My mom’s toddler-approved chana dal

April 14, 2016 at 11:13 am (A minus, Alma's faves, Beans, breakfast, Derek's faves, Fall recipes, Indian, My Mom's recipes, Spring recipes, Winter recipes) ()

My mom visited us in January and made us her favorite chana dal recipe for dinner one night. It was a hit, but we ate it all up immediately. So before she left she made us a second, doubled batch and froze it. We defrosted it a few weeks later and again it was a hit with everyone, including my 1-year-old. Since then I’ve been making a quadrupled batch of chana dal every two weeks. We eat it for dinner, freeze some of it, and eat the rest for breakfast a few days later. Then we defrost the frozen portion and have it for a dinner and a breakfast the following week. Sometimes we serve it with yogurt, but often we don’t. My now 14-month-old always eats it happily. When we have it for breakfast, I try to serve it with a piece of vitamin C rich fruit, often a grapefruit, an orange or clementine, or a kiwi. The only problem with the recipe is that it doesn’t have any vegetables in it. I’m curious to try adding some vegetables — maybe a bit of spinach or carrots? In the meantime, if I have leftover roasted or curried cauliflower, I will serve that as a side dish.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Homemade sunbutter

November 9, 2013 at 12:27 am (A minus, Alma's faves, Derek's faves, Sauce/dressing, Website / blog) ()

I’ve already waxed euphoric about the wonders of sunflower seed butter, so you know how much I enjoy it. Sadly, however, it seems to be the one nut/seed butter I can’t find here in Germany. I’ve found peanut butter, hazelnut butter, almond butter, cashew butter (roasted and raw), and even pumpkin seed butter. But no sun butter. I have no idea why. So I tried making my own sunbutter a few months ago. I just added the sunflower seeds to the food processor and tried grinding them up. They turned into a dry, sandy, powdery substance, but not into a nut butter. I thought maybe I needed to add a little oil but that didn’t work at all. It just turned into a sticky, pasty, oily kind of sand. I tried adding some water. Big mistake. I ended up with pale, pasty, white goop. Blech. I decided to try again, but this time to actually read some instructions online first. Read the rest of this entry »

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Chipotle roasted potatoes

November 6, 2012 at 1:19 pm (A minus, Derek's faves, Fall recipes, Peter Berley, Quick weeknight recipe, Root vegetables, Winter recipes)

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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Dark, spicy gingerbread

December 26, 2010 at 3:28 pm (A minus, 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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Decadent brownies

June 20, 2010 at 10:32 pm (A minus, Alice Medrich, Brownies and bars, Cook's Illustrated, Derek's faves, Dessert, Necessarily nonvegan)

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 minus, Dark leafy greens, Derek's faves, Farm recipes, frozen tofu, Mexican & S. American, Mom’s recipes, Tofu, Vegetable dishes)

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.)

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Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

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

I’ve tried to make 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 Mexican rather than Japanese.

  • 1 head garlic, cloves separated and smashed
  • 1 small bunch cilantro (about 1/2 cup coarsely chopped leaves plus the stems for the broth)
  • 6 corn tortillas or ??? corn tortilla chips, crumbled
  • 1 large ripe avocado, sliced
  • 2 limes (1 for juicing and 1 for cutting into wedges)
  • 2 cups bite-sized broccoli florettes
  • 1 medium carrot, halved lengthwise and sliced thin on the bias
  • 1 jalepeno pepper (with its seeds), sliced into very thin rings
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup red or white miso

For precise instructions buy the cookbook!

Berley makes a simple broth with a head of garlic (cloves smashed but not peeled), and the stems from a bunch of cilantro.  I tasted the broth and I could definitely taste the garlic, but the cilantro was pretty subtle.  Then vegetables are added to the soup and cooked until crisp-tender, and then the miso and cilantro are mixed in.  Finally, tortilla strips and lime-soaked avocado are spooned into each bowl.

The vegetables cooked in the soup are broccoli, carrots, and jalepeno.  Adding broccoli and carrots to tortilla soup is not traditional, but they both went well with the other flavors.  The jalapeno I had from my mother’s garden was hot but not too hot.  Berley’s recipe says to fry strips of corn tortillas, but we can’t get corn tortillas in Germany so we used wheat tortillas.  They were tasty but pretty rich tasting.  Between the avocado and tortilla chips the soup was quite rich.  I think the soup would be very tasty even without the tortilla chips, and more of an everyday kind of meal, rather than a special-occasion soup.  The second time I made the soup I threw in a few strips of commercial corn chips.  They weren’t as good as freshly-fried corn tortillas, but they added the right corn/oil taste, and were much simpler.

The main problem I have with the recipe is that it calls for 6 cups of water and 1/2 cup of white miso.  Berley says you can substitute red miso to “bring it up a notch.”  I’m not sure how salty white miso is, but 1/2 cup of red miso in that much soup would be unbearably salty.  I added 1/4 cup of red miso to start and the soup was salty but tasty.  More would have definitely made the soup too salty, however.  The second time that we made the soup, we didn’t think 1/4 cup of miso was quite enough, so I had Derek add another 2 Tbs.  On our second try the recipe made about 6 bowls of soup.

If you don’t fry your own tortilla strips, this recipe can definitely be made in other 30 minutes.  Berley includes it in a menu with a medley made from white rice, kidney beans, green peas, and cheese.  The dish was reasonably tasty, but pretty rich and not that exciting.  It’s mildness was a reasonable foil to the intense soup, but both dishes were quite rich.  I would have paired the soup with a lighter bean dish and more vegetables.  I’m not sure I would make the bean dish again, although Derek liked it more than me.  I was impressed that the two dishes together took exactly an hour to make (and mostly clean up from).  If I made the menu again, I could probably do it in under an hour.  The second time I made this soup I paired it with a black bean salad–highly seasoned black beans over a lettuce, tomato, and pepper salad.  It was a reasonable combination but I didn’t get the recipe quite right.  I was trying to recreate the black bean salad at La Feria in Pittsburgh, but I failed.

I’ll definitely make this soup again, especially if I can get my hands on jalepenos, corn tortillas, and ripe avocados.

Rating: A-

Update December 15, 2009:

We made this soup last night, doubled, and I used 1/4 cup red miso and 1/4 cup white miso.  I thought the salt level was perfect.  We had 6 people for dinner and everyone had one smallish-bowl plus a second even smaller bowl, and I ended up with about 3 cups of soup left.  The two avocados I cut up were almost entirely eaten, however.  We used corn chips and they were perfectly fine. Along with the miso soup I served black bean and sweet potato burritos with salsa, and apple crisp with vanilla ice cream for dessert.  Derek made margaritas and our guests brought two bottles of wine.  It was a lot of food and drink!

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Toffikomen

March 23, 2009 at 4:36 pm (A minus, 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 minus, 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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Better than S’mores

August 8, 2008 at 4:38 am (A minus, 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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Thai Roasted Chili Paste

August 4, 2008 at 5:32 am (A minus, 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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Texas Tofu Chili

December 16, 2007 at 12:59 pm (A minus, Beans, frozen tofu, Isa C. Moskowitz, Mexican & S. American, Mom’s recipes, Tofu)

Every vegetarian cookbook has a chili recipe. Some are interesting, some are bland, some are just weird. I’ve tried recipes with exotic ingredients like dried peaches, cinnamon, and peanuts. This recipe, however, makes a very traditional chili (ignoring the fact that it has tofu instead of meat). Maybe I’m biased because this is based on my mom’s recipe, but I like it better than any of the other chili recipes I’ve tried, including various recipes claiming to be the “best ever vegetarian chili.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Chocolate Chip Brownies, vegan

April 24, 2007 at 2:31 pm (A minus, Brownies and bars, Dessert, Peter Berley, Quick weeknight recipe, Soymilk)

My mom came to visit and we made these vegan brownies together. I asked her to write up the blog entry for me:

They came out great with a crispy outside and chewy inside. The recipe originated from Peter Berley’s Modern Vegetarian Kitchen, but we made some adjustments before even starting.. We halved the recipe since we were making a new recipe and didn’t want to have too much of something we didn’t like. We left out the walnuts because we didn’t have any at 10pm and didn’t want to go to the store. And we used white flour instead of half whole wheat pastry flour again because we didn’t have any available. Here is the recipe.

  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup soymilk
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup unbleached white flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 6 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup Sucanat
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup semi/sweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil an 8 inch square pan.
  2. Put the oil, maple syrup , soy milk and vanilla in a medium bowl and whisk to combine.
  3. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa, sugar, sucanat , baking powder and salt.
  4. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet mixture with a rubber spatula. Don’t overmix.
  5. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  6. Put the batter in the pan and spread it out evenly. Bake for 35 minutes.
  7. Do not overbake.
  8. Cool before cutting.

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Quinoa and Butternut Squash Risotto

January 20, 2007 at 9:58 pm (A minus, B plus, Grains, Peter Berley, Starches)

I normally get nervous when I see risottos which call for grains other than rice.  I avoid barley risotto like the plague. But this recipe in The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen by Peter Berley has quinoa and arborio rice, so I figured it was safe to risk it.

  • 4 cups water or broth made from squash and leek trimmings
  • 2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped leek (white part only) (I used the light green part as well, from 1 leek)
  • 2 cups peeled, cubed pumpkin or butternut squash (1/2 inch pieces) (from a 3/4 – 1 pound squash?)
  • 1/2 cup arborio rice
  • 1/3 cup quinoa
  • 2 Tbs. mirin  (maybe more?  or white wine?)
  • 4 sage leaves, finely chopped
  • coarse sea salt
  • freshly milled black pepper
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh parsley for garnish
  • toasted pumpkin seeds for garnish
  1. In a 2-quart saucepan over high heat, bring the water to a boil.  Reduce the heat to maintain a steady simmer.
  2. In a heavy 3-quart pan over medium heat, warm 1 Tbs. oil, add the leek, and saute for 2 minutes.  Add the pumpkin and cook for 2 to 3 more minutes.  Add the rice and quinoa and saute, stirring, for 2 minutes, or until the grains are fragrant.
  3. Add the mirin and sage and cook until dry.  Ladle in the water, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until the liquid has been absorbed before adding each subsequent 1/2 cup of water.  Continue stirring until the grains are tender and creamy, 20 to 25 minutes.
  4. Stir in the remaining 1 Tbs. oil.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve garnished with parsley and the pumpkin seeds.

Yields 2 main-course servings or 4 appetizer servings.

My Notes:

I’ve made this recipe twice now and I really liked it both times.  It’s almost perfect, except it needs way more sage.  I added more sage with the mirin (about a Tbs.?), and then add the end rather than garnishing with parsley I sprinkled on lots more chopped fresh sage (maybe about 3 Tbs?).  This dish doesn’t quite taste like a traditional risotto.  The quinoa adds a slightly herbaceous note, which melds well with the other flavors.  Plus it’s vegan, and healthier than traditional risotto.  I think it makes more than 2 main-dish servings. Rating: B+

Note October 2008: Last night I tried the butternut squash and sage risotto recipe in Jack Bishop’s cookbook.  It was tasty but neither the squash nor the sage flavors were very strong, even after I added substantially more sage.  I actually prefer the version above with quinoa and leek.  They create a deeper flavor profile that I prefer to the standard risotto recipe.  Bishop suggests garnishing the risotto with fried sage leaves.  I tried to fry some up, but again they didn’t come out right.  They were crispy but lost almost all the sage flavor.  What am I doing wrong?

Note October 12, 2009:  Last night Derek made a combination of this recipe and the butternut squash risotto recipe from the Complete Italian Vegetarian cookbook.  He started with 1 Tbs. olive oil and 2 Tbs. butter, then added ~4 cups  1/2-inch diced squash (about 1 pound 6 ounces I think) and let it cook for about 7 minutes over medium heat, until it looked like it was starting to soften.  Then he added about 3/4 cup each of arborio rice and quinoa.  When fragrant he added a 1/3-1/2 cup of white wine and ~2 Tbs. chopped fresh sage leaves.  He added about 6 cups of salted vegetable stock slowly, stirring frequently.  At the end he beat in 1 Tbs. of butter, about 2 ounces of parmigiano-reggiano, and another 1-2 Tbs. of fresh, chopped sage leaves, and seasoned to taste.  It was delicious.  I think I liked it with the extra quinoa, and without the leeks, even more than the original version.   Certainly all the animal fat made it taste very good.  I think the absence of leeks gave it a purer squash flavor.  Rating: A-.  Derek rating: A-/B+.  He says it’s very tasty but not quite interesting enough to be A-.  I think the the quinoa flavor makes it interesting enough to make it an A-.

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Rice Flour Dosas with Onions and Black Mustard Seeds

December 27, 2006 at 6:19 pm (A minus, Derek's faves, Indian, Madhur Jaffrey, Quick weeknight recipe, Starches)

This recipe is not authentic as it is made with pre-ground rice flour, and no lentils, but it is fast and super tasty. It’s based on a recipe from Madhur Jaffrey’s World of the East cookbook.

Makes eight 6- to 7-inch pancakes, each using 1/3 cup of batter.

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup rice flour (also called rice powder)
  • 1/8 to 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion (or just quarter it)
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated coconut
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt (fine salt?)
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (the sourer the better)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 Tbs. veg oil (plus more for cooking)
  • 3/4 to 1 tsp. coarsely crushed or very coarsely ground black pepper
  1. Put the onion in the bowl of a food processor and chop finely. Add the white flour, rice flour, cayenne, coconut, salt, yogurt, and water. Blend until smooth and pour into a bowl.
  2. Heat 1 Tbs. of oil in a very small skillet or pot over a medium flame. When hot, put in the mustard seeds. As soon as the mustard seeds begin to pop (almost immediately), pour the seeds and oil over the batter. Add the black pepper and mix thoroughly.
  3. The instructions for cooking the dosas is quite complicated and I’m not going to copy it here since I haven’t yet mastered the instructions anyhow. Jaffrey says to use a 7- to 8-inch nonstick pan, but I use my 12-inch pan since that’s the only nonstick one I have. She also says to use a spoon to spread the batter but I’m not skilled enough to make that work. Instead, I thin down my batter with water, and then just tilt the pan to get the batter to cover the bottom, as you do when making crepes. Note that you want the skillet to be hot, lightly oiled, and the dosa to be as thin as possible. Make sure to cover your skillet after placing 1/3 cup of batter in the pan, and cook until the dosas is no longer white in the center. Flip and leave uncovered when cooking the second side.
  4. To make these ahead of time you can wrap them in tin foil then reheat them later in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes (I haven’t tried this yet).

My Notes

I often add a bit more water to this recipe to thin the batter down and make it easier to spread in the pan, maybe 1 cup?  The thickness of your yogurt will affect how much water you need.  Since I add more water I usually get out more dosas, or bigger dosas, than the headnotes indicate.  Last time I made them I was able to make a total of nine 8- to 9-inch dosas in my 12-inch skillet.

Note that it’s essential to blend the batter in the food processor or blender to achieve the proper consistency. (A stick blender will work as well, but definitely don’t skip the blending step, even if you dice your onions very fine.) These dosas end up thicker than traditional dosas, but they have great flavor. The sourness and onion flavor are most noticeable. I like the onion so much I may try increasing the amount to a whole cup of onions.

I often serve these some subset of: coconut chutney, raita, samosa potatoes, garlic/ginger greens, and dal or sambar.

The recipe calls for using 6 Tbs. of vegetable oil when cooking the dosas, about 2 tsp. per dosa–1/2 tsp. in the pan before the batter, 1/2 tsp. drizzled over the pancake and 1 tsp. around the pancakes edges. I sometimes just oil the pan for the first dosa. They don’t turn out quite as crisp but they’re still very tasty.

Rating: A-
Derek: A

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Oatmeal Walnut Pancakes

December 26, 2006 at 4:25 am (A minus, breakfast, Derek's faves, Grains, Other, Quick weeknight recipe, Soymilk)

Based on a recipe from the McCann’s Irish Oatmeal box. These pancakes have a hearty, nutty flavor, but are still quite light and fluffy. Derek and his father claim these are the “best pancakes ever.”

In a large bowl combine:

  • 1.25 cups quick cooking oats, or regular rolled oats blended to a coarse flour
  • 1 cup lowfat or nonfat yogurt, unsweetened
  • 1 cup skim or lowfat milk or plain soymilk
  • 1 tsp. sugar or honey (omit if soymilk or yogurt are sweetened)

Stir in:

  • 1/4 cup white flour
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 scant tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda

Add and mix well:

  • 2 large eggs, beaten

Add:

  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Use 1/4 cup batter per pancake.
Yields: 13 four-inch pancakes
Serving size: 3-4 pancakes

About 100 calories per pancake.

Rating: A-

Derek: A-

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Sambar

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

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

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Hearty greens and beans with pasta

May 18, 2006 at 4:30 pm (A minus, Beans, Beans and greens, Cook's Illustrated, Cruciferous rich, Dark leafy greens, Derek's faves, Pasta, Starches) ()

A big bowl of pasta, hearty greens, and beans can really hit the spot on those days when you’re just hungry. Plus, beans and greens are two of the most nutritious foods you can eat.  And beans, pasta, and greens make a great one dish meal.  Yet there are numerous pitfalls that a chef trying to make this dish for the first time can fall into. Especially a vegetarian chef! Over the years, I’ve made variants that are quite bland, versions that are bitter, and even dishes in which the greens are either undercooked and crunchy or an overcooked putrid green color.  Below are my notes on how to make an excellent vegetarian version of pasta, beans and greens. Read the rest of this entry »

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White bean pate

April 28, 2006 at 8:37 am (A minus, Beans, Ron Pickarski)

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

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Ginger Snaps

March 28, 2006 at 10:32 am (A minus, Alice Medrich, Cookies, Derek's faves, Dessert)

Last night I made gingersnaps from Alice Medrich’s cookbook Cookie and Brownies. Derek said they were the best cookies he ever had. Though I enjoyed them, I suspected hyperbole, and when challenged he said they were at least the best cookies I ever made. A compliment? An insult? I’m not sure. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Best Lemon Bars Ever

January 5, 2006 at 5:57 am (A minus, Derek's faves, Dessert, Necessarily nonvegan, Other, Pies and custards, Spring recipes, Summer recipes, Winter recipes)

This is the recipe for Lemon Bars from Fine Cooking, Summer 2002. My friend Spoons made these lemon bars for us, and we quickly agreed that they were the best lemon bars ever. Unlike most lemon bars, they have an intense lemon flavor without being sickly sweet. Don’t get me wrong, they’re sweet, but the sweetness is balanced by the perfect level of tart/sour. We got the recipe from Spoons, and I’ve since made them a few times and they taste almost as good as his, although I’m sloppier and lazier so they don’t look as pretty. I haven’t made these recently but I came across the recipe in my email and thought I might as well post it here for safe keeping. I am sure I will be making these again sometime–with free-range eggs, of course.

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