Tuesday, June 30, 2009


I have a confession to make. I have been a bad blogger. The past few weeks have been rather busy - Philadelphia, Chicago, birthdays and what not - and the cooking has fallen by the wayside. So, it is time for catch-up! First on the list: delicious vanilla cupcakes with the richest, shiniest chocolate frosting you have ever seen. They were the result of a confluence of events - a horribly stressful interview and the birthday of one of my dearest friends. When stressed, I take to the kitchen. I find something particularly soothing about the methodical nature of baking. You follow the directions, get a fantastic product (hopefully) and feel rather accomplished in the end. The perfect antidote to an odd gallery interview with a would-be megalomaniac.

So. When baking for others, I like to tailor treats to the taste of the individual. After all, you want the birthday boy (or girl) to be happy, right? So, I thought to myself, if he could, hypothetically, have any kind of cupcake for his birthday, what would it be? Vanilla? Chocolate? Carrot cake? Red velvet? Coconut cake with 7 minute frosting? Perhaps a boston creme pie cupcake? Or peanut butter? A homemade hostess ho-ho? Something completely off the wall? (Like the strawberry margarita cupcake I sampled last evening at Kickass Cupcakes? To.die. for.)

In the end, I settled for a not-too-rich yellow cake, with plenty of vanilla, and a decadent chocolate frosting from a much beloved, but now deceased blog. Simple idea, kicked up a few notches. And he loved them! They were, he says, the highlight of his day. The best words a baker can ever hear.

Yellow Cupcakes
from cupcakes by Shelly Kaldunski
makes 12 cupcakes

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
6 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temp
2 large eggs, at room temp
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup whole milk

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.

In a bowl, whisk togeter the flour, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the sugar and eggs together until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until combined. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the milk in 2 additions, beating on low speed until just combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat on medium-high speed just until no traces of flour remain, being careful not to overbeat.

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups, filling each about three-fourths full. Bake until lightly golden, and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Let the cupcake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove from pan and transfer to wire rack to cool completely, about 1 hour. Frost with chocolate buttercream (or frosting of your choice!).

You can find the frosting recipe here.


- e

indian cabbage salad

last night i was flipping through cookbooks looking for a side to accompany samosa mashed potato pancakes (yet another brilliant recipe from vegan brunch). i was quite surprised to find the perfect salad in a cookbook called olive trees and honey, which is a collection of vegetarian recipes from jewish communities around the world. i never even knew that there were jewish communities in india...and upon educating myself a bit i have learned that there are, in fact, three!

this salad has a lot going on. with so many different flavors, i was surprised to taste it and find that it was actually quite mild. i could taste each individual ingredient in a subtle way, and the salad has a lot of flavor, but it's very well balanced and there is not one overpowering note. it's obviously a good choice for an indian inspired meal but i think it could really work well just about anywhere.

just a heads up, they say this should chill for 3 hours before serving so plan accordingly. also, you'll notice that the recipe gives lots of options for ingredients, i've noted the ones i chose. i cut the below recipe in half and it still made a ton.

indian cabbage salad
(from olive trees and honey)
1 small head green cabbage, cored and thinly shredded
3 cups either ripe tomatoes, diced OR shredded carrots (i went with carrots)
3/4 cup grated unsweeted coconut
3/4 cup peanut powder (i crushed some peanuts in a mortar and pestle, they could have been more powdery, but it worked just fine)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro or parsley (i did cilantro)
1 1/2 teaspoons jaggery, brown sugar or honey (i chose sugar..and it wasn't brown. oops)
1/3 cup peanut oil or vegetable oil (peanut for me)
3/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds or ground cumin (i used seeds)
1 tablespoon seeded and minced hot green chilies
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
pinch of asafetida (optional, i didn't use it...i don't know what it is)
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon table salt or 2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste

in a large bowl, combine the cabbage, tomatoes/carrots, coconut, peanut powder, cilantro and sugar.

heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat (have a lid handy). add the mustard seeds and saute until they begin to pop, about 2 minutes (this is when you want to cover it to keep your mustard seeds under control). when the popping settles down, stir in the cumin. add the chilies, then the turmeric and asafetida (if using), and saute until the chilies begin to color but do not burn.

pour the dressing over the cabbage mixture and toss to coat. let stand for at least 3 hours to allow the flavors to meld. just before serving, stir in the lemon juice and salt.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

picture time!

these past couple of days i've had fun concocting in the kitchen. unfortunately, these creations don't translate very well to recipes for sharing. however, i did take pictures and maybe they can serve as inspiration...or something.

a little while ago...ok, a loooong time ago...my mamoo sent me and kris a clay pot. it's really pretty and i imagined cooking fabulous things in it and seamlessly tranferring it from oven to table for serving.

the only problem was that, for some reason, the pot intimidated me. i wasn't sure what to put in it or how clay pot oven cooking works. it's really not that difficult, i know, but this gorgeous vessel has been living in our cabinet for far too long. periodically, when trying to think of what to make for dinner, kris would mention the pot. one time he even looked up clay pot cooking methods and recipes and left the page open on the computer. but what finally got me to bust it out monday night was a simple challenge. i said i was going to make something in it this week. he said "yeah right sure you will." well i showed him!

what i made was basically a fridge-cleaning clay pot stew. in went tomato sauce, tomato paste, vegetable broth, sliced fennel, sliced potato, tempeh sausage crumbles, navy beans, onion and quinoa. i cooked it at 350 then cranked it up to 400 for, oh i don't know, and hour? hour and a half? until it was bubbly and the quinoa was cooked, all the while wondering if i would have to run out for thai takeout. but no! it was really really good! i made cornbread biscuits from vegan brunch to sop up the stew and we enjoyed a surprisingly delicous meal. phew!

last night was much simpler. sushi! i love making sushi and i love making A LOT of sushi. yes, it was a sushi feast. this particular batch was mashed sweet potato, smoky shiitakes and avocado.

and what to do with the leftover bits?


Sunday, June 21, 2009

urban s'mores

Continuing on with the cracker theme, and the yumcoast's mutual unemployment equation (too much free time + a creative itch = tasty treats) I whipped up a batch of homemade graham crackers yesterday. They come from Smitten Kitchen, and you can find the recipe here. Given that the recipe does not have eggs, you could easily vegan-ize it by using margarine instead of butter. And they are super easy too! Essentially a rolled cookie, cut into rectangles, and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar! Mmmmmm.

And what better use of a homemade graham cracker, than a delicious s'more? I have had an inexplicable craving recently for s'mores, those oozy, perfect campfire treats of my youth. So, I invited some friends over, and in the absence of a proper camp fire, cranked up the gas stove top and roasted some marshmallows. Smeared said toasty mallows onto tasty grahams topped with a chocolate square and sandwiched the whole thing with a second graham. Again, mmmm.

easy crackers

what seems like so long ago now, in my first post, i wrote about easy bread. this week, after putting it off for long enough, i finally got around to trying jim's recipe for easy bread - crackers. that counts as a productive use of my newfound free time due to unemployment, right?

while these were easy for the most part, they were not as easy as easy bread. i found them quite difficult to roll out. maybe i just need to do some push ups or something. i did find that instead of breaking the dough in half to roll out it was much easier to roll in smaller pieces. then, after cutting the strips i rolled each individually a bit more. i got the job done but it was a work out. the end result was great though! a nice hearty cracker that was perfect for a hefty dip.

i made these on thursday, threw them in a ziplock bag and brought them to a picnic at dolores park on saturday with the mushroom walnut pate from veganomicon. they still had a perfect crisp to them!

i would definitely recommend making these especially since you can add any herbs and spices you want to make your perfect cracker. i did crushed red pepper flakes in the dough and sprinkled smoked salt on top.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

peach and pistachio cobbler

last hanukkah, marian gave me and kris a beautiful dessert cookbook called dulce: desserts from santa fe kitchens. the first time i looked through it i mentally noted a bunch of recipes to make. unfortunately for me, at the time, all the recipes i wanted to make used fruits that were not in season in december.

shawn and kate invited us over for dinner last night (for delicious homemade vegan pot pie) and i was in charge of dessert. while trying to decide what to make i realized that with delicious peaches, nectarines, apricots and strawberries everywhere, it was perfect timing to finally make one of the fruity desserts i've been dying to try. i settled on the peach and pistachio cobbler and served it with coconut sorbetto from ciao bella. here is the recipe with a few ingredient substitutions to make it vegan.

peach and pistachio cobbler
(from dulce, with minor changes)
filling ingredients:
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 to 10 peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced 1 inch thick

topping ingredients:
2 cups flour
1/2 cup unsalted pistachios, finely chopped
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup cold unsalted margarine, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3/4 cup coconut milk
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

place rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350. grease a 12-inch oval or 9x13 inch baking dish.

in a small bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. place the peaches in a large bowl, sprinkle with the sugar mixture, and toss to distribute evenly. spread the peach mixture in the prepared baking dish and set aside while you prepare the topping.

in a large bowl, mix together the flour, pistachios, 1/4 cup sugar, salt, and baking powder. using a pastry blender, or your fingers, cut margarine into the flour mixture until the texture resembles coarse cornmeal, leaving some pieces of margarine about the size of small peas. add coconut milk; stir just until the mixture pulls together.

pinch off chunks of the dough and place them on top of the peach mixture, covering it nearly completely. or, on a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to the same dimensions as the baking dish and carefully lay it over the filling.

in a small bowl, mix together cinnamon and 1 tablespoon sugar and sprinkle the mixture on the top of the dough. bake until topping is firm and golden brown, and filling bubbles slowly, 45 to 60 minutes. remove from oven and let cool for 30 minutes before serving.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

grilled portabella and bulgur salad "sandwiches"

the yumcoast has just arrived back from a bachelorette weekend in chicago. we had a fabulous time and ate lots of wonderful food, but now it's time to get back into the swing of things and start cooking again!

when i first saw the photo of this dish in gourmet, it took me a second to realize that the grilled portabellas act as the bread in this "sandwich" with the bulgur salad as the filling. i think this is a great summer dinner. it's filling but not heavy and the tomato vinaigrette bursts with flavor. as suggested, we served this over spicy arugula with cool avocado slices on the side. the prep time takes a little while and if you're grilling in a grill pan (like me) you probably have to do several batches to get everything cooked, so plan ahead to allow yourself some time.

grilled portabella and bulgur salad "sandwiches"

(gourmet, june 2009; serves 4)
ingredients for tomato vinaigrette:
1 large garlic clove
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary
1/4 teaspoon hot red-pepper flakes

ingredients for salad:
8 large portabella mushrooms, stems removed
1 small red onion, cut lenthwise into 1/2 inch think wedges (keeping root end intact)
2 medium yellow bell peppers, quartered lenthwise
1 medium zucchini, halved lenthwise
1 1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 cup medium bulgar
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
4 cups arugula
1 avocado

to make vinaigrette, with motor running, drop garlic in food processor and finely chop. add tomatoes, parlsey, oil, vinegar, rosemary, red-pepper flakes, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and pulse until tomatoes are finelly chopped but not pureed.

to make salad, peel skin from portabellas pulling from the edge of the mushroom toward center. gently scrape off gills from mushrooms with tip of a spoon. toss portabellas with 1/2 cup vinaigrette in a 13 by 9 inch glass baking dish and let stand, turning occasionally, 20 minutes.

prepare grill or grill pan for medium heat.

push 1 wooden pick into each onion wedge to secure for grilling. toss onion wedges, bell peppers, and zucchini with oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. oil grill rack, then grill vegetables, covered, turning occasionally, until tender (6-8 minutes for bell peppers, 6-10 minutes for zucchini, 8-12 minutes for onion, 12-15 minutes for portabellas).

transfer portabellas to a plate and remaining vegetables to a bowl as cooked. cool slightly, then remove wooden picks and coarsely chop onion, bell peppers and zucchini.

while vegetables cook, pour boiling hot water over bulgur with 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl and let stand until water is absorbed and bulgur is tender, about 5 minutes. drain in a sieve if any water remains.

add vegetables to bulgur with pine nuts and remaining vinaigrette and toss.

put and handful of arugula on a plate. top with upside down portabella. pack bulgur mixture into a cup measure and unmold on top of portabella. top with another portabella, right side up. serve with avocado slices.


Monday, June 8, 2009

hot dog buns

as far as i'm concerned, the weekend is for me to try out new bread baking projects (and, ok, maybe sit in the park and drink and play games and go shopping too....). this weekend it was operation:hot dog bun!

and since a hot dog bun on it's own is no fun (well, maybe it is a little fun) i made the cherry sage and the chorizo sausages from vegan brunch and we topped them with carmelized onions, tomatoes and avocado. delicious!

these were really easy to make, just a basic dough that came together quickly and was easy to work with. and no overnight rising so you can start these and enjoy your dogs on the same day! the recipe was in gourmet and i just tweaked it a bit to make it vegan. note that the recipe is for 16 buns so you might want to cut it in half (though they say they can be frozen for a couple of weeks).

hot dog buns
(from gourmet june 2009, makes 16 buns)
2 1/4 cups soy milk, divided
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup warm water (105—115°F)
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt

mix 1 cup of the soy milk with 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar. set aside for a few minutes until it curdles.

bring curdled soy milk and and remaining 1 1/4 cup soy milk to a bare simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. cool mixture to 105 to 115°F.

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

add warm milk mixture, sugar, flour, and salt to yeast mixture and mix with a wooden spoon until dough forms. turn dough onto a floured surface and knead, incorporating only enough flour to keep dough from sticking, until smooth and elastic (about 7 or 8 minutes).

transfer dough to a lightly oiled large bowl and turn to coat with oil. cover with a kitchen towel (not terry cloth) and let rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled, about 2 hours.

butter 2 large baking pans (about 9x13). punch down dough, then divide into 16 equal pieces (about 3 oz each). roll each piece of dough into a 6-inch-long log on a lightly floured surface. space 8 logs evenly in each pan so that there are 2 columns of logs that run parallel to long sides of pan.

loosely cover buns with oiled plastic wrap and let rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until buns just start to touch, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

preheat oven to 375°F with racks in upper and lower thirds.

bake buns, switching position of pans halfway through, until tops are golden and undersides are golden-brown and sound hollow when tapped, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in pans 10 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely. before using buns, pull apart and cut lengthwise down center of each (but not all the way through). load 'em up and enjoy!
we also made cajun oven fries (from vegan with a vengeance) and broccoli (gotta have something green) sprinkled with smoked salt.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

apricot frangipane tart

I am so excited for the arrival of summer and fresh local fruits and veggies. Farmers markets come a bit later to New England, due to the cold weather that often stretches into May. But finally the farmers markets are up and running, with things like these beautiful local strawberries.

(I really wish Smell-o-vision existed and you could smell these. They remind me of summer, and picking strawberries as a kid and ending up with dirty knees and berry-stained fingers).

Because these are too good to do anything but eat, straight out of their little pint container, I went to my produce man and bought these today:

And decided to make a tart with them. But what kind of tart? Oh, the choices. First, I thought about a crostata. Rustic, satisfying, nothing but luscious fruit. But no, I wanted something with a bit more structure. And I remembered (or so I thought) the Barefoot Contessa making some kind of almond apricot tart. Yet try as I might - looking in cookbooks AND online - I could not find such a recipe from my idol Ina. So I turned to epicurious.com, where I found a passable recipe, but no, still not quite right. On to foodtv.com where I found this, which I co-opted. But what about the crust, you ask? This time, I flipped open Mark Bittman's always reliable How to Cook Everything Vegetarian for his delicious sweet tart crust. And as this blind-baked, my kitchen filled with the most wonderful buttery-rich smells that I was tempted to forget the apricots and the frangipane and eat the crust on its own. But I refrained, and ended up with one of the most delightful, satisfying desserts I have ever made. The slight sweetness of the cookie-like crust pair perfectly with the almondy filling and the nice, tart apricots. I think the frangipane would also work nicely with raspberries, if you wanted to mix things up a bit!

Sweet Tart Crust
from Mark Bittman, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

makes enough for one 8- to 10- inch tart

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
10 tbsp frozen or cold butter, cut into chunks
1 egg yolk
3 tbsp ice water, plus more if necessary

1. Combine the flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor and pulse once or twice. (note: you could do this by hand, of course. The food processor just makes things infinitely easier and speeds up the process!) Add the butter all at once; process until mixture is uniform, about 10 seconds (do not overprocess). Add the egg and process for another few seconds.

2. Put the mixture in a bowl and add the ice water; mix with your hands until the dough forms into a ball, adding another tablespoon or two if necessary (if you overdo it and the mixture is too wet, add a bit more flour). Form into a ball, wrap in plastic, and freeze for 10 minutes or refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

3. Sprinkle a countertop with flour and put the dough on it; sprinkle the top of the dough with a little flour. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a large circle, to a diameter about 2 inches larger than that of your tart pan. Move the dough into the tart pan by draping it over the rolling pin and moving into the pan. Press the dough into the nooks and crannies of your tart pan, being careful not to overwork it. Use a knife to trim any excess dough at the rim of the pan. Refrigerate for about an hour before filling.

4. For this recipe, you will blind-bake the tart. What this means is baking an empty tart shell. First, preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Make sure your crust is pressed firmly into the tart pan, and throughly pricked with a fork. This will help the crust retain its safe and will help prevent bubbling. Butter one side a piece of foil large enough to cover the crust; press the foil onto the crust, butter side down. Weight the foil with a pile of dried beans or rice. Bake for 12 minutes, remove from oven, turn the temperature down to 350 degrees and continue baking until the crust is golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove and let cool before filling.

Frangipane Filling
from Gale Gand

1/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup slivered almonds, lightly toasted
6 tbsp unsalted butter
1 egg
1 1/2 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. To make the frangipane, place the almonds and the sugar in a food processor and grind until sandy. Add the butter and continue mixing then add the egg, vanilla, and the flour and mix until smooth.

3. Spread the almond frangipane in the prebaked tart shell (see above). Firmly place the apricot halves into the frangipane spacing them evenly around the tart. Dot the spaces between the apricots with the whole almonds.

4. Bake until golden brown on the top and puffy, about 30 to 40 minutes. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

romaine, grilled avocado, and smoky corn salad with chipotle-caesar dressing

show me the words 'grilled avocado' and i'm sold.

such was the case with the june issue of gourmet, which is the grilling issue and brimming with things i want to make (yes, i was pleasantly surprised to find lots of meatless grilling ideas). but it was this recipe that made me go "ohmygod ohmygod i have to make this NOW." i love avocados. but never had i ever eaten, or even thought of making, grilled avocados. what kind of avocado obsessive am i?

anyway, this recipe was all that i hoped it would be. the flavor of the grilled avocados was not so drastically different from normal ol' raw ones, which is probably at least partly because i had to use a grill pan and not a real grill, but i think the heat made them a little creamier and they were still warm when i put them on the salad which was nice. the grilled corn added another summery flavor and some crunch. the dressing was fantastic! it doesn't seem very close to "traditional" caesar dressing (which makes things easier for me!), the only non-vegan element was parmesan cheese which i replaced with almesan from veganomicon (you could also just go buy some vegan parm if you want. or maybe use some nutritional yeast?). loved the smokiness of the chipotles, especially since my grilling did not give me any smoky flavor. i definitely want to make this again and i think it would make a really great entree with some added (grilled?) tofu thrown in. below is the recipe as it's printed but, as i said, it's not too hard to replace the parmesan and make this vegan.

romaine, grilled avocado, and smoky corn salad with chipotle-caesar dressing
(from gourmet, june 2009. as printed, makes 4 entree sized portions)
1/4 cup grated parmesan (or replacement of your choice, almesan from veganomicon is a good choice)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced canned chipotle chiles in adobo
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 ears of corn, shucked
2 firm-ripe 6-to 8-ounces avocados, halved and pitted but not peeled
1 head romaine (1 pound), tough outer leaves discarded and head quartered lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1-inch strips

prepare grill for direct-heat cooking over hot charcoal (high heat for gas) or heat your grill pan.

put parmesan in a medium bowl and add olive oil in a slow stream, whisking. whisk in lime juice, garlic, chipotles, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.

rub vegetable oil on corn and cut sides of avocados, then season with 1/8 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. grill avocados, cut sides down, and corn, covered only if using a gas grill, turning corn occasionally, until golden-brown, 3 to 4 minutes.

peel avocados and thinly slice. cut corn kernels from cobs.

toss romaine with dressing and serve topped with avocado and corn.