Uruguayan Apple Beet Salad

March 30, 2006 at 9:48 pm (C (2 stars, okay, edible), From a friend, Mexican & S. American, Salads)

My friend Adriana (who is from Uruguay) made this salad for me a few times, and I always enjoyed it, but figured it was very high calorie. But I was looking for some new ideas for beets and asked her for the recipe, and with a few modification it actually seemed like it would be reasonably healthy, so I decided to try it.

  • About 5 large cooked beets
  • 1 green apple
  • 4 boiled eggs
  • 1/2 onion
  • Salt/pepper
  • Mayonnaise
  • Fresh mint (optional)

Adriana’s instructions:  Cut the beets, apple and eggs in little cubes of about 6mm x 6mm. The onion needs to be a bit smaller. Maybe about 3mmx3mmm. Once you have the beets, apple, eggs and onion all in the bowl, you add a bit of salt and pepper (I like to add mint, but my mom’s recipe doesn’t really call for it). Finally, you add a touch of mayonnaise. You mix it all up and put it in the fridge before serving. It normally tastes better the next day.

My Notes

I didn’t have any mayonnaise, and rather than making soy mayonnaise I actually made my own egg mayonnaise in the food processor. I think it turned out okay, but what do I know about mayonnaise?I put in fewer eggs then the recipe called for, but still I liked the beet salad pretty well. Eggs and beets go surprisingly well together. Derek, however, wasn’t excited by it. He said maybe if I’d put in all the eggs and more mayonnaise… The crisp, tart apple was excellent, especially in contrast to the soft sweet beets. When I make this again I think I’d use two apples instead of one. I did have some problems with the onion, however. I liked the “kick” it gave the salad since the rest of the seasoning was pretty mild, but the onion made the salad too hot, especially the next day–that onion’s bite was a mite too big. Maybe if I blanched or soaked the onion first? Or used scallions instead?

Rating (with my modifications): B-
Derek (with my modifications): C

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Key Lime Sweet Potatoes

March 30, 2006 at 9:25 pm (B_minus (2.5 stars), Fall recipes, Other, Root vegetables, Starches, Winter recipes)

I tried this recipe from the cookbook Some Like It Hot by Robin Robertson. I’m calling it key lime sweet potatoes not because it has key limes in it (although it could) but because Derek said it tasted like key lime pie.

Rum and Lime-Laced Sweet Potatoes

  • 6 long slender sweet potatoes, peeled (about 3 pounds)
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar (I think I used a few Tbs.?)
  • 1/4 cup butter (I think I used 2 Tbs?)
  • 2 Tbs. freshly grated lime zest
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne
  • 3 Tbs. dark rum (I only had light rum)
  1. Place the sweet potatoes in a large saucepan with just enough water to cover, place over medium-high heat, and cook until just tender, about 15 minutes. (It’s important to cook the potatoes to the same softness, so if they’re not the same size take the smaller ones out sooner). Drain well and cool. Trim the ends of the sweet potatoes, peel, and cut crosswise into 1/2 inch slices.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Coat a 9×13-inch (or maybe a 15×10-inch?) baking pan with cooking spray. Arrange the potatoes in the baking dish in slightly overlapping rows. Combine the sugar, butter, lime juice, salt, and cayenne in a medium saucepan over low heat and stir until the butter melts. Increase the heat to medium and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and stir in the rum. Pour the mixture over the top of the potatoes. Bake for 10 minutes, basting a few times. Sprinkle the lime zest over the potates and continue baking until soft, about 10 minutes more.
  3. Turn the oven setting to broil and broil the potatoes until browned on top, about 2 minutes serve hot.

Serves 8 as a (large) side dish.

Original recipe yields 266 calories per serving, 3 grams fat, 5 grams fiber, and 62mg calcium. I don’t have the stats for my reduced calorie version.

Derek said it tasted like key-lime sweet potatoes and scarfed it up. I liked it too! I want to try it again, using olive oil instead of butter, and measuring the oil and salt and calculating the stats.

Rating: B

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Broiled Yard-Long Beans in Spicy Black Bean Sauce (B)

March 30, 2006 at 3:27 pm (B_minus (2.5 stars), Chinese, Sauce/dressing)

I read about Chinese long beans (or yard-long beans) in a Chinese vegetarian cookbook I checked out of the library ages ago, and decided to try them when I passed them in the Asian grocery in the Strip District. They’re not actually a whole yard long, more like 1.5 feet long. I snapped off the ends because they were a different color, but I’m not sure if I needed to. I tried cooking them using the method Cook’s Illustrated touts for cooking tough supermarket green beans, but I didn’t leave them in long enough so they were still quite crunchy. I put foil down on my cookie sheet before putting them in the oven, and then when using a spatula to remove the green beans the foil kept coming off as well. Next time I should just scoop them off with my hands into a bowl, then add the sauce.

What the long beans look like.

I also got fermented black soybeans at the Strip. I’d heard of fermented black beans before but never realized they are actually soybeans. Is it possible that miso is just pureed fermented black soybeans? I soaked the beans briefly then rinsed them off before adding them to my sauce. I based my recipe mostly on the fermented black bean sauce recipe in Cook’s Illustrated, but adjusted the amounts a bit, and added some chili paste as well:

See a picture of what the fermented black beans look like

Spicy Fermented Black Bean Sauce

2 Tbs. fermented black soybeans, rinsed
1.5? Tbs. ginger, minced
1/2? Tbs. granulated sugar
6? Tbs. sherry
4? Tbs. vegetable broth
2? Tbs. garlic, minced
2? Tbs. soy sauce
1? Tbs. sesame oil
1/2? tsp. black pepper, freshly ground
2? tsp. chili paste

Okay, I’m not certain about most of the amounts, so I’ll have to make it again and double check. What’s listed here is double the original recipe, and it made quite a bit of sauce, more than enough for one bunch of long beans.

Derek really liked the sauce: he said it tasted almost like the sauce in a Chinese restaurant, except it needed to be saltier. I, however, found it plenty salty, but also thought it tasted quite authentic. I’ll definitely be making this sauce again.

The beans seemed a little more starchy and a little less sweet than regular green beans, but that may have just been because I didn’t cook them long enough. I’ll have to try them again.

Rating: B
Derek: B+

Jan 2007: I found another black bean sauce recipe in the cookbook Savoring the Day by Judith Benn Hurley. It suggests putting it over 1 head (about 1 pound) of broccoli, steamed.

  • 1 Tbs. Chinese fermented black beans, rinced and minced
  • 1 tsp. mirin or dry sherry
  • 2 tsp. reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. miso
  • 1/3 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. arrowroot
  • 1 Tbs. water
  • 2 tsp. minced fresh chives

Combine all the ingredients except the arrowroot, water, and chives in a small saucepan over high heat and boil until reduced by half, 4 to 5 minutes. In a small bowl, combine the arrowroot, water, and chives, pour into the sauce and stir constantly until slightly thickened, about 25 seconds. Remove the sauce from the heat and toss with the broccoli. Serve warm. Makes 4 servings.

My Notes:

Okay, this was inedible. I don’t know why, but I took one bite and could not take another. I tossed it. Luckily I had only poured the sauce on one serving worth of broccoli, so I just ate the rest of the broccoli with yeast and soy sauce. Much, much, better.

Rating: F

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Caribbean Vegetable Stew from Moosewood (B-)

March 30, 2006 at 3:17 pm (C (2 stars, okay, edible), Caribbean, Cruciferous rich, Moosewood)

This was another recipe recommended by a friend from the Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home. The notes are from my friend.

2 cups chopped onion
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil (I use olive oil)
3 cups chopped cabbage (I use more like 5 cups and the recipe absorbs it)
1 fresh chile minced (fresh jalepeno for me)
1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
2 cups water
3 cups diced sweet potatoes
2 cups chopped tomato (I use the no salt added canned diced tomatoes from Contadina)
2 cups okra (fresh or frozen is fine)
3 Tbsp. lime juice
2 Tbsp. fesh cilantro

Saute the onions in the oil about 4-5 minutes. Add the cabbage and chile, saute about 8 more minutes. Add the ginger and water, cover the pan, bring to a boil. Add the sweet potatoes and salt, Simmer until potatoes are barely tender. Add tomatoes, okra, and lime juice. Simmer about 15 minutes more. Add cilantro and remove the pan from the heat.

Yields 4 serving (1 cup each). I serve this with brown basmati rice.

My Notes I thought the recipe was quite bland. I added a number of spices (cumin, allspice, garlic, etc.) to perk the flavors up. Then it wasn’t bad, but mostly just because I like those vegetables. However, I found the cabbage a little soggy. Derek, on the other hand, liked this dish a lot. He ate it happily for dinner, and with relish for lunch the next day, his appreciation for the dish clearly overriding his dislike of leftovers. Why do we never like the same things???

I made this again, for Derek, and he would barely touch it.  I added spices again, so that wasn’t it. Urgh.  I knew it wasn’t our cup of tea.  Why did he like it so much the first time? 

Rating: B-Derek: B+

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Chickpea and Artichoke Heart Stew (C)

March 30, 2006 at 5:04 am (F (0 stars, inedible), Moosewood)

Two friends recommended this recipe from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home, and Derek loves chickpeas, and I never cooked with artichoke hearts before, so decided to give it a try:

Chick Pea and Artichoke Heart Stew

4 cups water or vegetable stock (I used stock)
2 medium onions, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. sweet paprika
4 medium red or white potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (about 4 cups)
1 sprig fresh rosemary (1 tsp. ground dried) [I use fresh]
5 leaves fresh sage, minced (1/2 tsp. dried) [I use fresh]
1/2 cup pureed winter squash [I used 1/2 to 3/4 cup pumpkin puree]
3 cups drained cooked chick peas (two 15-oz. cans)
1 1/2 cups drained artichoke hearts (one 14 oz. can) [I used more]
salt and ground black pepper to taste

lemon wedges (optional)
grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese (optional)

In a saucepan, bring the water or vegetable stock to a simmer. While the water heats, saute the onions and garlic in the oil for about 8 minutes, until soft. Stir the turmeric and paprika into hte onions and saute for a minute. Add the potatoes, rosemary, sage, and the simmering water or stock. Cook about 12 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Stir the pureed squash or sweet potatoes, and add the drained chick peas and artichoke hearts. Remove the rosemary sprig, add salt and pepper to taste, and return to a simmer.

Serve with lemon wedges and top with grated Pecorino or Parmesan, if you wish.

[My Friend’s Note: I always use the lemon, but rather than serving with wedges, I add the juice of 1/2 to 3/4 lemon to the stew, but only after I remove it from the heat. Heating alters the flavor of the lemon juice].

Per 8 oz. calorie serving: 157 calories, 4.6 g protein, 3 g fat, 29.2 g carbohydrate, 171 mg sodium, 0 mg cholesterol.

So this made a lot of bright yellow stew! Derek liked it a lot, but I found it somewhat… odd. With half a lemon and the (partially marinated) artichoke hearts it was quite acidic, and all the turmeric added that slightly metallic flavor that turmeric has. I also found the texture of the artichoke hearts a bit offputting. I did break them up with a spoon, but still… It seemed strange that they suggesting topping with parmesan. Yogurt seemed a better match, but the parmesan actually added a nice something. I also sprinkled on some turkish seasoning from Penzey’s, which I thought helped balance the flavors out a bit more, bringing out some of the brighter flavors, toning down the acidity from the lemon juice, and masking the metallicness of the turmeric, and adding a somewhat earthier dimension as well. But part of this was probably the extra salt (salt is the first ingredient in that spice blend). If I was going to do make the recipe again I’d add the salt at the beginning not the end so that the potatoes get seasoned. I’d also add a green vegetable to break up the intense yellow.

Rating: C Derek: B+

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Portobello Pizzas

March 29, 2006 at 8:39 pm (B_minus (2.5 stars), My brain, Quick weeknight recipe, Vegetable dishes)

Looking for a new way to cook portobello mushrooms, I came across recipes for portobello pizzas. I love pizza, and so instantly jumped at the chance to try this lighter version.

Portobellos are 80 to 90 percent water, so they can become quite soggy, especially when topped with tomato sauce.  Cook’s Illustrated says that salting portobellos makes them slimy.  Apparently, mushroom exteriors are covered with a layer of hydrophobic (water-repellent) proteins that prevents water from going in—and keeps moisture from going out. Instead of salting the mushrooms, they recommend cutting slits in the caps before roasting them, to allow water to drip out and evaporate.  They also recommend preheating the baking sheet, to mimic the effects of a hot skillet and produce a carmelized exterior and deeper flavor.

Three favorite pizzas:

1 portobello mushroom cap
2 Tbs. pizza sauce (I used muir glen brand)
1/2 ounce cheese (I used a great, meltable sheep’s milk cheese)
3 kalamata olives
1 Tbs. red onion, chopped

1 portobello mushroom cap
1/4 granny smith apple, thinly sliced
1 tsp. fresh sage, minced
1/2 ounce cheese (I used fontinella)

1 portobello mushroom cap
1 Tbs. pesto
1/2 ounce feta cheese
1 Tbs. red onion, chopped
zest of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp. lemon juice (sprinkle on top after mushroom comes out of the oven)

Adjust oven rack to upper position.  If the rack is still more than a few inches from the top of the oven, place an ovenproof skillet on the rack (I used my cast iron skillet).  Place a rimmed baking sheet on the rack (or the skillet), and heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Clean mushrooms, and remove the stem. Using a sharp knife, cut 1/4-inch slits, spaced 1/2 inch apart, in crosshatch pattern on the surface of the mushroom (non-gill side).  If you like, you can brush the caps with oil and sprinkle with a little salt, and pre-roast them for about 10 minutes on each side. It will lead to a more concentrated flavor and carmelized texture, but it’s not essential.  Top the mushrooms and bake for about 10 minutes, until the mushroom is soft and the cheese flecked with brown spots.

My Notes:

This is definitely a keeper for when I get that pizza craving. And lower calorie than using a tortilla or pita. Derek didn’t think the mushroom added much, but I liked the moist but firm texture, and thought it made a lovely base for the toppings. Next time I’m going to try Cook’s Illustrated’s suggestions, and I bet it will be less soggy and Derek will like it better. I bet kids would love it as well.

My pesto pizza turned out terribly, but maybe my pesto just wasn’t good. It was from the freezer and not the best pesto.  My other two pizzas were excellent I thought.

I didn’t remove the gills because I’m lazy, but maybe this would provide more room for the toppings? It was kind of hard to get the apples to stay on.

I think using 1/2 ounce to 1 ounce of cheese per mushroom is best, depending on the size of the mushroom. You can chop the stem up and use it as a topping if you like, or put it in the freezer and save for vegetable broth.

Note from second try– make sure the mushrooms get cooked enough!

Rating: B
Derek: C

Update Oct 2011:  I made portobello pizzas again but this time I forgot to cut slits in the gils.  Instead I rubbed a bit of oil into each portobello top (non-gill side), and roasted them at 400 F in the oven for about 30 minutes, until they were getting dried out.  Only then did I add the tomato sauce, cheese, and toppings.  I think they turned out better.  They weren’t watery at all.  They were still pretty hard to cut though!  Derek even liked them this time.

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Japanese Country Power Breakfast (Miso Soup)

March 29, 2006 at 6:17 am (breakfast, B_minus (2.5 stars), Cruciferous rich, Japanese, Miso, Quick weeknight recipe, soup, Tofu, Vegetable dishes)

The book “Japanese Women Don’t Get Old–Or Fat Either” recommends eating miso soup for breakfast, or what the author calls “Japanese Country Power Breakfast.” I don’t really follow her recipe but I love the idea. It’s very filling, tasty, and low-calorie. It’s also a great way to use up small amounts of leftover vegetables. I try to eat this “power breakfast” at least once a week for breakfast.

What I put in my miso soup (some subset depending on what I have):

  • Group 1. root vegetables or winter squash, whatever I have on hand: carrots, yams/sweet potatoes, winter squash, parsnips, rutabaga, turnips, potato. This is actually a great way to use up something like turnips that I don’t generally like that much. They’re pretty good in miso soup, though. Parsnips are quite sweet, which is a bit odd in the soup, but not unpleasant.
  • Group 2. mushrooms, zucchini, summer squash or other soft vegetables
  • Group 3. cabbage, shredded, or leafy greens sliced finely
  • Group 4. diced scallions and/or bean sprouts
  • Tofu, diced into squares
  • Brown rice, pre-cooked or other leftover whole grains, about 2 Tablespoons per person
  • Fried (free-range) egg, seasoned with salt and pepper, cut into strands (about 1/2 – 1 egg per person)
  • Miso. I prefer red miso. (some info on miso varieties)


  1. If you’re adding an egg, beat it in a bowl with a little bit of salt and pepper. Heat a small skillet (I use my 7 1/2 inch All Clad Stainless fry pan) over high heat, spray with oil, and add the egg. Lift the corners and tilt the pan to let the uncooked bits get cooked. When it’s cooked remove it from the heat. It’s okay to leave it in the pan though.,
  2. Put some water on to boil. For one person use a 2 quart pot and 3 cups of water? Maybe a little less?
  3. Prepare your vegetables from group 1. Peel or seed if needed and dice finely. Add them to the water before anything else to start to soften. When the water comes to a boil turn it down so it’s only boiling lightly. Cook for about 3? minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare any vegetables from group 2. Add them to the boiling water. Cook for about 2? minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare any vegetables from group 3, and dice your tofu and get out your brown rice. Add them to the boiling water, and cook for about 2? minutes.
  6. Off the heat, but it’s okay to leave the pan on the burner, even if you have an electric stove. Add your miso. I think for 3 cups of water you need about 1.5 Tbs. of miso (I need to check this). I’m usually lazy, and just mix the miso directly into the soup. Stir it well because if you don’t you could get a lump of miso, which is incredibly salty and so pretty unpleasant. Alternatively, use a small sieve, and push the miso through the sieve into the soup, to avoid any lumps.
  7. Add scallions or bean sprouts and your fried egg if desired. I like to cut my fried egg into strands using scissors.

My Notes:

I’d recommend not trying to put too many different ingredients in your miso soup. I’d choose probably three different vegetables only.

You’ll need an extra-large soup bowl for this breakfast. A little cereal bowl just won’t cut it. This breakfast is extremely healthy but high in sodium from the miso, so go light on sodium for the rest of the day.

I finished my miso and bought a new container and it tasted so good, much better than before. It could be I was just hungrier, but I was wondering if miso loses flavor with age? How long does miso last in the fridge? Anyone know?

The author of the above book makes her miso soup with dashi (a broth made from kombu and fish flakes) but I don’t eat fish and it’s easier to just use water, plus I’m not a big fan of the fishy flavor. Maybe that’s why I liked today’s soup better–no kombu?

I just noticed I don’t have broccoli or cauliflower on my list. Have I never put them in miso soup?

Clearly this recipe needs work, as I don’t have amounts for the vegetables and even the amounts I do have are total guesses. I’ll try to pay more attention next time I make it.

Rating: B
Derek: B (much to his surprise, he was quite skeptical when I said I was making miso soup for breakfast)

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White Wine and Garlic French-Style Vegetable Medley (B+)

March 29, 2006 at 5:04 am (B plus (3.5 stars, like a lot), Dark leafy greens, French, Spring recipes)

At Kaya last weekend we had a “mixed mushroom saute” appetizer that was actually more potato than mushrooms, but extremely satisfying. It had fingerling potatoes, a few different types of mushrooms, little bits of chard, some garlic I think, and lots of white wine, olive oil, and salt. I tried to copy it at home last night, and it came out quite well. Even Derek liked it quite a bit, but he thought it was a little one dimensional, overly wine-y maybe. He thought Kaya’s dish had some other “rounding” flavor that I was missing. Perhaps it was butter?

I didn’t measure but here are the ingredients I used, as I remember them:

White Wine and Garlic French-Style Vegetable Medley

about 4-6 small Yukon gold potatoes, halved then sliced thinly [Kaya used fingerlings]
1 large shiitake mushroom [Kaya used different wild mushrooms]
about 10 large button mushrooms, sliced
1/3 of a large burdock root, cut very thinly along the bias [my own addition]
1/2 bunch of red chard (stems removed) [I used more than Kaya did]
5 medium-large cloves of garlic
olive oil
white wine
black pepper
aleppo pepper [my addition, I don’t think the Kaya dish was spicy]
garlic powder
onion powder

I thought the burdock root added a great flavor, but I should have added it before the potatoes as it wasn’t quite cooked enough. Derek picked out his burdock, but I wasn’t sure if it was because of the texture only, or the flavor too. Burdock and white wine… a wonderful combination. The earthy burdock is complemented by the sweet acidic wine so well.

The fresh shiitake was very nice. I should have used more except I was worried that Derek wouldn’t like them, since he’s picky about the texture of shiitake mushrooms. The shiitake wasn’t chewy, however, but quite tender. The button mushrooms were okay, but probably should have been quartered instead of sliced.

Rating: B+
Derek: B

With new potatoes, spring mushrooms like morels or porcinis, and early delicate chard or beet greens, this makes a lovely recipe for late spring.

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Ginger Snaps

March 28, 2006 at 10:32 am (A (4 stars, love, favorite), Alice Medrich, Cookies, Derek's faves, Dessert)

Last night I made gingersnaps from Alice Medrich’s cookbook Cookie and Brownies. Derek said they were the best cookies he ever had. Though I enjoyed them, I suspected hyperbole, and when challenged he said they were at least the best cookies I ever made. A compliment? An insult? I’m not sure. Read the rest of this entry »

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