Pumpkin Smoothie

April 30, 2006 at 10:07 am (breakfast, B_minus (2 stars, okay), My brain, Quick weeknight recipe, Soymilk)

I really enjoy this pumpkin smoothie, made with soymilk:

1/2 cup pumpkin puree
3/4 cup “milk” of some sort, I use unsweetened soymilk
1 Tbs. blackstrap molasses (1/2 Tbs. if you want it less ironific)
3/4 tsp. pumpkin pie seasoning (1/2 tsp. if you want it less “spicy”)
sweetener (if “milk” isn’t already sweetened; I use 4 drops stevia)

On my allergy-free month I tried it with oat milk instead of my normal unsweetened soymilk. It didn’t come out very well. It was just too sweet and not rich/thick enough. I wonder if an unsweetened, homemade nut milk would work better than the sweetened oak milk I used, which was incredibly thin, almost just like sweet water. I remember having a thicker oat milk before, but don’t remember what brand it was. Anyone have a recommendation?

Update May 5, 2006: I tried making almond milk this morning for my smoothie. I soaked 1 ounce almonds overnight, then threw them and the soaking water in the blender for a while, then added my pumpkin, molasses, spices and more water for the smoothie. The texture came out surprisingly smooth, not very gritty at all. The pumpkin smoothie is better than when I tried it with oat milk, but it still doesn’t taste right though~the flavors are kind of muddy rather than bright and pumpkin-y. Maybe a soy-less, dairy-less pumpkin smoothie is just impossible?

I tried another version with 1/4 cup full fat coconut milk + 1/2 cup water. It had a nice texture but the flavor was still off.

Rating: B for regular verision, C for modified versions

Today I tried some extra pumpkin puree mixed with vanilla nonfat yogurt. Blech. Disgusting. I added some pumpkin pie spice and molasses. Still pretty nasty. Drinkable, but not pleasant.

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Tofu-less Chili

April 30, 2006 at 6:59 am (Beans, F (0 stars, dislike), Mexican & S. American, My brain)

I’ve had a craving for my mom’s chili recently, so decided to just try and make it allergy-free without the tofu or corn or peanut butter. Her recipe is somewhat inexact, but this is what I did:

2 cups pinto beans, dry (I used about a 1/3 black beans since I didn’t have enough pintos)
2 cups onions, chopped (about 1 large onion)
1.5 Tbs. olive oil
1 green bell pepper (I used 1/2 cup frozen)
1 jalepeno
1 Tbs. garlic
3 Tbs. chile powder
1 Tbs. cumin, ground
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 cup tomato puree
1 can whole tomatoes with juice
1.5 tsp. salt
water

It was a bit too salty, and maybe even too thin and tomato flavored. I was definitely missing the tofu. Clearly, if I leave the tofu and corn out and peanut butter out I have to replace them with something else for substance. Or at the very least increase the amount of beans. Maybe I should add some cooked grain? I saw a chili recipe recently where they added cooked kasha.

On my second bowl I added some red rice and it helped the texture. It’s still a bit powdery tasting though.

Rating: C

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Burdock carrot slaw (B)

April 29, 2006 at 7:26 pm (B_minus (2 stars, okay), East and SE Asia, From a friend, Quick weeknight recipe, Vegetable dishes)

This recipe is originally from the Harmony Valley Farms CSA in Viroqua, Wisconsin. The friend who gave it to me said you have to let it sit for at least four hours for the flavors to blend and so the acid “cooks” the burdock. She said letting it sit a whole day ahead is even better.

The Vegetables:
1 cup burdock, scrubbed well, julienned
1/2 cup peeled carrot, julienned
2 Tbs. green onion or shallot, minced
1 tsp. sesame seeds, lightly toasted

The Marinade:
4 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp rice vinegar
2 Tbs honey

Sprinkle seeds over chopped veggies and toss with marinade. Chill 4 hours . Serves 4 – 6.

My notes: I used ume vinegar rather than soy sauce since I’m not eating soy right now, but otherwise followed the recipe, except I missed the part about letting it sit for at least 4 hours. Oops! And I ate the whole recipe (4-6 servings? I thought more like 2 servings. I guess it depends on how you measure a cup of burdock. I think a weight measurement might be useful in this case.) Anyhow, this was the first time I’d made a recipe with raw burdock, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was quite crunchy but not at all tough, and I loved the flavor of the raw burdock and carrot together. I liked the dressing as well but found it too sweet. I think one Tbs. honey would have been plenty. But maybe with soy sauce it would have been more balanced.

Rating: B

Update Sept 2007: Today I put in 9 ounces of burdock (about 4 cups julienned), 7 ounces of carrots (about 2 cups grated), 10 Tbs. green onion (about 3 large), 4 tsp. sesame seeds, 3 Tbs. soy sauce, 3 Tbs. sesame oil, 4 tsp. rice vinegar, and 1 Tbs. honey.

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Black-eyed Pea Masala (B-)

April 28, 2006 at 4:34 pm (C (1 star, edible), Indian, Website / blog)

Trying to use up some black-eyed peas, I came across this recipe for black-eyed pea masala:

http://www.recipezaar.com/116878

The flavor was very good, but the texture was quite unappealing. But perhaps my peas were just too old and it was my own fault, and nothing to do with the recipe.

Rating: B-

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Quinoa Lentil Soup

April 28, 2006 at 3:16 pm (Beans, Beans and greens, C (1 star, edible), Dark leafy greens, Grains, Other, soup)

A friend recommended this lentil soup recipe. It’s from the Fiber for Life cookbook by Bryanna Clark Grogan.

2 tbs olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
2 carrots, chopped (optional)
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups light vegetable broth
1.5 cups dried brown lentils
28 oz canned diced tomatoes
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp each: dried basil and thyme
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup quinoa rinsed and drained
1-2 vegetarian bullion cubes (optional)
1 cup chopped cooked greens
toasted sesame oil and parmesan cheese for garnish (optional)

In large soup pot heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add onions and saute until they begin to soften. Add: carrots, celery, garlic, and saute a few more minutes. Add: broth, lentils, tomatoes, wine, and herbs. Bring to a boil, reduce, and simmer covered for 1.5 hours. Taste for salt and pepper, add buillon cubes for flavor if necessary. Add the quinoa and greens and cook 15 more minutes. Garnish wil sesame oil and soy Parmesan, if you like.

The book says 8 servings, but my friend said it made 12 one cup servings:

My notes:

I really liked the combination of quinoa and lentils, but didn’t really care for it as soup. Plus I found the recipe bland; I had to add chili powder, garlic, and cumin to perk it up. I did, however, mistakenly buy whole red lentils instead of brown, if that might have made a difference. (Did you know that whole red lentils are actually brown on the outside, and if they’re not split open it’s hard to tell the difference?) Anyhow, I’m going to try creating a different recipe with lentils and quinoa, but will probably stick to my mom’s lentil soup instead of this one.

Rating: B-

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Whole Grains for Breakfast

April 28, 2006 at 3:14 pm (breakfast, B_minus (2 stars, okay), Grains, My brain, Quick weeknight recipe, Rebecca Wood, Soymilk)

Below I’ve listed two different ways I like to eat whole grains for breakfast.

Quinoa Barley Crockpot Breakfast Porridge

This recipe is from Rebecca Wood’s cookbook Quinoa, the Supergrain. The barley turns ooey gooey but the quinoa stays light and fluffy, which makes a lovely textural contrast. I pour a bit of soymilk on top and sprinkle on a bit of (fresh or dried) fruit and pecans. I often want hot cereal, but I get tired of oatmeal. I haven’t liked the 7-grain stuff I get at my local coop, but this hits the spot.


Instructions

Place in a crockpot:

1/2 cup barley (I used hulled but not pearled)
1/2 cup quinoa
pinch of salt
4 cups of water

Set to “warm” and leave it overnight.

My notes

Seven hours later it was a bit burnt around the edges, but the middle was fine. If anyone knows any way to keep it from burning around the edges, let me know.

Update May 9, 2006: I tried a variant this morning, except I used 1 cup soaked steel cut oats, 1/2 cup hulled barley, and 1/2 cup quinoa. I also threw in 1/2 tsp. cardamom and a pinch of salt, and 5 cups of water. I left it on warm overnight. It made 6 cups cereal total, and it didn’t burn around the edges this time. The oats and barley, however, totally turned to goo, and I didn’t notice the nice contrast with the fluffy quinoa like I did last time. Also, I don’t know if it was the addition of the cardamom or the oats, but the flavor was much worse–they seemed muddier than the original barley/quinoa combo. I ate 1 cup with a fig and 1/2 ounce pecans, and it was edible but not particularly appealing. I read somewhere that to keep the oats from turning to goo in the crockpot it helps to start with ice water.

Update May 25th: I made the original recipe again, first spraying the crockpot with oil. I also woke up quite early randomly and so turned it off. It didn’t burn around the edges! And it’s a much more mild, less muddy flavor than when I tried it with oats and cardamom. It’s simple but light tasting and pleasant. There is a definite quinoa flavor that might take getting used to for some people, but I enjoy it. It made about 4.5 cups. I like to eat a serving as 3/4 cup, which is about 100 calories, that way I can add in another 100 calories worth of fruit and maybe 50 of a fat, and I have a filling, balanced, low calorie breakfast.

Update Oct 18th: I was too lazy to reheat my leftover porridge, so I just ate it cold. On 3/4 cup of porridge I poured 3 ounces of slightly sweet soymilk and 1 tsp. of maple syrup and mixed it up well. I really enjoyed it this way. It only has 6 grams of sugar but it tastes very sweet. It was a bit low on fat though. I should probably have added a Tbs. of nuts.

Oct 19th: I used 2/3 tsp. maple syrup and it was sweet enough. If I had unsweetened soymilk I think I would use 1-1.5 tsp of maple syrup.

Nov 2006: I ate a small serving with half a serving of cold cereal on top. Excellent combo!

Rating: B

Nutrition Facts

for Barley Quinoa Porridge (3/4 cup serving)

Serving Size: 1 serving

Amount Per Serving
Calories 95
Total Fat 1g
Saturated Fat 0.1g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 4mg
Carbohydrate 18.9g
Dietary Fiber 3.4g
Sugars 0.1g
Protein 3.4g
Vitamin A 0% Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 1% Iron 8%

Wheat berries for breakfast
I finally found a way I really like to eat wheat berries~cold, for breakfast, with regular cold breakfast cereal.

I made a stuffing with wheat berries, kamut, and a rice blend that includes short grain brown rice, wild rice, and purple rice. I toasted the wheat and kamut, then soaked them overnight, then added the rice blend and cooked them all together for about an hour (I think).

I had some of the plain grain mixture leftover so I’ve been eating it for breakfast cold. I use 1/3 cup of the grain mixture, and 1/2 my normal amount of a cold cereal. I add 1 Tbs. ground flax seeds and 3 ounces unsweetened soymilk. It’s delish! The chewy grains, and the way the wheat berries have that little “pop” when you bite into them, really adds something to the crunch of normal breakfast cereal. Plus, it is way more filling and satisfying than eating a normal bowl of cereal. When I eat a normal bowl of cereal I immediately want another (a mental thing), plus (even with a high protein/high fat cereal) I’m usually hungry pretty quickly (a physical thing). With the wheat berry mixture I’m very satisfied with just the one bowl (maybe it’s the extra chewing, or that it seems bulkier? who knows), and it holds me for much longer.

Finally, the stats are just what I aim for for breakfast. Depending on the cereal, the stats are about:
250-300 calories
25-30% fat (very little saturated)
15-20% protein
60-50% carbs
10.5g fiber

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Southwestern Quinoa Salad (B)

April 28, 2006 at 3:09 pm (Beans, B_minus (2 stars, okay), From a friend, Grains, Quick weeknight recipe)

A friend gave me this recipe which is very loosely adapted from a rice salad in the Joy of Cooking. It’s similar to the quinoa salad recipe in Berley’s cookbook, but a bit simpler. Once I tasted it I knew instantly that Derek would love it. It’s nutty and very cumin-y. Indeed, he loves it.

Southwestern Quinoa Salad

1 cup quinoa
1.5 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
1 15-oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup pine nuts (I often use pepitas)
1/2 cup chopped sundried tomatoes (I use dry not oil packed)
1 red pepper, chopped
1/4 cup chopped parsley or cilantro
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon cumin
dried red pepper flakes to taste

Combine the quinoa, salt and water in a pot. Bring it to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and cover. Simmer 15 minutes or until tender. Remove from heat as soon as it’s done–don’t let it sit covered on a still-warm burner like you would with brown rice.

While the quinoa is cooking, toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan. Chop and measure all the other ingredients into a big serving or mixing bowl, and then mix the warm quinoa into all the other ingredients. Be careful not to overcook the quinoa though!

My friend’s notes:

-Quinoa varies. Some needs to be rinsed first, to remove the natural bitter coating. Some doesn’t. The good news is, if you don’t rinse and it comes out bitter, you can just rinse the cooked grains and they’ll be fine.

-We actually cook quinoa in our rice cooker, and it comes out great. Same water-to-quinoa ratio.

-I like this best after I let it sit for a while, to let the flavors blend, but you can serve it right away. It also makes excellent leftovers, and I often take it for lunch and eat it cold.

-I tend to like strong flavors. If you want a milder dish, soak the chopped onion in a mixture of salt, water, and vinegar (about as salty as tears, and about 1/4 vinegar by volume). After a 20-minute soak, rinse them well, and they’ll be much milder. You can also saute the garlic instead of using it raw, and skip the red pepper flakes.

-This is very festive and pretty, so it makes a good veggie holiday dish.

My notes:

The Tablespoon of cumin sounds like a lot but it’s correct. It’s not too cumin-y, don’t worry. I found the onions tasty when I ate it right away, but by the next day they were way too strong for me.

The water to quinoa measurement seems a bit low, but it works well. The quinoa comes out a bit more chewy and al dente than normal, which is great for this salad. No need to toast the quinoa beforehand.

I like to replace the pine nuts with pepitas (toasted pumpkin seeds), which are also delicious, but cheaper, and are a great source of iron.

I gave this recipe to my mom and she was hesitant because she said it had “weird ingredients”, but once she made it she liked the flavor as well, although it doesn’t sound like she’d make it again.

Derek likes this recipe a lot, but only hot or warm. He does not like it room temperature or cold.

Update Dec 2006: I made this using Israeli couscous instead of quinoa. I couldn’t find the ratio of water/couscous anywhere, so I just boiled it like pasta until al dente. It turns out that one cup of Israeli couscous makes more than one cup of quinoa. Again, though, I could not find the yield for Israeli couscous anywhere on the web. If you know please post a comment and enlighten me. The salad was fine with the couscous, but I prefer the quinoa version.

Rating: B

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Chocolate Souffles

April 28, 2006 at 3:02 pm (Alice Medrich, Dessert, F (0 stars, dislike), Necessarily nonvegan, Other)

I love decadent chocolate desserts, so was very interested in trying this lower calorie version of chocolate souffles from Alice Medrich’s cookbook Chocolate and the Art of Low-Fat Desserts. Medrich says these souffles are dark and very rich in chocolate flavor, not at all light or ethereal. She also says they’re a good dessert when you need to make it ahead of time. Read the rest of this entry »

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Frozen Mint Hot Chocolate

April 28, 2006 at 2:59 pm (Alice Medrich, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Dessert, Ice cream & toppings, Quick weeknight recipe)

I love mint hot chocolate, but who wants to drink a hot beverage in the heat of the summer? That’s why this recipe from Alice Medrich’s cookbook “Chocolate and the Art of Low-Fat Desserts” is so nice. It makes a thick slushy chocolate-y rich-tasting dessert, without much work or too many calories. Medrich suggests a number of variations: malt, mocha, orange, lemon, and mint.  Being a chocolate mint freak I naturally chose the mint option.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Millet, Quinoa, and Burdock Pilaf (B)

April 28, 2006 at 1:35 pm (B_minus (2 stars, okay), Grains, Rebecca Wood)

This recipe is from Rebecca Wood’s cookbook The Splendid Grain. It doesn’t have the best nutritional stats in the world, but the stats certainly aren’t bad. I really enjoyed the dish when I first made it. I actually had a very hard time stopping with one serving. The instructions look a bit long but if you’re in the kitchen anyway this doesn’t actually take that much time or attention.

The wine adds sweetness, the millet provides a bit of a rough texture while the quinoa is softer, the sunflower seeds add a nutty flavor, and the burdock provides great depth of flavor. However, it was better eaten immediately. The flavors started to fade a bit over the next couple days.

1 plump burdock root, about 10 inches long (I used 2 cups chopped)
1.5 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 cup chopped shallots or onions
1 tsp. kosher salt (less if table salt)
fresh ground black pepper
2 cups unsalted vegetable or chicken stock (I used homemade vegetable broth)
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup millet, toasted
1/2 cup quinoa
1/4 cup sunflower seeds, toasted
2 Tbs. minced fresh tarragon

Heat the oil in a large saucepan (I used a 4qt pan) over medium heat. Meanwhile, wash and trim but do not peel the burdock and slice it into thin rounds. When the oil is hot, add the burdock and saute for 5 minutes or until it softens. Meanwhile, chop the shallots. Add the shallot and saute for about 5 more minutes, or until it is translucent. Meanwhile, toast the millet. Add the salt, pepper, stock, and wine and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, toast the sunflower seeds. Add the millet. Lower the heat, and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Add the quinoa. Simmer, covered, for 15 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed. Let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Add the sunflower seeds and tarragon and gently and gently mix, fluffing rather than compressing the grains. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Serves 4. I ate 1.5 servings and a green vegetable for a very satisfying meal.

Note: I found the tarragon flavor interesting, but not necessary to the dish. I would have liked it without it as well.

Amount Per Serving
Calories 225
Total Fat 6.6g
Saturated Fat 0.8g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 297mg
Carbohydrate 32.1g
Dietary Fiber 3.7g
Sugars 1g
Protein 5.4g
Vitamin A 0% Vitamin C 2%
Calcium 3% Iron 13%

Rating: B

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Locro (South American Soup)

April 28, 2006 at 1:24 pm (A (4 stars, love), Beans, Beans and greens, Cruciferous rich, Dark leafy greens, Fall recipes, Mexican & S. American, Rebecca Wood, soup, Winter recipes) ()

This is a recipe from the cookbook The Splendid Grain by Rebecca Wood. She describes Locro as a substantial South American soup-stew, traditionally eaten by “plucking small rounds of corn from the soup with the fingers.” She says Locro is a meal in one that always contains a grain and sometimes meat or fish. The combination of ingredients may seem a bit strange, but she claims that beans similar to anasazi beans as well as many varieties of seaweed are sold at Indian markets in Bolivia. The ingredient list is long but the soup is so complex-tasting and satisfying that it’s worth the effort. Wood says to make this soup only in corn season, and it is better with fresh corn, but I’ve also used frozen corn and enjoyed it nonetheless.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup anasazi beans
  • 1/3 cup whole or pearl barley
  • 1 stick (3 inches) kombu
  • 8 cups veg. or chicken stock
  • 1 Tbs. sesame oil or extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp. anise seeds
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small leek, sliced
  • 6 shiitake mushrooms, sliced very thickly [original recipe called for 2 shiitakes, chopped]
  • 1/2 cup peeled, diced celery root
  • 1 ear fresh corn, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 new mexican chili, roasted, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 2 cups chopped collards or kale
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Instructions:

  1. Soak the beans.
  2. Put the barley in a saucepan over med-high heat and cook for about 5 minutes, or until grains begin to pop and turn a shade darker. Combine the barley, soaked beans, kombu and stock in a soup pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered for 1 hour.
  3. Warm the oil in a large saute pan over med. heat. Add the anise seeds and cook for 1 minutes, or until they become aromatic. Add the garlic, leek, mushrooms, celery root, and corn. Lightly saute each one before adding the next. Saute until vegetables just begin to soften, about 4 minutes. Scrape the vegetables until the soup, add the chili, and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the beans are soft. Remove and discard the kombu or chop it into bite-size pieces and return it to the pot. Add the collards and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook ten minutes more.
  4. Ladle into bowls and serve hot, garnished with cilantro.

My notes:

I used roman beans since I couldn’t find anasazi, and frozen corn rather than fresh. My favorite part of the soup were the mushrooms (I never would have thought to put shiitake’s in a south americna soup) and the celery root. The celery root got so incredibly sweet and delicious, next time I’ll increase the amount.

I made this a second time, with a few substitutions and changes. I used a whole Tbs. of anise seeds, which still wasn’t too much. The soup had a great anise flavor, but could possibly have used even a bit more. I love anise, and have almost no savory recipes that call for it (hint, hint, anyone have one to share?) I also added more shiitakes, used rutabaga instead of celery root, pinto beans instead of anasazi–and more of them, shallots instead of leek, and vegetable broth instead of water. The soup tasted very similiar. All the substitutions worked fine, except I didn’t think that pinto beans are the right bean for this soup. If I can’t find anasazi maybe next time I’ll try small red beans. Or navy beans maybe?

Note, this soup doesn’t freeze terribly well, mostly because of the barley which ends up with a mushy texture. I’m not saying you can’t freeze it, but the texture is definitely degraded.

Update May 2010:  I made this again using anasazi beans.  They’re definitely the right bean for the soup. I doubled the number of shiitake mushrooms, but still they didn’t have much textural presence in the final soup.  Next time I’ll chop them into much bigger pieces.  I didn’t have collards or kale, so I threw in some fresh spinach at the very end.  It was okay but not really the right flavor for the soup.  Plus (since I hadn’t cut it up) it was a bit stringy.  By the time the beans were cooked through the soup was quite thick and not very brothy.  I had to add more water and still it wasn’t as brothy as I would have liked it.

Also, I made a stupid mistake.  I cut up the white part of the leek for the soup.  To add flavor to my vegetable broth, I decided to throw in the rest of the pale to medium green part of the leek in with the beans to cook.  I didn’t chop it up, just scored it, washed it and threw it in whole.  I figured I’d fish it out when the beans were cooked but before adding the veggies.  I hadn’t pre-soaked my beans, and by the time the beans were cooked the leek had totally disintegrated into nasty, stringy bits of goo.  Gross.

Update Oct 1 2017: I made this for dinner last night using 1.5 cups pre-cooked aduki beans. Even though I didn’t have any roasted chilies or greens or cilantro, and I didn’t leave the pieces of kombu in the soup, it came out really tasty! I used 4 shiitakes and Derek said I should have used even more.

Amazingly, Alma, who is normally quite anti-soup, also liked the soup, although she made me pick out all the leeks out (too stringy), and she had me cut the shiitakes up into toddler bite-sized pieces.

We ate this along with the potato chard terrine, and I liked the combination a lot. We ate the soup for dinner and then lunch the next day, and it was enough for two adults and a toddler + one bowl of soup was leftover. I’d prefer to get three meals out of it though, so next time I’d make more. Make 1.5 times the recipe.

Serving Size: 1 serving (out of 6 total)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 168
Total Fat 2.9g
Saturated Fat 0.4g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 259mg
Carbohydrate 31.3g
Dietary Fiber 6.8g
Sugars 2.6g
Protein 6.8g
Vitamin A 25%
Vitamin C 55%
Calcium 8%
Iron 15%

Rating: B+

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Roasted winter squash

April 28, 2006 at 12:35 pm (A (4 stars, love), Cook's Illustrated, My brain, Quick weeknight recipe, Vegetable dishes) ()

Roasted Butternut Squash Crescents

This turns out very decadent, melt-in-your mouth squash. It’s from an Ottolenghi-inspired Cook’s Illustrated recipe that has various toppings added after baking the squash, like tahini and feta, yogurt and sesame seeds, radicchio and parmesan, or hazelnuts. We usually just eat it plain without any additional toppings.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large (2 1/2- to 3-pound) butternut squash [Mine was 2.2 pounds of edible squash, which fit on my baking sheet fine]
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (original recipe called for 3 Tbs.)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. black pepper

Instructions:

1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 425 F degrees. Using sharp vegetable peeler or chef’s knife, remove skin and fibrous threads from squash just below skin (peel until squash is completely orange with no white flesh remaining, roughly 1/8 inch deep). Halve squash lengthwise and scrape out seeds. Place squash, cut side down, on cutting board and slice crosswise 1/2 inch thick. It’s fine if the squash neck half-moon pieces are much thicker than the crescents from the seed belly. Don’t cut the thicker pieces in half.

2. Toss squash with melted butter, salt, and pepper until evenly coated. Arrange squash on rimmed baking sheet in single layer. Roast squash until side touching sheet toward back of oven is well browned, 25 to 30 minutes. Rotate sheet and continue to bake until side touching sheet toward back of oven is well browned, 6 to 10 minutes. Remove squash from oven and use metal spatula to flip each piece. Continue to roast until squash is very tender and side touching sheet is browned, 10 to 15 minutes longer.

 

Roasted Squash Halves

I’ve tried various ways of cooking winter squash halves–covered, uncovered, with water, dry, oiled… After all my experimentation I’ve decided that the best method is to coat the squash with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle it with salt, place it face-down on a cookie sheet, and roast it at a high temperature. So I felt vindicated when Cook’s Illustrated in their cookbook The Best Light Recipe came to the same conclusion. Make sure to cook the squash until well done to ensure the sweetest flavor and smoothest texture. The oil is essential to promote browning, but the foil is just for ease of cleanup, and can be skipped. This recipe can be made with many different varieties of squash, including acorn, buttercup, butternut, or delicata squash.

  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 medium or 2 small winter squash (2 pounds), halved lengthwise and seeded
  • salt and black pepper

Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position (remove pizza stone if you have one), and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and brush the foil with half the oil. Brush the cut sides of the squash with the remaining oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the squash cut side down on the foil. Roast until a fork can be slipped easily into the center of the squash, 30-50 minutes, depending on the type of squash. This yields squash with a good chewy texture and a sweet, carmelized flavor.  Note that if your squash is really big (3-4 pounds), it might take a long time to cook it halved. In that case you might want to peel and chunk the squash before roasting it.

Diced Roasted Squash

The above recipe is for whole roasted squash. Below is Cook’s Illustrated’s recipe for roasted squash that is diced.

  • 2 pounds winter squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes (make sure all the greenish layer under the skin is removed).  Should yield about 1 pound of trimmed pieces.
  • 1 medium shallot, minced (about 3 Tbs.)
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. minced fresh thyme
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper

Adjust an oven rack to the lower middle position (removing any pizza stones you might have lying around) and heat the oven to 450 degrees. (Cook’s Illustrated says lower temperatures just take longer to cook but at higher temperatures the squash will burn before cooking fully.) Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Toss the squash, shallot, oil, thyme, salt and pepper together on the prepared baking sheet. Spread the squash pieces into an even layer. Roast, shaking the pan after 15 minutes, until the squash is tender and evenly browned, 25 to 35 minutes. Cook’s Illustrated says this recipe is best with butternut, buttercup, or hubbard squash.

Note: It’s better to toss the squash and oil on the baking sheet rather than in a bowl, because this oils the cookie sheet well and saves some dishes!

My Notes:

Butternut Squash Diced: I followed the Cook’s Illustrated instructions and really did not like how it turned out. The shallot burnt, and so did much of the squash. I admit, I had a hard time cutting it uniformly so some pieces were smaller, and some were larger, but squash is just hard to make into uniform pieces because it’s so irregular shaped. I think 450 is really too high for cooking diced squash, at least for 30 minutes. Maybe 450 for the first five minutes then 375 after that? Also, I really didn’t care for the fresh thyme (even when it wasn’t burnt to a crisp). Don’t get me wrong, I love thyme, but I felt like it covered up the squash flavor rather than augmenting it. It also somehow masks the natural sweetness of butternut squash.  I think sage goes better.

I tried this recipe again, but I didn’t weight my squash beforehand.  I weighed the prepped pieces and they weighed 1 pound 6 ounces.  Cook’s Illustrated says this recipe serves 6.  If so, those are 6 tiny side servings.  From my 1 pound 6 ounces of squash (rather than the 1 pound CI says you will use) I only got about 2.5 cups of cooked squash.  In my mind that’s really just 2 servings, or maybe 5 small side servings.

Next time maybe I’ll try a larger dice, or wedges. If nothing else, it will be faster to chop the squash up.

Kabocha Squash Wedges: Cook’s Illustrated didn’t mention Kabocha in their list of squash. I roasted kabocha squash once before, and I remember it coming out very moist, succulent, sweet, and delicious. This time I used quite a bit of oil (2.5 Tbs. for one squash) because I didn’t want it dry, and also sprinkled on salt, pepper, and seasonings like paprika and thyme. I scooped out the seeds and cut it into wedges, but didn’t peel it. I baked it in a 9×13 pyrex pan. I don’t remember the temperature or timing.

It’s not bad, especially with my black bean chili, but it’s somewhat dry and starchy tasting. My friend actually really liked it. The really nice thing is that I didn’t have to peel it. I’m pretty picky about squash peels but I don’t mind eating kabocha with the peel on at all. Not having to peel saves a lot of time. But I wish I could remember what I did before to get it to be so moist and succulent.

Update Sept 2009:

I roasted a butternut squash last night.  It was a pretty big squash–I got about 2 pounds 10 ounces of edible squash out of it. I diced it into large cubes, about 1-inch square each.  I started by preheating the oven to about 475.  I tossed the squash with 1 Tbs. of olive oil, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. pace, and a sprinkle of fresh black pepper, then poured it onto a large cookie sheet lined with foil.  There was a little bit more room on the cookie sheet, but not much.  I don’t think I could have fit much more than 2 pounds 12 ounces on it without the squashing being too crowded and steaming rather than roasting. Immediately after I put the squash in the oven I turned the temperature down to 400, but I left the fan running.  I baked the squash until it started to brown on top (maybe 30 minutes?), then flipped it and turned the temperature down to just keep the temperature warm.  The squash turned out extremely well.  The pieces were just a tad caramelized, but still plump and moist.  The spices were good, but not perfect.  I got about 4.75 cups of cooked squash out.  I’d say that’s about 6 side servings.

The next day I tried to replicate what I did.  I used 2 pounds 12 ounces of squash, diced into 1-inch dice.  The cubes were perhaps slightly larger than the previous day. (Maybe I had done 3/4 inch dice before?)  I tossed the squash with 1 Tbs. olive oil, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. cumin, and 1/2 tsp. chili flakes.  There was still a little space on the pan, but maybe it was very slightly more crowded than the previous night.  I preheated the oven to 500, then turned it down to 375 but kept the fan running when I put in the squash.  I checked the squash after 25 minutes and it was extremely soft, and more steamed than roasted.  I’m not sure what I did wrong.  It also tasted less oily, and less sweet.  It could have been that this squash was simply not as good, or I cooked it too long, or maybe last time I actually used more than 1 Tbs. of olive oil?  Also, using cumin instead of nutmeg could have made it less sweet.  I couldn’t even taste the cumin.  The chili flakes were a bad idea, as they tended to burn.

Update Dec 2010:

Alex saw the Kuri squashes I had lying around and wanted to make them for dinner.  She peeled one and removed the seeds, then cut it into very large dice–maybe 1.5 inch cubes.  We tossed the cubes with a little oil and salt and pepper, then placed them on a black cookie sheet.  We roasted the squash at 400 degrees until soft, then I turned off the oven and let the squash sit in the oven til it was cool.  The squash ended up amazingly sweet and melt-in-your-mouth soft.  The texture was very smooth and creamy.

The next day I roasted the other Kuri squash, but this time I just cut the squash in half and removed the seeds, then rubbed oil and salt on the inside of the squash.  I baked it at 400 until Derek smelled burning.  The sugary juice had oozed out and was bubbling up and burning all over the cookie sheet.  I pulled the squash out and it was extremely soft.  But the flavor wasn’t nearly as good as the diced squash the night before.

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Sesame halvah

April 28, 2006 at 9:19 am (B_minus (2 stars, okay), Derek's faves, Dessert, My brain, Other, Other, Quick weeknight recipe)

Halvah is one of my favorite desserts. When I was a kid my uncle used to bring us Joyva halvah whenever he came to visit and I was in heaven. Later I discovered chocolate covered halvah and realized that I had just thought I was in heaven before. However, halvah is a problem for me since I can easily eat 1/2 a pack or more at a sitting and it has exactly 4.5 gazillion calories. In any case I’ve always wanted to try to make it myself but never got around to it. Read the rest of this entry »

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Steel cut oatmeal with figs and cardamom

April 28, 2006 at 9:18 am (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), breakfast, From a friend, Grains, Moosewood, Quick weeknight recipe)

I’ve never been a big oatmeal fan, and when I do eat oats I generally eat rolled oats because they’re fast. But everyone’s been telling me to try steel cut oats instead (also known as irish oats). So I decided to try this recipe my friend sent me, from the cookbook Moosewood Restaurant New Classics

Serves Four

Ingredients:
1 cup irish or steel-cut oats
4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-2 Tbs. vegetable oil or butter (I used 4 tsp. canola)
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 – 1 cup chopped dates or figs (I used 6 turkish figs)

Instructions

In a 2-4 quart saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil.

Meanwhile, lightly toast the steel cut oats in a saucepan with a little oil (put the heat on medium), just until there is a subtle color change to golden brown. This enhances the nutty flavor and chewy, satisfying texture of the oats.

Once the oats are toasted, add them to the water, reduce the heat to medium and cook them uncovered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally (don’t stir TOO often or you compromise the texture). I like to set my timer for 20 minutes and stir at the 10 and 5 minute warnings, and at 2 minute til.

In the meantime, chop the dates or figs. Cook the chopped figs or dates in 1/2 cup water. Let them come to a low boil and then simmer for another ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the ground cardamom once the fruit is simmering. After ten minutes, the figs or dates should have softened and the water reduced nearly to a glaze or thick paste. Add a little more water during the cooking process if needed. Once the figs/dates are softened to your liking, remove from heat and add the vanilla extract. (I like to wait to start chopping the figs until the oats have been cooking for ten minutes, since I don’t really need to be around for those first ten minutes. I can do the -5 and -2 minute stirs while I’m chopping, then I get the figs to a simmer about the same time I turn the oats down to low, and I can stir the oats and the figs at the same time.)

After the oatmeal has cooked for 20 minutes, reduce the heat to medium-low, add the salt and cook uncovered for another 10 minutes, stirring more frequently to make sure the oats don’t stick to the pot.

Remove the oats from the heat and stir in the date or fig mixture. Allow to stand another 3 minutes before serving.

My notes

A quarter of the recipe is probably enough to fill me up, but I must say I still wanted to eat more.

The texture is excellent, way better than my normal rolled oats I make. And I really like the texture and flavor of the figs in it. The cardamom, however, I could taste in only a few bites. I think maybe it didn’t mix well, and stuck to just a few of the figs. What would happen if I added it to the oats instead of the figs? Also, I found it just a bit too salty. Maybe next time I’ll try a heaping 1/8 tsp.

These reheat well in the microwave (and possibly on the stovetop too, although I have to check). You may have to add a little water though. However, when I ate the second half, reheated in the micowave, it wasn’t salty at all. Maybe I just didn’t mix my salt well and it all ended up in the other half. It also tasted less sweet…

Also a few questions from the laziest cook in the world, who never met a shortcut she didn’t like:

1) Why are the figs cooked separately? How would it be different if you just threw them in for the last ten minutes with the salt?

2) Couldn’t we just throw the cardamom it in at the beginning too? Does something happen to it when it hits boiling water?

Update May 06, 2006: The salt level seems fine when I use coarse kosher salt, but I’ve taken to adding the salt when I add the oats to the water to ensure that it gets mixed well. I’ve also started adding more cardamom and vanilla, between 1/2 tsp. and 3/4 tsp. each. This recipe is definitely better with the full 1 cup of figs, although even with 1 cup it’s still not particularlly sweet. Derek added about 1/2 Tbs. maple syrup to his. 3/4 figs is all right too, and lower calorie, but not quite as decadent tasting. Derek says this recipe is great.

Rating: B
Derek: A

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Sunflower seed milk

April 28, 2006 at 9:10 am (C (1 star, edible), From a friend, Quick weeknight recipe)

I had a jar of sunflower seeds sitting on my counter forever, and my friend Shakti suggested I try making sunflower seed milk. She said to blend 1/4 cup of sunflower seeds in the blender to a powder, then add 2 cups of water and blend some more. It was a bit gritty but not gritty enough to go through the trouble of straining it. I’m not a big sunflower seed fan, but I found the “milk” surprisingly refreshing.

I tried using it for a smoothie, and added 3/4 cup frozen raspberries and some vanilla, but the combination wasn’t good. The flavors didn’t really go and the raspberry seeds made it even more gritty. What would be a better combination?

Rating: B-

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Roasted Pineapple

April 28, 2006 at 9:08 am (B_minus (2 stars, okay), Dessert, Fruit, Quick weeknight recipe)

I came across a recipe in Gourmet for roasted pineapple, and it sounded delicious. It said to butter the pan and then the pineapple, but I just used a little oil spray. The pineapple was intensely sweet and soft. I could not stop eating the stuff, even hot right out of the oven. It’s good by itself but I bet I could come up with a way to use it in a recipe…. Hmmm…. Read the rest of this entry »

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Perfect pan-fried broccoli

April 28, 2006 at 9:07 am (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Cook's Illustrated, Cruciferous rich, Derek's faves, Quick weeknight recipe, Vegetable dishes)

I’ve always loved broccoli, but often when I cook it, it turns out either overcooked, undercooked, or unevenly cooked. A recent recipe from Cook’s Illustrated on how to pan-fry broccoli had a number of suggestions, which made my broccoli excellent the vast majority of the time. This is a variant of that recipe. When I was a kid I always wanted to just eat the florets, and left the stems on the plate, but with this recipe the stems are actually the best part! This recipe yields bright green, succulent florets and toasty-brown carmelized stems tasty enough to be eaten with just a little salt and pepper. I think one thing that really helps is adding the salt to water, then using the salted water to steam the broccoli by putting the lid on briefly. It lets the salt penetrate more completely and more evenly through the broccoli, flavoring it more deeply.

If your broccoli stalks are especially thick, split them in half lengthwise before slicing.

Serves 4

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp. table salt (heaping if you like a lot of salt)
  • 1/8 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional, or use 1/4 tsp. for less spicy)
  • 1-2 Tbs. garlic, minced (optional)
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 3/4 – 2 pounds broccoli (about 2 medium bunches) florets cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces, stems trimmed and cut on bias into 1/4-inch-thick slices or “flowers” about 1 1/2 inches long (about 5 cups florets and 3 cup stems)

1. Stir water, salt, and pepper together in small bowl until salt dissolves; set aside. In 12-inch nonstick skillet with tight-fitting lid, heat oil over medium-high heat until just about to smoke. Add broccoli stems and cook, without stirring, until browned on bottoms, about 5 minutes. Add florets, red pepper flakes, and garlic (if using) to skillet and toss to combine; cook, without stirring, until bottoms of florets just begin to brown, 1 to 2 minutes longer.

2. Add water mixture and immediately cover skillet; cook until broccoli is bright green but still crisp, about 2 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook until water has evaporated, broccoli stems are tender, and florets are tender-crisp, about 2 minutes more.

I like the broccoli by itself as a side dish, and also mixed with pasta for a tasty lunch or dinner. When mixing the broccoli with pasta, I use 5 ounces dry pasta, undercook it slightly, then throw it in for the last two minutes when the lid is removed. At this point, I remove the pan from the heat, and sometimes add in another tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or some toasted sesame oil mixed with a few teaspoons soy sauce or ume plum vinegar. This makes about 4 two-cup servings.

After a few days in the fridge the broccoli and pasta started to become slightly sulfurous tasting, and ironically somewhat bland. I sauteed up 1 bunch of collard greens in 1 Tbs. olive oil, then threw in 1/4 tsp. salt in 1 Tbs. water, and cooked until bright green, then mixed this with 2 servings of the pasta and broccoli and it was excellent. The collard stems are very slightly bitter and crisp, and the greens add an elusive, almost tangy quality. A delicious combination.

Nutritional info for 1/4 of recipe (not including pasta):

It’s 15% protein, 38% carbs, and 47% fat.

Calories 126
Total Fat 7.4g
Saturated Fat 0.9g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 202mg
Carbohydrate 13.4g
Dietary Fiber 5g
Sugars 3.2g
Protein 5.5g
Vitamin A 26% Vitamin C 280%
Calcium 9% Iron 9%

Rating: B+

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Authentic Teff Injera (B)

April 28, 2006 at 8:59 am (B_minus (2 stars, okay), Ethiopian, Grains, Rebecca Wood)

This recipe for traditional tef injera is from the cookbook The Splendid Grain by Rebecca Wood, but is almost identical to the tef injera recipe in the authentic Ethiopian cookbook I checked out of the library. Wood also has a quick injera that’s made using sourdough starter, but I haven’t tried it.

Wood explains about injera: “The national food of Ethiopia, this large flatbread is used as a plate with other foods placed on top. Another injera is served on the side and torn into pieces to scoop up the food. The bread is served cold accompanied with spicy-hot bean, vegetable and meat dishes.”

Instructions

Combine 2 cups tef flour, 3 cups of filtered water, and 1 tsp. yeast in a 2-quart ceramic or glass bowl. (Wood says if you’re grinding your flour fresh then you can omit the yeast since Tef’s symbiotic yeast provides leavening. ) Cover with a bamboo sushi mat or a clean cloth. Leave out on the counter for 2 days in a warm kitchen or 3 days in a cool kitchen, or until the sponge has a strong and distinctively sour aroma. Water will rise to the top. Slowly and carefully pour of this surface water.

Bring 1 cup of spring water to a boil in a small saucepan. Stir 1/2 cup of the tef mixture into the boiling water. Reduce the heat to med. and cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the mixture thickens slightly and is smooth. (I recommend using a whisk because mine had lumps). Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Stir this mixture into the soured batter. Add more water if necessary to make a thin batter as for pancakes. Cover and let rest for 1 or 2 hours or until the mixture rises.

Heat a 9-inch crepe pan or skillet that has a tight fitting lid over high heat until a drop of water bounces on the pan’s surface. If using an electric skillet, heat to 420 degrees F. Slowly pour 1/3 cup of the batter into the pan in a thin stream, moving in a spiral from the outer edge of the pan toward the center of the pan. Then til the pan so the batter can flow and cover any gaps. Cover and cook over med-low heat for 2-3 minutes, or until the edges of the injera begin to curl away from the pan. Remove immediately and place on a clean coth to cool. When cool, wrap to keep moist. Stir the batter well, then cook the remaining breads in the same way.

If after combining the cooked and raw batters, you will not be able to cook the injera within 2 hours, refrigerate the batter for up to 4 hours, or until it rises. If you are unable to cook the batter when it’s ready, stir in 1/2 tsp. sea salt and refrigerate the batter for up to 24 hours.

She doesn’t say anything about storing longer than 24 hours, but I had leftover batter and just put it back in the fridge and have been making injera for lunch for quite a few days with no problems. It did get a bit more sour after a few days, but I still enjoyed it.

This is supposed to make 4 six-inch breads, but maybe I made mine too thin because mine made six breads. But it’s weird because I definitely used more than 1/3 cup mixture per bread. Maybe it’s because I never ended up pouring off any water. I know the injera is supposed to be soft, but when my friend made it he oiled the skillet a bit so the face-down side ended up a bit crisp, which I thought was tasty. Also, I liked it hot I think a bit better than the more traditional way of eating cold injera. The injera is pretty dark, since Tef is such a dark color, and noticeably sour, but I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Update: I tried making the injera again, but I only made 3/4 of the recipe. I let it sit for 2 days, but my kitchen was cooler than the last time. One mistake I made was adding the full 1 cup water instead of only 3/4 cup water, but that’s only an extra 1/4 cup, it doesn’t seem like it would make a huge difference. In any case, the batter was incredibly thin, almost the consistency of water. I’m not sure what could have made it so different from last time. Maybe I mis-measured the water initially? Another difference was that I made the injera after two days rather than doing the salt/refrigerate step for a day. But I don’t see why this would make the batter thinner.

Per serving (1/6 of recipe)
Calories 229
Total Fat 2g
Saturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 302mg
Carbohydrate 44.4g
Dietary Fiber 8.2g
Sugars 0g
Protein 8.4g
Vitamin A 0%
Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 10%
Iron 27%

Teff is obviously an iron powerhouse, and it’s not bad on calcium or fiber.

Rating: B

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Celery Root Salad with Lemon and Cumin Dressing (B-)

April 28, 2006 at 8:59 am (C (1 star, edible), French, Georgeanne Brennan, Quick weeknight recipe, Salads, Sauce/dressing)

I’ve started trying recipes with celery root (also called celeriac) recently, but this is the first time I’ve eaten it raw. This recipe is from the cookbook France: the Vegetarian Table, by Georgeanne Brennan.

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/8 tsp. ground turmeric
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs. minced fresh parsley
1 large celery root (about 1 pound), peeled

In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the lemon juice, cumin, turmeric, salt, pepper, and parsley. Set aside.

Finely julienne the celery root. The slices should be no more than 1/16 of an inch thick, if possible.

Add the celery root to the lemon juice mixture and toss to coat well. Serve at once.

My Notes

Although this dressing has no oil and little salt, I thought it was pretty tasty. There was perhaps a bit too much lemon juice, though. This makes 6 small side servings, of a 1/2 cup each.

Rating: B-

Serving Size: 1/2 cup, 1/6 of recipe

Amount Per Serving
Calories 48
Total Fat 1.5g
Saturated Fat 0.2g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 128mg
Carbohydrate 8.9g
Dietary Fiber 1.5g
Sugars 1.7g
Protein 1.3g
Vitamin A 0% Vitamin C 24%
Calcium 4% Iron 5%

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Black bean chili (B-)

April 28, 2006 at 8:52 am (Beans, C (1 star, edible), Other, soup)

I was craving chili, and was all set to make my typical recipe when I came across a recipe in Gourmet Magazine for the black bean chili from Greens restaurant in California. I figured I had to try it.

The recipe says active prep time is 30 minutes.

1 lb. dried black beans (2.25 cups)
1 Tbs. cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. cayenne
2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. dried oregano, crumbled
1 small dried pasilla chile, stems and seeds discarded and chile coarsely chopped
3 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbs. chopped chipotle chilies in adobo
1 Turkish bay leaf or 1/2 California bay leaf
6 cups water
1 14-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained, reserving juice, and chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1. Saok beans in water to cover by 2 inches overnight (8 hours). Drain in a colander
2. Toast cumin, cayenne, paprika, and oregano in a dry 10-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and a shade or 2 darker, about 2 minutes (watch out: spices burn easily). Transfer to a small bowl
3. Finely grind pasilla in an electric coffee/spice grinder, then stir into spices.
4. Heat oil in a wide 5- to 6-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then saute onion and bell pepper, stirring occasionally, until golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Add garlic, chipotles, and spice mixture and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Add beans, bay leaf, and water and simmer, covered, until beans are tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Ad tomatoes, including juice, with salt to taste and simmer, uncovered, 15 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Just before serving, stir in cilantro.

My notes: I thought it was odd that it called for cumin seeds but the other spices ground. I couldn’t find a pasilla pepper, so used one ancho pepper and one new mexican chile. Also, instead of the chipotle in adobo I used I think a 1/2 tsp. chipotle powder. I left out the cilantro as well.

Given the substitutions I had to make, I’m not sure how identical the final product was to the original recipe. Though it tasted more like black bean soup than chili to me, I did like it. I found it a bit intense to eat a whole bowl by itself, but when eaten with some baked winter squash the flavors were more balanced. The sweet squash contrasted nicely with the smoky soup.

I think I used about 2 tsp. salt, which was a bit too much. The recipe says it makes 4 servings, but I found that it made about 8 cups.

Serving Size: 1 serving

Amount Per Cup (about 1/8 of recipe)
Calories 264
Total Fat 6.3g
Saturated Fat 0.9g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 136mg
Carbohydrate 40.7g
Dietary Fiber 10.1g
Sugars 3.6g
Protein 13g
Vitamin A 21% Vitamin C 29%
Calcium 9% Iron 23%

Rating: B-

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Rhubarb compote with lemongrass and ginger (C)

April 28, 2006 at 8:49 am (F (0 stars, dislike), Spring recipes, Website / blog)

I found a rhubarb compote recipe on the web that looked interesting. I had to make a few changes though:

Rhubarb compote with lemongrass and ginger

Yield: about 2 cups

7½ ounces sugar (I used 2 ounces agave nectar + extra water)
5 ounces water
1 vanilla bean (I used 1 tsp. vanilla extract)
1 piece lemon grass
Piece of ginger
5 ounces rhubarb, julienned (I only had 4 ounces)

Bring all the ingredients except the rhubarb to a boil. Let stand for 20 minutes. Strain. Take small juliennes of rhubarb and add to the above. Bring to a boil. Cool.

To serve, fill a small glass half way with the compote. Or, you may serve this with vanilla ice cream.

The syrup was very exotic tasting, with complex layering of flavors, almost like an alcohol or a wine I thought. I wasn’t sure if it would be sweet enough since I reduced the sweetener so much but if anything it was too sweet. But the rhubarb flavor still came through. It left that oxalic acid dry tongue taste in my mouth like chard does.

I enjoyed eating a little of this with a spoon at first, but the next day the texture was pretty weird and the flavor very cough-syrupy. Also, I’m not sure how I would serve it. Perhaps as a sauce for another dish? Even a savory one? Or as a amuse bouche in a shot glass? In any case, I’m glad I tried it.

Rating: C

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White bean pate

April 28, 2006 at 8:37 am (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, Ron Pickarski)

I’ve had so many versions of white bean pate at vegetarian restaurants, and I generally find them bland and unappealing. I loved this one though. I could just sit there and eat bowls of it with a spoon. It reminds me a lot of the green been pate my mom makes on Passover. It’s pretty darn healthy too. This is a variant of the Pate Francais Recipe from a cookbook by Ron Pickarski. Read the rest of this entry »

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Un-goopy amaranth (B-)

April 19, 2006 at 5:37 am (breakfast, C (1 star, edible), Crescent Dragonwagon, Grains, Quick weeknight recipe)

In my previous experience amaranth has always turned out a goopy, sticky porridge, but not today. I kind of followed the directions for basic amaranth in the Passionate Vegetarian cookbook by Crescent Dragonwagon, and it turned out as tiny individual grains.

I toasted 3/4 cup amaranth and 3/4 ounce grated coconut in a small saucepan until starting to brown and aromatic. I added 1 cup of water and brought to a boil, then turned down to a simmer, covered, and cooked about 8 or 9 minutes. Then I let it sit covered for another 10 minutes, and stirred in 1/2 Tbs. maple syrup. The texture is a bit strange, but I like it. I ate a 1/3 of the recipe for breakfast and it was weird but not bad.

Rating: B-

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Pilaf of Oats with Ginger and Jalapeno (B-)

April 18, 2006 at 4:57 pm (C (1 star, edible), Crescent Dragonwagon, Grains, Quick weeknight recipe)

I normally just eats oat for breakfast, but I was looking for something radically different to do with ginger and came across this recipe. It’s supposedly a “pilaf”, but it’s more wet and less light than a normal pilaf. The texture of the oats is great though, and the flavors come together in a way that I can’t quite pick out any one flavor but they make a new delicious one! Read the rest of this entry »

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Peanut Butter Cookies

April 10, 2006 at 8:33 pm (Alice Medrich, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Cookies, Dessert)

This is another recipe from Alice Medrich’s cookbook Cookies and Brownies. She says her ideal peanut butter cookie is crunchy, very peanuty, and not too sweet, and that’s a pretty good description of these cookies. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sad, Sad Stuffing (C)

April 10, 2006 at 8:32 pm (F (0 stars, dislike), My brain)

After I had jaw surgery my absolute favorite thing to eat was stuffing and gravy…. blended. But even though I love stuffing, blended or not, I unfortunately have no idea how to make it. I tried improvising.

I used Ezekiel bread and celery and onions, poultry seasoning as well as added thyme and savory, dried cranberries and an apple, and a cup of vegetable broth. It was obviously too much broth because it was kind of soggy. In addition, it :

  1. didn’t have enough stuffing “flavor”
  2. was too greasy tasting
  3. didn’t hold together at all
  4. had about a million calories for what I think of as a normal serving, about 1/4 of a cast-iron pan.

Clearly this is an ongoing project.

Rating: C

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Pasta with Beets, Soybeans, and Lemon

April 9, 2006 at 6:45 am (Beans, C (1 star, edible), Pasta, Soybeans & edamame, Starches, Website / blog)

I found this recipe online when I was looking for something to do with edamame and beets. The author said it had “Odd combination but great flavor.”

  • 1 package of fresh pasta, ideally, but one package of regular if you don’t have access to fresh. I use spinach flavor.
  • 3 beets, red prefered
  • 1 onion
  • garlic, as many cloves as you like
  • 2 lemons, use both the liquid and thin peel of one half lemon
  • 1 cup grated parmigano cheese from the deli section, Kraft won’t do here.
  • 1/4 of lite whipping cream or nonfat milk, depending on how creamy you want the end result to be.
  • 1T red chili flakes, I like there to be heat
  • 1T black pepper
  • 1t olive oil plus 1T
  • 1.5 cups frozen soybeans
  • basil for garnish
  1. Clean the beets and chop of top and end, where it begins to get thin. Don’t worry about peeling yet. In a foil bag (just take a large piece of foil and make into an envelope of sorts) put beets, as many garlic cloves as using (still in skins), 1t of olive oil and squirt of lemon. Place in oven for roughly an hour.
  2. When getting near the end of the hour put water on to boil. In a saute pan use remainder of oil (1T) and sautee up chopped onion till it begins to brown slightly. Add in chili pepper flakes and black pepper. Add grated lemon peel. Take cooled beets and pop out of skins and cut up into bite size pieces. Toss into sautee pan along with soybeans and lemon juice. Mush the baked garlic into the sauce.
  3. Cook pasta according to directions.
  4. Mix in 1/4 of lite whipping cream. The sauce will turn pink. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.
  5. When pasta is done, drain and toss into the sauce, adding lemon juice as needed, along with cheese and basil. I will sometimes also add in other veggies (asparagus is good!) and a little more cheese on top with some pepper.

My notes:

I didn’t follow the recipe to the T, but I used the basic ideas. The sauce (using 2% milk) was very lemon-y and tasty before I added the beets and edamame and pasta. I’m definitely going to try making a lemon sauce like this in the future. But then once I added all the ingredients I found it a little boring, like it needed more fat and salt! I guess I should have used the cream! I couldn’t really taste the edamame, but the texture was interesting. I thought adding beets to pasta was an interesting idea, and I’ll definitely be trying it again. It added a very subtle sweetness to the whole dish. One warning: I only used half the red chile flakes and it was still very spicy.

Update: this was pretty tasty cold. Spicy, a little sweet, a teeny bit lemon-y. I didn’t want to stop eating it. Needs some work but perhaps it should be served cold instead of warm.

Rating: B-

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Perfect Polenta

April 7, 2006 at 8:55 am (Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), breakfast, Grains, Instant Pot, Italian, Monthly menu plan, My brain, Quick weeknight recipe)

As of 2019, I now make polenta in the instant pot. It comes out well every time! I need to remember to return to this post to write the ratio of liquid to polenta I use, the amount of salt, and the timing. I always make extra (usually 2 cups of polenta) and whatever we don’t eat I pour onto a cookie sheet and let cool, then put in the fridge. A few days later I cut the thin polenta into strips and bake it at 350 or 375 degrees (NOT 400) on an oiled cookie sheet. (No need to oil the polenta itself.) The result is delicious polenta chips. We usually eat them with refried beans. Alma won’t eve eat the soft polenta, but she loves the polenta chips.

Original text from Apr 7, 2006:

I was having a new group of friends over for dinner and wanted to make at least one dish I was positive that even the pickiest eater would enjoy. Thus, out came the polenta.

1 cup coarse polenta
4 cups water
1 tsp. salt
ground fennel seeds (optional)
paprika (optional)
cayenne (optional)
parmesan (optional)

I’ve been quite confused lately about the difference between cornmeal, grits, hominy grits, and polenta, but what I can tell you is this: the polenta I buy at the co-op is bright yellow and a very coarse grind. I store it in the refridgerator because I noticed that it starts to smell rancid very quickly if I leave it in the pantry.

In every polenta recipe there is always a discussion of lumpy polenta, but I don’t understand the obsession. Just add your polenta to cold water and voila!– no lumps. Another key ingredient is salt. Undersalted polenta is boring and tasteless, but use a sufficient amount of salt and your polenta will be addictive. I’ve been using 1 cup of polenta, 4 cups of water, and 1 tsp. of salt to make hard polenta. This sounds like a lot of salt, but you have to remember that this recipe makes about 5 cups of polenta (check this amount), so it’s not quite as crazy as it looks. It’s very tasty, but quite salty, so I might try with 3/4 tsp. salt and see what I think. Another common addition is olive oil, but I couldn’t detect any difference when I added it to the mix, so might as well leave it out at this step.

Stirring–another matter of debate. They say if you want a quick recipe than you can just keep the heat up and stir constantly, but I’ve found that with a coarse-ground polenta this is a lot of work and that no matter how much you stir the texture always comes out a bit gritty. A better strategy is to stir only while you bring the water to a boil initially. You should keep the heat quite high, and keep stirring, until the water and polenta congeal into one solid mass. Then immediately turn the heat as low as it will go (I use 1/2 of my warm setting on my electric stove), cover, and don’t touch it for an hour. Most cookbooks say to stir every 10 minutes or so, but I haven’t found that it makes any difference. It sticks in either case, so I might as well just not touch it. So I lose a bit of polenta at the bottom of the pan, no big loss. Just soak the pan for a few hours and the stuck bits will peel right off. Many recipes say to cook it for 40-45 minutes, and it will definitely be cooked by then, but I’ve found that with a coarse ground polenta 60 minutes is even better.

When it’s done it will be soft and porridge-y, a total comfort food. This is the point when high fat ingredients like cheese, butter, and cream are typically added. I’ve found that all that is needed for marvelous flavor is a little grated parmigiano-reggiano. It doesn’t take much to infuse the whole dish with great flavor, maybe 1 ounce of cheese, grated? Put that cheese in and stir to mix, because the soft texture won’t last for long. The polenta is delicious at this stage. Top with some sort of sauce or vegetable saute for a marvelous, comfort-food dinner. However, as soon as it starts to cool it will firm up, so pour whatever you’re not going to eat immediately into a 9×13 pyrex pan or onto a cookie sheet to cool. Sometimes I pour it into a 9×9 square pyrex pan, then when I cut it into squares I cut the pieces in half midway through to halve their height and ensure that the final pieces are nice and crispy. If you only want soft polenta you can start out with more water, I’ve heard 8 cups water to 1 cup polenta is a good ratio, but I’ve never tried it myself because the 5 to 1 ratio gives you the best of both worlds. Soft polenta right when it’s done and hard crispy polenta at another meal.

Once it’s firm you can cut it into square or triangles, place them on a lightly oiled cookie sheet of the polenta with olive oil as well. Cook at 425 degrees until crisp, or under the broiler if you really watch it. Flip to crisp the other side, then serve. They’re great hot right out of the oven, but also marvelous once they cool as well.

I still need to figure out exactly how much oil is needed (if any), and how long it takes to broil.

I made this recipe for a party lately, and everyone really liked it. It was the first thing to get eaten. I followed the seasoning suggestions of my friend Amy and added ground fennel, paprika, and cayenne to the polenta as well. This really “kicked it up a notch”… but in a good way.

Nutritional Info for Polenta from Bob’s Red Mill. According to this site one cup of coarse-ground polenta has 520 calories. An ounce of parmesan has about 129 I think, and if you use one tablespoon of olive oil to bake the polenta, that’s 119 calories. All together that’s 768 calories. That’s under 100 calories a person for 8 servings and under 200 calories a person for 4 servings (each of which is extremely large). Pretty low calorie for an amazing, perfect polenta.

What happens if you want to serve soft polenta, but not as the first course at a dinner party? Can you just leave it on the barest heat until you’re ready to serve? I’ll have to test this. An alternative (baking the polenta) is discussed by the author of the Vegetarian Epicure. I saw another tip that it’s best to use a mixture of cornmeals to get the best texture, say 75% coarse and 25% fine. I’ll have to try this and see if it’s any different.

Update Dec 2006: I tried a recipe for polenta in one of my cookbooks that called for 1 cup of polenta, 5 cups of water, and 1 cup of pumpkin puree. I used frozen butternut squash puree. I tasted the polenta when it was done and it tasted pretty normal, maybe just a tad sweeter than usual. When I baked it in the oven I couldn’t tell it had pumpkin puree in it at all–it crisped up the same as always, and tasted identically. I’ll have to keep this in mind next time I have extra pumpkin or squash puree around, or if I just want my polenta to have more beta carotene. I might even try more than 1 cup next time since it was barely detectable. The same recipe also called for topping the polenta with a few spoonfuls of black bean salsa. I made the salsa according to their directions, and it was nice, but I didn’t like it on the polenta–it just overpowered it, so I couldn’t taste the polenta at all, just the black beans. The minced jalepeno, on the other hand, went wonderfully with the polenta. I think I should one jalepeno in next time I make it, like people do with cornbread.

Update 9/2007: I used Bob’s Red Mill Corn Grits. In a 3 quart pot I combined 1.5 cups of grits and 6 cups of water. with 1.5 tsp fine salt, 1 tsp. ground fennel, 1 tsp paprika, and 1/8 tsp. cayenne. Brought to a boil until water combined with corn, then reduced to very low, covered, and cooked for 1 hour. The amount of fennel flavor was good, as was the cayenne. It was definitely salty but not too much for me. It had just a little kick from the cayenne, which wasn’t noticeable at first but after you finished a bit warmed your mouth nicely. If you’re feeding someone who doesn’t like any spice at all it might be too much. I didn’t like the texture of the soft polenta at all–way too thick (you could stand a spoon up in it) and fluffy, with big noticeable corn bits rather than a perfectly smooth, almost pourable consistency.

Rating: B

How to make crispy polenta sticks

I make these occasionally (usually with refried beans and guacamole and salsa) and they’re always a big hit. I just make polenta as I normally would, and we eat it soft for dinner (often with ratatouille or roasted veggies or something like that, and a side of cannellini beans or chickpeas). I make the polenta in my instant pot which has the added benefit of keeping the polenta warm until we are done with dinner, then when dinner is over I pour whatever is left onto an oiled cooked sheet. (If I made roasted veggies then I don’t wash the cookie sheet first, just use it as is, since it still has oil on it.) The polenta cools while I clean up the dinner dishes, and then I cut it into large slabs and put it in the fridge (using parchment paper between layers so they don’t stick).

When I want to make the sticks I oil a cookie sheet lightly and cut the polenta into long rectangles (size is up to you, skinnier will crisp up faster but is more work) and arrange them on the cookie sheet until they are as crisp as we want them. (You may have to rotate the cookie sheet halfway through if you have hotspots in your oven.) If you want them super crispy you can spray/brush oil over the tops as well, and flip them over halfway through, but it’s not necessary. My daughter loves them even when they’re not super crisp.

That said, my Italian friends say that you should *never* cook/heat leftover polenta in the oven. They do it in a frying pan with just a bit of oil to prevent it from sticking. I haven’t tried it that way as it sounds like way more work given the quantity I usually make.

I once mixed a seasoned rosemary white bean puree in with the polenta and while *I* thought the sticks were quite yummy, my daughter wouldn’t eat them. I’ve been considering trying it again, or trying adding something like finely chopped broccoli.

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The Search for the Perfect Matzoh Ball

April 5, 2006 at 10:29 am (B_minus (2 stars, okay), Cruciferous rich, Isa C. Moskowitz, Jewish, Quick weeknight recipe, soup, Website / blog)

Matzoh balls are a simple combination of matzoh meal, eggs, and fat, and yet small differences in proportions and technique make the difference between golf ball “sinkers”, or huge, fluffy, and airy “floaters.” There are lots of theories out there about how to achieve each type, but I suspect many of them are urban myths. One suggestions I’ve read recently: to get denser matzoh balls make sure to let the dough sit in the fridge for a while, as it gives a chance for the liquid to hydrate the matzoh meal, which somehow leads to denser, firmer balls. I’d love it if Cook’s illustrated would weigh in on this topic, but I doubt they ever will as matzoh balls are not all-American enough for them. Perhaps someone else has done a scientific study of the matzoh ball? Anyone know? I have some notes below from a recipe taste test Epicurious did, but I think their results are bogus. Read the rest of this entry »

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Refridgerating carrots: a seditious act?

April 5, 2006 at 6:41 am (Food Science)

I get carrots in my CSA box that were just pulled out of the ground, and I usually nibble on them on the way home. They are wonderfully sweet and just oh so good. When I get home I refrigerate them. However, if I try them the next day they tast so different! Much more bitter. Like a different vegetable, almost. Has anyone else experienced this? I know you’re not supposed to refrigerate tomatoes, but I’ve never heard that it does anything to carrots? Is it in my head? Next time someone gets carrots at a farmer’s market that were just picked do a test and tell me if I’m hallucinating.

Or maybe it’s not the act of refridgerating them, but just what happens over time after they are picked. If I had a root cellar I could do a real taste test to compare the results, but without it I think any carrots I leave out overnight will be dried out and floppy.

A friend also suggested that it could be the carrots are just better at room temperature. I don’t think that is it but it is easy to test.

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Basic Kamut: An Ancient Wheat (B-)

April 4, 2006 at 2:00 pm (C (1 star, edible), Grains, Rebecca Wood)

My journey to conquer all the known grains is one step closer to completion. Kamut is an ancient form of wheat. The story of how it was discovered was quite interesting, as is the fact that many people with a wheat allergy can eat kamut (but not those with gluten sensitivities).

I followed the directions in Rebecca Wood’s Splendid Grain cookbook and toasted it first, but as usual, I flaked out and ended up burning some of it. Ah, when will I learn. After toasting I did a “quick soak” by bringing it to a boil and letting it sit for an hour. Many of the grains popped open at this point, so I’m not sure if the soak was necessary. Then I cooked it until soft by boiling then covering and simmering just like rice. The cooked kamut had great flavor–I thought it tasted like a cross between peanuts, corn, and brown rice, but maybe the peanut association was because I burnt it slightly.

1 cup kamut berries
1.5 cups water or unsalted stock
salt to taste

Toaste the kamut in a saucepan or wok over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, for about 4 minutes, or until you hear many grains popping and the kamut is aromatic and turns a shade darker. Rinse and rain well. Put the kamut in a medium saucepan, add the water, and let soak for at least 1 hour or overnight. Bring the kamut, soaking water, and salt to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed and the grains are tender but still a bit chewy. Remove from the heat and let steam, covered, for ten minutes. Serve hot with gomasio as a side dish.

Put any leftover kamut in a glass bowl, loosely cover with a cotton cloth, and leave out at room temperature for up to 24 hours. Within 4 hours of cooking, the kamut may be used in salad; thereafter, use in a stir-fry or stuffing.

I made one dish with kamut and tofu in a leek and mushroom sauce that was very tasty, and also used it with coconut and other spices to stuff bitter gourd. More about that adventure soon.

Rating: B-

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Whole Teff porridge (C)

April 3, 2006 at 7:40 pm (breakfast, F (0 stars, dislike), Grains, Rebecca Wood)

I have a goal to try all the known grains, or at least all that I can get my hands on.

Teff is a teeny tiny chocolate brown grain that is most well-known for being the traditional grain that is used to make injera, the spongy fermented bread that is served at every Ethiopian restaurant.

Rebecca Wood in her cookbpok The Splendid Grain says she’s found no precedent for eating teff as a whole grain rather than ground to a flour, but that she serves it occasionally at very “adult” dinners. I tried her recipe for “steamed” teff which is really boiled teff, then you let it sit and “steam” afterwards.

1 cup whole tef
1 cup boiling water or stock
pinch of sea salt
gomasio for a garnish

Toast the tef in a hot skillet, stirring quickly, for 2 minutes, or until the sounds of popping grains is at its height. Pour the tef into a saucepan with boiling liquid, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook, covered, for 7 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed. Remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Serve with gomasio.

This is supposed to serve 2, but I thought it made 4 servings.

I’m not positive I followed the recipe correctly, because it turned out awful. The texture was like wet sand. So I looked on the web and they generally recommended adding much more water (3 to 1) and cooking it much longer (at least 20 minutes). With more water and another 20 minutes the teff turned into one large porridgey mass, which reminded me a lot of amaranth. The texture was similar since they both have all those tiny seeds, but the teff wasn’t quite as gooey, and the flavor was different. I thought the flavor was actually more mild than amaranth, and not unpleasant, but not exciting either.

I tried adding some cocoa powder and sweetener to the hot cereal. Blech. It was better plain with a little soymilk.

This morning I had it cold with soymilk and some Ezekiel-brand “grapenuts”. It was pretty nice. It seemed healthier than eating just grapenuts, but the addition of grapenuts gave it some much needed crunch. The textural contrast was quite enjoyable.

I’m definitely going to buy teff again and keep experimenting, but nothing I’ve tried so far has really excited me.

Nutritional Info for Teff

Teff Whole Grain (uncooked)
Serving Size 1/4 cup (45g)
Calories 160.00
Calories from Fat 5.00
Total Fat 1.00g
Saturated Fat 0.00g
Cholesterol 0.00mg
Sodium 10.00mg
Total Carbohydrate 33.00g
Dietary Fiber 6.00g
Sugars 0.00g
Protein 6.00g
Vitamin A 0%
Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 5%
Iron 13%

The vitamins and minerals are based on 1/2 cup Teff flour, which was a guess. The only grains I know of that have more iron are quinoa (3.6g for 160 calories), amaranth (3.3g for 160 calories), and wheat germ (2.8g for 160 calories). The web claims that Teff is a good source of niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, zinc, magnesium, copper, manganese, boron, phosphorous and potassium. Another cool thing about teff is that it is too small to remove the bran or germ, so when you’r eating teff you know you’re always eating a whole grain.

I’d like to try cooking with teff flour, and also using the teff like poppyseeds in baking.

Rating: C

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Sweet potato and parsnip oven fries

April 1, 2006 at 6:44 am (B_minus (2 stars, okay), My brain, Quick weeknight recipe, Root vegetables, Starches, Vegetable dishes)

I cut two parsnips and a (peeled) sweet potato as thinly as I could, placed on a cookie sheet and tossed with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, then baked at 400 degrees. The small parsnips started to get crispy way before the large rounds of sweet potatoes (especially since the sweet potato had way more water than the parsnips). I kept pulling the crispy pieces off and putting the sheet back in the oven. And the smaller sweet potato slices went from crisp to totally black burnt quite quickly, so I lost a few that way. The fries were quite tasty, especially the very crisp parsnips (I’m not sure I’ve ever “fried” them before). However, clearly if I make this again I need to get my sizes more even, with the parsnip pieces larger than the sweet potatoes. Maybe I’ll even try again today for lunch!

Okay, I tried it today with the sizes a bit more even, but still there was enough variation for some sweet potatoes slices to turn black while others were totally soft. My guess is using more oil would help things cook more evenly?

A third try rather than cutting the veggies into round slices I diced them pretty fine, so they’re much more even. I started them off in my cast iron pan on the stovetop with a bit of canola oil spray, then when i had them all cut up added a little salt and pepper, and put them in the oven at 400 degrees. They got a bit dried out but definitely not burnt. The combination is really quite nice. The parsnip cuts the sweetness of the sweet potatoes quite a bit, but both flavors come through quite well.

Rating: B

Derek: B+

Update December 4, 2010:

Roasted carrots and parsnips with rosemary

Today I tried roasting carrots and parsnips in the oven, following (mostly) a cook’s illustrated recipe:

1 pound carrots , peeled, and cut into long planks (see below for details)
1/2 pound parsnips peeled, halved crosswise, and cut lengthwise (see below)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (I used 1.5 Tbs.)
1/2 tsp. table salt and 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley leaves (I didn’t have any so left this out)

Instructions:

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. In large bowl, combine carrots, parsnips, and rosemary with butter, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper; toss to coat. Transfer carrots to foil- or parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and spread in single layer.
  2. Cover baking sheet tightly with foil and cook for 15 minutes. Remove foil and continue to cook, stirring twice, until carrots are well browned and tender, 30 to 35 minutes. Toss with parsley, transfer to serving platter, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.
How to cut the carrots: 

  • LARGE (over 1 inch in diameter) Halve crosswise, then quarter each section lengthwise to create a total of 8 pieces.
  • MEDIUM (½ to 1 inch in diameter) Halve crosswise, then halve wider section lengthwise to create a total of 3 pieces.
  • SMALL (less than ½ inch in -diameter) Halve crosswise. (Leave sections whole.)

Cooks’s Illustrated says:  “Carrots contain more pectin than any other vegetable, so we decided to try a trick we’d developed to keep pectin-filled apples from turning mushy when baked in pie. For this technique, we precooked the apples long enough for the pectin to convert to a heat-stable form that would protect their interiors against high temperatures. Our research told us that by precooking the carrots, we could trigger the same reaction, but with a different outcome: Stronger cell walls would help keep moisture in, minimizing withering. Instead of dirtying another pan by precooking the carrots on the stovetop, we decided to precook them right on the baking sheet. We got the oven good and hot, lined the pan with foil (or parchment), buttered and seasoned the carrots, tightly covered the baking sheet with aluminum foil, and cooked them until they resisted slightly when poked with a fork. We then slid the uncovered baking sheet back into the oven until the moisture had burned off and the carrots took on nut-brown caramelized streaks. At last, these carrots were tender-firm and distinctly sweet, with minimal withering.”

My notes:

I’ve tried this recipe twice now, just cutting the butter a tad.  The first time I cut the carrots perhaps a bit small, and they started to burn far before the 30-35 minutes was up.  I used the fan in my oven, which perhaps didn’t help.  I cut the parsnips the same size as the carrots, which was a mistake.  I don’t know why, but parsnips get dried out and hard long before carrots have started to caramelize.  Also the veggies were a bit too salty. I couldn’t really taste the rosemary.

The second time I cut the carrots a bit larger and cut the parsnips almost twice as big as the carrot batons.  I didn’t peel the parsnips.  As a result, the parsnips kind of steamed in their own skin.  The inside of the big parsnip pieces were the consistency of mashed parsnips or parsnip puree.  Derek liked them but I would have preferred a crisper texture.

The CI recipe says that after 15 minutes with tin foil the carrots are supposed to resist slightly with a fork.  Mine did not, so I left them under the tin foil for another 5 minutes.  But then after 15 minutes uncovered they were again starting to burn, so I turned the temperature down.  I don’t know why I have so much trouble with this recipe.  I just can’t get my carrots to come out like they look in the picture on the CI website.  Also, the carrots even after getting caramelized, simply aren’t that tasty.  They’re fine, but nothing exciting.  Either I don’t like roasted carrots all that much, my carrots aren’t very good, or there’s something not quite right about this recipe.

And the parsnips are even trickier than carrots.  I tried cooking another batch cut in skinnier batons with oil instead of butter, and peeled, and although a few turned out how I envisioned them, they were mostly either too dried out or too steamed.  Maybe to get crisp parsnip “fries” you need more oil?  But they certainly tasted oily enough.  I’d actually prefer to use less oil.  Maybe I crowded the pan too much?  I added about 2 1/3 pounds of veggies to one cookie sheet (including a sweet potato, which is pretty wet).  The CI recipe says to add only 1.5 pounds.  That left my cookie sheet pretty sparse.  I think 2 pounds should be okay, but more than that is obviously too much for the veggies to roast properly.

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