Oatmeal cookies with steel cut oats, coconut, and raisins

March 25, 2010 at 3:30 pm (C (1 star, edible), Cookies, Dessert, Website / blog)

I was trying to use up a container of very fine ground steel cut oats before Passover.  I thought it would be interesting to try to use the steel cut oats to make oatmeal cookies, but I couldn’t find many such recipes.  There are a few out there that call for a small portion of steel cut oats that are cooked before adding them to the cookie batter.  I was looking for a recipe that used a larger quantity of uncooked oats.  In the end I used a combination of these two recipes from the Anson Mills website:  oatmeal coconut cookies and oatmeal raisin cookies.  I didn’t have a full cup of coconut (and mine was unsweetened), so I added some raisins to compensate.

The cookies came out huge. They actually looked just like the cookies in the picture.  The texture was very light and fluffy, and the taste was oaty but not very sweet.  Derek said that they tasted more like scones than cookies.  Maybe, but the recipe called for way more sugar than a typical scone recipe.

I served these cookies to guests at our poker game.  I thought they tasted too healthy and no one would eat them, but all but two got eaten up.  I sent the last two home with a guest who had really enjoyed them.  Then the next day Derek asked where the cookies were.  I told him I’d given the last two away since he didn’t seem to like them, and he about-faced and claimed that he did indeed like them and was not at all pleased that I’d given the last cookies away!

Still, I don’t think I’d make these cookies again.  They were okay but they’re not healthy enough to be real food, and if I’m gonna eat a cookie it might as well be a marvelous one.

Rating: B-

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Farro and yellow soybean risotto with spinach

March 24, 2010 at 12:33 am (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, Beans and greens, Dark leafy greens, Grains, Italian, Peter Berley, Soybeans & edamame, Spring recipes, Starches)

It’s that time of year again.  As Passover approaches I try my best to do a Spring pantry cleaning, using up all the grains and beans that I purchased in the previous year but never got around to using.  I bought a large bag of dry yellow soybeans at the Asian store when I first moved to Saarbruecken, and I suspect that the two cups still in my cupboard are from that original batch.  I could have just cooked them up and eaten them with nutritional yeast and soy sauce, as I normally do, but I was in the mood for something different.  I looked around on the web, but found very few recipes, and almost nothing of interest.  The Farm Cookbook has a couple recipes for soybeans that I remember from my childhood, but the only one that I considered trying was the recipe for barbecued soybeans (kind of like baked beans).  Then I found this recipe in the Modern Vegetarian Kitchen, by Peter Berley, for a risotto with black soybeans and spring white wheat.  I subbed in my yellow soybeans for the black ones, and used farro for the wheatberries.  The recipe also calls for fresh sage, but I used what I had on hand — fresh oregano.

The recipe says to cook the soybeans and wheat berries separately from the rice.  Perhaps because my soybeans were quite old, by the time the soybeans were soft, the farro was extremely well-cooked — with the innards exploding through the husks.  I didn’t have any vegetable broth, so I used bouillon cubes.  The recipe says to use 1 Tbsp chopped fresh sage, but I put in more oregano, and then after the dish was cooked, I put in about another Tbsp of fresh oregano.  (I think almost all fresh herbs taste best added at the very end.)  The recipe calls for 4 Tbsp olive oil, but I think I used 1 Tbsp olive oil and 1-2? Tbsp butter.  Berley says to stir in 1 Tbsp olive oil at the very end, but I tasted the risotto and it tasted so good I didn’t bother to add the extra olive oil.  I think I may have also reduced the salt.

Berley says to cook the risotto in a 2-3 quart saucepan, and I used my 3-quart wide casserole pan.  When it came to adding the spinach, however, it was extremely difficult to get it incorporated into the risotto.  Even just adding small handfuls at a time, it kept popping out and getting all over the place.  If I make this again, I’ll make it in either my big dutch oven or maybe in a 5-quart pan.

I really liked the combination of the arborio rice and the exploded farro kernels.  Berley calls the combination of arborio rice with whole grains and beans “new wave risotto”.  I actually think I might prefer it to the old wave.  There weren’t a lot of soybeans, and you couldn’t really taste them per se, but they added a nice textural contrast and a little…heft.  I’m usually not a big fan of spinach, but I actually really liked the spinach in this dish.  Derek always likes spinach, and as expected he thought it was good.  The first time I served it, he said it was tasty but he was a bit concerned about the quantity of risotto remaining.  Berley says it makes 4-6 servings, but I would say six very large servings.  Derek’s anxiety, however, was unfounded.  We easily polished off all six servings.  I actually wouldn’t have minded having it one more time!

Rating: B+
Derek: B+

Update:

I liked this recipe a lot, and I still had soybeans and farro left, so I decided to try another recipe from the Modern Vegetarian Kitchen:  Spelt, black soybeans, and vegetable casserole.  The casserole calls for carrots, mushrooms, celery, canned tomatoes and cabbage.  The combination didn’t sound particularly appetizing, but I liked the risotto so I figured it was worth a shot.  I cooked my (yellow) soybeans until soft, then added the farro and cooked until it was al dente.  Meanwhile I sauteed all the veggies until they started to caramelize.  (I used all the olive oil and salt called for.) Next Berley says to add the tomatoes and some of the cooking liquid from the grain/bean pot and bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.  It seemed like a bad idea.  At this point the cabbage was nice and crisp and caramelized, but I didn’t think the cabbage would be so appetizing after simmering it for 30 minutes.  I did it anyway.  In the end, I didn’t care for the dish that much.  There wasn’t anything wrong with it exactly, but neither Derek nor I were particularly interested in eating it.  It just was blah. We had one or two servings each, then I gave away the remaining quart of casserole/stew to a hungry grad student.

Rating: C

Update December 2010:

I made this recipe again, doubling it this time.   I was out of farro so used kamut instead.  Also I forgot to chop up the spinach, and the long, stringy pieces of spinach were pretty unappetizing.  The dish was also underseasoned this time.  Without enough salt and pepper it’s not nearly as tasty.  Derek wouldn’t even eat the leftovers–I had to finish them off myself.  I’ll have to try again with farro, chopped spinach, and enough seasoning.

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Mexican Brunch

March 14, 2010 at 10:17 pm (Menus, Mexican & S. American, unrated)

Inspired by the delicious corn tortillas from Austin, I decided to host a tex-mex brunch.  I wasn’t sure how many people to invite, but we ended up with 9 people (including Derek and me), which was a reasonable number.  This was the menu:

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Guacamole

March 14, 2010 at 9:51 pm (Cook's Illustrated, Derek's faves, Mexican & S. American, unrated)

I made a huge bowl of guacamole today. Below is the recipe I used. It’s based on a Cook’s Illustrated recipe but I increased most of the seasonings.  It was delicious.

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Yin and Yang Salad with Cabbage and Peanut Dressing

March 13, 2010 at 10:14 pm (101 cookbooks, Cruciferous rich, Salads, Tofu, unrated)

My friend Jenny and I were talking about 101 cookbooks, and she strongly recommended the Yin and Yang Salad recipe.  She said she liked the combination of the raw cabbages and the rich peanut dressing–it seems more balanced than starchy noodles and peanut sauce. I got all the ingredients to make the recipe, but then when I went to prep dinner I realized that the tofu was supposed to marinate overnight, so I made McDermott’s peanut-style sesame noodles instead.  The next day I marinated the tofu and made the yin and yang salad for dinner.

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California-style vegetarian tortilla soup

March 13, 2010 at 9:24 pm (101 cookbooks, C (1 star, edible), Mexican & S. American, soup)

Visitors from Austin brought us 90 perfect corn tortillas from El Milagro in Austin.  Despite languishing in lost baggage for two days, they arrived in Saarbruecken in perfect shape.  They were so fresh and corny tasting, I think our visitors must have purchased them right from the factory.    Derek and I ate most of the first 30 ourselves, just plain or with refries or scrambled tofu.  I froze the second and third batches.  Before the last few tortillas in the first package were gone, I decided I wanted to try to make tortilla soup with homemade baked corn “chips”. I love Peter Berley’s miso-based tortilla soup, but I wanted to try something a little different today.  I decided to try the california-style vegetarian tortilla soup from 101 cookbooks.

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Home fries

March 13, 2010 at 5:49 pm (breakfast, Derek's faves, Starches, unrated, Website / blog)

I love diner-style home fries in the abstract, but I rarely like the implementation.  Often the potatoes are under-seasoned, or over-salty.  They’re either too dry or extremely greasy.  My mom makes good fried potatoes, but I’ve never been too happy with my own attempts.  I wanted to have some potatoes for my Austin-style breakfast taco brunch, which is taking place here tomorrow morning.  I found a recipe for homefries on the Smitten Kitchen blog, which suggested cooking the potatoes first before frying them up.  The recipe calls for Yukon Gold potatoes, which are medium-starch.  I tried making home fries a few weeks ago using medium starch potatoes (the red label in Germany).  I thought the home fries turned out way too rubbery, and so this time I bought mehlig potatoes (Russett-style, the blue label) instead.  I modified the Smitten Kitchen recipe a bit, but mostly followed her recommended technique.

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