Molasses Raisin Bran Muffins

October 30, 2006 at 5:45 pm (AMA, breakfast, B_minus (2 stars, okay), Dessert, Muffins and quick breads, Quick weeknight recipe)

These bran muffins have a noticeable molasses flavor and a moist crumb. Based on a recipe from AMA family cookbook.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat 12 muffin cups with vegetable oil spray or line with paper liners.
In a large bowl, whisk together:

  • 1 1/4 cups wheat bran
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup white flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt (a little too salty?)
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger

In small bowl whisk together until smooth:

  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Whisk in:

  • 1/4 cup honey (use the same cup you measured the oil in)
  • 1/4 cup molasses (ditto)
  • 1 cup nonfat buttermilk

When well mixed, stir in

  • 1/2 cup raisins

Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until no specks of flour remain. Do not overmix. Spoon into the muffin tins, filling them about 3/4 full.
Bake until the muffins are a dark brown, 18 to 22 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. These muffins can be refrigerated for 1 day or frozen for 2 weeks.

My Notes

I didn’t have buttermilk so I substituted 3/4 cup nonfat yogurt and 1/4 cup unsweetened soymilk. I skimped just a bit on the 1/2 tsp. salt as well. The muffins are small but make a pretty nice snack. I like the bran texture, and the taste is pretty good. These aren’t the ultimate bran muffins but I enjoy them. They’re not quite decadent enough for dessert, unless they were served maybe with an icing or compote or side of fruit or something. They’d be a nice addition to breakfast as well, except they’re pretty low in protein (only 9% of the calories are from protein, and almost 30% are from fat, plus they have 3.5g fiber).

For slightly larger muffins, it might be worth multiplying this recipe by 1.25…. or going the other way and making them smaller in a mini-muffin tin. I’d like to try making these vegan sometime, using flax seeds.

Rating: B

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Warm Apple Compote

October 30, 2006 at 4:42 am (breakfast, B_minus (2 stars, okay), Dessert, From a friend, Fruit, Quick weeknight recipe, Sauce/dressing)

My friend Shakti gave me this recipe. She said it’s “really, really good.”

3 apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
1 cup apple juice
2 Tbs maple syrup or sucanat
1 tsp minced orange zest
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp minced fresh ginger
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/4 tsp sea salt

In a large non reactive saucepan, combine all the ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the liquid reduces to a light syrup, about 15 min.. Serve warm. Store in airtight container in fridge up to 4 days.

Makes 2 cups.

My notes:

This is kind of like a spicy, soupy applesauce. Of course, I didn’t peel the apples since I love the peels. I’m not sure it needed the maple syrup–apples and apple juice are sweet enough I think. I thought the ginger in this recipe overpowered the other flavors a bit, although maybe I mismeasured. I think if I make it again I may just use 1-1.5 tsp. of minced ginger. I didn’t have an orange so I threw in some dried orange peel. I also used cider instead of regular apple juice. I enjoyed this with some plain yogurt, but in the end I’m not sure I liked it all that much more than my simple peel-delicious applesauce with cinnamon.

Rating: B

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Pear and Parmesan Drizzled in Honey

October 29, 2006 at 6:19 am (Dessert, F (0 stars, dislike), Fruit, Italian, Jack Bishop, Necessarily nonvegan, Quick weeknight recipe)

Jack Bishop in his Italian Vegetarian cookbook suggests a dessert in which pears are cored and sliced thinly, topped with ribbons of parmesan cheese (ribbon the cheese using a vegetable peeler) and drizzled with warm honey. Maybe my pear wasn’t ripe enough, but honestly, this recipe didn’t do much for me.

Rating: C

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Sambar

October 29, 2006 at 5:56 am (A (4 stars, love), Beans, Derek's faves, Indian, Madhur Jaffrey, soup)

Sambar is a traditional soup that is eaten daily in South Indian, although the vegetables vary. It has a dark, dusky, roasted flavor that is very satisfying on a cold winter day. Read the rest of this entry »

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South Indian Green Beans (B)

October 28, 2006 at 5:59 pm (B_minus (2 stars, okay), Indian, Madhur Jaffrey, Quick weeknight recipe, Summer recipes, Vegetable dishes)

This is a recipe from the cookbook From Curries to Kabobs: Recipes from the Indian Spice Trail by Madhur Jaffrey. She says that the seasonings here are typical of India’s southeastern coast.

Serves 4.

  • 1 Tbs. salt plus 1/2 to 3/4 tsp.
  • 12 ounces green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • oil
  • 1/8 tsp. ground asafetida
  • 1 tsp. whole mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. urad dal
  • 2 dried, hot, red chilies
  • 8 to 10 fresh curry leaves, if available
  • 1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1//4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne powder

Bring 2 quarts of water to a rolling boil. Add 1 Tbs. of salt and the beans. Boil rapidly for 4 minutes, or until the beans are cooked through. Drain, and if not serving straight away, rinse under cold running water and drain. Set aside.

Just before serving, pour the oil into a large frying pan and set over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, put in the asafetida, mustard seeds, urad dal, and chilies. As soon as the mustard seeds pop and the dal turns reddish, put in the curry leaves and then the beans. Turn off the heat. Toss the beans and mix well. Add the lemon juice, cayenne, and 1/2 to 3/4 of the remaining salt. Mix again. If the beans have not heated through, put them on very low heat until warmed through.

My Notes

This recipe, like many in this cookbook, has an error. She doesn’t include oil in the ingredient list. I used just a little. I steamed my beans rather than boiling them, left out the asafetida, and added more lemon juice. The dish was quite nice. The bright lemon flavors contrasted well with the dark roasted taste of the mustard seeds and urad dal. The curry leaves added their strong floral note. I’ll definitely try this again.

Rating: B

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Product review: prepared foods

October 28, 2006 at 5:51 pm (Product Reviews)

First of all, I bet many of you are wondering, what is a cook like her doing eating frozen dinners? I know, I know, I feel guilty when I do it. All that energy to keep them frozen, all that plastic packaging (which is probably terrible for me), all that salt and weird artificial ingredients… But despite the guilt sometimes I’m just too busy or lazy to cook, or I’m sick of my own cooking. Going out is more expensive, takes more time, and you have less information about what you’re eating, so I sometimes resort to frozen dinners. If you supplement them with a vegetable side or salad they make an okay dinner. Here are my thoughts on the ones I’ve tried.

Amy’s cheese enchiladas (Frozen): The first ingredient in these enchiladas is cheese, and there’s almost no vegetables. The ingredient list is mostly organic, and mostly whole foods. The taste isn’t bad–a bit powdery from the chili powder and the texture is a bit soft but otherwise they’re not bad. They’re high in calories: 220 calories for each very small enchilada. These enchiladas have 24g of fat and 12 of saturated fat, and not much fiber. They do provoide 50% of calcium, vit A, and vit C however, as well as 12% iron. Overall I’d say these would make a reasonable calorie-controlled treat, especially if you add some beans or veggies, but they aren’t healthy enough to be a regular meal.

Trader Joe’s Corn and Black Bean enchiladas (Frozen): These enchiladas are composed almost entirely of almost-whole foods: corn tortillas, tomatoes, tofu, beans, zucchini… Strangely, however, black beans are not close to the top, and I actually had to check the ingredient list to see if they were really there or not. The taste isn’t bad–less powdery than the Amy’s sauce, but both the tortillas and sauce are quite gooey (which I attribute to the rice and tapioca flours). The sauce wasn’t quite chili-y enough for me, but they weren’t bad. And it’s only 260 calories for two enchiladas, compared to 440 for Amy’s. That’s quite a difference for the same amount of food. These enchiladas have only 8g of fat and no saturated fat, but not a lot of fiber. They do provide 20% of calcium and iron, and some vit A. They’re surpisingly low in protein (only 12%), which I attribute to the dearth of black beans. Overall I’d say these would are an okay food to keep in the freezer at work for emergency food, but they’re not quite tasty enough or wholesome enough for a regular choice.

Alexia Sweet Potato Julienne Fries (Frozen): Derek bought these fries but never got around to baking them. They’re tasty–breaded in some kind of potato starch and corn flour and pre-fried, then you just heat them up. They never really got crunchy, and they are not very salty, but still pretty good in my opinion. Of course, a very small serving has 150 calories, but I’m guessing that’s pretty average for sweet potato fries, and at least this way you actually know what a reasonable serving size is. I don’t think I would buy these again unless I had an unstoppable hankering for sweet potato fries, but they are tasty. The ingredient list is a bit processed (modified food starch, corn dextrin,…), but mostly it’s just sweet potatoes. Alexia makes other fries and appetizers, which are probably pretty high quality based on this product.
Dr. McDougall’s Curry Brown and Wild Rice Fruited Pilaf (Dehydrated cup): I liked the raisins, almonds, and wild rice in this dish a lot. The seasoning was a bit strong and salty, and although I thought I stirred it very well I got some pretty salty, nasty bites. The bulk of this dish is rice, so the nutritional content isn’t terribly high (1% calcium, 3% iron, 8% vit C, and 24% vit A, 4g protein, and 2g fiber), but it was very filling at least. Not a bad thing to keep in the desk for emergencies. If I make it again I might only use 1/2 or 2/3 of the seasoning packet.

Nile spice potato leek soup (Dehydrated cup): Non-vegan, mostly potatoes and milk and various other veggies. At 120 calories per cup (3g fat, 17g carbs, 5g prot), it’s a snack not a meal, but a pretty satisfying one. I enjoyed it more than I expected. It has a lot of salt though (600mg!).

Seeds of Change Creamy Spinach Lasagna (Frozen): This is a tomato-sauce-less lasagna, with only a small amount of spinach, but it’s quite rich-tasting and enjoyable. The portion is small (only 340 calories total), but I think it’s relatively filling. It’s got a reasonable amount of calcium and iron from the cheese and pasta, it’s high protein (24%), but it’s not terribly healthy (mostly white flour and dairy, little vegetables and no beans). At least the saturated fat isn’t too high (6g), and everything is organic. I’d get this again for when I’m in the mood for a treat (such as pizza). This way I can have my treat, stay organic, and keep the portion size small.

Boca Lasagna with Chunky Tomato and Herb Sauce and Meatless Ground Burger (Frozen): I liked the Seeds of Change Lasagna so I thought I’d try another. The taste of this one isn’t as good, however. The tomato sauce was fine, but although the “ground burger” pieces were tasty, their texture was kind of weird and rubbery. They’re made partly from wheat gluten but also from soy protein concentrate, which I try to avoid. Also, the cheese isn’t organic so I don’t think I’ll buy this again. It’s pretty filling though, and the stats are better than the Seeds of Change lasagna: it only has 290 calories and 2g sat fat, while having plenty of calcium, iron, protein, and even some fiber (5g).

Trader Joe’s South Indian Sambhar (Jar): I’ve been enjoying my homemade sambar so much, I was curious to see if TJ’s version was as good. Turns out it’s not very good at all. It has a very faint whiff of that canned soup taste I abhor, but mostly that’s covered up by the curry spices. Although the ingredient list is quite nice, almost all just beans and vegetables, and the nutritional content is quite good (if high salt), the flavor is terrible. It doesn’t taste anything like sambar, and doesn’t even taste like a nice dal. Avoid this one.

Trader Joe’s Pizza Olympiad (Frozen): Very good flavor, especially the olives and feta. The outer crust was nice and crisp, but the center was still soggy. One pizza has 450 calories–not bad. The ingredient looks mostly normal, except for a few items, but the cheese isn’t organic.

Trader Joe’s Garden Vegetable Lasagna (Frozen): The sauce was good but the lasagna tastes strongly of broccoli, and when I inspected ingredient list, indeed it’s the first vegetable on the list. Blech. Somehow broccoli and lasagna just don’t go together. I’d try another Trader Joe’s lasagna though. Everything but the cheese is organic.

Rising Moon Organics Feta Hazelnut Ravioli with Butternut Squash (Frozen): Great flavor–much more complex and subtle than I expected. They don’t taste like feta or hazelnut or butternut exactly, but more a balanced combination of all three. The ingredient list is all organic, and very all natural. One package is 540 calories, with lots of vitamin A and iron. They’re low fiber though, and mostly carbs.

Rising Moon Organics Spinach Florentine Ravioli (Frozen): I was disappointed in this flavor–they tasted kind of green and muddy. I wouldn’t have even finished them except I was starving. On the plus side, they’re vegan, and mostly organic. One package is 440 calories.

Trader Joe’s Thai Vegetable Gyoza (Frozen): These little dumplings taste quite fresh and healthy. They’re not exactly delicious, but not bad tasting either. The first 7 ingredients are all vegetables. They make a tasty little snack, but aren’t terribly filling. Each dumpling has only 35 calories, but not much nutritive value. Also, the dough is made with partially hydrogenated oil, and they’re handmade in Thailand, which means the environmental cost of shipping the frozen dumplings must be high. I probably won’t get them again.

The Fillo Factory Spinach and Cheese Fillo Pie: I was desperate for Spanokopita, so bought this “all natural” version at Trader Joe’s. I baked it in the oven for 40 minutes, and it crisped up quite nicely. The flavor was good, but it had a lot of dill in it, which I don’t normally associate with Spanokopita. Derek *loved* it. The stats aren’t bad. A third of the pie has 417 calories, 66% of vit A, 41% of calcium, and 25% of iron. It’s 14% protein, 47%! percent fat, and 22% of calories from sat fat, 26% of your daily sodium, and only has 3g of fiber. But this is Spanokopita we’re talking about–what did you expect? It made a very nice, portion-controlled treat. The ingredients are pretty natural looking, with spinach as the first ingredient. The only problem is the cheese and butter are not organic. I would buy it again except for the non-organic dairy.

Cedarlane Spinach and Feta Pie: Can you tell I’m on a Spanokopita kick? This one wasn’t quite as tasty I think, although to tell you the truth I don’t remember it as well. I think it was less cheesy, and more vegetable-y. One package has 520 calories, and provides 60% vit A, 41% calcium, 50% vit C, and 40% iron. It has more protein (19%) and less fat (17%) and sat fat (14%), and 5g of fiber. So it’s healthier, no wonder it’s not as tasty! It does has very high sodium, though (54% of daily needs). The feta is not organic but the mozzarella is (but who puts mozzarella in spanokopita?). I don’t think I’ll be buying this again.

Moosewood Southwest Cornbread and Red Beans (Frozen): I really love my homemade cornbread pie, and it seems like a hard thing to screw up. But Moosewood managed it. The package says the beans are infused with chipotle, garlic, cumin and lime. The only thing I tasted was tomato and sweet. Indeed, when I looked at the ingredients tomatoes were listed first. This doesn’t have any nice spicy chile flavor. The cornbread was okay, maybe a little too sweet. It also came with white rice, which was totally gratuitious. Derek tried it and thought it was bad as well, although not as bad as he expected. And he’s the one who bought it! Not recommended.

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Creamy Rice and Greens Casserole (B)

October 27, 2006 at 7:54 pm (B_minus (2 stars, okay), Cruciferous rich, Dark leafy greens, Grains, Mom’s recipes, Vegetable dishes)

This is a great comfort-food kind of recipe, inspired by my mom’s suggestion. Although the taste is very good, the presentation is a bit lacking. The amounts below are a first guess. I will measure more carefully next time I make this recipe.

  • 1 cup short grain brown rice, dry (about 3 cups cooked)
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 2-3 Tbs. minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. red chili flakes
  • 2 bunches of chard or collards, washed but not shaken dry
  • 2 tsp. soy sauce
  • 3-4 Tbs. nutritional yeast
  • 2-4 Tbs. soy mayonnaise
  1. Cook the brown rice in 1.75 cups of water for 40 minutes. (See my recipe for brown rice if you don’t know how to do this.) Let stand covered for 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, wash the greens well, and slice them into ribbons.
  3. Chop the garlic. Heat the oil in a 3-4 quart pan. When garlic turns a very light brown, add the chili flakes and greens and stir to get them all wilted. Cook them for about 4 minutes (for chard), or until they’re not too chewy.  You’ll need longer for the collards, maybe 8 minutes?  Add some water to the pan if they’re starting to stick. Add the soy sauce to deglaze the pan.
  4. When the rice is done, add it to the greens, along with the yeast and mayo. Stir to mix. Serve hot.

Rating: B

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South African Curried Kidney Beans

October 27, 2006 at 7:47 pm (Beans, B_minus (2 stars, okay), Derek's faves, Indian, Madhur Jaffrey)

This South African dish from a Gujarati cook is supposedly sweet and sour feast food. I didn’t detect much sweet or sour but the flavors were well-balanced and delicious. This dish is based on a recipe from the cookbook From Curries to Kabobs: Recipes from the Indian Spice Trail by Madhur Jaffrey. Read the rest of this entry »

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Summer Squash Zataar (B)

October 26, 2006 at 9:24 am (B_minus (2 stars, okay), My brain, Quick weeknight recipe, Summer recipes, Vegetable dishes)

I’ve had a bottle of zatar in my pantry for a while now, but never really know what to do with it. Inspired by a recipe on RecipeZaar for zucchini and zataar, I threw together this dish using the last of the summer squash.

  • 1 yellow summer squash
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 small onion, sliced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 Tbs. olive oil
  • salt
  • 1 tsp. zataar
  • 1 Tbs. grated parmesan cheese

This dish was quite delicious. Definitely worth the last of the summer squash.

Rating: B

Zatar is a mixture of spices that originated in the Middle East. The red zatar I have is made from sumac, thyme, and sesame seeds. Zatar is traditionally used to season meats and vegetables, sprinkled on hummus or yogurt, and mixed with olive oil as a spread. The spelling of zatar is not standardized. Google page hits:

  • zataar 635
  • zahtar 11,000
  • za’atar 29,200
  • zaatar 61000
  • zatar 190,000

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Molasses Yogurt

October 18, 2006 at 6:29 pm (breakfast, My brain, Quick weeknight recipe, unrated)

I like blackstrap molasses, but have trouble finding non-dessert recipes that call for it. Last night I put 1/2 Tbs. molasses in 1/2 cup nonfat organic plain yogurt. I enjoyed it. In the past I have added lemon juice as well, which added a pleasant acidity.

Dr. Michael Greger in his anti-cancer talk said that we should never eat a citrus fruit without using the zest. So I thought I might add the zest from my grapefruit to 1 cup of molasses yogurt…. Woah. That’s intense. A whole grapefruit’s worth of zest makes it pretty bitter. The combination of the sour yogurt, the minerally molasses, and the bitter zest makes it taste almost alcoholic. Maybe half a grapefruit’s worth would be better.

I’m still looking for other non-dessert blackstrap recipes. If you have one to recommend please post a comment!

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Quick Cauliflower Curry

October 17, 2006 at 6:22 pm (B_minus (2 stars, okay), Cruciferous rich, Derek's faves, Indian, Mom’s recipes, Monthly menu plan, Quick weeknight recipe, Vegetable dishes)

This is my mom’s lightening-fast cauliflower curry, which uses almost entirely pantry and freezer ingredients (e.g. no fresh ginger or garlic or onions). Despite its simplicity, it’s an excellent version of a traditional Americanized cauliflower curry. I like it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, plain or served with dal or rice or yogurt. This recipe is quite forgiving, so if you’re missing a spice or vegetable, you can probably just leave it out without changing the flavor of the dish substantially. Read the rest of this entry »

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Curried Cauliflower “Bhaji” (B+)

October 17, 2006 at 6:17 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Cruciferous rich, Indian, Madhur Jaffrey, Quick weeknight recipe, Vegetable dishes)

This is a quick, everyday dish, from the cookbook From Curries to Kabobs: Recipes from the Indian Spice Trail, by Madhur Jaffrey.

Serves 3 to 4

  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. whole brown mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. whole cumin seeds
  • 2 whole, dried, hot, red chilies
  • 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, first cut into thin slices, and the slices then stacked and cut into thin slivers
  • 4 heaped cups cauliflower florets, 2 inches in length and no wider than 1 1/2 inches (about 1 pound after removing core and leaves)
  • 1/2 cup peeled and finely chopped tomato

Pour the coriander, cumin, turmeric, cayenne, and salt into a small bowl. Add 4 Tbs. of water and mix. Set aside.

Pour the oil into a large, lidded pan and set over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, put in the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and chilies. As soon as the mustard seeds begin to pop, a matter of seconds, put in first the ginger and then the cauliflower. Fry the cauliflower, stirring at the same time, for about 2 minutes, or until it picks up some brown spots.

Reduce the heat to low. Stir in the spice paste, cover, and continue to cook over low heat for about 6 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes. Replace the lid, and cook for a further 6 minutes, or until the cauliflower is just tender.

My Notes

This tastes a lot like the cauliflower recipe my mom used to make all the time, except it uses individual spices rather than curry powder. We used less oil, added frozen peas to add some nice green color, and I was too lazy to peel my tomato. I also used some grated ginger I had around, rather than the julienne slices, and kosher rather than fine salt.

It was delicious. I could have eaten the whole pan. My mom and I polished it off easily. If I make it again I will use the whole head of cauliflower, as this dish reheats well. I might make a few changes, such as slicing the cauliflower rather than breaking it into florets, and adding a bit of lemon juice at the end. It was also good with a bit of masala chaat powder.

I made it again with a relatively small head of cauliflower, and it was about 7 cups of florets, which made quite a lot of curry, but it’s good as leftovers and it all got eaten. I also added a few roasted potatoes, lots of peas, and canned dice tomatoes. I used 2 Tbs. of oil, and it wasn’t oily, but tasted rich.

Update Sept 2009:  I made this with 1.5 Tbs. oil, 1 pound of cauliflower, and no ginger (I was out).  I added 1 cup of green peas, and 1 tsp. of lemon juice.  It was very good, and not too oily, although perhaps just a tad salty.  My 12-inch skillet wasn’t completely full.

Rating: B+

Derek: B+

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Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Nut Cookies

October 17, 2006 at 4:25 am (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Cookies, Dessert, Website / blog)

This recipe is modified from a chain email about a $250 Neiman Marcus cookie recipe which is apparently an urban myth. Regardless, the recipe is great. Blended oats replace some of the flour in this recipe, and give the cookies a hearty flavor and toothsome texture.

Cream together:

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar

Add and mix well:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla

Add to wet:

  • 2 1/2 cups whole oatmeal, blended to an almost flour
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • 1 tsp. Baking powder
  • 1 tsp. Baking soda
  • 3/4 lb. Chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups toasted nuts

Bake at 375 degrees for 9 minutes.

My Notes

The first time I made these cookies they turned out perfect. The last few times however, the dough was quite dry and the chocolate chips and nuts would barely stay in the dough. I’m not sure what I did differently. My mom makes these vegan, by substituting 2/3 cup canola oil for the butter, and 1/2 cup applesauce for the eggs. She usually just makes half the recipe though. This weekend we tried instead substituting 2.5 Tbs. blended flax seeds mixed with 3 Tbs. water for the one egg, and 1/4 cup of canola oil + 1/4 cup applesauce for the 1/2 cup of butter. The cookies came out tasty, but very crispy, almost hard.

Rating: B+

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Chickpea and Spinach Curry

October 12, 2006 at 4:30 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, Beans and greens, Derek's faves, Indian, Other, Quick weeknight recipe, Yearly menu plan) ()

After Derek returned from Australia he suggested I check out “Bill’s” cookbooks. Apparently he ate at Bill’s restaurants a number of times in Sydney, and really enjoyed the food. This recipe is from Bill’s Open Kitchen by Bill Granger.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 red onion, finely sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • 1 or 2 green chillies, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 14-oz cans of chickpeas, drained
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric (optional)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 500 g cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 100 g (3 1/2 ounces) baby spinach leaves
  • Serve with: plain yogurt

Instructions:

  1. Heat a large deep frying pan over a medium to high heat. Add the oil, onion, garlic, ginger, chili and salt. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes, or until the onions are soft.
  2. Add the chickpeas, 1/4 cup water, cumin, turmeric and pepper and cook for 5 minutes, or until the water evaporates.
  3. Add the tomatoes and cook for another 2 minutes to soften. Remove from the heat and taste for seasoning. Stir through the spinach and top with yogurt.

Derek really loved this dish, and I thought it wasn’t bad. It’s a relatively simple curry, but surprisingly tasty. It’s somehow more than the sum of it’s parts. This curry is very fast and easy to make if you use canned chickpeas and pre-washed spinach.

This recipe makes about 4.5 cups and I found that 1.33 cups with 2/3 cup of nonfat yogurt makes a filling dinner. Together with the yogurt, using 1 Tbs of oil, one servings has 412 calories (18% fat, 21% protein, 61% carbs), and also 47% of calcium, 33% of iron, 43% of vit A, 67% of vitamin C, and 15.4g of fiber.

After making it a few more times, I recommend using only one can of chickpeas and 1 Tbs. of oil, and decreasing the salt. Alternatively, use 2 cups of chickpeas but increase the seasoning. For example, with 2 cans of chickpeas I’d probably use 8 ounces of spinach, 2 green chilies with seeds, more garlic, and a full tablespoon or more of ginger. This makes about 4 main course servings.

Rose: B+
Derek: A-

Update 8/8/2007: I made this last night, using only 1 Tbs. olive oil, and regular mature spinach from my CSA. I didn’t have fresh tomatoes so used one 14 ounce can of diced tomatoes, juice and all. I was also out of ginger. Despite my deficiencies, the curry was pretty good–and it even with less oil it was certainly rich enough in my opinion. I though it could use more spinach, since it seemed to be mostly chickpeas. Also, I think the yogurt (or something creamy and bland) is essential to balance the flavors.

To try next time:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, finely sliced (or minced for Alma)
  • 4 to 5 garlic cloves, finely sliced (or minced for Alma)
  • 1 Tbs. freshly grated ginger (Alma doesn’t like ginger, so better to finely slice it so she can pick out the pieces from her dish)
  • 2 green chillies, seeded and finely chopped (omit for Alma)
  • 1.25 teaspoons fine salt
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1.5 large jars of chickpeas, drained
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 500g cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 250 – 300g (9 – 10.5 ounces) spinach leaves
  • Serve with: plain yogurt

Update March 2010: I made this using 125 grams of baby spinach, 1 can of chickpeas, and 1 can of diced tomatoes.  Derek thought it needed more chickpeas.  He didn’t like it with canned tomatoes as much as he does with fresh cherry tomatoes.  He lowered his rating to a B+.  I thought it was pretty similar to the previous versions, but I liked it with fewer chickpeas.  My main beef with this recipe is that it just doesn’t taste like a curry to me.  It’s pretty fresh and healthy tasting, and very easy to make.  But I just don’t love it.

Update August 2010: I made this using 200 grams baby spinach, a large can of chickpeas (about 450 grams of cooked beans), 2 very large cloves of garlic, just a small nub of ginger minced (not grated), 1 medium red onion, 3/4 tsp. sea salt, 1 tsp. cumin,  3/4 tsp. cumin, 3 very hot Thai red chilies, 1 Tbs. olive oil, and about 300? grams of cherry tomatoes from the farmer’s market.  At the end I stirred about 1 cup of nonfat yogurt directly into the skillet with the chickpeas and spinach.  The curry came out very spicy but quite tasty.  I just should have waited to stir in the yogurt, because the curry was too hot and my yogurt separated.  This time Derek rated it A- again, and I quite liked it quite a bit as well.  I think it’s much better with cherry tomatoes.  They really add a nice texture:  B+.

Update June 2019: I made this recipe once last fall and Derek and I quite enjoyed it, and Alma ate it, albeit somewhat grudgingly. But today (at almost 4.5 years) Alma took one bite and burst into tears. “I don’t like it! I want something from the freezer! I want frozen peas or corn! I want a smoothie bomb!” She was distraught. She didn’t like the cooked tomatoes. She didn’t like the ginger. She didn’t like the spinach. (She generally likes greens but spinach is generally her least favorite green.) She didn’t like that it was all mixed together. I’m sure it didn’t help that the main ingredient was chickpeas. Chickpeas used to be a safe bet, but she hasn’t eaten them the last n times I served them.  She said she was just going to eat plain yogurt for dinner, but eventually threw some plain chickpeas and raw tomatoes into the yogurt as well.

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Grilled Millet and Butternut Squash Cakes (B)

October 12, 2006 at 9:06 am (B_minus (2 stars, okay), Grains, Rebecca Wood)

This recipe is from Rebecca Wood’s The Splendid Grain.

Toast over high heat until the first seed pops:

  • 1 cup millet

then wash, drain and set aside (I skipped the washing step).

Toast for 1 minute, or until aromatic:

  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds (change to 1 Tbs?)
  • 1 tsp. curry powder (change to 2 tsp.?)

Combine in a medium saucepan the millet and spices, and:

  • 2.5 cups water
  • 2 cups peeled and diced butternut squash
  • 1 tsp. fresh ginger (change to 1 Tbs?)
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt

Bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 25 minutes, or until the millet has absorbed all the water. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Preheat the grill. Add to the millet mixture:

  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (increase to 3/4 cup?)

Wet your hands and blend the millet mixture to a fairly uniform consistency. Form into 12 cakes. Place on the grill and grill for about 3 minutes on each side until golden. Serve hot.

My Notes

I liked the texture and flavor of these “cakes”, but the flavor is very mild (my coworker snagged one then claimed they tasted like rice cakes). My favorite part was the outside, crispy, browned part. Wood says to grill them or pan-fry, but I baked them on a sprayed cookie sheet. I think if I was going to make this again I’d up all the seasonings a bit. Nonetheless, they’re very low calorie and make a pretty satisfying and healthy snack.

Rating: B

Nutrition Info for 1 Patty (with original ingredients):
Calories 67
Total Fat 1.4g
Saturated Fat 0.1g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 99mg
Carbohydrate 14.4g
Dietary Fiber 1.1g
Sugars 0.6g
Protein 2g
Vitamin A 60% Vitamin C 7%
Calcium 1% Iron 8%

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Quack’s Salsa (B+)

October 11, 2006 at 12:59 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Mexican & S. American, restaurant inspired)

Captain Quackenbush’s Intergalactic Dessert Company and Espresso Café (commonly known as Quackenbush’s or just Quack’s) was Austin’s first coffeehouse and an excellent example of the laid-back style of old-school Austin. In college, I used to eat lunch there occasionally, always getting their black bean burrito with verde sauce and a side of their excellent tomato salsa. It was a great deal: three and a half bucks for a tasty, filling, healthy burrito and salsa that couldn’t be beat. Unfortunately, Starbucks and other newer, trendier coffee shops soon showed up on the drag, and Quack’s was eventually closed down in the face of reduced business and rising rents. Before they closed, however, I made a desperate plea for their salsa recipe. It’s restaurant-sized, but so good you won’t have trouble getting rid of a gallon at a time (right?).

Stir together:

  • 10 pounds of whole tomatoes, broken up with a wooden spoon
  • 1 yellow onion (1/2 lb.), diced
  • 3 jalepenos, minced
  • 1 poblano, diced
  • 1/2 cup whole garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 cup water

My Notes

When I made this for fast food at the co-op, it would all disappear in twenty four hours.

Rating: B+

Reduced version:

  • 2 pounds whole tomatoes (I used 1 lb 13 oz canned tomatoes in juice + a 7 oz fresh tomato)
  • 1.6 oz diced onion (I used 4 oz)
  • 3/5 jalapeno, minced  (I used 1.5 seeded jalapeno + 1/2 with seeds)
  • 1/5 poblano (I used none, adding 1/2 tsp. chile powder)
  • .8 Tbs. whole garlic, minced (I used 3 cloves, 17g total)
  • 1/5 bunch cilantro, chopped (I used 40g)
  • juice of 1/5 of a lime (I used 1 lime, just over 1.5 Tbs.)
  • 3/10 tsp. salt (I used 1/2 tsp.)
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper (I used a few grinds)
  • 1/10 tsp. ground cumin (I used 1/2 tsp.)
  • 1/5 cup water (I used 1.5 oz or 3 Tbs.)
  • I added 1 Tbs. olive oil for mouthfeel

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Equipment Review: Messless Measuring

October 11, 2006 at 1:06 am (Equipment reviews)

I’ve been posting a lot of recipes lately, but I’ve been wanting to give some recommendations for kitchen items as well. I’m going to start with measuring utensils, such as measuring spoons, cups, scales, etc.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Cranberry Pumpkin Bread

October 11, 2006 at 12:44 am (Alma's faves, AMA, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Dessert, Muffins and quick breads, Quick weeknight recipe, Yearly menu plan) ()

This is a great fall dessert. I make it at least once or twice each fall when I first see fresh cranberries in the stores. The pumpkin and cornmeal give this bread a great texture and the cranberries are marvelously tart. I made it last year for Thanksgiving and everyone liked it. This is based on a recipe in the AMA Family Health cookbook. I’ve decreased the sugar, doubled the number of cranberries, and swapped out half the flour for whole wheat flour. It was good to start with, and now I think it’s even better! The traditional look is to bake this in a loaf pan but I think it holds together better and has a better (crispier) texture when baked in a standard cake pan. Read the rest of this entry »

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Refried pinto beans

October 10, 2006 at 9:35 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, Cook's Illustrated, Mexican & S. American, My brain, Quick weeknight recipe)

Back in college, when I lived in a housing co-op, one of my jobs was to make “fast food”–food to have in the fridge for lunches, or when someone wanted a quick snack. I made a lot of hummus, and tofu salad, and since this was Texas, massive quantities of salsa and refried beans. I’ve reduced my recipe down so it no longer makes a gallon!

  • 2 cups dry pinto beans (or 5 cups cooked, drained beans, juice reserved)
  • 7 cups filtered water (I need to double check this amount)
  • 1-1.5 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, chopped (about 1.5 cups)
  • 1 large jalepeno, partially or completely seeded, minced (optional)
  • 2 Tbs. minced garlic
  • 1 Tbs. cumin
  • 1.5 tsp. chili powder
  • 1.5 tsp. oregano
  • 1-2 cups of cooking water from the beans
  • 1 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 2-3 Tbs. of lime juice

Instructions

  1. Cook 2 cups of dry pinto beans with 1 tsp. of salt and 7 cups of water in a crockpot on the low setting overnight. This should take about 8 hours, and the beans should be very soft, almost falling apart, when done.
  2. Saute the oil, onion, and jalepeno together until soft. I use a 9 inch cast iron skillet, but any heavy-bottom pan will do. Add the garlic and cook for a few more minutes, then add the cumin and chili powder and toast briefly.
  3. Add the drained beans, the oregano, the tomato paste, and 1 cup of the bean cooking liquid. Use a potato masher or a fork to break the beans down into a rough paste. If you prefer your refries chunky, reserve a cup of whole beans and add them at the end.
  4. Off heat, and add the lime juice. Taste and adjust the salt if needed, adding up to another 1/2 tsp. salt. Either serve immediately, or if you’re going to store it in the fridge add another 1 cup of the bean liquid. The beans get very thick and dried out after a night in the fridge, so they should be pretty soupy going in.

Yields 5 cups of refries, about 6-10 servings.

My notes

It’s funny, I went looking for a recipe for refried pinto beans in my cookbook collection and didn’t turn up much–not even in my bean book! AMA has one fat-free recipe where you add raw onions and garlic and the beans to a blender, but I’m scared to try it. Berley has a more normal looking recipe, but I think I tried it a while back and it was incredibly bland.

Regarding cooking the beans. It’s important to cook the beans with the salt for the best flavor. You could also throw in kombu, a bay leaf, or other seasonings at this stage if you want. I’d like to experiment with this and see if adding the cumin and other spices at this point improves the recipe. This recipe also works fine with canned beans, but you may have to reduce the salt.

Other ingredients I have added to my refries at one time or another include coriander, chipotle powder, garlic powder, salsa, tomato sauce, cilantro, pickled jalepenos, green bell peppers, poblano chiles, and lime zest. I still want to futz with this recipe a bit more to recall if any of these ingredients should make it into the final recipe, and maybe experiment with some other ingredients. There’s a very popular recipe on RecipeZaar that calls for black beans and a bottle of beer.  Sounds very sour. I’m open to other suggestions as well. Just post a comment!

In any case, I do think the essential ingredients are salt, cumin powder, something spicy, something tomato-y, and lime juice. Everything else is secondary.

10/22/06 I served these for brunch today and Derek said they were “delicious, wonderful, everyone loved them. Perfect.”

Rating: B+
Derek: A

Nutritional Stats

Serving Size: 1/2 cup

Amount Per Serving
Calories 154
Total Fat 2.1g
Saturated Fat 0.3g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 363mg
Carbohydrate 26.6g
Dietary Fiber 6.7g
Sugars 2.2g
Protein 8.7g
Vitamin A 4% Vitamin C 28%
Calcium 6% Iron 15%

Percent calories from: fat 12%, protein 22%, carbs 66%. I prefer to keep my beans low fat because I like to add cheese or avocados or olives to my burritos. If you’re not going to have any added fats, you might want to increase the amount of olive oil to 2-3 Tablespoons.

I recently tried the refried bean recipe in Cook’s Illustrated Best Light Recipe Cookbook:

Makes 4.5 cups. Serves 6-8.

1 cup water
3 (15.5 ounces each) cans pinto beans , drained and rinsed (about 4.5-5.25 cups?)
4 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion , chopped fine
1 jalapeno chile , seeds and ribs removed, chile minced
1/2 teaspoon table salt
3 small cloves garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro leaves (optional)

1. Process water and beans in food processor until smooth, about 15 seconds, scraping sides of bowl with rubber spatula if necessary.

2. Heat 1 tsp. olive oil in large saucepan over medium-low heat, add the onion and jalepeno, cover and cook for 10-12 minutes, until the vegetables have softened. Add the garlic and cumin; cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the beans and stir. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, until beans are thick and creamy, about 10 minutes. Stir in final Tbs. of olive oil and cilantro is using, and serve.

My Notes:

It’s weird, I looked up the original (non-light) recipe on C.I. and it called for salt pork, chicken broth instead of water, a poblano chili, and 1 Tbs. fresh lime juice. I can understand nixing the salt pork and chicken broth, but why do away with the poblano and lime juice? Also it called for kidney beans rather than pintos?? I had some home cooked lightly salted pintos in the fridge, so used those, and substituted the bean juice for the water, but used slightly less than called for since I hadn’t drained the beans perfectly. I also withheld some of the beans from the food processor (as is suggested in the original but not the light recipe) since I didn’t want a total puree. I think I actually should have withheld about 1/3-1/2 of the beans, since I like quite a chunky puree. I didn’t add the cilantro but I did add a Tbs. of lime juice, which I think is essential. I also increased the cumin to 1.5 tsp., and upped the garlic a bit. I didn’t stir in the final Tbs. of olive oil since I actually thought they tasted quite good, and I was planning on eating them with guacamole anyhow.

Overall I thought these refries turned out pretty well (given my modifications)–better than other recipes I’ve tried. Althought they were tasty, they were still missing something. I think they would be improved by adding a bit of some tomato product for acidity and roundness, and some type of chili powder for more darkness/depth.

Okay, I just went back and compared it to my recipe above. The difference is that it calls for a bit less liquid (1 cup vs. 1-2 cups), less salt (although canned beans are salted so that might be why), less garlic (about 2 tsp. vs 2 Tbs.), less cumin (1 tsp. vs. 1 Tbs.) and less lime juice (1 Tbs. vs 2 Tbs.) Plus I use oregano, tomato paste, and chili powder. After comparing them I can see why I like this recipe. It’s basically a toned down version of my recipe. Maybe the ideal recipe is somewhere in between? Mine is probably a bit overspiced, and theirs is a bit underspiced.

Update Feb 2010:  I was eyeing some very soft, lightly salted pinto beans I had cooked up the day before, and decided to turn them into refries.  I used a middle ground between the above two recipes.  I measured out about 5.5-6 cups of very soup beans.  (I didn’t drain them, but I did use a ladle with big holes to scoop them into the measuring cup.)  I sauteed 1.5 cups red onion and a very little big of green bell pepper with 1.5 Tbs. of olive oil, in my cast iron skillet.  Then I added the garlic, 1.5 tsp. whole cumin which I ground in my coffee grinder, 1/2 tsp. chipotle powder, and 1/2 tsp. kosher salt.  I then added about 2.5-3 cups of the soupy beans, then used my stick blender to puree what remained in the measuring cup.  I added the pureed beans as well.  At this point the beans tasted pretty good but were way too thin.  I let them simmer for about 30 minutes until they’d thickened up.  Derek liked them–had two servings.  I thought they needed a little lime, but they were pretty good.

Update March 2010:  I measured out just over 1 pound (maybe 2.5 -3 cups) dry pintos, and cooked them with salt and water until very soft.  I used all the pintos plus about 1.5 cups of the cooking liquid (the thick stuff from the bottom), 1 Tbs. garlic, 1.5 tsp. whole cumin ground, 1/2 tsp. chipotle powder, 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, 9 ounces (about 2 cups chopped) onion, 1.5 Tbs. olive oil, 1 Tbs. butter, 4 ounces long green peppers, and 1 tsp. tomato paste.  After cooking the beans I got about 5.5 cups of drained, cooked beans.  The refries still don’t taste quite right too me.  Derek likes them, but maybe they need more salt?  I’m not sure.  I sauteed the onion and peppers together, then added them, (all but 2 cups of) the cooked beans and the bean juice to a container, and pureed with my stick blender.  Then I added the remaining beans in for texture.  I ended up with about 7 cups of refries.

Update May 2010:  I had about 3-5 cups of mixed cooked pinto/black beans, lightly salted.  For refries I used

  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large jalepeno, with seeds
  • 3 regular cloves garlic, minced
  • 1.5 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • sprinkle of chipotle powder
  • a little liquid from the bean cooking liquid
  • about 1 Tbs. pace-style picante sauce

I used my stick blender to roughly puree the beans in my casserole pan.  The texture turned out a little gritty and a little chunky.  I liked it, and it was easier than mashing by hand.  The beans were seasoned well–not to intense but not mild either.  Altogether it took me about 25 minutes to make the refries, cut up raw veggies for my burritos (peppers, cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, and lettuce), and do various dishes  / cleanup.

Update September 2015: My mom came to visit this week and made me refries. Her beans were much better than I remember mine being. Here’s a link to her recipe.

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Equipment Review: Sharp Kitchen Gadgets

October 9, 2006 at 2:00 am (Equipment reviews)

Kuhn Rikon Swiss Double Edged PeelerI am a picky peeler, so it’s saying a lot when I tell you that I love my vegetable peeler. It’s a Kuhn Rikon Double Edged (or Double Blade) Swiss Peeler. I find it extremely comfortable to hold, and it never seems to get dull even though I’ve had it for years. The only downside is that it rusts easily, so I always dry it immediately after washing it. Also, it doesn’t work well on really round, ridged squashes, but other than that it’s great. I highly recommend it!  My mother, however, says its takes off too much of the veggies.

microplane2.jpg

microplane.jpg

Another gadget I’m very fond of is my microplane zester. It comes in two versions: one with a plastic handle and one without. I much prefer the one with the handle. I love these zesters because they don’t get any of the bitter white pith, they yield a very fine zest, and the way the metal is folded over (see below), the zest gets collected in the folds of the zester, and doesn’t fall out.

Every kitchen needs a pair of scissors. I’ve always just bought whatever brand is cheap and has long blades and big handles. I don’t have a particular brand recommendation, but if you don’t have a pair in the kitchen–get one!

Knives

Sizes and styles: Many people say you only need three knives:  a large chef’s knife, a serrated knife, and a paring knife.   I think I could get by with those three, but I have more.

  • 9-inch chefs knife:  The extra length comes in handy occasionally, like when splitting a winter squash or large cabbage in half.
  • 6-inch santoku knife:  If you always cook alone, then you can just get one large chef’s knive, but if you ever cook with someone else, then it’s really nice to have two large knives.  I don’t have any smaller knives for chopping.  Some people find even a 6-inch knife too big; for example, when my sister came to visit, she kept asking if I had any smaller knives for chopping.  Nope!
  • paring knife:  I use this to take bad spots out of apples or potatoes, and for other occasional tasks.
  • large serrated knife:  For cutting bread, I like to have a long, quite thin bread knife.  This can also be used for cutting tomatoes, but I prefer something smaller.
  • small serrated knife:  I have a cheap, small and thin serrated knife for cutting tomatoes.

Derek also likes to have a short, fat knife for cutting soft cheeses, but I rarely use it.

Brands:  I have cheap knives and expensive knives, but I don’t love any of them.  The key is to find a knife with a handle that feels comfortable, and then keep it sharp.

Knife sharpener:

I bought a sharpening stone years ago, but I never really figured out how to use it.  Now I use the accusharp knife sharpener, which costs about ten dollars and is idiot-proof.  It takes only a few swipes to make my knives super sharp. Supposedly it makes your knives wear out faster by taking off more metal than a professional sharpener, but for me it’s worth it to always have sharp knives.  I also have a diamond steel I use to hone my knifes.  If you don’t have a good knife sharpener than take them in to be professionally sharpened someplace that uses a real sharpening stone, not some cheap electric knife sharpener.

Other sharp kitchen gadgets I own:

  • A mandoline. I’ve always looked at mandolines with excitement and trepidation. I’ve read so many mixed reviews on Amazon I just didn’t know what to think. I received an Oxo mandoline as a wedding present, however, and will write up a review when I get a chance.
  • Julienning peeler.  I’ve tried two different brands and neither worked very well.  They julienned soft vegetables like cucumbers moderately well, but they completely failed to julienne hard vegetables like carrots.
  • Grapefruit knife.  Get a curved, serrated one.  I’ve also heard good things about a double grapefruit knife, but haven’t tried it yet.
  • Fat microplane grater for grating cheeses finely, or other handheld grater.
  • Box grater.

Sharp electrical appliances:

  • Food processor.
  • Blender.
  • Stick blender.
  • Spice grinder.

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Celery Root Salad with Apple and Parsley (C)

October 9, 2006 at 1:43 am (Cook's Illustrated, F (0 stars, dislike), French, Quick weeknight recipe, Root vegetables, Salads, Starches)

Rick at the Oakland Farmer’s Market had one lovely celeriac this week, with the beautiful dark greens still attached. When I put it in my bag the green tops sprung forth out of the bag—I got strange looks on the bus, and when I got back to the office Jacob asked if I had just come back from a farm.

I made a celery root salad from the French Vegetarian cookbook this summer that was interesting. I would have tried it again, but this one from Cook’s Illustrated has apples and parsley, both of which I got in my CSA basket this week.

Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish

Creamy Dijon Dressing
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon table salt
3 tablespoons vegetable oil , or canola
3 tablespoons sour cream
Salad
1 medium celery root (13 – 14 ounces), peeled and rinsed
1/2 medium tart apple, cored and peeled
2 scallions, sliced thin
2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley leaves
2 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon leaves (optional)
  Table salt and ground black pepper
 
 

For the Dressing

1. In medium bowl, whisk together lemon juice, mustard, honey, and salt. Whisk in oil in slow, steady stream. Add sour cream; whisk to combine. Set aside.

For the Salad

2. Remove the top and bottom of the celery root and then use a paring knife to remove the outer layer of flesh from top to bottom. If using food processor, cut celery root and apple into 1 1/2-inch pieces and grate with shredding disc. (Alternatively, grate on coarse side of box grater.) You should have about 3 cups total. Add immediately to prepared dressing; toss to coat. Stir in scallions and parsley (and tarragon, if using; see note above). Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes. Serve.

Although not always available, fresh tarragon complements the flavor of celery root. If you can find it, stir in 2 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon along with the parsley. Add a teaspoon or so more oil to the dressed salad if it seems a bit dry.

My Notes:

Cook’s Illustrated makes a big deal about how to peel the celery root. I don’t know what they’re fussing about; I just used my vegetable peeler (which I love, and deserves its own post) and it worked fine. They also say they tried different ways of cutting the celery root to maintain it’s crisp crunch, and liked grating it the best. I’m don’t agree. I liked the julienne of the other celery root salad much better than the grating. The hand-grated pieces seemed softer and less crisp. When you eat this salad you have the disconcerting sensation of grinding your teeth. It’s weird. I used a not too tart apple from my CSA, which I couldn’t really taste it the final salad, although maybe it made it a bit sweeter. I’m not sure I could taste the scallions either. I couldn’t cough up the $2.50 for the tarragon.

For the dressing, I used only 1 Tbs. olive oil and used nonfat yogurt instead of sour cream. It came out pretty well. I don’t think I like it as much as the lemon and mustard dressing I use for Berley’s green bean salad, but it wasn’t bad. It actually tastes pretty similiar to the dip I always improvise when I make baked tofu, except I add garlic, and leave out the olive oil. Altogether this salad was tasty, but not exciting. I think the dressing overwhelmed the celery root a bit?

Update from the next day. I could not eat the leftovers. One bite was all I could stand. Strange.

Update January 2008: I made this recipe for Derek, following the original recipe except for adding an extra apple since mine were small. I even added the tarragon, and grating the celery root in my food processor. Grating in the food processor helps since the pieces are larger and thicker, almost like julienne rather than hand grating. Despite the large amounts of fat in the recipe, I didn’t think it tasted super-rich, and I didn’t think it tasted like the traditional French dressing, I’m not sure why. Certainly the mustard seemed to dominate too much. Perhaps I didn’t use a very good dijon, or Derek added a bit too much when he measured it. The tarragon wasn’t very noticeable. I didn’t really care for this salad, but ate the leftovers at lunch the next day simply because I was hungry and it was what I had. Derek, on the other hand, liked the salad, saying “it’s refreshing.”

Rating: C
Derek: B

Cook’s Illustrated has a number of other variants I want to try. One that is very similiar to this one has you add to the salad:

1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
   

Other variants include pear and hazelnuts, and a version with mint, orange and fennel.

Update Dec 29: I had one small celery root (about the size of a large apple). I julienned it and tossed it with 1.5 Tbs. lemon juice, about 1 tsp. horseradish, 1 tsp. dijon mustard, and 1 Tbs. lowfat sour cream. It was pleasant, and well-dressed.

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Acorn Squash Stuffed with Carrots and Rutabaga (B-)

October 8, 2006 at 2:31 am (C (1 star, edible), Crescent Dragonwagon, Cruciferous rich, Vegetable dishes)

I got acorn squash this week from my CSA. I like them stuffed, but I never know what to stuff them with. So I went scouring for recipes. This one is actually called Suzie Pryor’s “Perfectly Delicious” Stuffed Acorn Squash, from the cookbook Passionate Vegetarian by Crescent Dragonwagon. When I saw the rutabaga in the ingredient list I had to make it, as I had a rutabaga languishing in the fridge, and just the one rutabaga recipe in my repetoire.

  • 4 small-to-medium or 2 medium-large acorn squash, prepared for stuffing
  • 2carrots, chopped
  • 1.5-2 cups chopped rutabaga
  • 1 Tbs. butter
  • 1 Tbs. brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • a few gratings of nutmeg
  • 1 cup peeled, finely diced apple
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Slice a 1/2 inch top hat from the stem end of each squash. If the bottom of the squash is not flat, remove a very thin slice so the squash can stand upright. Scoop the inner seeds and stringy pulp from the cavity.
  3. Spray a 13-by-9 inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  4. Place the squash, cut side down, in the prepared baking dish. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and check if the squash are tender. If not, turn the squash right side up, re-cover, and bake for another 20 minutes or so. Remove from the oven and carefully scoop out most of the squash flesh, keeping the outer shell intact. Place the flesh in a mixing bowl. Setboth the squash halves and the flesh aside. Do not turn the oven off.
  5. As the squash cook, bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the carrots and turnips. Simmer until tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain (reserve the water for use in stock, if desired). Add the vegetables to the bowl with the squash flesh.
  6. Using an electric mixer, whip the three cooked vegetables together with the butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt to taste. Stir in the apples. Divide the stuffing equally among the squash shells. Return the stuffed shells to the baking dish.
  7. Bake, uncovered, until heated through, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve hot.

My notes

When I poured out the carrots and rutabaga they smelled an awful lot like turnips. I snagged one of the rutabaga pieces to taste it, and thankfully it didn’t taste like a turnip. It was more sweet and yellow tasting. The idea of using a handheld mixer to combine the vegetables into an almost smooth mash is interesting. However, the turnips and carrots weren’t cooked quite enough for this to happen. They stayed rather lumpy. I’m not sure my squash was cooked even after 50 minutes; maybe I didn’t have my tin foil sealed well enough? The final mixture wasn’t bad. The addition of the carrots was nice, but it was still a bit turnipy perhaps. Plus it needed more cinnamon and a little more butter I think. The results weren’t worth the rather complicated recipe, unfortunately. I’m still looking for a good, healthy, stuffed acorn squash recipe. Any suggestions?

Rating: B-

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Chilaquiles

October 5, 2006 at 12:43 am (A (4 stars, love), breakfast, Derek's faves, Mexican & S. American, Mom’s recipes, Quick weeknight recipe, Yearly menu plan)

This was always one of my favorite dishes growing up, and now it’s one of Derek’s favorites too. Whenever I ask him “What should we make” his answer is invariably “chilaquiles.” They’re great for brunch, and along with a vegetable or salad make a great last-minute dinner. Even though my mom gave me her recipe, hers are still always better than mine. I’m hoping to someday learn her secret!

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Stuffed Hashbrowns

October 4, 2006 at 6:21 am (A (4 stars, love), Alma's faves, breakfast, Cruciferous rich, Mom’s recipes, Monthly menu plan, Quick weeknight recipe, Vegetable dishes)

When I was a kid I always asked my mom to make me “hashbrowns.” She’d tell me to grate a potato, and then she’d make either a simple paper-thin pancake of grated, lightly fried potatoes, or more often a hashbrown “omelet” filled with steamed vegetables and folded in half. I could never get enough, and neither could any of my siblings. Stuffed hashbrowns make a delicious, nutritious, and filling breakfast, lunch, or dinner. We eat them most often for Sunday brunch.

When my mom made hashbrowns, it always looked so simple. She would lift the hashbrown out of the pan with her spatula and flip it in one gold brown crisped circular disk of potato. But when I started trying to make them myself, I discovered that it’s harder than it looks. My hashbrowns always fell apart! I’ve gotten better at it over the years, but I’m still not nearly as good at it as my Mom is. Someday I will discover her secrets. Read the rest of this entry »

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Mom’s Tofu Salad (B+)

October 3, 2006 at 1:18 am (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Farm recipes, Mom’s recipes, Quick weeknight recipe, Tofu)

This is an old farm recipe that my mom used to make all the time when I was a kid. I loved to eat it with tortilla chips. I haven’t been making it much lately because I thought it wouldn’t be as good without the tortilla chips. But I made it today and ate it with pitas that I baked until they were very crisp, and I think it was actually just as good as the chips.

This list of ingredients is long, but it’s extremely fast to make, maybe 5 minutes or so. And all the various seasonings come together to create (in my opinion) the ultimate tofu salad. I think the farm folks designed it to be sort of like an egg salad, or something you’d take to a picnic, but I don’t really see much resemblance. I prefer to eat it as a dip, and my mom uses it on sandwiches, although they can get soggy quick since it’s pretty wet.

Stir together:

* Tofu 1.5 lbs, crumbled
* yeast 1 Tbs.
* salt 1 tsp.
* pepper 1/8 tsp.
* garlic powder 1 tsp.
* paprika 1/4 tsp.
* basil 1 tsp.
* parsley 1 tsp.
* oregano 1 tsp.
* mustard powder 1/8 tsp.
* cayenne 1/8 tsp.
* soysauce 1 Tbs.
* onion powder 1 tsp.
* vinegar 1/2 Tbs.
* lemon juice from 1/2 lemon (about 1.5 Tbs.)
* mustard 1.5 Tbs.
* chopped celery, onions, scallions (optional, about 1/2 cup?)
* olive oil 2? Tbs. (optional, adds to the mouthfeel, but isn’t necessary IMHO)

This yields about 2.5 cups.

Other’s Opinions
A coworker of Derek’s really liked this–he must have eaten two cups of it in one sitting! I brought it to a picnic, and served it at lunch recently though, and no one seemed to care for it much.

Rating: B+

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Red Lentil Pate (B-)

October 2, 2006 at 5:19 am (Beans, C (1 star, edible), Peter Berley, Quick weeknight recipe)

This recipe for red lentil pate is from the cookbook The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen by Peter Berley.

1 cup large or small red lentils, sorted and rinsed
1 bay leaf
3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
1/3 cup pine nuts
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 Tbs. tomato paste
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground caraway seeds
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. coarse sea salt
freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 a lemon

1. In a 3-quart saucepan (I used a 2 qt pan) over medium heat, combine the lentils and 4 cups water and bring to a boil. Skim and discard any foam and add the bay leaf. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. Drain.

2. While the lentils simmer, in a small saute pan, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and pine nuts and saute for 5 to 7 minutes, until the onion softens and the pine nuts begin to color. Stir in the garlic, tomato paste, coriander, caraway seeds, cumin, cayenne, and salt. Continue to saute for 5 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice to deglaze the pan.

3. In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine the cooked lentils and onion mixture and puree until smooth.

4. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve at once or chill in the refrigerator and serve cold.

My Notes

I admit, I didn’t follow the recipe completely. I only used 1 Tbs. olive oil and 2 Tbs. pine nuts. The dip was so thin I added maybe 1/2 cup chickpeas to thicken it up.

I tasted it after it was done and the lentils had a nice subtle sweet flavor, but otherwise I thought it was very bland. So I added a bit more caraway a bit more tomato paste, the zest from the whole lemon, and the juice from the other half of the lemon. It ended up very lemon-y tasting. I still wasn’t that fond of it, personally, but others seemed to like it quite a bit.

Rating: B-

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