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. Read the rest of this entry »
I’m trying to get more “purple” 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.
I served the cabbage on top of mache (green!), grated carrots (orange!) and leftover basmati rice (made with saffron, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon). I quite liked it with warm, sweet spices in the basmati rice. Next time I might even add some to the cabbage itself. Read the rest of this entry »
This is another recipe featured on Food52’s Genius Recipes page. It’s from Heidi Swanson’s cookbook Super Natural Every Day. I chose it because I had some chickpeas and homemade vegetable broth to use up, and a student of mine from Iran got me a boatload of saffron as a gift. Also, it looked pretty easy, and I needed to make a quick lunch that was suitable for both Alma and me. Read the rest of this entry »
I made this 101cookbooks recipe right before I left for Israel last month, when I wanted to use up some steamed kale and some roasted squash. I only had one serving, but I quite enjoyed it. I thought the dish was extremely hearty and flavorful, and made a great one-pot dinner. Beans and greens and chocolate. How can you go wrong? I’ll definitely be trying it again. Read the rest of this entry »
We are big broccoli fans here. Even Alma loves broccoli. And pesto? Yes. So a double broccoli quinoa recipe with broccoli and broccoli pesto from 101cookbooks — sounded great. But it ended up being a surprising amount of work, and had an awfully lot of fat for something that didn’t taste particularly decadent. We didn’t love it. And there were a few things about the recipe that we found odd. Read the rest of this entry »
Derek’s parents brought us four pounds of giant black beans from Rancho Puerto. They’re big and meaty and delicious plain, but I thought they might also make a nice salad. We went looking for a recipe and found this recipe for a giant black bean salad with a honey jalapeño lime dressing on 101cookbooks. We’ve tried various salads from the 101cookbooks website before, and usually haven’t found them that inspiring, but everyone really liked this one. The dressing is a nice balance of sweet and spicy and tart, and it goes great with all the other ingredients (black beans, arugula, feta, and toasted almonds), each of which adds an essential taste and texture.
The only criticism I have of the recipe is that the amounts seem off. We had more than 2 to 3 “large handfuls” of arugula, but it wasn’t nearly enough greens for that amount of beans. And it seemed like there was more almonds and dressing than we needed for 3 cups of beans, although perhaps if we had had more greens, we would have used up all the dressing.
I don’t know how this recipe would be with regular small black beans, but I’d like to try it, as I can’t get my hands on giant black beans very often.
I wanted to use up some brussels sprouts and cilantro, and found this recipe for a tofu, sprout stirfry on 101cookbooks. It looked interesting, and we had all the ingredients on hand, so Derek and I gave it a try for lunch yesterday. Read the rest of this entry »
This was another pantry-cleaning-inspired selection. I wanted to use up some whole (unhulled) barley, and Derek and I chose this refreshing-sounding recipe for a barley salad from the 101 cookbooks website. Read the rest of this entry »
I liked the miso tahini turnip soup from 101cookbooks so much I decided to try another soup recipe from her blog, this time for “immunity soup,” built on a garlic, ginger, pepper broth. The recipe calls for white pepper but I didn’t have any, so I just used black pepper. I assumed the only difference was cosmetic, but maybe white pepper actually tastes different, because this recipe was a let down. I thought the soup would be wasabi-up-your-sinuses intense, but we found it bland, even after adding more black pepper. I really like clean, brothy soups in general, but this one was unsatisfying. It didn’t taste bad, it was just boring and a bit bland. Maybe if I’d been able to find some pea shoots they would have brought the whole dish together? I doubt it.
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 Mairübchen, 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 juice? I could not imagine it. Read the rest of this entry »
I found some small red beans in the Turkish store near my house last week. I snapped them up, excited to add something a bit different to my usual rotation (black beans, cranberry beans, kidney beans, white beans, lentils, various kinds of dals, chickpeas, and split mung beans). I cooked up a big pot of red beans, then had to figure out how to make a full dinner out of them. I searched all my cookbooks for recipes for red beans (with the convenient eatyourbooks.com website) and found this 101cookbooks recipe for a farro and bean stew. Amazingly, I had (almost) all the ingredients.
The recipe looked pretty plain. It’s just veggies and beans and grains without any spices or herbs, not even garlic—the only seasoning is salt. So I decided to use the Bärlauch I had in the fridge to make a Bärlauch pesto. I tried to look up what Bärlauch is called in the states, and found a number of translations. Wikipedia says “Allium ursinum – known as ramsons, buckrams, wild garlic, broad-leaved garlic, wood garlic, bear leek or bear’s garlic – is a wild relative of chives native to Europe and Asia.” It’s a broad, bright green leaf that tastes strongly of garlic, and (as I discovered this week) lasts quite a long time in the fridge! I had it in a plastic bag in the fridge all week and it didn’t seem at all the worse for the waiting. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
I love falafel, but I’ve never made them successfully myself. It doesn’t help that I detest deep frying. So I was quite curious about this baked sweet potato falafel posted on 101 cookbooks, originally from the Leon cookbook. Derek made these for dinner, and after “all that work” (okay, they weren’t really that much work) was quite disappointed with the final outcome. They weren’t totally bland, but the flavor didn’t excite us too much, nor did it remind us of falafel. And the soft, mushy texture was quite off-putting. We wouldn’t make the recipe again, even with major changes.
I bought Derek an ice cream machine for his birthday, and we’ve experimented with it a little bit this spring and summer.
The first flavor we made was a Philadelphia-style vanilla. The recipe is from The Perfect Scoop, by David Leibowitz. The flavor was good (very clean–milk and vanilla), but the texture was initially a bit soft and wet. It firmed up after 24 hours in the fridge.
After that we tried a strawberry rhubarb sorbet, also from Leibowitz. Unfortunately, once frozen it tasted mostly of strawberry and very little of rhubarb. I’d like to try just plain rhubarb next time. Perhaps I can replicated the really really excellent rhubarb ice cream Katrina and I had in Paris.
My third attempt was to use up some very ripe bananas and cream. I tried to make a no-sugar ice cream using bananas, frozen cherries, cream, and coconut nibs, inspired by this raw vegan chocolate cherry ice cream recipe. Unfortunately, I didn’t follow a recipe and the texture ended up extremely icy. (Maybe the cherries added too much water? Maybe adding cream was a bad idea).
Next we tried the sprouted kitchen fresh mint frozen yogurt from 101cookbooks, except without any chocolate chips. The recipe calls for 1 cup of fresh mint, which is a pretty vague measurement. I used a pretty packed cup of fresh mint. The original recipe calls for brown rice syrup, which I didn’t have. Instead I followed Heidi’s suggestion of substituting maple syrup. The only Greek-style yogurt I could find here was a cream-based yogurt. I thought that Greek yogurt was supposed to be higher in protein than normal yogurt, but this one was not. It was just very high in fat (as you’d expect since it’s made from cream not milk). The frozen yogurt gets mixed reviews in the comments section of Heidi’s blog. Some people report off flavors and an icy texture, while other people say it’s perfect. I thought it came out great. The mixture was definitely thicker than the typical ice mixture, but it froze up well with a nice creamy texture. I loved the combination of the herbal mintiness from the fresh mint leaves and the strong peppermint flavor from the mint extract. And the tang from the yogurt was perfect. I didn’t even miss the chocolate, but Derek did. He’s not such a fan of sour frozen yogurts, but I loved it. I’ll definitely make it again. Next time I might try a sweetener that’s cheaper than maple syrup.
Today we’re trying the Leibowitz recipe for ginger ice cream. It’s our first attempt to make a custard-based ice cream Stay tuned!
On a hike recently I met someone here in Germany who was reminiscing about American-style pancakes, and I suggested that she come over sometime for a pancake brunch. I haven’t made pancakes in a few years, but back in Pittsburgh Derek and I used to make oatmeal walnut pancakes pretty often. But for this brunch I wanted to make something more like what you’d get in an American diner. I asked Derek to pick two recipes and he picked an Alton Brown recipe and one from 101cookbooks.
I had a three-grain pilaf that I needed to use up, and was looking for recipes that call for leftover grain, when I found this rice and sesame pancake recipe from 101cookbooks. Read the rest of this entry »
I bought some tempeh but didn’t feel like making one of my tempeh standbys. I wanted to try a new tempeh recipe. I’d never tried including tempeh in an Indian recipe before, so I thought I’d give it a try. I found a recipe for tempeh curry on the 101cookbooks site. It’s a pretty basic recipe. You make a simple curry sauce out of a base of butter, onions, tomatoes and spices, then add in the tempeh and some steamed potatoes, simmer until tender, and garnish with cilantro. Read the rest of this entry »
I already have two go-to red lentil soup recipes (Turkish and curried), but somehow I wasn’t in the mood for either of them, and I decided to try a new recipe instead. This recipe is from 101cookbooks, and based on a recipe from Deborah Madison. I followed the recipe closely except that instead of a bunch of spinach I used a bag of mixed greens (baby spinach, arugula, and baby chard). I didn’t chop the leaves, which was probably a mistake as they ended up a bit stringy. I didn’t serve the soup with brown rice, and we didn’t miss it. We did try it with yogurt, and it seemed good both with and without the yogurt.
I don’t know why the recipe calls for yellow mustard seeds instead of the black ones that most Indian recipes call for. And they’re not popped in hot oil. I’ve actually never cooked with whole yellow mustard seeds before. I had to go out and buy some!
I ended up using the juice of two lemons, which made the soup quite lemony. The first day it was perhaps a bit too much lemon, but as leftovers it was fine — the lemon seemed to mellow down.
This soup is more Indian tasting than my other two red lentil soup recipes. Derek said it tasted similar to other dals I’ve made in the past, but I thought all the lemon juice made it taste a bit unusual. This recipe has a lot of turmeric and salt! I used kosher salt but still I found the soup a tad too salty for my taste. Derek was happy though. He ate the soup for breakfast several days in a row.
I’ll definitely throw this recipe into my red lentil soup rotation.
Update Feb 2013: I recently tried a red lentil and coconut milk soup from Deborah Madison. The recipe is actually titled “fragrant red lentils with basmati rice and romanesco.” In addition to the coconut milk, the lentils are seasoned with ginger, turmeric, jalapeños onions, cayenne, bay leaf, and black mustard seeds. The recipe also calls for romanesco, but I couldn’t find any so I used cauliflower The cauliflower florets are sautéed with the same basic seasonings as the lentils, then everything is combined and garnished with cilantro and yogurt. The recipe was fine, but it was more work than other red lentil recipes I’ve made, without being particularly exciting. I won’t make it again.
I wanted to use up some feta and milk and found this interesting looking recipe for a savory muffin on 101cookbooks.com. It seemed a nice recipe for the cool fall (almost Winter) weather. Read the rest of this entry »
I bought a ton of ricotta to make a recipe (I no longer remember which one), then changed my mind and needed to do something with all the ricotta. I thought about making lasagna but wanted something a little less time-consuming, and Derek found this recipe for a savory zucchini ricotta cheesecake on 101 cookbooks. Read the rest of this entry »
I saw the recent post on 101 cookbooks for tofu burgers, and I figured I had to try them. I still don’t have a food-processor, so I made only half the recipe in my mini-processor. I laughed when I went to put in the mushrooms and discovered that 27 grams of mushroom is only one large mushroom! The recipe calls for 1/4 cup bread crumbs, but my 1/4 cup of panko only weighed about 14 grams, so I doubled the amount. Other than that, I made the burgers exactly as the recipe described, but my burgers weren’t nearly as brown as the one in the photo. It looked more like tofu with brown speckles on it. It was definitely cooked through though. The flavor wasn’t bad–a little nutty, but ultimately rather bland. We ate our burgers with tomato and red onion, but the burger couldn’t really stand up to the intense onion flavor. The burgers did hold together quite well though. The texture was certainly better than the texture of other tofu burgers I’ve made in the past. I might use this recipe as a base recipe, and add more seasonings next time. But I don’t think I’d make this exactly recipe as written again. Rating: somewhere between a B and a B-.
My friend Jenny and I were talking about 101 cookbooks, and she strongly recommended the Yin and Yang Salad recipe. She said she liked the combination of the raw cabbages and the rich peanut dressing–it seems more balanced than starchy noodles and peanut sauce. I got all the ingredients to make the recipe, but then when I went to prep dinner I realized that the tofu was supposed to marinate overnight, so I made McDermott’s peanut-style sesame noodles instead. The next day I marinated the tofu and made the yin and yang salad for dinner.
Visitors from Austin brought us 90 perfect corn tortillas from El Milagro in Austin. Despite languishing in lost baggage for two days, they arrived in Saarbruecken in perfect shape. They were so fresh and corny tasting, I think our visitors must have purchased them right from the factory. Derek and I ate most of the first 30 ourselves, just plain or with refries or scrambled tofu. I froze the second and third batches. Before the last few tortillas in the first package were gone, I decided I wanted to try to make tortilla soup with homemade baked corn “chips”. I love Peter Berley’s miso-based tortilla soup, but I wanted to try something a little different today. I decided to try the california-style vegetarian tortilla soup from 101 cookbooks.
After my disappointment in Heidi Swanson’s orange tempeh, one of my blog readers suggested I try her tempeh bacon recipe. My friend Alex contributed the canned chipotles, and I bought the last two packs of tempeh at the local Asian store. The recipe says to marinate at least a couple of hours, but we only let the tempeh marinage for about 20 minutes while we prepared the rest of dinner. We decided to cut the oil slightly (4 Tbs. in a double batch). I included one whole chipotle chile in my 3 Tbs. of adobo spice, because we like things spicy.
- 1 pound tempeh
- 6 tablespoons olive oil (I used 1/4 cup)
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 6 tablespoons adobo sauce from a can of chipotle peppers (I included 1 whole chile in my 6 Tbs.)
The tempeh turned out very well. I was worried about all that oil and soy sauce, but it wasn’t too salty or oily or spicy. I would venture to say that the flavoring was just right.
It actually didn’t taste that different than Peter Berley’s barbecued tempeh recipe, which Derek and I have made (a variant of) countless times. I compared the recipes, and Berley calls for more oil (1/2 cup), more maple syrup (1/3 cup), more vinegar (1/2 cup), uses chipotle powder instead of adobo, and adds cumin, thyme, and paprika as well. My typical modified version of Berley’s recipe is actually even more similar to Heidi’s, as I cut the oil and maple syrup down (and also the soy sauce). Also Berley’s recipe is baked not pan-fried. I think I prefer Heidi’s less acidic version, but chipotle powder is certainly more convenient here in Germany where canned chipotles don’t exist. I’d like to do a head to head comparison of the recipes to really see how the flavor profiles differ. If I can get my hands on some liquid smoke, maybe I’ll do a three-way taste test, and throw in Isa’s tempeh bacon recipe, which gets the smoke flavor from liquid smoke rather than chipotles. It calls for even more vinegar than Berley’s (2/3 cup), but less oil (1/4 cup), and less soy sauce (6 Tbs.). It also adds a bit of tomato paste and crushed garlic.
I was looking for a tempeh dish that would go well with spring rolls, and decided to try the recipe for orange pan-glazed tempeh that’s on the 101 cookbooks blog. The pictures look pretty, and Heidi says “This might be the best tempeh recipe I’ve highlighted to date.” Based on that strong recommendation, I decided I had to try it.
The recipe was disappointing. The instructions work, and everything cooks just as specified, but my friend Alex and I both thought that the tempeh was simply boring. I could definitely taste the orange juice, but that was pretty much the only flavor that stood out. The ginger didn’t come through, I couldn’t taste the coriander seeds, nor could I detect any lime. It pretty much just tasted like fried tempeh cooked in orange juice. Plus, the recipe is pretty high calorie. I followed the instructions exactly, except I didn’t have mirin so used rice vinegar instead. I can’t imagine that 1.5 Tablespoons of mirin could have really made that much of a difference. If anything, I thought the recipe was too sweet and needed more vinegar/acid, not less. I don’t think I’d make this recipe again, but if I was going to, I’d probably at least double the amounts of all the seasonings, and maybe cut down the maple syrup and add more soy sauce.
I love chili, and so I was intrigued when 101 cookbooks posted a recipe for a vegetarian chili made out of lentils and chickpeas and grains. Despite being a bit skeptical about a chili made from lentils, I immediately wanted to try it.
I followed the directions except that I couldn’t find a serrano so subbed in a jalepeno pepper (with seeds), and I haven’t seen whole chipotle peppers here (canned or dried), so I used 1/2 tsp. chipotle powder instead. Finally, I haven’t seen crushed tomatoes in Germany, so I used a can of whole tomatoes, breaking them up with my hands before adding them to the soup. I used a combination of big, pale green lentils and tiny black lentils. I used some kind of fast-cooking German barley and medium grind bulgur wheat. For the vegetable broth I used a mixture of salted and unsalted Rapunzel bouillon cubes, but I ended up adding another 2 tsp. of kosher salt as well.
My lentils took more than 45 minutes to cook–more like an hour. Perhaps my “simmer” was too low, but I was having problems with all the liquid rising, and the bottom of the pan drying out and burning. You really need to stir this every five minutes or so to keep the bottom from burning.
After the lentils were cooked and I tasted it, I decided my whole tomatoes didn’t cut it and added another small can of diced tomatoes. I would have added even more but that’s all I had. It also didn’t taste enough like chili, so I added more chili powder and more cumin. I added the final 2 cups of water as well. After that it tasted pretty good. I really wanted to add some salsa, because I thought it needed some acid and punch and more tomato flavor, but I didn’t feel like opening one of my precious few jars of salsa. The chili was a bit spicy, but I probably could have added another 1/2 tsp. of chipotle powder without it being too hot.
As warned, this made a huge pot. My 6 quart dutch oven was full to the brim after my final additions. Really I should have used an 8 quart pot. Six quarts of chili is a lot. I think if I made this again (and I’m likely to), I would make only half or three quarters of the recipe, depending on if I am having company or not. Overall, it didn’t quite seem like chili, but it didn’t quite seem like lentil soup either. The recipe lies somewhere in between the two. Whatever you call it, it’s hearty and satisfying and pretty healthy. We ate it with a big salad and cornbread / corn muffins, and it was quite a nice meal I thought.
The chili was quite tasty with feta, but I liked it best with creme fraiche.
Update April 2010: I learned from last time and made only half the recipe, but still it made a massive amount of soup. I made this dish again but this time I used the whole chipotle pepper. Again I had the problem that the lentils and grains sunk to the bottom and started to burn. I’d love to know how other people avoid this problem. Again I thought the recipe wasn’t tomato-y enough, nor did it have enough chili flavor or acid. I didn’t doctor it though. I tried eating the chili with sour cream and really disliked it. I forgot that I never like sour cream! I froze more than half the chili, and it defrosted just fine, as you’d expect (due to the lack of veggies). Forgot to say: I couldn’t taste the “secret ingredient” ginger at all. Maybe it adds something, but I seriously doubt it. One Tablespoon of ginger for 6 quarts of chili? I don’t think anyone could taste it.
Update August 2010: I made half the recipe, and this time it all got eaten up relatively quickly. This time I started the chili in my dutch oven on the stovetop, then moved it to the oven to finish cooking. It didn’t burn at all! I increased the cumin to 1 Tbs. and increased the garlic a lot as well. I put in 2 Tbs. of ginger (rather than the 1/2 Tbs. called for.) I added about a cup of tomato sauce in addition to the can of whole tomatoes, and somewhere between 3/4 and 1 cup of chickpeas. I used unhulled barley and it cooked just fine. To try next time:
- 1 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 8-12 small/med garlic cloves, finely chopped (about 2 Tbs.)
- 2 tablespoons ginger, peeled and grated
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp. chipotle powder
- 1 14-ounce can of whole or diced tomatoes, with juice
- 1 cup of low-salt tomato sauce
- 5 cups unsalted vegetable broth
- 1 cup cooked chickpeas (canned is fine)
- 1 1/8 cups black, brown, or green lentils (or combo), rinsed and picked over
- 1/3 cup hulled barley or farro
- 1/3 cup medium or coarse-grind bulgur wheat
- 1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
Whenever I ask Derek what veggies he wants me to get at the store he invariably asks for the same thing: broccoli and cauliflower. I have a few recipes that are my regular weeknight standbys for these vegetables (sesame noodles, pan-fried broccoli, stuffed hashbrowns, and cauliflower curry), but I’d like a few more recipes to add to the rotation. I found this recipe for Sicilian broccoli and cauliflower pasta on 101 cookbooks, and it looked like something Derek would love. Heidi warns that it is a large recipe, but I decided to make the whole thing nonetheless. Because it’s such a big recipe, the instructions say to saute the broccoli, cauliflower, and onions in separate batches. Between all the chopping and sauteing, this was a pretty time consuming recipe. It’s definitely not a quick week night meal, which is what I was looking for. The recipe, however, is competently done—the final pasta came out just as I imagine it was supposed to. The vegetables were well cooked, the onions and garlic created a nice flavor base, I could taste the saffron and a touch of sweet from the raisins, the olive oil and pine nuts added a nice mouth-feel without the dish tasting heavy, and the fresh parsley added a final touch of freshness. My only complaint is that I couldn’t taste the rosemary, and I think the saffron should be soaked in warm water before adding it to the dish. But otherwise the recipe is fine as is. Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve never been a big fan of eggs, but for some reason I was tempted by Heidi Swanson’s egg salad sandwich recipe. She says it’s the only egg salad she likes, which seemed like a good sign. I followed her instructions for boiling the eggs, but when I tried to peel them I couldn’t get the peel off without taking off some of the egg white as well. I’m not sure what I did wrong. The yolks seemed cooked, so I don’t think I undercooked the eggs.
The one change I made to the recipe was using yogurt instead of mayo. Heidi has another recipe for curried egg salad that calls for yogurt, so I figured it was a reasonable substitute.
The egg salad looked pretty, and it tasted okay, if a bit bland, but it kind of grossed me out. Something about all those eggs… Derek didn’t like it much either. He ate it when I gave it to him, but he didn’t really like it. He says he never really liked egg salad.
At the local Turkish market last month I bought an enormous bag of yellow onions for a pittance. Although I use onions all the time, after a month I’d barely made a dent in the bag. Afraid that the onions would start to go bad if I didn’t increase my pace, I started searching around for onion-demanding recipes. I considering attempting vegetarian onion soup, but instead ended up trying Heidi Swanson’s recipe for cornmeal crunch—essentially baked polenta slathered in carmelized onions. The recipe calls for medium grind cornmeal, but I wasn’t sure what that means. Is that supposed to refer to a not too coarse polenta grind, or a very coarse cornmeal grind? I can only find two types of cornmeal here in Germany: a very fine cornmeal, and a quite coarse polenta. I decided to take the middle ground: I civilized my coarse polenta by pulsing it a few times in my mini-processor.
The water to cornmeal ratio in Heidi’s recipes seemed quite low (2-to-1). After cooking the cornmeal the porridge wasn’t really pourable, as I had expected it to be, so I added a bit more water to thin the cornmeal down before pouring it into the baking dish. Perhaps this is why my cornmeal didn’t turn out particularly crunchy, or perhaps it’s because I used a polenta grind instead of a cornmeal grind. Along with the extra water, I also added more salt than the recipe called for, as I didn’t think 1/2 tsp. was enough for a full 1.5 cups of cornmeal. In retrospect, however, 1/2 tsp. of salt is probably a reasonable amount, considering the low amount of water called for. Normally I use at least 4-to-1 water to cornmeal, so I end up with a lot more polenta, and as a result need more salt.
When it came time to stir 2/3 of the carmelized onions into the polenta I couldn’t do it—I didn’t think there’d be enough onions left to cover the top of the polenta. Instead, I stirred less than half of the onions into the cornmeal, and then spread the remaining onions over the top of the cornmeal. This was a mistake. I didn’t read the recipe carefully enough, and didn’t realize that you were supposed to spread the onions over the top only after the cornmeal is cooked. As a result, my onions started burning after only about 20 minutes, and I pulled the polenta out of the oven early (perhaps another reason my polenta didn’t end up very crunchy). Still, the polenta was delicious. It was very flavorful (and very rich). Everyone liked it. I’ll definitely make it again, following the recipe more precisely this time, but maybe using more onions.
Update January 11th: I didn’t civilize my coarse polenta this time, but just used it as it was. I added only the suggested amount of water and salt, and stirred in 2/3 of the onions as instructed. I was out of parmesan, however, so simply left it out. I baked the polenta for the full 45 minutes this time, then spread the remaining onions over the top. The final polenta was not nearly as good as last time. It was simply okay the first night, and not at all appealing as leftovers. I’m not sure if it was the absence of parmesan, or the smaller amount of water, or the longer cooking period. Whatever it was, I wouldn’t make it this way again. I also thought the carmelized onions were a bit too wormlike. I preferred them like they were last time–a bit on the charred side, but less slimy.
When I was a kid my mom would occasionally make a vegan spinach mushroom pie. I’m not sure how she made it, but I always enjoyed it. In my co-op days I tried making something similar, starting with a recipe from Ron Pickarski’s cookbook, but it turned out bland and boring. Recently, when looking for something to do with a pie crust that had been taking up precious space in my envelope-sized freezer for about 6 months, I noticed that Peter Berley also has a spinach mushroom quiche recipe in his cookbook Modern American Kitchen. The recipe was even posted on 101 cookbooks, along with a beautiful photo, a rave review, and a discussion of how loooong this recipe takes to make. I decided to try the recipe, using my traditional, non-vegan crust rather than making Berley’s oat/sesame vegan crust. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
One of the few food blogs I read regularly is 101 cookbooks. I often see recipes that I’d like to try, but rarely get around to making any of them. Finally, the planets aligned, and I actually made one of Heidi’s featured recipes: roasted pumpkin salad. I had bought two small squashes at the farmer’s market, but hadn’t gotten a chance to cook them before leaving for Italy. I’m not positive, but I think they were sweet dumpling squashes: small, yellow with green striations, and shaped kind of like acorn squash, but less pointy. I had planned on just roasting the squash halves, but then this squash salad recipe turned up in my inbox and I decided to repurpose the squashes.
I didn’t bother to peel my squash, since the skin looked quite thin. It was a good decision, as the skin was soft and delicate once cooked. Just one of my squashes made over 3 cups of diced squash, so I halved the other squash and roasted it on the same tray as the diced one. I didn’t feel like getting another sheet dirty so I roasted my red onions on the same sheet as well. The vegetables didn’t seem crowded at all, so I figured it wouldn’t be a problem. The vegetables roasted quite well, becoming sweet and carmelized, thanks to the generous glug of olive oil I spread over them.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find wild rice in the grocery store, so instead we bought a mix of basmati and a few grains of wild rice.
The dressing didn’t come out as creamy and white as the one in the photo. Perhaps I should have used a blender instead of my mini processor. Mine was a little gritty and greasy, and tasted primarily of lemon juice. It had a certain resemblance to a tahini dressing. I drizzled a little dressing on the salad, but I couldn’t taste it much after tossing all the ingredients together, so I kept adding more dressing, and ended up adding probably half the dressing to the rice. I think perhaps if I hadn’t mixed it in but just drizzled it on top it would have had a stronger flavor. As it was all that dressing made the salad quite rich and tasty, but still I couldn’t taste the dressing specifically. Derek added even more dressing to his portion, and we ended up using up all the dressing by the time the salad was finished. I can’t tell from Heidi’s instructions what fraction of the dressing she had intended for us to use, but it certainly ended up being quite a rich dish.
The dish was mildly flavored. I had subbed in thyme for the cilantro, and I quite liked the thyme flavor with the roasted squash. The pumpkin and thyme together oozed autumn, and the roasted onions added sweetness and a great deep purple color to the dish. I was worried the dish would be a bit too bland for Derek, but after adding salt and more dressing he really liked it. He only rated it a B, because he thought the dish wasn’t quite right, but that it has potential.
We ate the salad with black bean tortillas for dinner, and then had the leftovers for lunch the next day. I ended up adding the extra rice and the second squash as well, and it made quite a large lunch. However, we were hungry again a few hours later. I suppose that white rice and olive oil don’t make the most long-lasting meal.
I will try to make this recipe again, cutting back a little on the olive oil in the dressing, drizzling the dressing on top rather than mixing it in to the salad, and subbing a more hearty grain for the white rice. Who knows, maybe I’ll even get my hands on some wild rice.
Other recipes from 101 cookbooks that I’ve tried include the skinny omelet, the pan-roasted brussels sprouts, and the Big Sur power bars. Recipes still on my list to try include the five minute tomato sauce, Heidi’s frozen yogurt, the salsa of the year, and the harissa spaghetti, as well as another one of her many grain salads.
Update October 28, 2008:
I made this recipe again, but I couldn’t find small red onions so I subbed in small yellow onions. Perhaps I didn’t roast them long enough, but they were way too bland tasting, and not sweet and delicious like the red onions last time. The squash (the same kind) was still really tasty, and I used the same rice, but this time I was able to get cilantro for the dressing. I misread the directions and pureed the cilantro into the dressing, which resulted in a very thick, bright green paste. I thinned it a bit with water, but it tasted… weird. It wasn’t bad tasting, but neither Derek nor I would make it again, and most of it ended up getting thrown out. I know it would have tasted different if I had stirred in the cilantro rather than blending it, but I think I just don’t like that sunflower seed dressing. Next time I’m going to just make a vinaigrette I think, with thyme or rosemary.
I was trying to figure out what to do with a big piece of celery root in the fridge, and Derek suggested roasting it in the oven. I had already julienned it, so I decided to make a casserole of sorts with potatoes and onions. I was inspired by the Spanish omelet recipe in Vegan with a Vengeance, and tried to make a kind of creamy sauce to fill in the cracks between the vegetables, and hold the whole thing together. I was also inspired by the Greek lemon and garlic potatoes from Cook’s Illustrated, and seasoned the dish with garlic, lemon, and fresh oregano. The final dish ended up sort of like a cross between a gratin and a frittata.
- 1.5 Tbs. olive oil
- 1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced 1/8 inch thick
- 3/4 pound celery root, julienned
- 1 leek, sliced thinly
- 1 small onion, sliced into half moons
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- zest and juice of one lemon
- 3 Tbs. fresh oregano, minced
- 1.5 ounces feta
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup lowfat milk
- Preheat the oven to 375.
- Heat the olive oil on medium-high in a 12-inch oven-proof skillet. Add the potatoes, celery root, leek, onions and salt and pepper, and cook until the potatoes start to soften. Add the garlic and oregano and cook on medium for another 3 minutes. Add the lemon juice and zest and feta and off heat.
- Beat the eggs with the milk, then pour over the vegetables. Stir to distribute the egg mixture evenly.
- Place the skillet in the oven and cook for about 10-15 minutes, until the eggs are set. Remove from oven and let cool for five minutes.
Derek liked this casserole quite a bit, although he said he wished there was more celery root and fewer potatoes (which were undercooked in his opinion). He also thought there was too much lemon juice. I also found it too acidic from the lemon juice, although I liked the lemon zest a lot. I couldn’t taste the oregano very much, and I thought it was a tad too salty. The celery root was julienned so finely that it cooked much faster than the potatoes.
I think if I try this again I’ll use 1 pound each of potatoes and celery root and onion, and I’ll cut the celery root into a thicker julienne. I’ll use half as much lemon juice and twice as much zest, and substitute thyme for the oregano, and an Italian pecorino-style cheese instead of feta. I’d also like to add something with a bit of color, as this dish is very white.
When we were in Burgundy last month we had a celery root tart that Derek really liked. It had a buttery crust, and the filling was a mix of gorgonzola, eggs, grated celery root and pear (or maybe apple). This dish reminded me of that tart a bit, although the cheese was milder. Celery root goes so wonderfully with fruit, another option would be to add in some pear or apple and use a sharp cheddar cheese.
Derek: between a B and a B+
Update October 30, 2008:
I tried to make another version of this recipe, using some ideas from this recipe for truffled chantarelle, celery root, and potato gratin. I sliced potatoes and celeriac thinly on my mandoline. I added a small pat of butter to a casserole pan, and cooked up a big bag of white mushrooms (sliced), adding white wine and truffle salt as well. I added fresh nutmeg and thyme to the dish, but apparently not enough to taste them in the final casserole. Once the mushrooms were starting to cook I added in the potatoes and celery root, and about a cup of water. I let the vegetables simmer while I made the cashew cream sauce given in Heidi’s recipe. I added about 1 cup of the cashew cream sauce to the vegetables, and grated a bit of gruyere over the top of the casserole. I baked it at 375 until the cheese was melted and browned on top.
Derek really liked the final dish. It was rich tasting and homey and he said there was a deep, roasted flavor he couldn’t identify (the truffle salt I think). The celery root didn’t add a strong celery flavor. I’m not even sure I would have noticed that there was celery root in the dish if I hadn’t been paying close attention. I liked the taste of the cashew sauce (pretty simple, tasting of cashews), but found the texture a bit gritty. It’s definitely something I’d like to play with in the future.
I enjoyed the casserole as leftovers, but Derek didn’t like it as much as he had the first night.
I’m trying to use up all the grains, nuts and seeds, and dried fruit in my pantry before I leave Montreal. Faced with a huge jar of rolled oats, I discovered this recipe on 101cookbooks for Big Sur Power Bars. I’ve always wanted to try to make granola bars / power bars of some sort, so despite the fact that I didn’t have all the ingredients, I decided to give it a try. Below is the recipe I made from what I found in my kitchen, based on Heidi Swanson’s recipe, and my memories of making hundreds of batches of granola back in my days as fast food chef at the House of Commons co-op. Read the rest of this entry »