Vegan Spanish Omelet with Roasted Red Pepper-Almond Sauce

September 30, 2007 at 7:28 pm (B_minus (2 stars, okay), Isa C. Moskowitz, Quick weeknight recipe, Soymilk, Starches, Tofu)

A vegan omelet? Risky. Miss Isa Chandra Moskowitz had me intrigued. This dish from Vegan with a Vengeance is actually supposed to be a Spanish “tortilla”: the thick, oven-baked omelet of eggs, potatoes, onions and olive oil. Isa replaces the eggs with a tofu puree seasoned with saffron. I’m too lazy tonight to post the whole recipe but I want to post the saffron tofu puree recipe that Isa uses instead of eggs:

  • a small pinch saffron threads
  • 3 Tbs. unsweetened soy milk
  • 1.5 pounds soft tofu, drained
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • dash of cayenne pepper
  1. Place the saffron threads in a small cup and gently press the threads with the back of a spoon a few times; don’t crush completely. Warm the soy milk in a small saucepan til just about boiling. Remove from heat and pour over the saffron; stir briefly and set aside for a minimum of 25 minutes.
  2. In a food processor, blend the tofu, garlic, olive oil, salt, and cayenne til smooth. When the saffron has had time to flavor and color the soymilk, add the soymilk and saffron to the processor. Blend til creamy.

Actually, Isa says to strain out the saffron, but I have no idea why so I ignored that step.

A bit hesitant, I tasted this creamy mixture. It was really good! I almost wanted to eat it just as a pudding. That little bit of saffron somehow managed to, not quite mask the soy flavor, but meld with it and transform it somehow so that you didn’t taste tofu but a creamy rich savory saffron pudding. I feel that this puree would be great in some kind of interesting vegan dessert, but I need to think about exactly how to work it in. I’m sure it would go well in other recipes as well. (Note: I only had 12 ounces of soft silken tofu so used 12 ounces regular cotton firm tofu as well.)

Okay, on to the omelet. The instructions worked very well. The potatoes were cooked when she said they would be, the omelet had a beautiful browned golden top, and the pieces held together nicely. I could taste the saffron in the finished dish, but it wasn’t as eye-opening as the plain tofu saffron pudding was. The main problem I have with this recipe is that although the tofu puree is salted, the potatoes were not, and as a result even with all the oil they are quite bland. If this was remedied by salting the potatoes before they’re put in the pan to cook, I think this would be a decent recipe. It’s not stellar, as the flavors are all a bit bland, but it’s an interesting presentation and potatoes are just yummy.

I also made the accompanying roasted red pepper almond sauce, which is pleasant and goes well with the omelet. The almonds add texture I assume, but I’d like to see what it tastes like without them. I also tried the omelet with ketchup, but didn’t like the combination of the ketchup and saffron.

Update: on subsequent attempts, I added 3/4-1 tsp. of salt to the potatoes, and 1/2-1 tsp. to the tofu mixture, and the potatoes were much more flavorful. I let Derek taste the saffron puree on its own, and he said it was at best bland, and at worst bitter, although he did have the lower-salt version . Also, in my later attempts the omelet didn’t hold together as well. The main differences from the first time were that I cut down the oil a bit (from 4 Tbs. to 3 Tbs.), and I used silken tofu rather than the firm tofu I used the first time. The amount of onions and potato might have varied as well, as “4 potatoes and 1 onion” is not very precise.

Derek says it tastes okay, but the tofu doesn’t do much for him. He’d prefer just the onions and potatoes and a tasty sauce. He also thought it was too oily. He wasn’t as fond of the red pepper sauce as I was, preferring to eat the potatoes with a Peruvian yellow pepper paste, or a Thai green curry paste.

Rating: B
Derek: C

Update March 7, 2010:  I made this recipe again because I wanted to use up some potatoes.  I used about 9-10 ounces of white onion and 1 lbs 7 ounces of potatoes.  They were the red-colored bag, I think, kind of like Yukon Golds.  I sauteed the potatoes and onions with 2 Tbs. of olive oil and 1/2 tsp. of kosher salt.  For the tofu mixture I used medium cotton tofu (not silken) and added 2 medium eggs to the mixture as well.  The mixture tasted a bit bland to me, even though I had added quite a bit of saffron.  (I suspect my saffron isn’t very high quality.)  So I added some chipotle powder, some paprika, quite a bit of Cholula pepper sauce, and other seasonings.  It was a little spicy.

The tortilla looked quite nice when it emerged from the oven.  The top was puffy and nicely browned, and the pieces came out of the pan in one piece when I cut it.  Once on the plate, the potato slices slid apart, but that didn’t bother me.  The potato/onion mixture was definitely less greasy than last time.  I think 2 Tbs. of oil is perfect. The tofu/egg mixture was surprisingly bland, even after I added all those spices.  I think maybe I should have added more salt (closer to the 1 tsp. the original recipe calls for).  Also, I think the addition of the egg whites makes it a little dry and fluffy, rather than rich and creamy.  Derek, as before, didn’t care much for the recipe.  He rated it a C+.  He did eat it for leftovers once, but not with much enthusiasm.  Derek liked it better with ketchup but I thought the ketchup overpowered the flavors.  I enjoyed this recipe as leftovers twice.  It’s simple but satisfying. Rating: B  Still, I’d like to get more flavor into the recipe.  Once I do, I think it would make a lovely dish to serve for company.  Maybe adding Peruvian yellow pepper paste to the potatoes would help?  Other ideas?

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Roasted golden beets and brussels sprouts with thyme

September 30, 2007 at 7:12 pm (C (1 star, edible), Cruciferous rich, Vegetable dishes, Website / blog)

A friend sent me a link to this recipe for roasted golden beets and brussels sprouts with thyme, and since I found both golden beets and sprouts in the market today I decided to give it a try.

My beets were medium sized, maybe about 2 inches in diameter on average. I sprinkled salt on them and wrapped them individually in aluminum foil, then baked at 425 for an hour and a half. I checked them at that point and felt that they still weren’t done, so upped the heat to 500 and baked for another half hour. I was surprised to see that even after two hours they were still a little firmer than I would have liked, although the peels came off easily. I couldn’t taste the salt at all, so I think that was a useless step.

I followed the recipe exactly, except that I couldn’t find the shallots I was sure I had bought, so I had to use an onion instead. After tasting the dish, I was a disappointed. I found the dish too greasy, and I couldn’t taste the thyme much at all (even after a threw in a bit extra). It wasn’t bad, I mean basically it’s beets and sprouts so if your veggies are tasty this will be tasty, but I don’t think I’d make it again. If I was to make the recipe again I’d increase the vegetable amounts because I had plenty of room in my pan, and this only makes enough for about three people.

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Vegan with a Vengeance review

September 29, 2007 at 9:37 pm (Cookbook reviews, Isa C. Moskowitz)

I heard nothing but rave reviews about Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz.  The reviews on Amazon are almost universally positive, except for a few eccentrics complaining about the difficulty of the dishes, the hard to find ingredients, or the general low health quotient of the recipes.  After trying almost 20 recipes in this cookbook, I would argue that the recipes are reasonably varied and inventive, but the cookbook is not the standout I was hoping for.

  • Difficulty: This cookbook does have some time-consuming recipes, such as the recipe for cauliflower leek kugel, but it also has plenty of everyday recipes as well (at least for someone who cooks a lot and is comfortable in the kitchen).   I didn’t find any of the recipes to be technically complicated.
  • Accessibility: The ingredients are no more weird or hard to find then in my other vegetarian cookbooks.
  • Health: The cookbook is definitely not aimed at health nuts; some of the recipes call for excessive amounts of salt, and only a small percentage of the recipes are very-low (<20%) or even low fat (<30%). That said, the recipes don’t seem terribly unhealthy to me, especially since it’s easy to reduce the oil and salt according to your own taste. Although there are a few recipes that call for TVP, for the most part the recipes don’t call for processed or prepared foods.  Most recipes are based just on tofu, vegetables, beans, seitan, or tempeh, with a good mix of the five. In most cases the dishes are quite heavy, with a home-style comfort food feel to them: it would be nice if there were a few more raw or very light dishes. The authors do include a recipe for mango spring rolls, but that’s about it on the raw front. I was disconcerted when I read the Amazon reviews to see people extolling the fact that this cookbook has no salads in it: the absence of salads is a weakness, not a virtue.  The cookbook contains a large selection of recipes for vegan baked goods (in the breakfast section and in the dessert section), most of which call for white flour and white sugar.
  • Creativity: The cookbook includes recipes for some simple vegetable sides, but these tend to be pretty standard: ginger roasted winter vegetables, orange-glazed beets, balsamic portobello mushrooms, kale and tahini sauce, sesame asparagus, garlic brussels sprouts… nothing too new here. Compared to the vegetable sides, the entrees are much more creative, spanning a number of different cooking techniques, seasons, and international cuisines. One technique I found interesting that I haven’t seen before is to use pureed silken tofu in baked dishes to give a rich, fluffy, almost egg-like quality to the dish. The technique works quite well, and it’s something I’m going to try to experiment with on my own.
  • Personality: I enjoyed many of the short introductions to the recipes: Isa definitely has a wry sense of humour. She does an excellent job of establishing her voice in only a couple of sentences. There are also some longer entries giving tips on things such as “perfect pancakes”, “prepping a butternut squash”, and how to store a lot of kitchen items in a small space. As a pretty experienced cook, I didn’t find these sections to be terribly enlightening, although they are reasonably entertaining.
  • The physical:  The cookbook is a good size–not too big and not too small.  The pages in the paperback version stay open pretty well, and I haven’t had any pages fall out.
  • The visual:  The fonts and recipe layout are easy to read.  There’s a section with color photographs in the middle of the book.
  • The organization:  I like that all the recipes are listed in the table of contents, for easy scanning.  The recipes are organized by category, such as entrees, sides, brunch, pizzas and pastas, etc.  That organization worked fine for me, but the index is poor.  It’s missing a number of essential entries (which I will write down once I have my book in front of me).
  • Seasonal eating:  There’s no mention of eating seasonally in the cookbook, and the few recipes that refer to a season seem confused.  For example, the Moroccan Tagine with Spring vegetables calls for zucchini, green beans and tomatoes.  I suppose in Texas those are spring vegetables, but the author is from NYC.
  • Accuracy: The recipe instructions are generally pretty precise, with the exception of amounts of fruits and vegetables, which are given in inconsistent measurements. Isa often does not provide weights, or even volume measurements. What is a medium sized golden yukon potato? And how can she call for 1 head of cauliflower in her braised cauliflower recipe. Doesn’t she realize the size of cauliflower heads can vary by a factor of three? And does she really think 2 medium-size heads cauliflower equals 4 cups of florets (in the cauliflower kugel recipe)? Other than that I generally found the instructions clear and easy to follow. It would have been nice if she had provided nutritional information though.

After trying almost 20 recipes my feeling is that this is an above-average vegetarian cookbook. I had a few recipes tank, and a handful more I probably wouldn’t make again. The majority were fine, but so far I’ve only found one or two that I adored, and that I’m definitely adding to my repertoire.

  1. Seitan Portobello Stroganoff B+/B
  2. Cauliflower Leek Kugel B/B-?
  3. Jerk seitan B/B+
  4. Cold Udon Noodles with Peanut Sauce and Seitan B
  5. Spanish Omelet with Saffron and Roasted Red Pepper-Almond Sauce B/C
  6. Vegan french toast B
  7. Barbecued Pomegranate Tofu B/A-?
  8. Banana pancakes B-/A
  9. Tempeh and white bean sausage patties, B the first time, C the second time
  10. Italian baked tofu B-/B-
  11. Frittata with broccoli and olives B-/B-?
  12. Mango spring rolls B-
  13. Corn fritters C/?
  14. Moroccan Tagine with Spring Vegetables C
  15. Millet and Spinach Polenta w/ Pesto C
  16. Butternut squash soup with ginger and lime C
  17. Tempeh bacon D/B
  18. Spanakopita D/C
  19. Matzoh Balls F

I’ve put my rating first, with Derek’s after (if he happened to be around when I made that dish).

A few comments about the items that haven’t made it into my blog elsewhere:

I didn’t really care for the taste of the italian baked tofu–a bit too vinegar-y perhaps? Derek liked the flavor more than me though. Also, even after marinating all day the inside of each tofu slice was still white with no flavor. I used extra firm tofu but the texture of the baked tofu was surprisingly soft, rather than the toothsome texture of the baked tofu at the upscale vegan restaurants in New York. I didn’t care for the tofu as a side dish, but it made a pretty good sandwich filling. The moisture/softness was actually a plus in a sandwich. Derek gave the tofu a B-, and a B as a sandwich filling with other ingredients to add flavor.

The barbecue sauce that comes with the pomegranate tofu recipe is not bad, but needed a bit of tweaking.  In particular, it needed more acid. Also, I suspect more expensive ingredients are used than is absolutely necessary.  The barbecued tofu recipe is very rich, so everyone else liked it, but I was disappointed in the texture of the tofu.  The tofu just tasted like plain tofu covered in barbecue sauce to me–it didn’t meld into a single, cohesive dish.  Also, I didn’t think the pomegranate seeds really went with the dish at all, either visually or flavorwise.

The second time I made the tempeh and white bean sausage patties they were bland, undersalted and dry.  I didn’t have fresh sage, and had to use dry, which maybe explains the blandness?  The recipe says it makes 10 patties I think, but using the 3 Tbs. of batter the recipe calls for, I got 19 patties.  I can’t figure out what happened.  I definitely used a pound of tempeh and a cup of white beans.

The mango spring rolls sounded marvelous but were a little boring, even with the dipping sauce.  My friend Alex said she thought they needed something salty.  She said that she uses tofu baked in soy sauce in her spring rolls, and it adds an important salty/umame flavor.  (Okay, she didn’t say the umame bit.)  Our mango was delicious, and we liked the mung bean sprouts and the chopped peanuts in the spring rolls, and the dipping sauce was tasty.  In the end, though, the combination just didn’t seem more than the sum of its parts.  We then made up our own spring rolls with avocado and the dipping sauce and soy sauce and mung bean sprouts and thai basil and those were much, much more satisfying.

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Tempeh Bacon

September 23, 2007 at 3:30 pm (F (0 stars, dislike), Isa C. Moskowitz, Quick weeknight recipe, Tempeh)

Having never eaten bacon, I don’t have to worry about this recipe living up to any preconceived notions. The recipe is from Vegan with a Vengeance.

  • 3 Tbs. Bragg’s liquid aminos or soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup apple cider
  • 1 tsp. tomato paste
  • 1/4 tsp. liquid smoke
  • 1 8-ounce package tempeh
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 Tbs. peanut oil or vegetable oil
  1. To make the marinade combine the soy sauce, cider, tomato paste and liquid smoke in a wide, shallow bowl or pan and mix with a fork until the tomato paste is fully dissolved.
  2. Cut the tempeh into thin strips (less than 1/4 inch thick) lengthwise. You should be able to get about 12 strips. Rub the strips with the crushed garlic, then toss the garlic cloves into the marinade. Submerge the tempeh strips in the marinade and let sit, for at least an hour and up to overnight. After marinating, discard the garlic.
  3. Heat the oil in an 11 or 12 inch skillet over medium heat. Add the tempeh strips and cook for 4 minutes on one side; the bottom should be nicely browned. Flip the strips over and pour the remainder of the marinade over them. If there isn’t much marinade left add a splash of water. Cover and let cook for 3 more minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed. Uncover and check for doneness; if necessary keep cooking uncovered until all sides are nicely browned. Remove from heat and serve.

My Notes:

In writing this up I just realized I misread the cider as cider vinegar. No wonder it seemed like it needed some sweetener. I only used 2 Tbs. of full sodium soy sauce, and 1 Tbs. of olive oil. I cooked the tempeh in my 9-inch cast iron skillet, which was a bit crowded. The final tempeh had a very delicate yet toothsome texture which I enjoyed, and almost no “tempeh” flavor that I don’t care for so much. I can’t imagine this is what bacon tastes like however. On a pita bread with sliced tomato and lettuce I found the tempeh too bland. Maybe with the cider and the extra soy sauce and oil it would have been better? I’ll have to try it again, but I think I’ll wait til Derek comes in case I don’t like it that much. Tempeh here in Montreal is $4 for 8 ounces! That’s alot to waste on a dish you don’t care for all that much. (Anyone know where to get tempeh for less in Montreal?)

A day later the tempeh had more “tempeh flavor.”

Update January 5, 2008: I made this recipe again, properly this time, for Derek.  The only issue was that I had white wave tempeh which comes in very square blocks so you can’t really cut it into long strips, and I had trouble even getting  8 slices, nevermind 12.  I fried it in the full amount of oil and it came out extremely greasy.  I took one bite and that was enough: the flavor was too in-your-face, and the amount of oil was overpowering.  I served it to Derek anyway, and he liked it quite a bit, eating it plain for breakfast with a half a grapefruit and some leftover celery root salad.

Rating: D

Derek: B

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Braised Fennel

September 23, 2007 at 12:05 pm (B_minus (2 stars, okay), Italian, Jack Bishop, Quick weeknight recipe, Vegetable dishes)

This recipe is from Jack Bishop’s Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook. He says “While sauteing fennel emphasizes its sweetness, braising it in butter and white wine highlights the dense, almost unctuous texture of this versatile vegetable. A dusting of Parmesan complements the rich flavors in this dish.”

  • 2 medium fennel bulbs (about 2 pounds)
  • 3 Tbs. butter
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Trim and discard the stems and fronds from the fennel bulbs. Trim a very thin slice from the base of each bulb and remove and tough or blemished outer layers. Slice the bulbs through the base into 1/2-inch-thick pieces that resemble fans. Do not remove the core.

2. Melt the butter in a saute pan large enough to hold the fennel in a single layer. Add the fennel and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Add the wine, cover, and simmer over medium heat for 15 minutes. Turn the fennel and continue to simmer, covered, until it is quite tender and has absorbed most of the liquid in the pan, about 10 minutes. (I like to carmelize it a little bit at this point, but make sure to watch it carefully so it doesn’t burn).

3. Sprinkle the fennel with the cheese and serve immediately.

My Notes:

I had one very large fennel bulb, which weighed almost 1.5 pounds. I used 1 Tbs. olive oil and 1/2 Tbs. butter, along with the white wine. I made my fennel in a tall narrow 2 qt pot, so it didn’t get carmelized at all. After flipping and cooking for another 10 minute I thought it still wasn’t soft enough, so I cooked it for another 10 minutes. I added 1/2 ounce parmesan, and sprinkled with a little truffle salt. The dish made about 3 cups, and would make 3-4 side servings.

This dish doesn’t have a strong fennel flavor, but it is definitely “unctous” as Bishop says. Yes, it is rich, but it tastes way richer than it actually is. I liked the truffle flavor, but I think it would be tasty even without the truffle salt. I’m not sure how it would taste without the cheese. I’ll try it next time. I also want to try it with only 1 Tbs. of olive oil, as it is still quite rich.

The appearance of this dish isn’t great. It’s not very colorful, and the pieces are odd shaped and get kind of long and limp as they cook. So it ends up looking like a pale green pile of limp stringy stuff, with a creamy sauce. Anyone have any ideas on how to improve the presentation? Or alternative ideas for seasoning the fennel?

I made a marinade for tempeh bacon with apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, and liquid smoke, and I accidentally splashed a bit on a little of the fennel. The combo was delicious! Something to try next time.

Serving Size: 1/3 recipe

Amount Per Serving
Calories 157
Total Fat 8g
Saturated Fat 2.6g
Cholesterol 8mg
Sodium 378mg
Carbohydrate 15.6g
Dietary Fiber 6.5g
Sugars 0g
Protein 4.3g
Vitamin A 7% Vitamin C 42%
Calcium 16% Iron 9%

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Tomatillo Sauce

September 21, 2007 at 8:36 pm (Mexican & S. American, My brain, Sauce/dressing, unrated)

Making tomatillo sauce sounds so simple, I invariably forgo following a recipe and decide to just wing it—which is inevitably a disaster.  I don’t know why but my improvised tomatillo sauces are typically inedible.  Here’s what I did this week:

I roasted at a high temperature in the oven until the peppers were slightly blackened:

  • a little over a pound of fresh tomatillos, husks removed
  • 2 small red onions, halved
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 jalepeno, seeded
  • 1 poblano, seeded and halved

Then I removed the pepper skins and threw everything into the blender.  The resulting sauce tasted truly horrible.  It sounds like it should be fine, right?  A friend on hearing this tale said it probably just needed cilantro and lime, but I’m skeptical.   I didn’t want to add it because I was certain it was going to be a waste of perfectly good cilantro and lime. It really tasted awful.  I compared this recipe to a recipe in Rick Bayless’s cookbook, which called for roasting tomatillos.  The major difference I saw was that he didn’t roast the onions (and maybe the garlic?), but instead put them in raw.  That makes sense, as you want the onion to give a little bit of bite.  Next time I improvise this sauce, I will not roast any onions.  Repeat, I will not roast onions.

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Vegetarian Tamales

September 21, 2007 at 8:18 pm (Beans, Mexican & S. American, My brain, Peter Berley, Starches, unrated, Website / blog)

I remember really loving tamales as a kid, but it’s hard to find vegetarian ones outside of Austin, so I haven’t had them much since I finished college. I made them a few times with my mom when I was younger, but it’s been such a long time I didn’t remember much. I started out with two recipes: one from Peter Berley’s Modern Vegetarian Kitchen and one from the vegetarian resource group. I tried the dough recipes but didn’t really follow the filling instructions. Instead, I made up my own fillings:

  1. corn cut off the cob and seasoned with fresh minced sage and tons of garlic sauteed in a little olive oil. It was a bit bland so I added a touch of gruyere ribboned on a microplane. Delicious plain, and not bad in the tamales, although maybe not quite strong enough tasting.
  2. barbecued tofu. Delicious plain, did not belong in a tamale.
  3. black beans and sweet potatoes seasoned with nutmeg, from the black bean and sweet potato burrito recipe on my blog. I love the burrito, but I just didn’t like this combo with the masa.
  4. black refritos with feta. I used the black beans from above and added cilantro, then sprinkled on a little goat feta. I was going to add tomatillo sauce too but I forgot, so instead I dipped the tamale in the sauce. This one was by far my favorite.

I first started with Berley’s recipe, which I will post here when I get a chance. The dough seemed extremely thick and dry, and I didn’t see how I was going to possibly get the tamales thin enough, so I added quite a bit of extra broth. Then it was lumpy and sticky and a total disaster. I made the tamales anyway, and they came out bland and dry and not very good. I also think his recipe doesn’t call for nearly enough salt (weird for Berley.)

The VRG recipe worked out much better. I had to add just a touch more broth than they called for, and my tamales still came out a bit thick, but the consistency was much closer to the desired consistency. I think I upped the salt on this one as well. I thought the final tamales were quite nice, with pretty good flavor and richness, and not too oily. Derek liked them better than the first batch, however when he took some leftovers for lunch a few days later he said they were dry and greasy. I only tried them right after I made them so I can’t confirm his statement. In general, though, Derek is not a tamale fan. He doesn’t even like the ones at Frontera Grill, and we all know he has a thing for anything Rich Bayless creates. Anyway, Derek says he’d rather just eat the filling, who needs all that dough, and all that extra work? He just doesn’t get it. I’m going to keep working on my tamale making skills in the meantime, and see if I can’t change his mind. The key will be getting the dough thinner I think. Any advice on how to achieve that goal?

A few comments on making the tamales:

  • you’re supposed to put a layer of corn husks on top of the steamer basket before you put the tamales in, and over the top layer of tamales once they’re all in. I think the top layer is key so that the water doesn’t drip off the lid and get the tamales all went.
  • With one of those folding steaming baskets, I found that the water lasted only about 45 minutes before I had to refill it. I tried to pour in additional boiling water without getting the tamales all wet, which was tricky but doable. But I had no idea how much to put it since I couldn’t see the bottom through the tamales. Next time I’ll measure how much water is needed before adding the tamales.
  • When rolling the tamales, it seemed to work best with two people: one to fill them and a second to roll them up and tie them. If you try to fill them and tie them you get dough and filling all over the corn husks.
  • I kept forgetting to leave extra room at the top and bottom of the masa, and not put the filling all the way across the length of the dough. This is necessary so that the top and bottom close up and your filling doesn’t fall out.

I really want to try making a sweet tamales sometime. I’ve seen recipes for apple tamales. Any other ideas?

Oh, another question for you blog-readers-o-mine. When I was to get masa harina they had lots of brands. My mom told me (via her Guatemalan friend) to get Maseca brand. But they had two kinds of masa harina by Maseca: one was specifically for tamales, and the other one said it was for tamales, corn tortillas, and other things. Both said “instant” on them. Both had recipes for tamales on the back, and the one specifically called “masa for tamales” called for adding lard to the tamales. The all-purpose masa recipe for tamales didn’t have any added fat. The ingredients were identical though: corn, lime. Can anyone explain the difference to me?

Also, I tried and failed to find corn husks in Montreal. I looked at the Mexican grocery near Jean Talon (which had masa harina but no corn husks), and at the south american grocery on St. Laurent just north of Pins. They had banana leaves but not corn husks. Suggestions?

Update Sept 23, 2007: I made the corn dish again. I used 4 ears of corn on the cob, which yielded 1.5 pounds of corn kernels after steaming. I used 2 Tbs. of garlic, 1 Tbs. olive oil, 2 Tbs. sage, 1/2 ounce parmesan, and a sprinkle of truffle salt and black pepper. It definitely needed more garlic (maybe 1/3 cup?), and probably a bit more olive oil and/or parmesan as well.

For future reference, here is the tamale recipe from post punk kitchen.

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Pasta Puttanesca

September 13, 2007 at 11:05 pm (A (4 stars, love), Alma's faves, Derek's faves, Italian, Jack Bishop, Monthly menu plan, My brain, Pasta, Quick weeknight recipe, Starches) ()

Pasta puttanesca makes a great pantry-only dinner, when you have nothing fresh in the fridge, but want a delicious homemade dinner. Derek claims that the tastiness to work ratio is unusually high. Below I’ve included our current version of this recipe, which is based on a recipe from Jack Bishop’s The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pear and honey salad on a bed of bitter greens

September 13, 2007 at 10:46 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Dark leafy greens, Fall recipes, My brain, Quick weeknight recipe, Salads, Winter recipes)

I had a few pears getting overripe, and was trying to figure out what to do with them. I wanted to make poached pears but was too lazy. I remembered trying Jack Bishop’s dessert recipe with pears, parmesan ribbons, and honey a few months ago, and not being that excited. I decided to start with that idea and turn it into a salad rather than a dessert.

  • a big plateful of arugula
  • 2 pears, sliced
  • 1 honeycrisp apple, sliced
  • a number of ribbons of sharp cheese, I used gruyere and very well aged gouda, and made ribbons with a vegetable peeler
  • 1/2 very small red onion, sliced into circles
  • about 10 sage leaves, minced
  • a few drizzles of very warm honey
  • fresh ground black pepper

This salad looked quite pretty, but perhaps needed a bit more color–maybe if I had a red pear instead of a green one? The combo of the peppery arugula, hot onion, earthy sage, sweet crisp pear and warm honey, and rich salty cheese was delicious. I tried it first without the onion but thought it really needed that extra bite. For those who don’t like raw onions, I might try soaking them in vinegar or hot water to tone them down just a bit. The apple was delicious, but didn’t go so well with the other flavors–next time I’d make it with just pears. I didn’t add any dressing other than the honey, but Derek thought it could use a touch of dressing for the greens–maybe a honey vinaigrette. He promised to come up with a recipe for me. I know this combination of ingredients is fairly standard, but still it was quite tasty.

Rating: B+
Derek: B+

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