Simple parsnip puree

December 25, 2019 at 9:25 pm (A (4 stars, love), Fall recipes, French, Other, Root vegetables, Spring recipes, Winter recipes, Yearly menu plan) ()

If I find nice parsnips at the store then about 90% of the time I roast them. I find that if you try to roast them directly them end up dry and burnt. They turn out the best if they are steamed first, then roasted. But occasionally I get a big bag of parsnips from my CSA and I’m not in the mood for roasted parsnips. Then what? I like to grate them and use them to make chard parsnip patties. I add them to soup, like lentil soup or matzoh ball soup. Occasionally I’ll serve them mashed with potatoes and topped with balsamic-roasted seitan. But sometimes I just want pure parsnip flavor, and then this is the recipe I turn to. I first made it last fall and since then I’ve made it at least four times.

This recipe makes a lot. If you’re not having company then I’d probably just make 1 pound of parsnips. Last time we made the whole recipe just for us we ended up throwing out half of it because everyone got sick of it.

Unlike mashed potatoes, parsnip puree reheats well. I’ve even brought it to a potluck before. The recipe is pretty easy, but somehow tastes much fancier than it actually is. This recipe is based on a recipe from the cookbook Sara Moulton Cooks at Home, but I’ve changed it to reduce the cleanup a bit. Moulton says she got the idea of reducing the cooking liquid from Julia Child.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds parsnips, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick.
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter or 4 Tbs. cream
  • freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste

Instructions:

  1. Peel and slice the parsnips. (Save the stem ends and peelings for vegetable broth.) Note that the diameter of the disks isn’t as important as the thickness. The thinner they are the faster they will cook.
  2. Place the peeled and sliced parsnips in a large saucepan (3 to 4 quarts) and barely cover with boiling water. (The parsnips on top don’t have to be entirely submerged.) Add a few pinches of salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-high and simmer (uncovered) until tender. If your top parsnips aren’t totally submerged, give them a stir about halfway through. Moulton says this step should take about 25 to 30 minutes, but I think it’s closer to 15 minutes? Max 20.
  3. Drain the parsnips, but reserve the cooking liquid! Leave the parsnips in the colander and return the liquid to the pan. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil rapidly until reduced to about 3/4 cup. Turn off the heat.
  4. Return the parsnips to the pan and add the butter or cream. Use a stick blender to puree the parsnips. (For a finer, perfectly smooth puree you can use a food processor, but I find that a stick blender works well enough and is much easier to clean.) Season with salt and pepper. If you need to, need to return the pan to very low heat to warm the puree up again before serving it.

This recipe makes about 3 cups, or about 4 very large servings, 6 normal servings, or 8 smaller servings.

What to eat it with: Tonight I made the parsnip puree and green beans (steamed from frozen). Derek had them with duck, and I had some chorizo veggie sausages. I really liked the combination of the spicy, salty veggie sausages with the sweet parsnip puree and slightly chewy, moist green beans.

Last year Alma would never eat this dish. (She doesn’t like mashed potatoes either—something about the texture I think.) But tonight (at almost 5 years old) she ate her entire (small) serving! We’ll have to see what she thinks next time, but for now I’m marking this recipe preschooler approved.

Update Sept 23, 2020: I made this dish tonight, but I think I cut my parsnips too thick, and they took a long time to fully soften. By the time they were really soft almost all of the cooking liquid had boiled away. So I skipped the draining / liquid reducing step and just pureed the parsnips right in the pan. I ended up adding a bit of milk to think them down a bit. They turned out great. No lumps at all. Even Alma, who at first said “yuck,” admitted they were really good. Derek said the meal tasted like something he would get at a fancy restaurant. ūüôā I also made a butternut squash puree. (I cooked it in the same pan as the parsnip, but it cooked much faster.) Alma said the butternut squash puree was fine, but she preferred the parsnip. Derek said he though the butternut squash puree would be better in a burrito. Maybe I put too much nutmeg in it.

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Ravioli with chard, hazelnuts and caramelized onions

May 1, 2019 at 11:11 am (101 cookbooks, A (4 stars, love), Dark leafy greens, Derek's faves, Monthly menu plan, Pasta, Spring recipes)

I first made this 101cookbooks recipe for hazelnut & chard ravioli salad last fall, except I wasn’t sure how Alma would do with the raw chard so I cooked the chard lightly. Both Derek and I really liked the flavor combinations and the textural contrasts, but Alma wouldn’t touch it. She wouldn’t even eat the ravioli out of it.

Then this week I got a beautiful bunch of rainbow chard and decided to make it again. This time I chopped the onions finely, in case it was the stringiness that Alma hadn’t liked I also left the caramelized onions and lemon zest separate, since Alma is pretty finicky about onions. she will happily eat them if she doesn’t notice them, but if I give her a bite of cooked onion she always says “b√§h.”

Alma actually ate the dish this time, with the lemon zest, but without the onions. I thought that it was kind of boring without the caramelized onions. It really needs the sweetness to contrast with the very slightly bitter hazelnuts and greens. But with the onions…yum. Derek also loved it.

Update July 5, 2020: I made this again but only roughly followed the recipe. I first sauteed the chard stems and then threw in a lot of chard. (I need to weigh it, as measuring chard by cups is a fruitless endeavor.) I added a little of the cooking water from the raviolis to the chard when they were getting to dry. I added the lemon zest and hazelnuts directly to the dish this time, with no complaints from Alma. I did leave the caramelized onions on the side, but convinced her to do a blind taste test with and without onions. She said the bite without onions was way, way better. What?? The onions make the dish. Derek and I were very happy.

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Banana Oat Nut Pancakes

May 27, 2018 at 11:13 pm (A (4 stars, love), Alma's faves, breakfast, Derek's faves, Monthly menu plan, Website / blog) ()

We have tried a lot of banana pancake recipes. This recipe from Cookie and Kate is currently one of our favorites. I usually add pecans as well.

The pancake batter has a lot of coconut oil in it, so I find you don’t need to use much oil in the pan. The amount of oil in the recipe could probably be cut down, but I haven’t tried it. The original recipe calls for a teaspoon of sweetener, but I omit it since we usually eat the pancakes with maple syrup. I assume the lemon juice is there to activate the baking soda? I haven’t noticed any lemon flavor.

The original recipe says it makes 8 pancakes, but they must be larger than ours, because for me it makes at least 9, usually more. The recipe below is actually 1.5x the original recipe, so it should make 13 or 14 pancakes. (I like to freeze the leftovers for a second breakfast.)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1.75¬†cups¬†mashed bananas (about 4.5 small bananas, mashed, or 14.25¬†ounces)
  • 1.5 tablespoons¬†lemon juice (about¬†1¬†medium-small lemon, juiced)
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil or butter, melted
  • 3¬†eggs
  • 1.5 cups¬†oat flour (from 1.5 cups of rolled oats ground in a food processor or blender)
  • 3/4 teaspoon¬†baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon¬†fine salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon¬†ground cinnamon
  • heaping ¬ľ teaspoon¬†ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans

INSTRUCTIONS for making the batter

    1. Remove the eggs and lemon from the fridge in advance so they have time to warm up.
    2. Mix the dry ingredients: In a blender or food processor, grind the oats. When they have a flour-like consistency, add in the baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg and blend again.
    3. Mix the wet ingredients: In a large stainless steel bowl, mash the bananas. Juice the lemon and add 1.5 tablespoons of lemon juice to the bananas. Beat in the eggs. In a very small glass bowl melt the coconut oil on low in the microwave. Add it to the large bowl and mix.
    4. Mix together the wet and dry ingredients and the chopped nuts: Form a well in the center of the wet ingredients and pour in the dry ingredients. With a big rubber spatula, stir just until the dry ingredients are thoroughly moistened. Add the nuts and stir again. Let the batter sit for 10 minutes. You may want to thin out the batter a bit with a touch of milk or water.

Instructions for cooking:

    1. Heat a heavy cast iron skillet/non-stick pan over medium-low heat, or heat an electric griddle to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly oil the surface with coconut oil, butter or cooking spray. (If you’re using a non-stick electric griddle, you might not need any oil at all.)
    2. Once the surface of the pan is hot enough that a drop of water sizzles on it, pour ¬ľ cup of batter onto the pan. Let the pancake cook for about 3 minutes, until bubbles begin to form around the edges of the cake.
    3. Once the underside of the pancake is lightly golden, flip it with a spatula and cook for another 90 seconds or so, until golden brown on both sides. You may need to adjust the heat up or down at this point.
    4. Serve the pancakes immediately or keep warm in a 200 degree Fahrenheit oven.

 

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Vegetarian Okonomiyaki (Japanese Cabbage Pancakes)

February 5, 2017 at 1:50 pm (101 cookbooks, A (4 stars, love), Alma's faves, breakfast, Cruciferous rich, Derek's faves, Fall recipes, Japanese, Monthly menu plan, Peter Berley, Quick weeknight recipe, Spring recipes, Winter recipes) ()

I was looking for a green cabbage recipe that a toddler would like, and I came across this pretty simple (albeit quite Americanized) vegetarian¬†Okonomiyaki recipe on the 101 cookbooks blog. Alma generally likes pancakes, so I decided to give it a try. Below is a doubled version of the original recipe, with a few modifications. Derek and I like them a lot, and it’s a relatively quick recipe, so suitable for a weeknight dinner or a Sunday lunch.

One thing I was concerned about in terms of making this recipe kid friendly is the name. Luckily Alma doesn’t know the word “yucky” yet (she’s only learned the German “b√§h” at daycare so far). But if she did I’d be worried about her thinking the name was Okonomi-yukky. Maybe if you’re serving this to kids for the first time you should call it Okonomi-yummy instead.

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Tassajara warm red cabbage salad with sunflower seeds and raisins

July 2, 2016 at 2:56 pm (101 cookbooks, A (4 stars, love), Alma's faves, Cruciferous rich, Derek's faves, Monthly menu plan, Other, Quick weeknight recipe, Spring recipes, Winter recipes) ()

I‚Äôm trying to get more ‚Äúpurple‚ÄĚ in, and wanted to use red cabbage, but never know what to do with it. I tried this Tassajara¬†warm red cabbage recipe¬†by way of 101cookbooks. Heidi says her version is less cheesy, less fruity, and less rich, but it still tasted plenty cheesy, fruity, and rich to us. Both Derek and I enjoyed it. Now that Alma is two, she likes it too. It’s a pretty sweet-tasting (and hence toddler-friendly) dish, due to the use of the raisins and balsamic vinegar, plus all the natural sugars in the cabbage and onions.
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SauteŐĀed Cabbage with Fennel and Garlic

December 13, 2015 at 2:04 pm (A (4 stars, love), Cook's Illustrated, Cruciferous rich, Monthly menu plan) (, )

Back in March I made the Cook’s Illustrated recipe SauteŐĀed Cabbage with Miso and Scallions, and we liked it, so I wanted to try some of the other variants. This week I tried the version with fennel and garlic, and we enjoyed it as well. It’s a relatively simple recipe, but tasty.

Alma, who is generally not a huge cabbage fan, really likes this recipe. So do I. Even though I screw up the browning step EVERY TIME. I always forget to not stir the cabbage at the start. It’s actually pretty tricky to get the cabbage to brown without burning. But even if you don’t really brown your cabbage, it’s still really tasty. The combination of the salt, the sweet cabbage, the acid from the lemon juice, and the umami from the parmesan–yum. I’ve added this recipe to our monthly menu plan.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 small head savoy¬†cabbage (1 1/4 pounds), cored and sliced thin
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil (divided) [I use less, maybe 2 Tbsp.]
  • 1 fennel bulb, fronds minced, stalks discarded, bulb halved, cored, and sliced thin
  • 3/4¬†tsp.¬†salt (divided)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced to paste
  • ¬ľ¬†tsp.¬†red pepper flakes
  • 2¬†tsp.¬†lemon juice [I use more]
  • 2¬†Tbsp.¬†grated Parmesan cheese

INSTRUCTIONS

Green cabbage may be substituted for the savoy cabbage. Soaking the cabbage gets rid of some of the enzymes that produce sulfurous flavors; do not skip this step. If your fennel does not have the green fronds attached, substitute 1/4 cup of chopped fresh parsley.

  1. Place cabbage in large bowl and cover with cold water; let stand for 3 minutes. Drain cabbage well and set aside. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch stainless steel skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add fennel bulb and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic and pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer fennel mixture to small bowl.
  2. Return now-empty skillet to medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon oil, and heat until shimmering. Add cabbage and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook, without stirring, for about 3 minutes, or until cabbage is wilted and lightly browned on bottom.
  3. Stir once and continue to cook, uncovered, for 2 more minutes. Stir a second time and cook for another 2 minutes, until cabbage is crisp-tender and lightly browned in places. Remove skillet from heat. Stir in fennel mixture, reserved fennel fronds, and lemon juice. Season with salt to taste, transfer to serving bowl, drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon oil [I omit this step], and sprinkle with Parmesan. Serve.
  4. Serves 4 to 6.

My notes after my second attempt:

I always forget to put in the fennel fronds. I’m not sure how Alma would like them.

I think last time I had more cabbage, maybe 1 1/4 pounds of cabbage after coring? Or perhaps that was the weight of the whole cabbage? I’m not sure. Last time I used a ginormous fennel. There was still plenty of seasoning and room in the pan. I could probably use two normal-sized fennel heads and have both fit in the pan fine. Alma likes to snack on the fennel as “a little appetizer” while she’s waiting for the cabbage to finish cooking.

Last time I served this with quinoa and black-eyed peas (plain, sprinkled with tarragon for adults and nutritional yeast for toddlers) . It made a lovely, satisfying dinner. For a slightly fancier dinner I might serve the cabbage with this delicious 101 cookbooks recipe for black-eyed peas with leeks and tarragon. Alma didn’t care for the leeks or tarragon, so she ended up just eating plain black eyes. But Derek and I both really liked the leek and tarragon combination.

Update Nov 18, 2019:

I made sliced the cabbage and sauteed the fennel and then Derek finished the dish while I played a game with Alma. I used regular (not savoy) cabbage and I think 1 pound 2 ounces or maybe 1 pound 4 ounces. The dish turned out really well. Everyone liked it. I left the sauteed fennel and fennel fronds separate, but even Alma ended up mixing everything together. I served this dish with instant pot mushroom risotto and it went really well together. The only problem was that the whole meal was white, beige, and brown. It needed a little color!

Note that the original recipe called for a nonstick skillet, but we have had no problems making this in our heavy 12-inch stainless steel skillet.

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Roasted butternut squash & red onion with tahini & za‚Äôatar

January 9, 2015 at 4:09 pm (A (4 stars, love), Derek's faves, Fall recipes, Middle East / N. Africa, Ottolenghi, Vegetable dishes, Winter recipes, Yearly menu plan)

I had a butternut squash that was starting to go bad, and I asked Derek to choose a recipe to use it up. He chose this Yotam Ottolenghi recipe for roasted butternut squash and red onion with tahini and za’atar, which I was happy about, because it would allow me to use up some of the zaatar I bought to make the last Ottolenghi recipe we tried (this za’atar spiced beet dip). You can find more comments about the recipe (and a photo!) on this seriouseats page. Read the rest of this entry »

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Miso tahini soup with turnips and colorful veggies

May 25, 2014 at 7:00 pm (101 cookbooks, A (4 stars, love), breakfast, Cruciferous rich, Dark leafy greens, Derek's faves, Fall recipes, Grains, Japanese, Miso, Quick weeknight recipe, Root vegetables, soup, Spring recipes, Winter recipes, Yearly menu plan)

It’s turnip time! My farmer’s market here in Saarbruecken is full of beautiful bunches of white turnip, with the greens still attached. The name for these turnips is Mair√ľbchen, literally “little May root” or “May root-let.” But they’re not little. Each turnip is about 2 to 3.5 inches in diameter. I’ve been buying lots of turnips just so I can eat the greens, but I had to figure out what to do with the turnips themselves.

I’ve never been a huge turnip fan, and I don’t have so many go-to recipe. I like them raw in salads, in soup (with leeks, potatoes, and chard), and in stews (like this tagine or Thai curry).  But I had one last delicata squash from the fall that was turning soft and needed to get used up, and some leftover brown rice int the fridge, so rather than making an old recipe, I decided to try a new recipe for miso tahini soup from 101cookbooks. I love Peter Berley’s miso-based tortilla soup with avocados, so the addition of avocado didn’t seem that odd. But a miso soup with tahini and lemon? I could not imagine it. Read the rest of this entry »

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Miso harissa delicata squash with kale and pepitas

December 20, 2013 at 7:30 pm (101 cookbooks, A (4 stars, love), Derek's faves, Fall recipes, Root vegetables, Winter recipes, Yearly menu plan)

Derek always loves what he calls “harissa pasta“, so I figured I should try out the one other harissa recipe on the 101 cookbooks blog. This recipe was originally called roasted delicata squash salad, but that’s pretty boring so I re-dubbed it with a more descriptive name.  The recipe has some problems, primarily that the ratio of vegetables to sauce seems way off.  It calls for a pretty small (3/4 pound) delicata squash, 1/2 pound of potatoes, and just 1.5 ounces of kale.  We prepped all the veggies and then just stared at them, amazed at how little food it was. So we added another 1/2 pound of potatoes and some more squash, a total of about 1 pound 2.5 ounces before removing the seeds.  The only other change we made was steaming the kale briefly, because our German kale was extremely tough and very unpleasant to eat raw.  Also, my harissa isn’t the best so I added some cumin to it.  The final dish was very rich and very tasty, with strong salty, acidic, umami, and spicy notes, but  all in perfect balance.  The squash even contributed some sweetness, so it was really hitting all six tastes. Read the rest of this entry »

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Smashed potato salad with escarole

July 21, 2013 at 3:52 pm (A (4 stars, love), Dark leafy greens, Derek's faves, Quick weeknight recipe, Starches, Website / blog, Yearly menu plan)

I’m not a huge fan of mashed potatoes, but I like this recipe a lot. The escarole adds plenty of texture and bulk and the olive oil and lemon juice and zest make it very flavorful. It’s based on a Mark Bittman recipe. He says the olive oil takes mere potatoes and greens from “humble to sublime.” Bittman says to peel the potatoes, but don’t do it–the skins are the best part! Bittman says any bitter greens will work, and recommends trying it with radicchio, dandelion, endive, or chicory.¬† Usually I just make it with quite mild escarole, but I’d like to try it with some of the more bitter greens someday. This dish is good hot, but it’s also good as leftovers at room temperature. It would make a nice dish to bring to a picnic. I tend to make it whenever I get a big head of escarole in my CSA basket, and I happen to have some potatoes on hand. Otherwise I use the escarole to make escarole and beans with tomato sauce. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pea, leek, white bean and sauerkraut soup

February 8, 2013 at 5:06 pm (A (4 stars, love), Beans, Monthly menu plan, Peter Berley, Quick weeknight recipe, soup, Spring recipes, Winter recipes) ()

I was in California last week visiting my friends Spoons and Kathy, and I noticed that they had a copy of Peter Berley’s newest cookbook, The Flexitarian Table.¬† My friends said they never use it and that I could take it with me to Germany.¬† Yay! I already have two of Peter Berley’s older cookbooks, and they are two of my favorite, so I was very interested in trying out his new cookbook, especially since it’s geared at mixed vegetarian/omnivore families (like us). Although the cookbook isn’t actually vegetarian, every menu has a vegetarian option, so it’s very vegetarian friendly. This recipe for navy bean, fresh pea, and leek soup caught my eye because it calls for sauerkraut, and (under my mother’s telephonic tutelage) I just finished making a big batch of sauerkraut right before I left for California. ¬†On my return, faced with a near-empty fridge brandishing two quart jars of sauerkraut, I decided to give this recipe a try. Read the rest of this entry »

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Roasted winter squash and seitan with curry butter and apple cider

November 11, 2012 at 1:46 pm (A (4 stars, love), Derek's faves, Fall recipes, Peter Berley, Quick weeknight recipe, Vegetable dishes, Winter recipes, Yearly menu plan) ()

This recipe is from the autumn section of Peter Berley’s Fresh Food Fast. ¬†It’s paired with a recipe for stuffed lettuce, kind of like cabbage rolls except with romaine lettuce leaves instead of cabbage. ¬†I haven’t tried the stuffed lettuce yet, but I’ve made this squash recipe¬†many times. It’s very easy and always a hit. I usually make it with red kuri squash, which has a nice flavor and texture and a thin skin that doesn’t need to be peeled. When I make it with red kuri squash, I call it curried kuri.¬† Read the rest of this entry »

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Adult chocolate cookies

November 6, 2012 at 8:28 pm (A (4 stars, love), Alice Medrich, Cookies, Derek's faves, Necessarily nonvegan)

This recipe from Alice Medrich’s Cookies and Brownies is actually titled “Robert’s Chocolate Cookies,” but I call them adult chocolate cookies because they’re supposed to be ¬†chocolate cookies for the “sophisticated palate.” ¬† Medrich describes these cookies as “only slightly sweet, but rich and gooey, and laced with the chunks of the finest unsweetened chocolate in the world.” ¬†Robert Steinberg created the recipe for his company, Scharffenberger, and thus they call for Scharffenberger unsweetened chocolate. ¬†Medrich says if you can’t find it then use bittersweet chocolate of another brand, as most brands of unsweetened chocolate are too harsh and bitter to enjoy as chunks. ¬† I first made these cookies in 2006, when I checked Cookies and Brownies out from the Pittsburgh library. ¬†I adored them, but didn’t make them again until now. ¬†Right before I moved to Germany, I toured the Scharffenberger factory in Berkeley, and bought a number of bars of their chocolate. ¬†The Berkeley factory is now sadly defunct. ¬†Hershey bought out the company, and closed down the factory, and consolidated Scharffen Berger production in Illinois with some of their other “gourmet” chocolate brands. ¬†I haven’t tried the chocolate since the buy-out. ¬†But I still had an (expired) bar of Berkeley-produced Scharffenberger ¬†unsweetened chocolate in the pantry, and I decided it was finally time to try these cookies again.

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Chipotle roasted potatoes

November 6, 2012 at 1:19 pm (A (4 stars, love), Derek's faves, Fall recipes, Peter Berley, Quick weeknight recipe, Root vegetables, Winter recipes, Yearly menu plan)

This is the recipe that Peter Berley (in Fresh Food Fast) pairs with the baked escarole and eggs recipe that I blogged about yesterday.  The potatoes are steamed briefly (to speed up the roasting time) and then tossed with crushed cumin, garlic, salt, chipotles in adobo sauce, olive oil, lemon juice, fresh thyme, and paprika.  Then the potatoes are baked on a cookie sheet at a very high temperature until crisp on the outside and tender on the inside.  Berley warns in the headnotes that these are “some really spicy roasted potatoes,” but I chose small-ish chipotles, and our potatoes turned out spicy but not as fiery as I expected.  I liked the potatoes a lot, and Derek loved them.  There’s something about spicy, crispy roast potatoes that’s just very satisfying on a cold autumn day.  And the lemon juice and garlic add a little acidity and bite, which contrast nicely with the dark, roasted, smoky flavors of the cumin, paprika, and adobo sauce. Read the rest of this entry »

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Spicy bar nuts with rosemary

November 5, 2012 at 1:49 pm (A (4 stars, love), Derek's faves, Meyer & Romano)

Derek loves Sally Sampson’s recipe for¬†hot candied walnuts, but they call for a ton of sugar, and they’re kind of messy to make. ¬†So when I saw this recipe for bar nuts in the Union Square cookbook, I was intrigued. ¬†They call for only 2 tsp. of sugar per 1 1/4 pounds of nuts, ¬†and you just toast the nuts plain, then mix with the seasonings afterward. ¬†It looked much simpler, plus the nuts won the New York Press award for best bar nuts in New York. ¬†With that kind of pedigree, they had to be good! Read the rest of this entry »

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Escarole and beans in tomato sauce

October 16, 2012 at 7:14 pm (A (4 stars, love), Beans, Beans and greens, Dark leafy greens, Derek's faves, Fall recipes, Italian, Meyer & Romano, Monthly menu plan, My brain, Quick weeknight recipe, Spring recipes, Winter recipes)

Derek and I used to love the escarole and beans appetizer at Girasole in Pittsburgh. ¬†It consisted of braised escarole and white beans in a rich tomato sauce. ¬†It was hearty, warming, and satisfying. ¬†I hadn’t thought about it for years, until this week I saw a green that looked a lot like escarole at the farmer’s market. ¬†I asked the farmer what it was and he called it Endivien—the German word for endive. ¬†I asked him if you could cook with it and he said Germans only ever eat it raw in salads. ¬†But it looked similar enough that I decided to try making escarole and beans with it. ¬†There are tons of recipes online for escarole and white bean soup, and a few for escarole and bean dishes, but none seem to call for tomato sauce. ¬†So I decided not to try to follow a recipe. ¬†Nonetheless, my beans and greens came out quite well. This is a relatively simple, one-pot supper. It’s reasonably fast to make, hearty and satisfying. Read the rest of this entry »

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Celery salad with green apples, walnuts, and mustard vinaigrette

March 9, 2011 at 11:36 pm (A (4 stars, love), Derek's faves, Fall recipes, French, Peter Berley, Salads, Spring recipes, Winter recipes, Yearly menu plan)

This recipe is in the winter section of Peter Berley’s Fresh Food Fast, and I’ve been wanting to try it for a while now.  Berley says that the salad is “all about the nuance of crunch. The green apple, celery, and walnut each have a different yet complementary toothsome quality in the mouth.”  It seemed like a great winter salad, but I was nervous about making this recipe because Derek normally isn’t too excited about celery.  I thought I might have to eat all four servings myself.  I shouldn’t have worried though — Derek loved it. Read the rest of this entry »

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Vietnamese Coleslaw

February 21, 2011 at 11:06 pm (A (4 stars, love), Cruciferous rich, Derek's faves, East and SE Asia, Monthly menu plan, Other, Salads, Tofu) (, )

When I was in Austin visiting my family I spotted a new cookbook on my mom’s shelf:¬† Vietnamese Fusion Vegetarian Cuisine by Chat Mingkwan.¬† I’ve always wanted to learn how to make Vietnamese food, so I asked if I could borrow it.¬† My mom had already flagged the recipe for Vietnamese Coleslaw, and so I decided to start there. Read the rest of this entry »

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Balsamic-roasted seitan over garlic mashed potatoes and parsnips

January 17, 2011 at 12:54 pm (A (4 stars, love), Derek's faves, Fall recipes, Peter Berley, Root vegetables, Seitan, Starches, Winter recipes)

I asked Derek to choose something to make for dinner, and he picked this menu out of the winter section of Peter Berley’s Fresh Food Fast. ¬†It was a big undertaking! ¬†The menus in this book usually take under an hour, but I had to first make my own seitan. ¬†Even after the seitan was made, this menu took longer than an hour, mostly because peeling the shallots took forever. ¬†Luckily Derek liked the dish a lot, and I enjoyed it as well, so all that effort wasn’t wasted. ¬†¬† Read the rest of this entry »

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Dark, spicy gingerbread

December 26, 2010 at 3:28 pm (A (4 stars, love), Cake, Cook's Illustrated, Dessert, Fall recipes, Winter recipes)

I’ve been making this gingerbread recipe for years, but somehow I never got around to blogging about it.¬† But I made it last night to take to a holiday party, and someone explicitly asked me for the recipe.¬† It seemed a good time to finally add it to the blog.¬† I haven’t tried many different gingerbread recipes, so I can’t argue that this one is best.¬† But it makes a dark, moist, deeply flavored, very gingery cake. The recipe is from Cook’s Illustrated, but note that it’s no longer on their website.¬† They just published a new gingerbread recipe, which is totally different than this one. ¬†It calls for stout, oil instead of butter, and omits the crystallized ginger, the buttermilk, and most of the spices.¬† The new recipe doesn’t even acknowledge the existence of the old one, and¬† the old one no longer seems to be available on their website. Read the rest of this entry »

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Grilled cheese with cheddar, jalapeno, lime, garlic, and sage

November 1, 2010 at 11:43 pm (A (4 stars, love), Alma's faves, Derek's faves, My brain, Necessarily nonvegan, Peter Berley, Quick weeknight recipe, Yearly menu plan)

I don’t remember the last time I made a grilled cheese sandwich. ¬†But we finally found cheddar that we like here in Saarbruecken, and I decided to celebrate by making grilled cheese. ¬†I didn’t want to make just a regular old boring grilled cheese, though, so I pulled out various flavorful additions I had in the fridge: ¬†jalapeno, sage, garlic, and lime. Read the rest of this entry »

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My favorite homemade granola recipe

July 31, 2010 at 9:57 pm (A (4 stars, love), Alma's faves, breakfast, Cook's Illustrated, Derek's faves, Monthly menu plan, Website / blog) ()

Update July 2018: Here is my most recent attempt. This is a doubled recipe so it makes a lot. It came out more than sweet enough. I think next time I will use just 1/4 cup honey + 1/4 cup date syrup. I’ll also put more nuts and coconut in. Maybe 1.5 cups of coconut flakes and 1.5 cups of whole almonds as well? It wasn’t that strongly spiced. Maybe next time I’ll use a full 2 Tbs. of cinnamon, and 1.5 tsp. of nutmeg.

Dry ingredients:

  • 6 cups rolled oats (about 675g or 1.5 pounds, maybe closer to 635 or 650g??)
  • 1/3 cup wheat germ (38g)
  • 1/4 cup ground flax seed (26g)
  • 1 cup large coconut flakes (~60g)
  • 3/4 cup slivered almonds (85g)
  • 3/4 cup sunflower seeds (105g)
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds (64g)
  • 1.5 Tbs. cinnamon (~12g)
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • scant 1/2 tsp. salt

Wet ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup honey (170g)
  • 1/4 cup date syrup (84g)
  • 1 Tbs. vanilla (15g)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil (54g)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (54g)

Nuts added in the last 15 minutes:

  • 1.5 cups pecan halves (149g), left whole
  • 1.25 cups walnut halves (125g), roughly chopped

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl (except for fragile nuts). Heat wet ingredients until coconut oil and honey are melted. Mix wet ingredients in with dry ingredients. Bake everything but the pecans and walnuts at 300 F (~150 C) on a large baking sheet coated with parchment paper. Put another piece of parchment on top and another baking sheet on top. Bake for about 45 minutes, rotating pan halfway through. Or divide in half and bake in two batches, each for about 30 minutes. When the granola seems crispy, add the pecans and walnuts and bake for another 15 minutes or so until they are lightly roasted.

Update Dec 24, 2010:¬† This time I doubled the recipe and went back closer to my first try:¬† 3 cups oats, 3 cups 5-grain rolled cereal (including oats, wheat, rye, spelt…) , 1 1/3 cups wheat bran (2.72 ounces), 1/4 tsp. salt, 4 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. nutmeg, no coconut, 1 1/2 cups pecan halves (5.25 ounces), 1 cup whole almonds (5.04 ounces), 1/4 cup light brown sugar, 3 Tbs. dark molasses, 1/4 cup oil, 1/4 cup date syrup (you could use honey), 1/4 cup maple syrup, 1 Tbs. vanilla, 2-3 Tbs. water.¬†¬† I cooked it at 350 for 30 minutes, but it still seemed damp rather than crisp, so I cooked it a bit longer.¬† I think I overcooked it again, though.¬† As soon as I took it out of the oven it crisped right up, despite seeming quite damp at first.¬† This recipe is very dark tasting, partly from the over-roasting and partly from all the molasses.¬† It was plenty sweet and not too salty this time.¬† Adding the water didn’t seem to help it clump at all–just made it take longer to cook.¬† It might have made the sauce a bit easier to distribute amongst the dry ingredients.¬† Although I increased the cinnamon and nutmeg, I still couldn’t taste them distinctively.

To try next time:  6 cups rolled oats or other grains, 1 1/2 cups wheat bran (3.07 ounces), 1/4 cup ground flax seed, 1/4 cup sesame seeds, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1.5 Tbs. cinnamon, 1 tsp. nutmeg, no coconut, 1 1/2 cups pecan halves (5.25 ounces), 1 cup whole almonds (5.04 ounces), 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 Tbs. dark molasses, 1/2 cup date syrup (or honey), 1/4 cup maple syrup (or honey), 1 Tbs. vanilla, no water.  Cook at 350 for 25 minutes.

Update Aug 14, 2010: ¬†I made the “to try next time” Granola, e.g. 2/3 cup wheat bran, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1.5 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, 1/2 cup coconut, 1 cup pecans/almonds, 1 Tbs. molasses, 2 Tbs. honey, 2 2/3 Tbs. maple syrup, 3 Tbs. oil, 1.5 tsp. vanilla.¬† I baked at 350 for 25-30 minutes.¬†¬† I accidentally used salted almonds. ¬†I also burned my pecans a bit again. ¬†Pecans are so fragile! ¬†The granola came out too salty and not sweet enough. ¬†Derek wouldn’t eat it until I added a little maple syrup to his bowl. ¬†I’m also not sure that the addition of grated coconut adds all that much.

I think next time I’ll not use salted almonds, reduce the salt to 1/8 tsp., ¬†cut the coconut to 1/4 cup, increase the pecans to 3/4 cup (rather than 1/2 cup), and increase the maple syrup and honey each to about 1/6 of a cup. ¬†I might also try cutting the oil back to 2 Tbs. and increasing the wheat bran to 3/4 cup, but that’s maybe too many changes all at once. ¬†I didn’t notice the cinnamon and nutmeg at all, so I might increase those amounts too. ¬†Finally, I wouldn’t mind it if my granola were a bit more clumpy. ¬†I’ve heard that adding water can help with the clumping. ¬†If I get ambitious I might try adding some water in with the oil and sweeteners. ¬†Or maybe it’s the brown sugar + water that creates clumping? ¬†Maybe instead of increasing the honey/maple syrup I should add back in some brown sugar? ¬†To increase the iron levels maybe I should try subbing some of the almonds/pecans for pepitas/sesame seeds or dried mulberries? ¬†So many things to try!

Original post from 7/31/2010:

Is low calorie granola possible?

I really like granola, but I usually don’t eat it because it’s very high calorie and doesn’t fill me up at all.¬† I could easily down 800 calories of the stuff for breakfast.¬† So I stopped¬† buying “Kn√ľspriges Muesli” (crunchy muesli, which is what they call Granola here in Germany).¬† But then when I went to visit my friend Sarah in Israel last month I enjoyed eating her homemade granola for breakfast every morning.¬† It’s calorie dense but very filling. But when I went to make it I just didn’t want to put that much oil in. So I made up my own recipe based on a number of¬† random granola recipes I’ve come across this month.¬† Bittman posted a no-oil recipe at the New York Times,¬† I came across a pretty basic recipe at Chow.com, Martha Rose Shulman posted her own healthy granola recipe, and I came across a granola recipe on the blog Smitten Kitchen.¬† I didn’t follow any one of the recipes, but used them collectively for inspiration.¬† Here’s a table comparing the ingredients and cooking times/temperatures.¬† All the recipes are normalized for 3 cups rolled oats: Read the rest of this entry »

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Decadent brownies

June 20, 2010 at 10:32 pm (A (4 stars, love), Alice Medrich, Alma's faves, Brownies and bars, Cook's Illustrated, Derek's faves, Dessert, Necessarily nonvegan, Yearly menu plan)

This recipe happens to come from Alice Medrich’s low fat cookbook (Chocolate and the Art of Lowfat Desserts).  But to my taste it makes the perfect brownie: intense chocolate flavor and a little gooey in the middle but with a perfectly textured brownie top. Read the rest of this entry »

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Best ever tofu and spinach enchiladas

January 1, 2010 at 3:42 pm (A (4 stars, love), Dark leafy greens, Derek's faves, Farm recipes, frozen tofu, Mexican & S. American, Mom’s recipes, Tofu, Vegetable dishes, Yearly menu plan)

Most tofu enchiladas are awful.  Normal tofu just doesn’t have the right texture for enchiladas.  My mom’s enchiladas are different, however.  They’re based on a recipe they used to make on the Farm, which uses frozen, marinated, and baked tofu that has a chewy texture and deep, umame flavor.  When I was a kid and my mom asked me what I wanted for my birthday dinner, I invariably requested tofu enchiladas. The enchiladas were simple, American-style enchiladas, made from flour tortillas filled with savory tofu chunks and then covered in a tomato, chili gravy and baked in the oven.    They were simple, but amazingly delicious.  More recently my mom has started adding vegetables to her enchiladas, and I’ve followed suit.   I usually add some combination of spinach, corn,  peppers, and onions, but I’m sure other veggies would also be good. (Last updated Jan 1, 2014.)

Read the rest of this entry »

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Pasta and Summer Squash with Tomatoes, Basil, and Pine Nuts

July 20, 2009 at 12:33 pm (A (4 stars, love), Alma's faves, Cook's Illustrated, Italian, Monthly menu plan, Pasta, Starches, Summer recipes) ()

I made this recipe tonight and liked it so much I decided to repost it.  It was originally posted on August 17, 2006.

I’ve often tried to make this sort of light/summery pasta dish without a lot of success. Unless I use a large amount of olive oil or parmesan in the past the dish has always seemed rather bland. But this recipe is light and delicious! This is based on a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, but I cut down on oil and pasta, and increased the amounts of squash and seasonings. I give options for a number of ingredients depending on how rich, spicy, starchy etc. you want your dinner to be. Read the rest of this entry »

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Vegetarian tortilla soup with miso

May 19, 2009 at 4:57 pm (A (4 stars, love), Cruciferous rich, Mexican & S. American, Miso, Monthly menu plan, Peter Berley, Quick weeknight recipe, soup) ()

I’ve tried to make vegetarian tortilla soup before, and although I don’t know exactly what the chicken-based version tastes like, I know that I’ve never achieved it.¬† Recently, however, I tried a recipe for tortilla soup from Peter Berley’s cookbook “Fresh Food Fast.”¬† The key innovation is that he uses a miso broth instead of a simple vegetable broth.¬† I thought it would be strange—miso soup with lime in it—but it was delicious, and tasted like (what I imagine) tortilla soup is supposed to taste like.¬† It definitely tasted more Mexican than Japanese. Everyone in our family really likes this soup, including five-year-old Alma. Read the rest of this entry »

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Toffikomen

March 23, 2009 at 4:36 pm (A (4 stars, love), Dessert, Jewish, Other, Website / blog)

I’ve been trying out recipes for Passover this month, and came across Marcy Goldman’s “Trademark, Most Requested, Absolutely Magnificent Matzoh Caramel Crunch“.¬† Given the title, it was hard to resist.¬† It was pretty easy to make, and came out well, except that the caramel ended up quite shiny and hard–more like a toffee than a caramel.¬† Hence, Derek dubbed the dish “Toffikomen”, a play on toffee and afikomen. Read the rest of this entry »

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One fine burrito

March 23, 2009 at 4:18 pm (A (4 stars, love), frozen tofu, My brain, Tofu)

I threw together a burrito the other day with some frozen, marinated tofu that was leftover from the tofu I prepared for chili.¬† Derek loved the burrito so much that he insisted I blog about it, even though it wasn’t particularly original.

  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 lbs tofu, frozen, thawed, and torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 Tbs. peanut butter
  • 3 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce (from a 14 ounce can)
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 avocados, sliced or diced
  • 6-8? ounces cheddar cheese, grated
  • about 1 cup smoky chipotle salsa or salsa verde from Frontera Grill
  • 6-8 leaves Romaine lettuce
  • 6-8 regular-size flour tortillas

For the tofu:

Preheat the oven to 350.  Add 1 Tbs. of oil to a cookie sheet. Mix together peanut butter, garlic powder, soy sauce, and tomato sauce. Work the marinade mixture thoroughly into the tofu crumbles, using your hands.  Pour the tofu onto the cookie sheet and cook for about 15 minutes per side, until crispy but still moist in the middle.

Makes 6-8 small (but filling) burritos.

Although the combination is not particularly novel or healthy, I agree with Derek that the burrito was certainly very tasty.

Derek Rating: A

Rating: A-

On a second attempt I cut the avocado into slices and sprinkled on top fresh minced garlic, salt, and lots of lime juice.  We ate it with a salsa verde, and the sour tomatillos and lime juice went great together.  Delicious.  I just need to record the amounts and make this a real recipe now!

Update May 15, 2010:¬† I made 2 pounds of tofu and it made about 7 small burritos.¬† I served them with 2 avocados that had been sliced, doused in lime juice, and sprinkled with salt and fresh garlic.¬† Two avocados was just about right for 6-7 burritos.¬† The main problem was the burritos looked really tiny.¬† So although they’re high calorie and quite filling, Derek thought I should have made two burritos for everyone.¬† I’ve got to figure out a way to make them look as large as they actually are!¬† We ate the burritos with Frontera Grill green salsa and lettuce.¬† They were yummy.¬† Some raw onions might have been a nice garnish.

I served everyone one burrito, a small side of roasted carrots, a bowl of Locro, and for dessert a small bowl of vanilla ice cream with salted caramel sauce.  I was very full by the end of dinner!  Derek, however, ate two burritos.

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Annie’s tahini goddess dressing, a copycat recipe

December 17, 2008 at 5:20 am (A (4 stars, love), Alma's faves, Derek's faves, Monthly menu plan, My brain, Quick weeknight recipe, Sauce/dressing) ()

Both Derek and I love Annie’s goddess dressing.¬† It’s a tahini-based dressing that’s savory and rich, and very satisfying.¬† Annie’s is not sold in Germany, so I’ve decided to try to figure out how to make something similar myself.¬†¬† I searched around on the web for a while, and came across this taste test from the San Francisco Chronicle that shows that Annie’s Goddess dressing is indeed better than knockoffs by other companies.¬† The result of the taste test didn’t surprise me, but it did worry me a bit—if big food companies can’t replicate Annie’s dressing, why do I think I have a shot?

I looked around some more on the web, trying to find a copycat recipe.¬† Although I found tons of posts where people were asking for the recipe, I could find only one post on recipezaar where someone actually attempted to replicate the original. Although the recipe is rated well, it doesn’t seem to follow the constraints given by the Annie’s ingredient list; I decided not to follow this recipe, but rather to try to figure it out on my own.¬† I looked at the order of ingredients in the ingredient list (ordered by weight) and the nutritional information to try to figure out how much of each ingredient to use. ¬†My first few tries were pretty awful, but after ten attempts, I think I finally nailed it! ¬†Now we can have Annie’s goddess dressing in Saarbruecken whenever we like. ¬†Or maybe I should call it Fannie’s (Fake-Annie’s).

Read the rest of this entry »

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Mediterranean Pasta with chard and olives in a spicy harissa sauce

November 16, 2008 at 4:43 am (101 cookbooks, A (4 stars, love), Dark leafy greens, Pasta, Quick weeknight recipe, Starches) ()

The photo of the harissa spaghettini on 101cookbooks is enticing. Moreover, the recipe includes both greens and plenty of spice, so I immediately added it to my “to try” list. I can’t find that lovely tender dinosaur kale shown in the photo here in Germany, so I used chard instead. I made a few other adjustments as well, transforming this recipe from a Moroccan recipe to a trans-Mediterranean one.¬† The pasta and chard and parmigiano represent Italy, the kalamata olives come from Greece, and the harissa paste represents North Africa. Read the rest of this entry »

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Better than S’mores

August 8, 2008 at 4:38 am (A (4 stars, love), Dessert, My brain, Other, Product Reviews, Quick weeknight recipe)

When Derek went to Cambridge last month, I asked him to bring back some Hobnob’s, the delicious oaty, not too sweet British “biscuits.”¬† He couldn’t find Hobnob’s but brought back a similar oaty biscuit made by Mark and Spencer.¬† These oat cookies have a certain similarity to graham crackers: a crumbly, almost flaky texture, with just a touch of sweetness. I love the graham cracker and chocolate part of Smore’s, but I was never too fond of the marshmallow component.¬† Besides, most marshmallows aren’t really vegetarian.¬† Despite its failings, the marshmallow does fill an essential S’mores role: you need something ooey gooey to hold the biscuit and chocolate together.¬† Instead of marshmallows, I suggest peanut butter: it’s less artificial, contains less sugar, more protein, and is much, much tastier. Smear one Hobnob biscuit with a thin layer of all-natural, salted peanut butter, and top with a square of dark chocolate.¬† Please, use a good quality dark chocolate, not a Hershey’s milk chocolate bar; that stuff is just sugar and paraffin wax.¬† I recommend Scharffenberger’s nibby dark chocolate. If you want the chocolate a bit soft and melted, give it a second in the microwave or a hot oven, or (my preferred, all-natural method) just leave your better than S’mores sitting in a sunny window for 10 minutes.¬† These peanut better than s’mores are probably the simplest, tastiest, most satisfying desserts / snacks I’ve had in a long time.¬† Plus, each one is only slightly over 150 calories (hobnob = 60, 1/2 Tbs. peanut butter = 50, one large square of dark chocolate = 50).

Rating: A-

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Zucchini and Tofu in Roasted Chili Paste

August 4, 2008 at 6:31 am (A (4 stars, love), Derek's faves, East and SE Asia, Nancie McDermott, Other, Quick weeknight recipe, Summer recipes, Tofu, Vegetable dishes)

This is currently my favorite way to eat Thai roasted chili paste. This recipe from Real Vegetarian Thai by Nancie McDermott is simple and satisfying. For more color, use half yellow squash, but add it slightly before the zucchini as it’s slower to cook. Alternatively, throw in a handful of halved cherry tomatoes when you add the tofu.

  • 10 – 14 ounces medium-firm tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 tsp. – 3 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbs. coarsely chopped garlic (4 to 6 cloves)
  • 1 large onion (about 10? ounces), cut lengthwise into thick strips
  • 3 medium or 2 large zucchini, cut into 1/4 inch rounds (about 1.5 pounds?)
  • 3 Tbs. roasted chili paste
  • 1/4 cup vegetable stock
  • 2 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp salt (omit or reduce if your vegetable stock is salted)
  1. Heat a wok or a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the garlic and onion and cook until shiny, fragrant, and softened, about 1 minute. Add the zucchini and cook, tossing occasionally, until shiny, tender, and a brilliant green, about 2 minutes.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium and add the chili paste, vegetable stock, soy sauce, and salt. Toss well. Add the tofu and cook, giving it an occasional gentle toss, until it is heated through and evenly coated with the sauce, about 1 minute. Transfer to a serving dish and serve hot or warm.

Serves 4.

Rating: B+

Derek: A-

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Thai Roasted Chili Paste

August 4, 2008 at 5:32 am (A (4 stars, love), Derek's faves, East and SE Asia, Nancie McDermott, Other, Sauce/dressing)

A few years ago I made the Roasted Chili Paste (Nahm prik pao) from Nancie McDermott’s cookbook Real Vegetarian Thai.¬† We used it in a recipe with butternut squash and spinach, and everyone enjoyed it.¬† For some reason, however, I never made it again, until this summer.¬† I gave my mom my big Kitchenaid spice grinder with the washable bowl,¬† since it won’t work in Germany, but she didn’t know what to do with it, since she already had a normal coffee grinder.¬† I suggested she make Thai roasted chili paste in it, and she wanted me to show her how, so we cracked open her pristine copy of Real Vegetarian Thai, and made half a batch of Roasted Chili Paste.¬† After tasting it and discovering how utterly delicious it is, we felt foolish for only making half a batch!

Here is my recipe for 1.5 batches of thai chili paste:

  • 3/4 cup loosely packed small dried red chilies such as chilies de arbol or chiles japones (about 48), stemmed, halved crosswise (about 3/4 ounce)
  • almost a cup of unpeeled shallots, cut lengthwise into chunks, about 4.5 ounces
  • generous 1/3 cup unpeeled garlic cloves (12 to 15 large cloves), about 2 3/4 ounces
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (my mom uses 3/8 cup, and the original recipe calls for 3/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup palm sugar or brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup tamarind liquid
  • 1.5 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 1.5 tsp. salt
  1. Measure out the chilies, shallots, and garlic, and cut the shallots as specified.
  2. In a wok or heavy skillet, dry-fry the chilies over medium-low heat until they darken and become fragrant and brittle, 3 to 5 minutes.  Shake the pan and stir frequently as they roast.  Remove from the heat and transfer to a plate to cool.
  3. Increase the heat to medium and dry-fry the shallots and garlic, turning them occasionally, until they are softened, wilted, and blistered, about 8 minutes.  Remove from the heat and transfer to the plate to cool.
  4. Stem the chilies and shake out and discard most (but not all) of the seeds. Add to a mini processor or spice grinder, and pulse twice.  Trim the shallots and garlic, discarding the peel and root ends.  Combine the garlic, shallots, and chilies in a mini processor, blender, or spice grinder, and pulse to a coarse paste, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed.  Add 1/4 cup of the vegetable oil and grind to a fairly smooth paste.
  5. Pour the remaining 1/4 cup oil into the wok or skillet.  Place over medium heat until a bit of the paste added to the pan sizzles at once, about 1 minute.  Add the ground chili paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until the paste gradually darkens and releases a rich fragrance, about 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and set aside to cool to room temperature.
  6. When the paste is cool, add the sugar, tamarind, soy sauce, and salt and mix well.  The paste will be quite oily, and must be stirred before each use.  Transfer to a jar, cap tightly, and refrigerate for up to 1 month.  Use at room temperature in recipes or as a condiment.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups (if using 1/2 cup oil), or maybe just a bit less.

Notes:

I love this versatile sauce, as did my mom, and Derek.¬† It’s spicy, sweet, salty, and just a tad sour from the tamarind. Make a big batch and keep it in the fridge, and you’ll be glad.¬† It’s quite a bit of work, but it lasts in the fridge for a month.¬† With this sauce it’s super easy to whip up a quick Thai weeknight dinner, that tastes like something you’d get at a Thai restaurant.¬† My mom and I used it in a dish with zucchini and tofu, which we scarfed down.¬† Derek and I made a green bean, tofu, and red pepper version which was almost as delicious.¬† The original recipe I tried was a vitamin packed butternut squash and spinach hot pot. I’ll post the recipes separately.

If you have a thai mortar and pestle you can make the paste the traditional way, adding oil little by little to grind the sauce to a fine paste.

You can buy Nahm prik pao in an Asian grocery store, but it will ususally contain fish sauce and dried shrimp.

Open a window and turn on the stove fan if you can while frying and seeding the chilies–otherwise your whole house will be spicy and everyone will be coughing all day.

This version gives a rich, tangy chili-tamarind paste softened by the brown sugar. For a more pure, fiery version skip step 6.

How to make tamarind “liquid”: To get the required tamarind paste, soak 1/2 cup of tamarind pulp/seeds (the kind that comes in a hard brick) in 1 cup warm water for 30 minutes.¬† Use a wooden spoon to break it up a bit, then use a wooden spoon to push the pulp through a fine mesh sieve, getting out as much tamarind paste as possible. ¬† You’ll have extra tamarind paste leftover–store it in the freezer.¬† It won’t freeze, but will stay soft and ready to use at a moment’s notice in any Thai or Indian dish, or as a substitute for lemon juice. Pour boiling water over the remaining seeds and stringy paste, and let sit for 30 minutes.¬† Strain it and use it for a nice cooling Thai beverage–tamarind juice/tea.¬† Add a bit of honey or maple syrup if it’s too sour for you.

The first time I made this with my mom I was religious about getting out all the seeds, and the final paste was delicious, but totally without heat.  The next time I was less conscientious, and the paste was appropriately fiery.  Derek ate a few Tablespoons of it and then sat around in a numb daze after dinner.

The original recipe yields a very oily sauce, and then all the recipes that call for it have you cook the vegetables in more oil, which results in very tasty but overly greasy dishes.¬† So I reduced the oil a bit the second time I made it, and although the final dishes were still oily, they weren’t unpleasantly greasy.

Try to choose peppers that aren’t too tiny, as the tiny ones are really hard to seed.

I was initially hesitant because the recipe seems to call for a lot of salt, but you only use a few Tbs. of this sauce in a whole dish, so it doesn’t end up being too salty.¬† Really.

Rating: A- (soon to become an A?)

Derek Rating: A

Update May 2010: ¬†I accidentally seeded my chilies before dry frying them. ¬†I wonder what effect that will have? ¬†I also used olive oil as the oil. ¬†I followed the original recipe in the cookbook except I was a tad short on shallots and I used 5.5 Tbs. oil rather than 8. ¬†I wanted to use less but it took 4 Tbs. before the mini processor would blend the mixture. ¬†I probably could have left out adding the extra oil in the pan, but I wasn’t sure so I added 1.5 Tbs. just to be on the safe side.

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Thai Lime and Chili Peanut Cookies

June 22, 2008 at 11:56 pm (A (4 stars, love), Cook's Illustrated, Cookies, Dessert, My brain)

I wanted to use up some of the 10 jars of nut butters languishing in the fridge, so I decided to make peanut butter hazelnut cookies, which would use up the peanut butter, the hazelnut butter, and the peanut hazelnut butter. Heidi Swanson raves about the Cook’s Illustrated recipe for peanut butter cookies, so I used that as my base, subbing out some of the flour for wheat germ, because I wanted to use it up. The recipe calls for roasted, salted peanuts, which I didn’t have. It was either use unroasted, unsalted peanuts, or… the Trader Joe’s Thai Lime and Chili peanuts I’d been happily snacking on since my friend Robbie introduced them to me a few years ago. I decided to give the Thai cookies a chance. I used the peanuts as they were, bits of kaffir lime leaves, red chilies, and all. ¬†If you can’t get Trader Joe’s lime and chili peanuts, then you could try just adding in ground up chili peppers, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves. Read the rest of this entry »

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Greek-Style Garlic-Lemon Potatoes

December 24, 2007 at 7:18 pm (A (4 stars, love), Cook's Illustrated, Derek's faves, Root vegetables, Starches)

This is based on a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated. The addition of raw garlic and fresh oregano give these potatoes a full flavor with plenty of bite. This is a great recipe for late winter, when you’re desperate for something fresh tasting, but none of the springtime veggies have arrived yet. Read the rest of this entry »

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