Sunday, January 31, 2010

Adzuki Beans with Squash and Apple-Miso Vinaigrette

After dinner Saturday night I went and joined up with some people at a bar. If you go dancing and do it right (read: so much dancing there's only time for one drink), you wake up hungry enough to eat a horse.... or, in my case, a.... toforse?

Anyway, looking for a nice substantial dinner, I eyed my lineup of grains and legumes, and scolded myself for letting them sit in their pretty jars for months on end.

So, the remedy for hunger + legume guilt:

Cooked up about 1 cup of lil' red adzuki beans (this takes over an hour), and roasted an acorn squash and an apple in the oven - not too soft - in just a little butter.

Chopped those, mixed 'em into the beans, threw in a handful of well-chopped walnuts for crunch, and added a dressing of:

Apple cider vinegar
Olive oil
Tiny dollop of garlic paste

Nutty, sweet, tangy, and hearty. Mmmmmm.

Bitter Melon, Daal, & Mango Raita

Mulling over what to feed some dinner guests yesterday, I decided that I pay too little attention to some of my very beautiful cookbooks---you know, the type that are in hardcover with breathtaking photos, so you sort of feel like your messy, frazzled dinner-makin' self shouldn't be allowed anywhere near them. Well, my copy of Mangoes and Curry Leaves definitely has some oil splotches that it didn't have yesterday morning, but I have no regrets. I tried 2 recipes from the book, then made up a side dish at the last minute to balance out the flavors on the table.

Bitter Melon

Most exciting thing first: BITTER MELON! I read the recipe first, and realized only later that bitter melons are the funky green cucumber-lookin guys with skin like a crumpled ribbon that you see every so often in Asian or Southeast Asian markets.

Step One for cooking these guys is to slice them open lengthwise to remove the big, bright red seeds:

Slice them paper-thin (a mandolin would be helpful here), and, to draw out some of the bitterness, use a technique similar to how you'd cook an eggplant: Salt them well and let them sit in a colander (so liquid can drain out) for at least 45 minutes. Then rinse them thoroughly and squeeze 'em dry with paper towels. I don't think I got the salt out quite well enough, leaving my final results a little too salty, so be vigilant.

Anyway, here's the recipe (page 159) once they're prepped.

2 Tb neutral oil (eg grapeseed)
1 TB mustard oil, or replace w/more neutral oil and 1 tsp hot mustard powder
2 tsp garlic paste or finely chopped garlic
1/2 tsp cayenne powder + 2 thinly sliced green cayenne chilis (I had no chilis so increased the powder)
1 cup thinly sliced onion
1 tsp sugar (I increased to taste to counteract the bitterness)
1/2 tsp salt (unnecessary if you fail to rinse well enough!)
And, my addition: 2 tsp garam masala.

Heat the oil in a wok. Stir-fry the garlic and spices for 15 seconds, then add the onion and
sliced chilis; stir-fry until very soft. Add the bitter melon, reduce heat to medium, cook for 15 minutes - until very tender. Add the sugar and salt; once these are blended, you're done.

As I mentioned, I increased the sugar and added garam masala to counteract the pungent bitterness (and oversaltiness in my case) of the melon. The final flavor is delicious in the same way a very stinky cheese is delicious... logically, it tastes kind of foul, but you want just a little bit more. I wouldn't sit down and gobble up a bowl of bitter melon all by itself, but as part of a meal with a mild daal and cool, fruity mango raita, it was yummy.

Udaipur Daal

This is going to be a quick, go-to Daal recipe for a long time. The beauty is that you can cook your lentils ahead of time, and then throw in the flavorings right before eating. It's incredibly flavorful and just a teeny bit spicy. In the book, this is "Udaipur Urad Daal" (page 189 - Udaipur = the Rajasthani town where the authors were given this recipe), but I didn't leave myself time to cook Urad daal, so I used my usual pink lentils.

If you have 3 or 4 cups of cooked lentils sitting around, so much the better. I didn't, so I put 2 cups pink lentils on to boil, with enough water to rise about 2 in above the lentil-line. (This made about 6 cups cooked, but the spices stood up to even this quantity).

As for the flavorings:

1/4 cup sesame oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
5 black peppercorns
1/2 cup minced onion
1 minced green cayenne chili (I used 5 minced tiny Thai chilis, as I already had them around)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne powder (left it out - the chilis were enough for me!)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves

Heat the oil over medium high heat. When hot, throw in the mustard seeds and heat, covered, till they pop. Add the peppercorns, onion, and chili. Cook over medium heat for 10 mins, till the onion starts to brown. Add the turmeric, salt, and cayenne, then pour the mixture into your cooked daal (which should be very, very tender and broken down). Add the garam masala; simmer to mix flavors; and throw the cilantro in before serving.

I served this over long-grain red rice.

Mango "Raita"

Finally, I decided we needed a cooling agent on the table. I had a very ripe mango (intended for another cooking project that never quite happened), so I chopped it into small cubes and mixed it into some good Greek yogurt. A teaspoon of cumin, squirts of lime juice and agave nectar, and this made a lovely, sweet-tart-cool counterpoint to the bitter melon in particular. (In fact, I'm thinking of using my remaining bitter melons and mangos and trying to make some kind of chutney, as they really set each other off beautifully).

As I couldn't find any naan or flatbread when I did my shopping, I picked up some plain white pitas, and fried them a bit in a skillet with a little ghee, some minced garlic and chopped cilantro.

Altogether it made for a colorful table... and will keep me very happy all week in the fridge at work.

Whipped Goat Cheese Infused with Agave and Lemon

I have a shiny new candy-apple green kitchenaid artisan stand mixer that can do magic things.

There, it's out. I've been holding this wonderful news to myself, hoping to find time to make something incredible with said mixer to give it its proper heralding into the blog world. Sadly, no time could be found. So, while whipped goat cheese isn't really what I had in mind, this was a scrumptious dip for a lemon (and sloe gin!) themed party, especially when served on sweet potato crackers.

I bought two logs of goat cheese, and to defray costs/add to the creaminess, some whipped cream cheese, then added the juice of two freshly plucked lemons, several squirts of agave, two tablespoons of raw honey, and whipped. You could also do this with a hand mixer or, of course, an immersion blender. Which, I'm a little shamed to say, has been demoted from all caps now that I have a new candy-apple green machine.

I'll leave you with some Loretta Lynn wisdom on sloe gin, as well as a recommendation to have a sloe gin fizz.

Well Portland Oregon and sloe ginn fizz/If that ain't love then tell me what is...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sudanese Couscous

This is one from memory - something I used to make ALL the time and had utterly forgotten. "Not forgetting recipes" is the name of the game around here, so I'm jottin' er down.

Back when I lived in Salt Lake City and worked in the nonprofit world, I was always running into an entrepreneurial group of Sudanese women. Among other endeavors they had a vending license and would cook up this sweet-and-savory couscous dish every weekend at the farmers' market. This is just my loose interpretation, faded by a couple years of studying law in between, but here it is:

1. Sautee some chopped apples and onions (and green peppers if you like 'em - I don't) in just a little butter or ghee, and season with salt, cumin, cinnamon, and sugar. Add a heap of spinach and let it cook down.

2. Make yourself a generous batch of large-grain couscous - sold in the US as Israeli couscous. (I think this is made with a slightly different process than the hand-rolled semolina couscous made in Sudan and elsewhere, but it's what they always used and I think it holds up better to the spinach mixture.)

3. (Because it's not a list if there are only two items): top 2 with 1 and EAT.

And if you are like me and eat at the computer way too often, check this out.

Ed. 8/23/13:  The link is gone!  Here's another.

Green Pad Thai

After being away for the weekend, I came home to a veggie drawer with an awful lot of crunchy green goodness at risk of becoming mushy green badness. So....

1. I slivered my bunch of asparagus and about 10 baby bok choys, and finely sliced 3 scallions

2. I scrambled 2 eggs

3. I made some pad thai sauce: About a cup of near-boiling water, with tamarind paste, brown sugar, veggie fish sauce, some lime juice, a splash of Sriracha and a splash of soy sauce (Sorry, I'm clueless on quantities as usual, but you'll know when it's sufficiently delicious and don't scrimp on that tamarind!). Thicken with cornstarch.

4. I boiled up a pot of rice noodles.

5. I seared my greens quickly over high heat in very hot sesame oil, threw in some cherry tomatoes and cubes of super-firm tofu (already deep-fried at the local asian market)

6. I tossed it all together, crushed some pistachios (no peanuts on hand and anyway they added to the green-ness), put out some limes for squeezin, and it was pleasin. :)

Twice Baked Squash Potatoes and Basic Risotto

Roomie #1 and I just baked Twice Baked Squash Potatoes from my friend Melissa's blog, Extended Shelf Life. We replaced the cottage cheese with shredded cheese, and used acorn instead of butternut, but they were delicious! We paired this with the Basic Risotto that K posted previously for a spontaneously wonderful meal. :)

Sweet and Sour Pork Chops

For Christmas, I received several cookbooks from my sisters. Hooray! This recipe from Robin Miller at Food Network served as a delightful meal for myself and two of my friends over jasmine rice. She's also the creator of the previously posted Orange Oat-Crusted Herb Chicken, so I have a feeling I'm going to love this cookbook. :)

Parmesan Penne with Cabbage and Broccoli

I don't like to mix talk of food and finances, but in an unending quest--failure?-- to save money, I'm trying to buy produce that will bulk up our meals and keep us veggified. Cabbage was this week's bulky green of choice, and at 99 cents a head it really was a bargain.

What I really want to do is stuff it as Olga does here, but I am not so good at rolling things. Or stuffing things. Or really anything that requires precision or patience. So I started instead with a simple brown rice penne tossed with very thinly sliced (lengthwise) cabbage, broccoli florets, and broccoli stalks sauteed generously with butter, shallots, garlic, salt, and pepper. To finish, I tossed it with a bit more olive oil (enough to be coated) and plenty of grated parmesan. Although P was skeptical of cabbage in pasta, he was happy with the end result. Just don't overdo the cabbage -- you want it to bulk but not dominate.

Except for the parmesan, this one is really a budget saver. But don't skip the parmesan, or it won't be a palate pleaser!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Mom's Nom Nom Chip Dip

When I first got back to Phoenix, I had another group of friends over for yet another night of Rock Band. My friend D really wanted guacamole, so it turned into a night of chips and dip as well. We used just a basic recipe for guacamole, and I honestly don't even know what all went into it, but I made some of a dip that my mom taught me as well. It's really easy:
Take a brick of cream cheese.
Use a hand mixer to add sour cream, shredded cheese, garlic powder and onion powder to texture and to taste.
There. As D would say, nom nom.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Confetti Bolognese

Ever since I had a gluten free turkey bolognese at a hip new restaurant that a hip friend of P's took us to, I've been wanting to make a more veggie-rific version. We were rushed the other night, so this recipe takes some shortcuts (using jarred pasta sauce), but it was delicious, soothing, and nutritionally quite complete.

Brown 1 lb. of ground turkey in a skillet with a touch of olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Add minced garlic, 2 chopped yellow summer squashes or zucchinis, 1 chopped red pepper, some sliced mushrooms, green onions, and fresh basil if it is available to you.

Season with more salt, pepper, and Italian spices. Add veggies and turkey to a pomodoro sauce--we used Trader Joes's 3 Cheese Pomodoro sauce. If you wanted to make your own, pomodoro is basically olive oil, garlic, basil, crushed tomatoes, a bit of salt, and a bit of sugar.

Serve over brown rice or whole wheat penne pasta, cooked al dente, and sprinkle with a salty, hard cheese such as romano or parmesan.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Pillowy Crack

Er...crackers. That's right, pillowy gluten free crackers made using no expensive flours. Angela at calls these vegan chewy crackers. I've made a few adjustments, so here's my version of her recipe.

Pour 3/4 cup uncooked rice and 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa into a rice cooker or pot, and cook as normal. In the meantime, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

When rice and quinoa are finished, remove and cool for a bit. Then, process in a food processor or using your IMMERSION BLENDER. I have to admit, it is heavy going with the IMMERSION BLENDER but I just asked my arms to channel Michelle Obama's and they got the job done.

Once processed so it feels doughy, mix in:
4 T ground flaxseeds
2 T chia seeds
1/4 cup of a chia-water paste (Angela called for 1 t tahini, which I didn't have)
1 T water
1 T minced garlic (or more to taste)
2 T pepper (or more to taste)
1 t salt

Roll dough until flat on a large cookie sheet with parchment paper. I greased the pan, and these babies were almost unflippable, unstickable, so don't skip the p-paper. Cut the dough into desired cracker size and shape with a sharp knife so you at least have some separation once baked.

Bake until crispy. I flipped after fifteen minutes, then again after another ten. These took me a long time and I probably didn't get them crisp enough, so I'd recommend rolling your dough pretty thin! Separate along knife lines.

Red Cannellini Quinoa

A nice Italian-esque dish for those celiac sprue or gluten intolerant folks stuck in old hometowns with limited food resources. If mushy corn pasta ain't your thang, and if quinoa is not to be found, wild rice would be lovely. As for you gluten lovers? I say, enjoy with pasta if that's what you prefer.

Heat thinly sliced shallots, minced garlic, 1/2 T oregano, and basil, salt, and pepper to taste in 2 T olive oil. Add 15 oz. can of crushed tomatoes. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add 15 oz. can of (drained) cannellini beans, 1/2 cup of sherry, and 1/2 cup heavy cream or half and half. Simmer for another several minutes, then dust with parmesan.

The amounts here will serve three as an entree, so measure your grain accordingly. The red quinoa we used was perfection, but, it turns out, I didn't need to use three uncooked cups of it to feed, um, four.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Asparagus with... rind, lemon juice, agave nectar, cumin and a splash of soy sauce. Cooked in the wok over high heat. No biggie, but YUM.