so I wanted to make something special for him when he came back last night. (I'm like Ina Garten that way.) I decided on these stuffed crepes. We had made them one other time when a friend came over for dinner, but I tweaked and improved the recipe a bit this time. These are buckwheat crepes with a yummy, creamy filling. I decided to go with a crepe recipe that had some wheat flour as well instead of the all-buckwheat version I often make because I thought the wheat would help the crepes stay pliable for folding. Next time I might try with the all-buckwheat ones.

I based the filling on a caramelized leek and mushroom filling I saw in a cookbook, but I used onions instead of leeks because I am not sophisticated enough to care about leeks, and I added chard because I don't like mushrooms that much, and the chard takes some of the focus away from the mushrooms. If I do say so myself, it's a pretty darn good filling: creamy, flavorful, and rich-tasting. Jon is insane and adds Tabasco sauce to his.

This dinner was a bit time-consuming and involved, but I think it's a really nice, elegant looking meal. Jon was very appreciative. Of course, I served it with a salad as well. (And a ginger cake that will appear on the blog soon.)

Crepe envelopes with mushroom-chard filling

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1 cup milk
1/3 cup water, plus extra if necessary
2 tbsp butter, melted

2 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 lb assorted mushrooms, sliced (I used a mix of shiitake and crimini, but that's just because the store was low on mushroom variety)
5 leaves Swiss chard, stems separated, both stems and leaves chopped
1/2 tsp salt, divided (1/4 tsp and 1/4 tsp)
zest of 1 lemon
5 leaves sage, julienned
3/4 cup yogurt
1 egg
1/2 cup grated cheese (we used Gruyere, but any hard cheese would probably be good)

To make the crepes: Mix dry ingredients in one bowl and whisk the egg, milk, and 1/3 cup water together in another bowl. Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry. Whisk in melted butter. Cover bowl and refrigerate for at least an hour. Remove from refrigerator, whisk in a little more water if necessary to make an easy-to-pour batter. Make crepes by heating a crepe or nonstick pan with a flat bottom over medium heat. Pour 1/4 cup batter onto pan and turn to spread as evenly as possible. Cook until bottom is golden brown. Turn and cook a little more on the other side, so it has brown flecks as well. Repeat, and set crepes aside in a warm oven or microwave to keep them warm and pliable. (I actually made the filling first and then the crepes, so they wouldn't get too cool.)

To make filling: Saute onions in oil until very soft. Add mushrooms, chard stems, and 1/4 tsp salt, and cook until mushrooms are very soft and have given off their water. Add leaves and lemon zest, and cook until leaves are just wilted. Turn off heat and stir in sage leaves.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine yogurt, and egg. Whisk until smooth, and then stir in cheese, remaining 1/4 tsp salt, and vegetable mixture.

To assemble crepes: Spray a baking pan with nonstick spray, and preheat the oven to 350 F. Place one crepe "face"-side down (the face is the first side you cook; it's a little more attractive than the other side). Spoon some filling in the middle. Fold top and bottom over filling, then left and right sides, to make a little pouch. Place seam-side down in your baking pan. Repeat with the rest of the crepes. Bonus points if you have exactly the right amount of filling for the crepes. If you have extra crepes, you can eat them with butter and a little salt.

Bake crepes for 15 minutes or so. I'm not really sure how to tell if they're done visually, but 15 minutes worked for me.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Pineapple-spinach smoothie

So far, kale has been my favorite green to put in green smoothies (no surprise there), but I've used spinach and chard too. Spinach has a more assertive taste, and it's been a bit overwhelming in a couple of my smoothies. I found that pineapple stands up to spinach pretty well, so that's been my spinach smoothie strategy. You still get some nice spinach notes without feeling like you're drinking a spinach salad. And the color is gorgeous to boot.

Pineapple-spinach smoothie

1/2 cup orange or pineapple juice
3/4 cup frozen pinapple
1/2 banana
Big handful spinach (maybe about 1/2 cup?)
1 tbsp ground flax seed


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Triple-dairy dal

I checked an Indian cookbook out of the library a few months ago hoping for some new dal ideas, but the recipes are way too rich. Their recipe for this dish calls for 1/2 cup butter (that's an entire stick), 1/2 cup cream, and 1 cup yogurt. I followed the "make it the way the recipe says the first time" rule, and I ended up making another cup of lentils to add to the sauce because it was way too rich. This time, I eighth'd the amount of butter and cream and quartered the amount of yogurt, and it worked a lot better. I made a few other modifications, like adding chard and ginger, and I think those modifications helped too. If you've never tried toor dal, also known as split pigeon peas, it's got a great flavor. I can't describe it very well, but it's a disctinctive nuttiness and richness. I'm really glad we got some back in September on our Indian grocery expedition.

We served this with broccoli we had cooked with mustard, cumin, and coconut. Next time, some rice or naan would be great to soak up the extra sauce, but I didn't think of it until the meal was almost ready.

Triple-dairy dal

1 cup toor dal (split pigeon peas)
3 cups water
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 clove garlic, minced

1 1/2 tbsp butter, divided (1/2 tbsp and 1 tbsp)
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced

1 tbsp cream
1/4 cup yogurt, plus more for serving
2 leaves Swiss chard, finely sliced

Place the toor dal, water, turmeric, chili powder, and garlic in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer until dal texture is to your liking.

In the meantime, melt 1/2 tbsp butter in a small frying pan. Add cumin seeds and about 30 seconds later, add onion and ginger. Saute until onions are soft.

After dal is ready, turn off heat and stir in 1 tbsp butter, cream, and yogurt. Bring to a simmer and cook for another five minutes or so. Then add chard and stir to wilt. Serve with a dollop of yogurt on top.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Eggplants roasting on an open fire

As the weather has been improving in Chicago, I have had an increasing hankering for different salads and spreads. Motivated by this, I have been making a lot of eggplant lately in a new (for me way): Cooking directly over the flame from our gas burner. It makes a really great smokey flavor. I just hold it with a pair of tongs and turn it as it cooks.
Below are some dishes I've made with it. The first has a southeast Asian twist, and the second is more Greek or Turkish, like baba ganoush without the tahini.

Lime-y eggplant spread

1 lb eggplant

1 lime juiced
2 in. ginger diced
1 Tbsp soy
2 dashes toasted sesame oil
1 dash rice vinegar
1/4 tsp honey

Rice noodles

Spring mix
1 tomato sliced
1 red pepper julienned
2 scallions diced

Roast the eggplant over a burner. Peel the blackened skin. Mash it. Add the next six ingredients. Can be made a day ahead.

Cook the rice noodles. Combine rice noodles, spring mix, tomato, red pepper and scallion with the eggplant mixture and serve.

Decadent eggplant spread
1 lb eggplant
lots of olive oil

Roast the eggplant over a burner. Peel the blackened skin. Mash eggplant with olive oil. Keep adding olive oil to the eggplant until it absorbs as much as it can. The mixture may turn whitish. If, when you open the container the next day, a lot of the oil has separated out, dont worry, it means you did it right.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Tea eggs

I've made these tea eggs a few times over the past few years. They're a traditional Chinese snack, or so the internet tells me. The flavoring is mostly from soy sauce, but the spices and tea give the eggs a very complex flavor. I don't remember where I got the recipe; I have it written on a piece of paper and stuck to the fridge.
The marbled surface of the eggs comes from partially hardboiling them, then cracking the shells all over before cooking the rest of the way and and steeping them for a few hours or overnight. You have to crack the eggs pretty well to get the marbling. Here's one example of how mine looked before steeping.
Tea eggs

6 eggs
3/4 cups soy sauce
2 star anise
2 tbsp black or oolong tea
1 tsp sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 tbsp peppercorns
Some tangerine or orange peel

Place eggs in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 3 minutes.

Run eggs under cold water and, when cool enough to touch, crack all over with a spoon. Return to saucepan with still-hot water.

Add soy sauce, star anise, tea, sugar, cinnamon, peppercorns, and citrus peel. Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer, and simmer for 40 minutes. Turn off heat and let steep for a few hours or overnight.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Brussels sprout scramble

I pulled this together one morning to use up some excess Brussels sprouts that we had blanched and then not needed all of for a different dish. I was worried about them going bad, and figured that if broccoli is good in a breakfast scramble, why not Brussels sprouts? If we had had any onion, I would have used that as well, since onion is awesome in scrambles. I used powdered tomato to give some depth to this; I found it at a spice store near me, but I've never seen it anywhere else. It's just dehydrated tomato, so tomato paste would work in its place. I liked what the tiny bit of tomato did for the flavor. I also liked the Kerrygold reserve cheddar I stirred into it at the end. That's a nice cheese. I didn't have high expectations for this scramble, but it was actually pretty good, and I was definitely pleased to use up some leftovers.

Brussels sprout scramble
Serves 2.

Butter for the pan
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup thinly sliced Brussels sprouts (mine were blanched, but raw would work too)
4 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp powdered tomato, or a little tomato paste
1/4 cup good cheddar cheese

Put some buttter in a pan (I used nonstick) over medium heat. Add garlic and Brussels sprouts. Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and softened. In the meantime, whisk eggs, milk, and tomato paste in a medium bowl. When the veggies are ready, pour egg mixture in and scramble. After the eggs are cooked, stir in cheddar cheese.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Nutella Cookies

I pinned this recipe a while ago. It's not hard to see the appeal of Nutella cookies. The pin I pinned actually didn't link to the right recipe, so I searched online. Basically the same recipe popped up all over the internet, but I used the one from Kirbie's cravings. I added some chopped hazelnuts to about half the batter, and both Jon and I thought they improved the cookies. So in the future, we'll be including them. The Nutella flavor is subtle but definitely present. I think Frangelico would be a good addition to pump up the hazelnut flavor even more.

Nutella cookies

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup Nutella
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup chopped hazelnuts

Preheat oven to 350 F. Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Mix in Nutella, egg, and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl and slowly add to the wet ingredients. Mix until just combined. Stir in hazelnuts.
Drop by heaping spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet or pizza stone. Cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the tops of the cookies are starting to crackle a little.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Go-to green smoothie

I have hopped onto the green smoothie bandwagon. I'm a big fan of greens, and I love the way they taste, so I had been hesitant to put them in a smoothie where I might not be able to taste them as well. But the warm weather last week and the big bunch of kale in the fridge made me decide to try it. Since I am not working or going to classes right now, I have the flexibility to make this for lunch at home, and I think I'll be having a lot of these during the good weather this year. I really enjoyed the taste and texture.
I like to have the chewiness of the bits of kale in there, but Jon isn't a fan. Our blender won't get it much smoother than the picture above, which as you can see, has some chewy bits in it, so these are just for me. Some sites advertise that these smoothies are good because you can't taste the greens, but I like that I can taste them a bit. It's not like drinking a pile of kale or anything, but it has some of that vegetal taste I love so much. This smoothie is not a complete lunch for me, and I prefer not to have my lunch entirely sweet anyway, so I've been supplementing with cheese and crackers or soup or other leftovers.

I bought a bunch of frozen fruit recently, and I have some ideas for other good green combos, so you will be seeing them again.

Evelyn's green smoothie
1/2-1 banana
1/2 cup pineapple juice
1/2 cup frozen raspberries
1/4 cup frozen blueberries
1 tbsp ground flaxseed
2 leaves kale, stems removed


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Three short breads

I may have mentioned that I'm on a shortbread kick. I'd like to get more comfortable with shortbread ratios so I can start creating my own. Back in February, I made the rosemary pine nut shortbread from 101cookbooks. It was great! The rosemary, lemon, and pine nut flavors all had a chance to sing out, and the texture was crisp and light. It will definitely be made again. I liked it better than the Earl Grey shortbread we've made before, but Earl Grey is still Jon's favorite.
A few days ago, I made two shortbread recipes from The View from the Great Island: peanut butter chocolate chip and double dark chocolate. Both were really good, but they weren't as good in cooked form as raw. Of course, not cooking the dough is easier than cooking it, but it felt kind of naughty to eat raw shortbread dough, despite its lack of raw eggs. These recipes had a higher butter to flour ratio than other shortbreads I've made, and I think it made the cooked texture a little too crumbly. The peanut butter one almost seemed like eating straight peanut butter in the way it stuck to the roof of my mouth. I don't know if I'll make these again. Jon suggests making the dough as "summer cookies" that we can just cut off the log and eat without baking.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The first potato salad of spring

This is a potato salad I put together to use some homemade mayonnaise I made. I prefer my potato salad not to have much mayonnaise, I put just enough to lightly coat. There are olives to add some sharpness. I think the olives worked really well. The adzuki beans were fine but it would probably be better with kidney beans. It was a crisp salad so maybe boil dry kidneys instead of using canned ones. One note is that I put the just-boiled potatoes in lemon juice and a little bit of mayo to soak in the flavor while they cooled. I have no idea of how much of the ingredients I used except that I used 2 ribs of celery.

New potatoes

Green beans


Adzuki beans

cherry tomatoes

Alphonso or Kalamata olives


Lemon juice


black pepper


Another sign of spring: one of the first crocuses that popped up in our neighborhood last week.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Mustard, cumin, and coconut

Somewhat coincidentally, our dinner on Monday ended up being two dishes flavored with mustard, cumin, and coconut. I found both recipes online, but I modified them fairly significantly, so I'm including the recipes.
I have made the coconut greens recipe from 101 cookbooks before, that time with spinach (see above photo), and Jon loved it, so when I was trying to decide what to do with some leftover chard in the fridge, that came to mind. I also used coconut oil this time to enhance the coconut flavor (and because I just bought it for the first time, and I've been trying it in everything). We used both the stems and leaves of the chard. I just threw the stems in with the onion. Chard is more substantial than spinach, and I think it held up really nicely. I don't know which version I liked better.
The dal came up when I was looking up moong dal recipes online. I noticed that it had cucumber cooked with the dal, which I had never tried before. I also happened to have a partially rotten cucumber in the fridge. I cut off the rotten parts (most of the skin) and used the rest in the dal. It was a good use for a no-good cucumber, but we couldn't really taste any cucumberiness. I think it's omit-able, unless you've got some yucky cucumber to use up. The original recipe suggests squash as an alternative, and I think the effect would be similar. The recipe would be good without it, but it wouldn't hurt anything. Once again, I used coconut oil because I had it and to enhance the flavor.
For our salad, Jon tossed together a slightly unusual one: lettuce, red pepper, tomato, avocado, clementine slices, cashews, and coconut flakes. He dressed it with lime juice, honey, and olive oil. It was nice and tropical, a fitting complement to the dishes I made.

Spiced coconut greens (adapted from 101 cookbooks)

1 tbsp coconut oil
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp salt
Pinch chipotle
1/3 cup minced onion
4 Swiss chard stems, chopped (optional)
4 Swiss chard leaves, chopped, or about 6 oz spinach, chopped
Lemon juice
1 1/2 tbsp shredded coconut

Heat coconut oil in a large skillet on high. Add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, salt, and chipotle, and cook until the mustard seeds start to pop. Immediately add onion and chard stems, if using, and cook until the onion is translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the chard or spinach and cook, stirring often, until it is wilted.

Moong dal with cucumber and coconut (adapted from edible garden)

1 cup moong dal
1/2 cup chopped cucumber (about 1/2-inch cubes)
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 cup chopped onion

Cover dal and cucumber with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, cover, and lower heat to a simmer. Cook until dal is your preferred texture.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Red pepper-sunflower seed bagels

Our second batch of bagels was a success. They were also gone in just a day or so, but we will probably make a larger recipe next time. This time I used sunflower seeds and some whole wheat flour to get the bagels denser and red pepper for some color and flavor. Most of these were eaten with cream cheese, but one was the base for a tuna salad sandwich.

Red pepper-sunflower seed bagels
Makes 8 bagels

1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cups bread flour
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1-2 roasted red peppers
2 tsp yeast

1 tbsp sugar
1 egg white
2 tsp water

Place egg, milk, oil, sugar, salt, flour, sunflower seeds, red peppers, and yeast in bread machine. Set for "dough."

When dough is ready, remove from bread machine and punch down. Divide dough into 8 pieces. Roll pieces into balls, then pinch in middle to make a hole and roll around in your hands until it is bagel-shaped. Cover and place in a warm spot to rise for 15-30 minutes.

Bring 2 quarts of water and 1 tsp sugar to a boil. Place bagels, a few at a time, in boiling water. Boil for 1 minute, then flip over and boil the second side for 3 minutes. Drain and place on pizza stone or baking sheet. Repeat for all bagels.

Combine water and egg white and whisk a little to froth it up. Brush over bagels. Bake at 400 F for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown on top.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Swiss chard red wine risotto

We had a partial bottle of undrinkable red wine (it was drinkable at one time, but we did not drink it quickly enough), a bunch of red-veined Swiss chard, and plans for making some sort of rice dish. What else could happen but a Swiss chard red wine risotto? I have a history of being fussy about purple non-dessert foods. They just look unnatural to me. (Except beets. I'm down with beets.) There was a red wine cream sauce incident: Jon made a red wine cream sauce for pasta, and I just couldn't get past the weird (to me) mauve color and eat it. I'm sure it was very good, but I eat with my eyes too, and they were having none of it. I was reluctant to try a red risotto, but after googling and seeing that both Giada and Mario have recipes for red wine risottos, and noticing that the red stems of the chard would likely pinken the risotto anyway, I threw caution to the wind and decided to go for it. The dish did have more of a purple cast than the photo above reflects, but it was not too off-putting.I decided just to use my basic risotto recipe, adding the chard stems with the onion and the leaves about 3/4 of the way through cooking. I guess I should have used red onion in the recipe, but I don't usually keep those around because I don't like raw onions and I don't like the color of cooked red onions.

Anyway, this was a great risotto! The wine gives such a nice depth of flavor, and the chard and lemon zest were very yummy. I have been neglecting chard for its cheaper and heartier cousin kale, but I really do enjoy it. We've got half a bunch left, so I might try making chard-wrapped risotto balls out of the leftovers. We have tried it before with some success, but we don't quite have the cheese-melting right yet.

Swiss chard red wine risotto

2 tbsp butter
1/2 large onion, diced
3 large Swiss chard leaves, stems separated, both stems and leaves chopped
1/2 cup red (or white) wine
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
5 cups vegetable broth
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Asiago or parmesan cheese

Melt butter in large pot over medium heat. Add onion and chard stems and cook until onion is translucent. Add rice and stir to coat with butter. Add red wine and cook until it is basically absorbed. Add broth 1/2 to 1 cup at a time, stirring after each addition and waiting until broth is absorbed to make next addition, until rice is done. When rice is nearly al dente, but still too hard, add chard leaves and stir. The leaves will cook and wilt as the rice cooks the rest of the way. When rice is done, stir in lemon zest and cheese.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Lentil loaf

After losing my veg blog cred with the fennel-tomato soup with sausage, I had to post about the total hippie lentil loaf we had last week. Renee posted about it a little while ago, and I was intrigued. I got these frozen chipotle-spiced sweet potato fries on sale recently, and then I realized that I don't make a lot of meals that go well with potatoes on the side. In fact, we have potatoes less frequently than I would like because I don't normally know what to serve with them. Beans are high in protein, but I often don't like the starch-on-starch taste of eating beans and potatoes together. While it is lentil-based, I didn't get the unpleasant starch-on-starch feeling with this loaf, so I think it will be my new go-to main dish when I want to have potatoes.

Anyway, this is a great loaf. It's vegan (in addition to using flax as an egg substitute, some of the lentils are processed to help with binding), high in protein from the lentils, fatty enough to be satisfying from the pecans, and just all-around delicious. It gets quite a few dishes dirty, but it's really not that big a deal. The recipe is from Oh She Glows, and I only made a few minor modifications. I used pecans in place of walnuts because I think walnuts are just wannabe pecans. I didn't have celery or apple, so I subbed fennel stems instead because I had them leftover from fennelfest. I used Panko crumbs instead of regular bread crumbs because we only have seeded rye around right now, and I didn't think the carraway would be good. And I used a store-bought barbecue sauce instead of making the glaze because it was easier. Next time I might decrease the salt if I remember; I thought it was a bit on the salty side. ETA: Made it again, halved salt, and it was good.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Two things to do with fennel

I am no longer anise/licorice-averse, thanks to accidentally buying anise-flavored toothpaste in France a few years ago and getting used to the flavor. However, it's usually not the first flavor that comes to my mind. I see fennel bulbs at the store a lot, and they look so pretty with their feathery green fronds, but I've never been blown away by a fennel recipe. I find anise to be an often-strange flavor for savory dishes. I saw this fennel-tomato soup recipe in a recent Vegetarian Times and decided to make it. We un-veg-ified it by using real sausage Jon had gotten on sale, and it was my first time to actually cook meat myself. I had to keep reminding myself that I shouldn't touch it and then other food without washing my hands and cutting board, and that it actually mattered if it got cooked well enough. Luckily, despite my lack of meat safety expertise, we didn't get food poisoning! It was a nice soup. We might decrease the tomatoes next time because Jon isn't wild about tomato-based soups. The sausage was pretty great in it, and the combination of fennel bulb and fennel seed was nice.

Since we only used part of our fennel for the soup, I made up a beet-fennel salad to go with it. I didn't pick beets for any particular reason, except that we had one in the fridge that needed using. I made a clementine vinaigrette to go with it because we had just bought a bag of clementines, and I thought citrus would pair well with fennel. It was a good salad, with great crunch and an interesting mix of flavors.
These were both good, but I don't know that I'm really a fennel convert yet. I think there are just vegetables out there I'd rather have, so like radishes, fennel will probably be a "seldom" food.

Beet-fennel salad with goat cheese and clementine vinaigrette

1 beet, boiled, peeled, and sliced
2 cups fennel, thinly sliced
Crumbled chevre

2 tbsp olive oil
Juice of one clementine
1 tsp cider vinegar
A pinch or two of dried thyme

Arrange fennel and beets on a plate in as artful a manner as you desire. Sprinkle with goat cheese and drizzle with vinaigreete.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Keeping out of a salad rut

Ev and I have a standard salad that we really like. Lettuce (usually red leaf), cucumber, grape tomatoes, red pepper, croutons, avocado, olives, feta with either balsamic and oil or Ev's lemon sesame dressing. We have this probably 4 times a week. But we love variety, and we've been trying to keep from getting in a rut by changing things up a bit. We have had a lettuce, roasted red pepper, goat cheese and olive salad with a mayonaise and balsamic dressing (next time leave out the olives); and a lettuce, cucumber, grapefruit, avocado salad with strawberry balsamic (thanks Rochelle) for our post-party brunch. This post is about a third experimental salad. The idea was to showcase zatar.

peeled cucumber cut into cubes
red pepper
grape tomatoes
sliced almonds

Squeeze lemon over the top
Drizzle with olive oil

This was a nice fresh salad. It seemed very spring-y to me. For a more complete meal you could add chickpeas, limas or lentils.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Inductive citrus peels

We also served these candied citrus peels at our anniversary party, and they were a hit, at least with one partygoer. I am nothing if not devoted to my fans, so by her request, here's the recipe. I must confess that I got this recipe from the internet somewhere, but it was so long ago that I don't remember the source. Sorry for plagiarising!

Our anniversary happens to be Texas independence day, which I didn't know until our wedding day, but our anniversary party was vaguely Texas-themed. OK, it wasn't very Texas-themed at all, but we did receive a bottle of Tito's vodka as a gift (thanks!), and the citrus fruits whose peels I candied were all Texan. The grapefruits were from the produce market here, but they were definitely Rio Star grapefruits (I don't bother with that junk from Florida), and the lemons, Meyer lemons, blood oranges, and tangerines were grown by my aunt, who lives between Houston and Galveston. Go Texas!

Anyway, I'm a big fan of making food out of stuff that would be thrown away, and these peels are delicious, if a little labor-intensive. When done right, they are slightly juicy, sweet, and a little bitter. I find that the grapefruit peels makes your mouth feel slightly numb if you eat a lot of them. Grapefruit is kind of a scary food, what with its interactions with medications and all, so I'm not surprised that it has some sort of weird nerve chemical in it. Despite all that, I sure can't quit grapefruit.

How to make candied citrus peels

1a) To prep grapefruit peels, just peel a grapefruit and cut the peel into strips, pith and all. I will allow myself to go on a tangent about how I think there's a vast media conspiracy, funded by the powerful grapefruit spoon/knife lobby, to suppress the idea that you can just peel a grapefruit like an orange and eat it. It's true! That's how we always do it, and it's much easier to harvest the peel if you eat it that way. Tangent over.

1b) To prep non-grapefruits, you'll need to remove the pith. I don't know why grapefruit pith is different from the other stuff, but it is, and the other stuff has yucky pith. I take a small, sharp paring knife, put the peel on the counter, zest side down, and, with the knife parallel to the counter, try to get it between the skin and pith. It's imperfect, but you don't have to get it all.

2) I prep the peels immediately after eating the fruit and then store them in jars in the fridge until I have enough to candy. At that point, I dump the peels in a saucepan, cover them with water, and bring to a boil. Then drain and repeat this process until you've boiled and drained 5 times. This removes a lot of the bitterness. Then cover with water and a bunch of sugar. I just kind of guess at the amount of sugar, but I'd say a 3:1 or 5:2 ratio of water:sugar is probably about right. Bring this all to a boil and boil uncovered for about two hours. This gets the peels nice and soft and sweet. The liquid gets syrupy, and it makes a nice citrus-flavored simple syrup to use in cocktails.

3) Now put the peels into glass jars and cover with syrup. Store in the fridge until you're ready to use them. When that time comes, you'll want to drain the peels on cooling racks for a while to get them dry enough to roll in sugar. The time varies based on the humidity of your apartment. In Houston, I would usually leave them for 18-24 hours, but here, I've found that as little as 8 hours will work. You want them to be tacky but not wet for optimal sugar-coating. Dry them zest side up to prevent them from getting overly dry on the pith side. You can also roll them in a combination of sugar and "sour salt" (citric acid powder) for sour-sweet peels. I'm not as fond of those, but Jon and some of our friends really like them. I'd say about a 4:1 ratio of sugar:citric acid is a good starting point.

A note on limes: I have a dickens of a time getting the pith off of the lime zest, so I just skip the limes most of the time. Candied lime peel is really good, though, and I used to go to the trouble for my lime-loving friend Carolyn, but now we don't live in the same city, so I don't.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Inductive almonds and post-party brunch

Our anniversary was on Friday, and we had a little party at our apartment. We served these almonds along with a cheese plate, spiced olives, mini puff pastry spanakopita, and stuffed mushrooms. We tried some sweet and salty spiced almonds at a party recently, and these are my attempt to recreate them. I think they're pretty great, and as a bonus, they are stupidly easy, especially if you buy roasted almonds. They are called inductive almonds because after you have one, you want one more.

Inductive almonds

1 cup unsalted almonds
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt, or more to taste
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
A pinch of chipotle powder, optional

If almonds are already roasted, leave them alone. If not, cook them at 400 F for 5-10 minutes. When they have cooled slightly, transfer to a glass bowl. Add olive oil, salt, sugar, pepper, and paprika, and toss to coat. Taste test a few to make sure they're good.

The next morning, Jon brilliantly suggested that we have a party leftovers brunch. Inspired by my friend Renee, I made the table pretty and used the nice bowls (which were a wedding present). In addition to the almonds (a new batch because there were none leftover), we had cheese and crackers, pickles, olives, and a salad of romaine, cucumber, grapefruit, and avocado. I think it's a nice brunch salad. To drink, I had some Negroni punch left over from the night before, diluted with grapefruit juice and club soda. Jon boringly just had water and coffee. It's easy to have a good Saturday when you start it like this.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Spinach-parmesan bagels

We made bagels for the first time on Saturday, and they were great! I used a bagel recipe from The Bread Machine Book and added some spinach and cheese. I was a little concerned that it wasn't a good idea to make flavored bagels for my first time making bagels, but they turned out great. I reduced the liquid in the recipe a tiny bit because the spinach was wet, but that was all I did. These bagels are really light with a chewy outside. I think the classic bagel is supposed to be pretty dense, but I'm no purist-these were great! The spinach flavor really comes through, so much that Jon suggests lowering the amount of spinach next time. I don't really get much of the cheese, so I might either increase or omit it next time.
We ate the first bagel hot out of the oven with a little butter. Then for lunch I had a bagel with cream cheese and roasted red pepper strips. I think these would be good for bagel sandwiches, too. I was really pleased with how well this recipe worked, and I even have a parmesan-roasted red pepper-sunflower seed batch in the breadmaker right now. I'm just sorry it took me so long to start making bagels.

Spinach-parmesan bagels
Makes 8.

4 oz spinach, or less to taste

1 egg
Scant 1/2 cup milk
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups bread flour
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tsp yeast

1 tbsp sugar
1 egg white
2 tsp water

Wash spinach and steam with water on leaves until wilted. Cool, then wring out as much water as possible. We ended up with a scant 1/2 cup of cooked spinach.

Place egg, milk, oil, sugar, salt, flour, cheese, spinach, and yeast in bread machine. Set for "dough."

When dough is ready, remove from bread machine and punch down. Divide dough into 8 pieces. Roll pieces into balls, then pinch in middle to make a hole and roll around in your hands until it is bagel-shaped. Cover and place in a warm spot to rise for 15-30 minutes.

Bring 2 quarts of water and 1 tsp sugar to a boil. Place bagels, a few at a time, in boiling water. Boil for 1 minute, then flip over and boil the second side for 3 minutes. Drain and place on pizza stone or baking sheet. Repeat for all bagels.

Combine water and egg white and whisk a little to froth it up. Brush over bagels. Bake at 400 F for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown on top.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Chocolate chip bread pudding

My friend Katherine sent me a recipe for the pecan bread she uses for French toast. (Side note: she is vegan and uses a chickpea flour batter for French toast. It's awesome.) My bread machine didn't do a good job of distributing the pecans, so the bread was good, but not quite what I was hoping for, so it didn't get completely eaten before it started to get stale. Luckily, there's this awesome little thing called bread pudding. When the bread was all torn up, the pecan distribution didn't matter. I went with a chocolate chip bread pudding, slightly modified from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman. It was tasty and held up surprisingly well in the fridge over the course of the week we took to eat it. I think it would be really good with bananas in it too, so we'll probably add them next time.
Chocolate chip bread pudding

3 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar, or more to taste
4 tbsp butter, plus butter for the pan
Bread, enough to fill the pan (we used pecan bread), torn into bite-sized chunks
3 eggs
3 oz chocolate chips or chunks
1/3 cup chopped pecans (I estimate that this is about how many pecans were in there, so you should add it if you aren't using pecan bread)

Put the milk, sugar, salt, and butter in a small saucepan over low heat and warm until butter melts.

Meanwhile, butter an 8- or 9-inch square baking dish.

Put the bread in the baking dish and pour the milk mixture over it. Let it sit for a while, poking it now and then to submerge the top pieces of bread. Stir chocolate chips and pecans into mixture.

Bake at 350 F for 45-60 minutes, or until the pudding is set and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. (Bittman suggests using a bain-marie, but I forgot to do it, and it was fine.)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Miso butter

I got this idea from an NPR piece about miso that referred to this David Chang recipe for roasted asparagus with poached eggs and miso butter. I heard the phrase "miso butter," and thoughts of complex fatty, salty, umami deliciousness filled my head. I didn't recreate the dish perfectly, but I got the idea across, and it was pretty good. For Valentine's Day, we had beet soup, grilled cheese sandwiches, and steamed broccoli with miso butter. It was a great meal. (For those of you pooh-poohing grilled cheese for Valentine's Day, Jon makes great grilled cheese, so don't knock it until you've tried it!)
We even cleaned the table, put out some flowers (dried, not fresh, but still nice), opened a bottle of raspberry wine, and poured water from a pretty pitcher. What a fancy dinner!

Anyway, back to the miso butter. I'm not going to put a recipe up, because it depends a lot on your taste. The recipe called for a 5:8 ratio of butter to miso, which we thought had too much miso flavor. I added more butter to get the ratio probably around 1:1, but you can play around. I'm sure there is a wide range of acceptable tastes, and it varies based on whether you want it to be subtle or distinctive. To make it, just mash miso into softened butter until it's fairly well combined. To use, melt a bit for easier drizzling.

What to put it on? Obviously, we've gone with the asparagus dish and steamed broccoli. We wholeheartedly endorse its use on any green vegetable. It would probably be good on corn, mixed into mashed potatoes instead of plain butter, or thinly spread on a sandwich that was going to be grilled. We considered adding it to our V-Day grilled cheeses but didn't want miso overload. We still have a bit left, so we will be experimenting with other uses.