Saturday, February 28, 2009

farro salad with artichoke hearts

Farro is an ancient grain, a variety of wheat cultivated for thousands of years. It grows wild in the Fertile Crescent region of the Middle East, and the earliest evidence of domesticated farro (also known as emmer wheat) dates to 7700 BC. I love it for its versatility and nuttiness. If you cannot find farro, barley can be substituted

This salad is super simple, very tasty, and keeps quite well - so you can make a big batch and take it for lunch!

Farro Salad with Artichoke Hearts
from Williams-Sonoma's Eatwell

1 1/4 cups semi-pearled farro
1/4 cup oil-packed sundried tomatoes
1 jar (14 oz) artichoke hearts (i purchased mine at the italian deli around the corner - Salumeria Italiana; they cure their own, and are absolutely delicious!)
6 tbsp red wine vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted

Rinse farro and put in saucepan with 2 1/2 cups water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until grains are tender and water is absorbed, about 25 minutes.

Drain tomatoes and julienne. Drain, rinse, and quarter artichokes. (You can substitute oil from either the tomatoes or artichokes for some of the oil in the dressing!)

In a large bowl, whisk together vinegar and olive oil. Add cooked farro, sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, onion, parsley and pine nuts. Mix well. Season generously with salt and pepper and serve. Enjoy!

- e

Thursday, February 26, 2009

quinoa for jill

jill requested a quinoa recipe and i have been meaning to post one for her for weeks. it took me long enough but, at last, here you go my dear.

i came up with this recipe with jill in mind. she likes chickpeas. she likes spinach. and she likes chickpeas and spinach together. she wants more tofu ideas. i have also heard that the grocery stores of lincoln, nebraska tend to lack in the exciting ingredient department. so, keeping all these things in mind, a perfectly jilly (i think) quinoa was born.

quinoa with spicy chickpeas, spinach and tofu
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 bunch spinach
1 shallot (or onion), chopped
extra firm tofu, well drained and dried
soy sauce
olive oil
smoked paprika
chili powder
cayenne pepper

combine the quinoa and water in a pot and bring to a boil. reduce heat, cover and simmer 10-15 minutes until water is absorbed.

heat a drizzle of olive oil in a pan and add the chickpeas. season with salt, paprika, chili powder and cayenne to your liking. cook over medium-high heat until chickpeas start to get brown and cunchy on the outside.

while your chickpeas are cooking, heat a little more oil in another pot and add shallots and a pinch of salt. cook a few minutes until soft and fragrant. add spinach and cook until just wilted.

when the chickpeas are done move them into a bowl and use the same pan to cook the tofu (no need to rinse, the spices are good!). slice tofu into 1/4 - 1/2 inch slabs. cook over high heat in the pan with a little oil and a splash of soy sauce. cook a few minutes on each side until they get browned and a little crusty. remove from heat, let cool a minute then cut into bite sized pieces.
place everything in a bowl over quinoa, adjust seasoning with more salt if you want and enjoy!


Monday, February 23, 2009

pecan crusted tofu

a few days ago kris mentioned that one of the few things he misses about eating meat is a pecan crusted chicken sandwich that he got from some (no longer in existence) place in boston. it was perfect timing as we had just recently made a miso-tahini breaded tofu that i thought needed a little something extra. pecans to the rescue! we put the tofu on sandwiches (cause that was half the point) with this bread from smitten kitchen (which is wonderful and you should all run off and make some now). the tofu would be equally tasty on it's own or perhaps as a salad topping. i don't know if it satisfied kris's craving, but it was a success nonetheless.

pecan crusted tofu
miso (about 1 heaping tablespoon)
tahini (about 1 heaping tablespoon)
extra firm tofu, sliced into 1/2 inch(ish) slabs
pecans (maybe about a cup)
olive oil

either by hand or in a food processor, finely chop the pecans (careful not to make them too powdery, you still want some little chunks). place in a shallow bowl.

in another shallow bowl, mix together equal parts miso and tahini. add a splash of water to thin it out so it is about the consistency of mustard.

heat a pan with a thin layer of olive oil over medium heat. spread a layer of the miso-tahini mixture on one side of the tofu (i found that using a butterknife is easiest). place miso side down in the pecans, spread the other side and flip to coat.

cook on each side for a few minutes until browned. after both sides are cooked place on a baking sheet in the oven for a few minutes more to bake the tofu through a little more.


Sunday, February 22, 2009

coffee amaretto ice cream sammiches

this weekend i converted my favorite boozey coffee drink into ice cream sandwich form. coffee with amaretto makes me feel warm and cozy and reminds me of hanging out post-dinner in the north end in boston. for this creation, i sandwiched coffee ice cream between two delicate amaretto florentines. i was a little concerned that the cookies wouldn't hold up but i think they did ok. yes, these are messy but aren't ice cream sandwiches supposed to be messy? i know it's still winter and those on the east coast might opt for the traditional warm beverage for another month or two but luckily the san francisco weather provides a little bit of leniency and lets me fulfill my ice cream sandwich making craving in february without feeling too silly about it.

first make the cookies.
amaretto florentines
(vegan version adapted from the cookie jar)
3 tablespoons margarine
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons soy creamer
1 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons amaretto

preheat oven to 350.
in a medium saucepan, combine butter, sugar and creamer over medium-high heat. stirring frequently, bring mixture to a boil then remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
add almonds, flour and amaretto and stir until blended.

drop tablespoons full of dough several inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. spread dough into a cookie shape, careful not to spread them too thin as they will spread a bit more during baking.

bake 5-7 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. leaving cookies on parchment paper, remove paper from baking sheet. let cool 3 minutes then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

once cookies are cool, move them to a plate (arrange single layers separated by wax paper) and place in the freezer while you make the ice cream (or about 30 minutes).
coffee ice cream
1 cup soy milk, well chilled
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons instant coffee or espresso powder
2 cups soy creamer, well chilled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

in a medium bowl, use a hand mixer or whisk by hand to combine the soy milk, sugar and coffee/espresso powder until the sugar and coffee are dissolved. stir in creamer and vanilla. pour into ice cream maker and let mix until thickened, about 30 minutes (or according to your ice cream maker instructions).

to assemble sandwiches:
remove cookies from the freezer. matching up pairs of cookies that are about the same size, scoop ice cream directly from ice cream maker (so it's still soft) onto one cookie and top with second cookie. carefully wrap individual sammiches in wax paper and store in the freezer. try to work quickly so the ice cream doesn't melt.

i got six sammiches and a bonus cookie out of this recipe.


Friday, February 20, 2009

moroccan tagine

A friend of mine described me the other day as a "part-time vegetarian" which is an accurate description of my approach to food and eating. And I feel that this tagine, in some way, encapsulates that idea. It is a take on the Moroccan classic, well spiced and flavorful without being fussy. We opted to add chicken, as I was cooking with my more carnivorous family, but the recipe actually comes from a vegetarian cookbook (we very loosely interpreted it from New Vegetarian Entertaining by Jane Noraika. Ironic, I know. And honestly, it was perfect. And would have been perfect sans chicken. It makes a lot, and the leftovers are just as tasty. I can't wait to make it again. And again.

I am including a recipe for homemade harissa as well, but we used a canned harissa I had on hand. A warning - it is hot stuff!! Use sparingly.

Moroccan Tagine

2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 white onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp ground turmeric (I found the best ever bargain on turmeric - 50 cents an ounce - at Polcari's, in Boston's North End)
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 red serrano chili, seeded and finely chopped
3 cups canned diced tomatoes, about 28 ounces
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cup dried currants
1/2 cup black olives (we used kalamata) pitted and chopped
1 large baking potato, peeled and cubed
2 cups carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
1 can chickpeas
parsely, chopped
cilantro, chopped

2 chicken breasts, optional

1. if using chicken, slice in strips, and brown in 4 quart saute pan. remove from pan.
2. add more oil to the pan, and onions and spices (turmeric, cumin, coriander, cinnamon) and the chile, and cook until the onions are softened and translucent, about 10 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and tomato paste and cook for 10 minutes. And the currants, olives, potato and carrots. Continue cooking slowly over low heat for about 45 minutes, until the carrots and potatoes are tender.
3. return the chicken to pan (if using) along with chickpeas, and bring to a boil. Sauce should reduce slightly.
4. Stir in parsley and cilantro, season with salt and pepper. Serve over couscous, and drizzle with harissa.

Harissa Sauce
3 large fresh red chilis
1 garlic clove
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp tomato paste
pinch of salt

1. Put the chilis in a dry skillet and cook over gentle heat until the skins begin to blacken and blister. Remove from heat, let cool, and remove the seeds.
2. Put the chilis and remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Sauce will keep, refrigerated, for 2 to 3 weeks.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

potato salad

this is the dinner that we were going to make yesterday until tacos came into the picture. it's a potato salad recipe that my mom gave me, though i have no idea where she got it. it's coated with an oil based dressing that gets a hint of creaminess from the mustard, and it's tangy with a bit of spice from the garlic and shallots. you can serve it warm or chill it in the fridge for a bit. my mom wrote a note on the recipe that it's also good with green beans...i haven't tried it, but it sounds like it would be delicious and simple to throw the green beans in with the potatoes during the last few minutes of cooking to blanche them just a tad.

new potato salad
3 pounds fingerling or other thin skinned potatoes
1 tsp sugar
1 tb apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tb dijon mustard
3 tb olive oil
1 shallot finely chopped
1 clove garlic minced
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 tb dill minced (or more to taste)
salt and pepper to taste

boil potatoes until just tender (15-20 min.), drain.
in a large bowl whisk together sugar, vinegar, mustard, oil, shallot and garlic until blended.
when potatoes are cooled a bit add to dressing and toss to coat. add herbs and salt and pepper to taste.


talula's mac and cheese

Sometimes a single ingredient can really lift a dish, and such is the case with this mac and cheese. I am an unabashed lover of cheese, and if I ever found out I was lactose intolerant, I would probably die. Or just eat through the pain. And as an off-shoot of my love of cheese, I am equally obsessed with noodle and cheese dishes. I still think my mother makes the best mac and cheese - she uses ziti noodles and a fantastically creamy cheddar that is nearly impossible to find, and tops the whole shebang with wheat germ for a nicely nutty crust.

This recipe comes from a delightful little shop in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, Talula's Table. The recipe ran in the Philadelphia Inquirer, and as my mother happened to be in Kennett one recent weekend, she stopped in to pick up the key ingredient in this mac and cheese - a subtley spicy pepperoncino penne pasta - and subsequently transported it to Boston for my pre-birthday festivities. The particular brand Talula's sells is Dalla Costa, but I am sure you could substitute another peppery noodle (but if you can get your hands on a bag, I recommend the Dalla Costa brand!)

And a little note - we skipped the garlic bread crumbs, and just sprinkled the top with the regular kind. The cheeses and pasta are quite flavorful and the garlic bread crumb addition seemed unnecessary. And if you wanted to veganize this, you could make this sauce, and use it with the peppery noodles!

Also, if you don't feel like buying loads of herbs that will languish in your refrigerator, Trader Joe's sells a "poultry mix" of fresh herbs that include the perfect amounts of parsley, oregano and thyme for this recipe!

Talula’s Slightly Spicy Macaroni and Cheese

5 cups milk

½ onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, smashed, skin left on

4 springs each parsley, oregano, thyme

2 to 3 fresh sage leaves

2 tbsp unsalted butter

2 tbsp all-purpose flour

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

½ lb peperoncino penne

2 cups aged white cheddar and Gruyere cheese mix (Cabot, Grafton, Roth Kase), grated

2/3 cup Parmesan, grated

1 cup garlic breadcrumbs

  1. Combine milk, onion, garlic and herb sprigs and leaves in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes. Set aside to steep for 15 minutes. Pour through a strainer and return to the pan.
  2. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk in the flour to make the roux, and cook over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Slowly whisk 2 cups of the seasoned milk into the roux to make a paste. Add the remaining milk, 1 cup at a time, until all the milk has been incorporated. Continue to cool, still whisking, over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes. The sauce will be just slightly thickened. Season with the Dijon, ¼ tsp salt and a pinch of pepper.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 2-quart baking dish.
  4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt lightly. Drop in the penne and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain the penne and place in a large bowl. Pour the sauce over and toss in the cheeses, reserving a handful of Parmesan. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Pour the mixture into the baking dish, making sure to include all of the sauce. Sprinkle with the garlic bread crumbs and remaining Parmesan and bake until golden and bubbling, about 40 minutes.
  6. To make the bread crumbs, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Cut day-old bread into thin slices and place on a baking sheet; brush with garlic infused oil. Bake until golden and very crisp, about 15 minutes. Allow to cool. Break up the bread with your hands and pulse in a food processor, leaving the texture a little coarse.
- e

crispy tempeh tacos

i have a thing for tacos. i love them. and i'm always in the mood for them. kris likes them but, for some reason, does not want to eat them EVERY day. weird. so yesterday as i was on the fence about whether to meet him for drinks after work or go straight home and cook something for dinner he convinced me to go out simply by telling me he would buy me a taco for dinner if i went. that's all it took.

in the end i decided that i still wanted to cook dinner thus leaving leftovers to bring for lunch. kris, being the brilliant and taco accommodating guy that he is, suggested we make quick tacos at home. these were indeed super quick to prepare and even tastier than i predicted they would be. i didn't start off planning to write about this spur of the moment meal but after my first taco i decided they were really yummy and need to be shared. hence the quick half-eaten dinner photo above.

since it was a little late when we got home and we were trying to make this as quickly as possible, there was not one bit of measuring that went into this (but eyeballing it should work just fine). we ate these with an equally quick and simple red cabbage slaw.

crispy tempeh tacos
1 package tempeh
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
soy sauce
liquid smoke
hot sauce
olive oil
green leaf lettuce, thinly chopped
1/2 tomato, diced
1 avocado
crispy corn taco shells

turn oven to warm and put the taco shells in to heat while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

heat a splash of olive oil in a pan and add the garlic. cook a few minutes until fragrant. add the onion and tempeh. add a splash of soy sauce, a few drops of liquid smoke, a drizzle of hot sauce and a sprinkle of cumin. cook until the onions are soft and the tempeh is heated through.
serve in taco shells with lettuce, tomato and avocado.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

hot and cold sesame noodles

here's a little snippet of a conversation i had with my mom as i walked home from work yesterday:
mom: so what are you guys making for dinner?
me: oh just those spicy sesame peanut noodles, i had to work a bit late and they're easy.
mom: oooo the ones kris made for me? those are yummy! you should yumcoast them so then i'll have the recipe.

this is a recipe that kris and i found years and years ago and it's still in our regular dinner rotation. yes, it's a rachael ray recipe, but it's so quick, easy and delicious and it doesn't require the purchase of a bunch of ingredients. it's also great leftover the next day. over the years we've taken some things out and added a little twist of our own. you can easily adjust the spice level to your taste or throw in other vegetables that you have hanging around. we used to make it with spagetti noodles but now prefer shapes (shells may be our favorite...they trap the sauce just right!). anyway, here ya go mom!

hot and cold sesame noodles
(adapted from rachael ray's recipe)

1/2 pound pasta of your choice
1/4 cup tamari dark soy
1/4 rounded cup all-natural unsalted smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
2 tablespoons hot sauce (we like to play around with the hot sauce...try different kinds!)
2 cups thinly chopped cabbage (we usually do red but green works too)
3 scallions, chopped
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1-2 inch piece of ginger, finely chopped

Cook pasta to al dente then cold shock it to stop the cooking process by running it under cold water in colander. Drain the pasta very well.
In the bottom of a large bowl, whisk together soy, peanut butter, vinegar, sesame oil, chopped ginger and hot sauce. Add noodles, cabbage and scallions and toss to coat them evenly with sauce. Sprinkle sesame seeds throughout the salad and serve.

Friday, February 13, 2009

a little lovin'

As you all know, tomorrow is Valentine's Day. And while I personally do not buy into the saccharine, Hallmark-fueled, chocolate heart love fest, I do believe in romance. And baked goods. And while candy is dandy, cookies are the way to my heart (flowers don't hurt either). So in honor of the holiday, I made a batch of these delightfully light, nicely ginger-y cookies. When mixing up the dough, I was a little worried, as it seemed a tad crumbly, but I persevered, and everything worked out! So I recommend you make these for your sweetie, or for yourself! And Happy Valentine's Day! xoxo.

Ginger Sugar Cookies
from Martha Stewart, February 2009

makes 24 heart-shaped cookies

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
2 ounces (4 tbsp) unsalted butter, softened
6 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp light brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp finely grated ginger
1 large egg yolk
sanding sugar, for sprinkling

Sift flour, baking soda, and salt into medium bowl. Cream butter and sugar with mixer until pale and fluffy. Beat in ginger, then yolk.

Reduce speed to low, and add flour mixture gradually, beating until just combined. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour (or up to 2 days).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Turn out dough onto lightly floured parchment. Roll out until 1/4 inch thick, and cut out cookies using 2-inch heart-shaped cutter. Transfer to parchment lined baking sheets. Brush each cookie with a damp pastry brush, then sprinkle with sanding sugar. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Bake until cookies are set and light gold around edges, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks for 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks and let cool. Cookies will keep, covered, for up to 3 days.

- e

Monday, February 9, 2009

crusty cornstalk rolls

i love gourmet magazine but when i pull a new issue out of the mailbox and a giant hunk of meat has overtaken the cover it takes a little more work and searching to get excited. such was not the case with the february issue. a cover photograph of rolls! all different kinds of gorgeous, golden dinner rolls...i didn't know where i would begin! yesterday i decided on the crusty cornstalk rolls. i'm not sure what made me choose them over the others. maybe it was the shape (a cornstalk!)? the interactive element of ripping off each roll? the promise of a hearty exterior and a chewy interior? or maybe it's just because they didn't require me to buy any additional ingredients (except flour but, ya know, they all kind of require that)?

whatever led me to it, it was a good decision. the dough was easy to make and easy to work with. it only took about four and a half hours to go from mixing ingredients to taking warm bread out of the oven allowing for (near) instant gratification (as far as breadmaking goes). it was really yummy and the texture sort of reminded me of ciabatta. last night we enjoyed it with a lemony-thyme white bean spread. tonight it will become bruschetta. while we were eating it, i thought that this would be a great bread to make for thanksgiving but, of course, by the time november comes around i'll probably forget.

crusty cornstalk rolls
(gourmet, february 2009)
1 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water (105–115°F), divided
1 teaspoon mild honey or sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour plus more for kneading and dusting
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoon stone-ground yellow cornmeal, divided

stir together yeast, 1/4 cup warm water, and honey/sugar in a large bowl and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (if mixture doesn’t foam, start over with new yeast.)

mix flour, salt, 1/2 cup cornmeal, and remaining cup warm water into yeast mixture with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until a soft dough forms.

turn out dough onto a well-floured surface and knead, dusting surface and your hands with just enough flour to keep dough from sticking, until dough is elastic and smooth, 6 to 8 minutes. form dough into a ball.

put dough in an oiled large bowl and turn to coat. cover bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled, 1 1/2 to 2 hours (mine was closer to the 1 1/2 side).

punch down dough (do not knead) and fold into thirds like a letter (dough will be soft), then gently roll into a 12-inch-long log with lightly floured hands.

sprinkle a large baking sheet evenly with remaining 2 tablespoon cornmeal and put dough diagonally in center. alternating sides, make 3-inch-long diagonal cuts, about 1 1/2 inches apart, into sides of log using kitchen shears (ends of cuts should not touch; maintain a center "stalk"). gently pull apart cuts to stretch dough, forming rolls that are separate (about 1 1/2 inches apart) but connected to center stalk. cover with a kitchen towel (not terry cloth) and let rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled, 1 to 1 1/2 hours (mine took 1 hour).

preheat oven to 425°F with rack in middle.

spray rolls with water, then bake, spraying into oven 3 times in first 5 minutes of baking* (to help form a crust), until golden, about 20 minutes. transfer rolls to a rack and cool at least 20 minutes.

as you can see in my picture, after i cut the rolls they sort of grew and baked back together so the cornstalk element was not quite as dramatic. however, they still pulled apart easily. maybe next time i would just stretch them a bit more after cutting.

*i don't have a spray bottle so i just lightly brushed the dough with water before putting it in the oven. i also put a bread pan with a few ice cubes in the bottom of the oven in place of spraying. it was fine. the bread was crusty.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

tofu scramble

i know it's only been a short while since i posted about hashes and tofu scrambles but sorry, i'm at it again! we wanted an easy dinner last night and had some things that needed using and a good ol' tofu scramble just seemed like the way to go. we ate it with a simple red cabbage slaw, a piece of sun dried tomato toast and some sliced up avocado.* i don't believe in using a recipe for a scramble so what follows is merely a guideline to run with as you please.

tofu scramble
1 block extra firm tofu
1 chicken nugget**
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 red onion, diced
1 jalapeno, finely chopped
1 bunch spinach, leaves torn into pieces
1 portobello cap, thinly sliced
1/2 tomato, chopped
olive oil
smoked paprika

drain the tofu and crumble into a pan heated with a splash of olive oil. let it cook for awhile before you start stirring it to let it get nice and browned on the outside. stir occasionally until crumbles are browned all over.

add garlic, onion and jalapeno and cook until onion softens. add a generous sprinkle of each spice. add mushrooms and tomato. add spinach (in batches if needed) and cook until slightly wilted. adjust seasoning to taste.

when you serve, don't forget to scrape out all the yummy crunchy bits. that's the best part!

*because i have a very hard time passing up a perfect avocado at the grocery store and tend to find a way to work them into as many meals as i can.
**we had one chicken nugget leftover from a super bowl batch of Vegan Dad's hotwings.

bagels (an ongoing quest)

to those who know me, it's no secret that i love bagels. in fact i'm obsessed with them. aside from my wonderful friends, they are one of the very few things that i miss about boston. my love began when i was young as i have early memories of enjoying garlic bagels from the late royal bagel in atlanta. when i moved to boston i became a bagel snob thanks to my beloved bagel rising. after enjoying their deliciously perfect bagely morsels several times a week for years (and taking every single one of them for granted) it's no surprise that upon moving to san francisco my body went into bagel shock. san francisco is a wonderful city with many culinary treasures, but bagels? i was unemployed when we moved here and, i kid you not, i wandered this city and tried every bagel place i could find. katz bagels have become the go-to weekend bagel spot (and how convenient that they are only a few blocks from home AND they have tofu spread) but they are no bagel rising bagels.

that whole search got me thinking that maybe i should try making my own bagels. i mean, i'm not getting amazing bagels anyway...surely i can make non-amazing bagels and, who knows?, maybe they'll turn out better than i think!

i've been holding off posting about my bagels for quite awhile because i was waiting until i had them perfected. but let's face it, my bagels may never be perfect. and as erin pointed out, not everything needs to be perfect anyway. after several attempts, my best bagels thus far have come courtesy of my good friend the easy bread guy. you can see his bagel video here.......
naked bagels!
the first time i did just what he said. the taste was good but i thought they were too flat. so the next time i didn't roll them out as thin when i shaped them. much better! a bagel that was crispy on the outside and soft on the inside...just as a bagel should be. another recipe i tried used a different shaping method - when you cut your dough into pieces, instead of rolling them out, pick up each one and poke your thumbs through the center to shape into a bagel. that worked well too.

my favorite bagel is the everything bagel. and i don't like when people skimp on the everything. i like lots of seeds, onion, garlic...i like my bagel covered on the top and the bottom. so far i have only done sesame and poppy (cause that's what we always have in our cabinet) but i have not been successful in getting the seeds to stay on the bagel. sure some of them stay, but more fall off. i've tried rolling the bagels in seeds right after they boil when they're sticky, i've tried brushing them with a cornstarch mixture (in place of an eggy mixture) and then sprinkling. i've tried baking them for 5 minutes then taking them out and seeding and baking some's always the same result. so, dear readers, anyone want to enlighten me as to how to seed a bagel?

and yes, these pictures are from several different bagel baking attempts. you can see how the pre-baked seeded ones are nice and fat.

bread 2.0

I find it refreshing when we can reign in the ego a bit and admit to our mistakes. Which is why I am writing about bread. While Darcy is an accomplished bread maker, I am not. A big part of the problem is that I have serious issues with directions. Try as I might, I never seem to follow them. I in general find this to be one of the more endearing aspects of my personality, but a great bread baker it does not make. So the other day, while reading of Orangette's cooking tribulations, I realized that we shouldn't just blog about the good /great dishes. We need to discuss the failures because - hey! - it's not a perfect world. And maybe you can all learn from some of our missteps! Which is, again, why I write today about bread.

Last week was attempt number one at bread making. I have watched my mom make rolls and things, but had never tried my hand at it. So I decided, with the guidance of a Mark Bittman cookbook, to make my first attempt. I can't say it was an abject failure, but the result was inedible. My mistake - using a white whole flour in place of standard all-purpose flour (I wanted something healthier). I knew from the beginning something was not right. The dough took much longer to rise than indicated in the recipe, and it lacked the desired spring in a well-risen dough. Only after my very flat sandwich loaf emerged from the oven did I decide to research what might have gone wrong. And it ends up, it is all in the flour. White whole white is not a blended flour (as I thought) but rather a different variety of wheat (whole wheat flour is made from red wheat, white whole wheat from white wheat). And wheat flour takes longer to rise. About twice as long. For both rising times. So really, I just needed to give my bread a bit more time! I do not have a picture of my sad little loaf, as I was not impressed; but it did not go entirely to waste, and nourished some very happy little birds.

Not one to accept failure, I gave breadmaking another go last night. Whereas version 1.0 was made entirely by hand, I listened to Mark Bittman's advice and used my food processor (it really makes everything so easy!). Instead of a sandwich loaf, I decided on french bread. Easy enough, right? So I made my sponge last night, around midnight, and as directed, left the whole thing in the food processor, covered it with plastic wrap, and went to bed. This morning, I awoke to a yeasty explosion on my kitchen counter. The sponge had risen a bit more than expected and literally oozed down the side of my Cuisinart. But all was not lost.

And in the end, the bread turned out beautifully. Two nice little boules. I of course had to slice one open within minutes of removing them from the oven. It was perfect. Warm, yeasty with a nice crust. I can't wait to make it again!

Overnight French Bread
from Mark Bittman, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

3 1/2 cups bread or all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
2 tsp salt

Put 2 cups of the flour in a food processor, add the yeast and half the salt, and turn the machine on. With the machine running, pour about a cup of water through the feed tube (ed. note: I used about a cup and a half). Process until you have a smooth pancake-like batter. Cover and let rest in a cool place overnight, or for at least 6 hours.

Add the remaining flour and salt to mixture, turn the machine on, and add water, a little at a time, until a moist well-defined ball forms (ed. note: this took about half a cup of water). If the dough sticks to the side of the bowl, you have added too much water. Add about 1/4 cup flour and keep going.

Dump the lump of dough into a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap, and let sit at room temperature for at least an hour.

Dust a counter or work surface with a little flour. Shape the dough as you like (I made boules, but you can make rolls, baguettes). Preheat the oven to 400 degrees while you let the bread rest, covered with a towel.

When you are ready to bake, slash the top of each loaf once or twice with a sharp knife. Bake on a stone or a lightly oiled baking sheet. Turn the heat down to 375 degrees, and bake the bread! The baking time will vary, based on the shape of bread you choose to make. Rolls take about 15 minutes, baguettes about 25 minutes, and the boule 35 to 45 minutes. Bread is done when it makes a hollow sound when tapped. Enjoy!

- e

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

mushroom risotto

I often find the simplest things, made well, to be the most appealing. This is not to down play complexity; but I find that by using wonderful ingredients and highlighting their inherent complexity yields delicious results. Risotto falls into this simple/complex category for me. It is comfort food at its finest. Executed properly, it is sublime. I have been making risotto since I was about fifteen years old, when we bought my mom a risotto cookbook for Christmas one year. I fell in love with both Italian food and cooking challenges at an early age, and over time perfected my risotto technique. I love different kinds of risotto - leek and spring pea; butternut squash; sausage and mushroom; asparagus and lemon; the list really goes on - but time and again, I turn to my classic, a simple mushroom risotto.

And the nice thing about this is you can play with different types of mushrooms (shitake, chanterelle, cremini, porcini) to achieve varying levels of, shall we say, mushroomy-ness. I would steer clear of using white button mushrooms in this dish, as they have very little flavor of their own. For this version, I used both creminis and reconstituted dried porcinis (soak them in boiling water for about fifteen minutes, and drain, as there may be some silt. You can either reserve the soaking liquid or use a few teaspoons to intensify your risotto!)

In this dish, you can very easily omit the goat cheese, but it adds a somewhat decadent creaminess. And I like the addition of lemon zest, as it serves to brighten up the flavors and cuts the richness a bit!

Mushroom Risotto

Makes approx. 4 servings

3-4 cups vegetable stock (I prefer homemade)
1 sprig of thyme, plus extra for garnish
1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
1 1/2 cups arborio or carnaroli rice
7 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup white wine
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup grated parmesan, plus extra for garnish
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
1 tbsp lemon zest

1. Bring vegetable stock with spring of time to a boil, then reduce to simmer.

2. Add about a tablespoon of olive oil to a 4-5 quart saucepan (or a risotto pan, if you have one). Once oil shimmers, and onion and saute until softened and golden, 5 to 7 minutes.

3. add rice, stir to coat/toast.

4. add white wine, cook until evaporated (and stirring all the while)

5. begin to add broth by the ladle, making sure all liquid has before adding more. the risotto should be stirred constantly to prevent sticking. about halfway through, add the sliced mushrooms. continue until all stock is absorbed, and rice is tender (you can check by sampling).

6. remove from heat, add butter, cheese and lemon zest, stirring to combine.

7. serve, garnished with extra parmesan, crumbled goat cheese, and a few thyme leaves.

- e

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

raisin pecan oatmeal cookies

A very dear friend of mine is going through a rough spot, and despite being the pickiest eater I have ever encountered, he loves desserts. Especially cookies. So, because I love baking, and because what nourishes the body nourishes the soul, I decided to make him cookies last night. I flipped through a few new cookbooks, and came upon this one in the newest Barefoot Contessa book, a classic with a twist. I also need to take a moment to mention how much I love the Barefoot Contessa (aka Ina Garten). I love her show. I love the melodiously soothing tone of her voice. And I love love love her kitchen. Basically, I want to be her new best friend, and be invited over for dinner every weekend.

Now that I have expressed my super-fanatacism, I must say these cookies are DELICIOUS! They are both chewy and crunchy and bake beautifully. For most of my life, I harbored an intense dislike of raisins, and only in the past few years have I come to terms with them. I still cannot eat them straight out of the box, but enjoy them in things, like these cookies. So if you have a friend who needs some comforting, or need a little yourself, these are just perfect!

Raisin Pecan Oatmeal Cookies
from The Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics

makes 30 to 35 cookies

1 1/2 cups pecans
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temp
1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed (I used light brown sugar)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 extra large eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp kosher salt
3 cups old fashioned oatmeal
1 1/2 cups raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place pecans on a sheet pan and bake for 5 minutes, until crisp. Set aside to cool. Chop coarsely.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. With mixer on low, add eggs one at a time, and the vanilla.

Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt together in a medium bowl. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to butter mixture. Add the oats, raisins, and pecans and mix until just combined.

Using a small ice cream scoop (or a tablespoon), drop 2 inch mounds of dough onto sheet pans lined with parchment paper (ed. note: the parchment is not necessary, but makes clean up easier). Flatten dough mounds slightly. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until lightly browned. Transfer cookies to a baking rack and cool completely.

*before baking, I sprinkled the cookies with granulated sugar for a little extra crunch!


Sunday, February 1, 2009

chocolate hazelnut rugelach

over thanksgiving i found cookbook at my mom's called the cookie jar that marjorie and i bought a long long time ago during a cookie-baking obsession phase. i brought it back home with me to give the recipes another go...and because i saw a rugelach recipe that i really wanted to make. i don't remember the last time i ate rugelach but i remember loving it whenever those long ago times were.

so now here we are and my mamoo's* birthday is fast approaching. i wanted to make her a birthday treat but what would it be? rugelach i thought! until word came through my mom that mamoo is not a fan of delicious little crescent roll shaped cookies filled with yumminess. crazy if you ask me but afterall she's the birthday girl. so i came up with another cookie for her but still had rugelach on the brain. i made them anyway and mailed them along. i bet she tries one and i bet she likes it too.

so here's the recipe. i veganized the dough from the book and did my own thing for the filling.

chocolate hazelnut rugelach
dough ingredients:
8 ounces tofutti cream cheese
3/4 cup margarine, softened
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
filling ingredients:
3/4 cups chopped dark chocolate (we had part of a fancy chocolate bar laying around, i used that)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed dark sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup coarsely chopped toasted hazelnuts**
3 tablespoons softened margarine

to make the dough, beat tofutti, margarine, sugar and vanilla until fluffy. add flour and stir until a soft dough forms. divide dough into 3 balls and wrap in plastic and chill overnight.

to make the filling, coarsely chop the chocolate and nuts (either by hand or in a food processor). place in a bowl with the granulated sugar, dark sugar and cinnamon and stir to combine.

preheat oven to 350. on a heavily floured surface*** use a floured rolling pin to roll 1 ball of dough at a time into a 12 inch circle. carefully****spread 1 tablespoon margarine over dough circle. sprinkle about 9 tablespoons of filling over the buttered dough and press lightly into the dough.

using a pizza cutter, cut dough into quarters and then cut each quarter into three wedges. beginning at the wide end, roll up each wedge. transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake 15-20 minutes until edges are lightly browned. transfer to a wire rack to cool.

i'm really pleased with the way these turned out. i love them and i hope maybe, just maybe, they can convert mamoo into a rugelach lover! and if not, i know my mom will step up and eat them.

*that would be grandma to those not in the know
**to toast hazelnuts, place them on a baking sheet and bake at 300 for about 15 minutes. keep an eye on them so they don't burn. take them out and place them in the middle of a coarsely textured kitchen towel. ball it up, roll them around, open it up and the skins (or most of them anyway) are off!
***if you're like me you might think "i'll just roll it out between two sheets of parchment. less to clean." don't do it, it doesn't work. it sticks to the paper and then you have to flour it, scrape it off, ball it, roll it blah blah blah. it really is much easier to just start with the floured surface.
****very carefully. i'm glad i had three balls of dough to work with. by the third one i finally had it all figured out. i found the easiest way to do the margarine was to hold it in my hand (to soften it a bit more) and just spread the tiniest little amount at a time. it took longer but i didn't mangle the delicate dough circle like i did the first time.