Thursday, November 29, 2007

every day, almost every way

I've had my eye on Lorna Sass's latest cookbook, Whole Grains Every day, Every Way, for a while now. I'd sneek peeks at it in various bookstores and then look at the price, go through the book again, look at Lorna's picture where she stands in a field of grain in a cute polka dot sundress, lament the fact I don't live near any hills, and make a mental note to get the book next time. Well, I finally got it and I really wish I had bought it sooner.

The book starts out with a basic introduction to different types of grains, information about how to buy and store them, how to cook them and what flavors are complemented by them. Then there are pictures of some of the recipes and photos of the grains on their own. The photos do not look done up or fancy - they look exactly how they would if you made them in your own kitchen and they are true to the ingredients. With some cookbooks this is not the case - the Tassajara Cookbook, which I should have read the Amazon review for before buying, has gorgeous pictures of the Zen Mountain Center and the food served there, but the pictures do not always match the recipe, and for that matter, some of the recipes don't work as written. While Lorna Sass's book made me want to cook every grain I could get my hands on, the Tassajara Cookbook made me feel like I needed to go to Tassajara for a retreat to try the gorgeous looking food and unwind from the frustration of the inconsistent recipes. I am going to keep trying some of the non-dessert recipes from the Tassajara book and get back to you - I've given up on the cookie recipes because they've all been not-so-good. But in the meantime I will return to praising Lorna Sass and her love of whole grains.

Once you get through the first 113 pages of grain introduction (I know this sounds like a chore, but it's really not), you are more than well prepared to cook up a feast. What you'll notice is that most recipes have suggestions as to what grains you can substitute in/out (because not all of us have 4 cups of kamut in the pantry) and some simple variations to modify the flavors. I think a lot of people are wary of trying to incorporate whole grains beyond brown rice or oats into their diets because they are not familiar with the tastes or ways to cook them, but between the introductory section and the simple recipes anyone should be able to start exploring the colorful (seriously!) world of hominy, teff and quinoa.

I've tried recipes from each section (soups/salads, mains, sides, breakfast and dessert) and they've all been fantastic. However, I think the one that has been the biggest hit in our house has been the coconut rice pudding. My love for rice pudding has already been documented, but this variation brings rice pudding to a whole new level - wholesome, exotic and incredibly fragrant. Also, it's quite possibly the easiest dessert I've made in a long time. I adapted the recipe from the one in the book - used brown rice instead of black chinese rice, added raisins, didn't top with lychees, used low fat coconut milk instead of regular, but the general idea is the same: rice + water + coconut milk = pudding. It's vegan, it's relatively healthy, it's simple and it's a show stopper of a recipe. Go make it and eat it while you look at Lorna Sass's amazing book.

Coconut brown rice pudding
adapted from Whole Grains Every Way, Every Day

1 cup brown rice, rinsed
1 3/4 c water
pinch of salt
1 can low-fat coconut milk
1/2 c raisins
4 T sugar (or to taste)

1. Bring the water to a boil and add the rice and pinch of salt. Cover, reduce heat and cook for about 20-30 minutes (want the rice to be tender but not totally done). Don't worry if there is still water in the pot.
2. Add the coconut milk and raisins and return to a boil. Stir occasionally so that the rice doesn't stick, and add sugar after about 5 minutes. Cook for another 5 minutes, or until the rice is cooked and has absorbed most of the milk.

Note: the rice will continue to absorb the coconut milk as it sits, so don't be worried if the mixture still looks a little soupy by the time the rice is done.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Quick update

OK. So I haven't posted anything in 3 weeks. Sorry. To make amends I've put up some ridiculous photos of our awesome dog, Jordan. She does not like towels, loves the world and will only eat her food if I sprinkle some Cheerios on top (no photographic evidence of that, yet).

The past three weeks have been really hectic - I got into med school (hoorah!), am figuring out how to finish my PhD (yes!) and getting ready for Thanksgiving in Pittsburgh where I will eat ravioli instead of turkey and have pumpkin pie for breakfast (so good!). Thanksgiving is the beginning of 'ridiculous food eating month', as in short order it will be my birthday, Hanukah (jelly doughnuts! latkes! levivot!), then back to Pittsburgh for Christmas (cookies!).

I recently got some more cookbooks (not that I didn't have enough already), and have been cooking up a storm, so I'll post more later. But in the meantime, here's a link to a great recipe. I made it for Heather's clothing swap party and it was a huge hit. Instead of making it in cake form, I made it into cupcakes. Easy.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Fall dinner

I know it seems like Alice Waters and Girl Scout cookies have nothing in common, but they both inspired a really fantastic Fall dinner. Seriously.

When I was in elementary school I decided that I hated peanut butter. Sometime in high school I ate peanut butter again (we didn't eat this stuff at home as it's not staple of Russian food), and guess what? I loved it. This seems to be a pattern with me, in which I decide I hate a food and don't eat it for years and then realize I love it. The most recent food this has happened with is coconut, and now I am sad about all the years I missed eating Girl Scout cookies and Anthony's mom's homemade chocolate fudge with coconut. The way I realized that I actually like coconut is through an act that at first was completely altruistic - on Celine's blog she made a vegan version of samoas using a recipe from yet another blog. Knowing that these were Anthony's favorite Girl Scout cookies, and that he'd be psyched if I made them, I figured I'd give them a shot. So I made them last night, along with a fantastic butternut squash soup, and figured I might as well try one. Well, I tried four. And the two I packed with me for lunch? Ate them for breakfast.

* Recipe notes - The samoas recipe is pretty right on. I spooned and leveled the flour (whole wheat pastry) and my cookies spread out a lot. I'm not sure if this is why mine did and Celine's didn't. Otherwise I pretty much followed the original recipe w/the comments (added chocolate, less pecans, etc...). The dough is incredibly sticky - I used my hands to mix and had to wet them a little bit so I didn't have 40% dough on my hands, 60% in the bowl. Also, the cookies will look under baked! I was a little nervous when I took them out of the oven, but they are supposed to be sticky and look a little undone. They will set more as they cool.

The fantastic butternut squash soup that I made also includes something that Anthony loves - sage. There is an amazing Italian restaurant near our house called A Tavola, which is known for their gnocchi with sage. They serve it with the leaves fried in butter until they are crunchy, and it really is fantastic. I thought of this when I saw a recipe for butternut squash and sage risotto, but I didn't feel like making risotto. The weather in Chicago is pure 'curl up with a big bowl of soup' weather, so I was looking for a good butternut squash soup recipe instead. I wound up combining two soup recipes - one I had made before and love, but it's a bit sweet, and the other was a butternut squash and white bean soup recipe from Alice Water's new cookbook. The original risotto recipe was from Chez Panisse, so I guess the soup is 2/3 Alice Water's inspired. Since both butternut squash and apples work well with sage, I made a butternut squash, apple and sage soup. It's lovely. Especially with a few fried sage leaves sprinkled on top.

Butternut squash, apple and sage soup

3 T olive oil
2 lb butternut squash, chopped up in little pieces
1 onion, diced
2 apples, seeded and diced
6 sage leaves, chopped (plus more left whole for frying)
2 cups apple cider
4 cups veg. stock
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the oil in a dutch oven or other large stock pot over medium heat.
When it's hot add the onion, apple and sage and let cook for about 5 min, until the apples begin to get soft.
Add the butternut squash and continue to cook until the onion is soft and translucent, about 10 more minutes.
Add the apple cider and stir. Let it come to a boil.
Add the stock, let boil, cover and simmer until the squash is soft, about 20 - 30 minutes.
Using an immersion blender, or by transferring batches to a blender, puree the soup until you get a consistency that you like.
Continue to heat the soup and let it reduce until it thickens - here you can make it thicker if you over did it with the blender.
Season with salt and pepper as needed.

To fry the sage leaves - put a pat of butter (about 1 T) into a small frying pan over medium heat. Once melted and the butter is hot, add sage leaves and watch carefully - they quickly go from dark green and crunchy to brown and burnt.

Top the soup with the sage leaves and enjoy!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

2 cups of water, 1 cup of rice...

There used be a band called Rice whose whole bit was to make fun of (or pay homage to, your choice) hardcore songs. It was one of those things where if you didn't recognize what they were alluding to in the lyrics, probably 95% of what made the band awesome was lost on you. I was one of the lucky (?) ones that caught the references and proceeded to play a lot of Rice songs on my radio show. The main side effect of doing this is that every time I think of rice (the food) I think of Rice (the band). One of their lyrics, '2 cups of water, 1 cup of rice - is this the way you measure your life's worth?' is pretty handy when I am cooking, but it's really annoying to have stuck in your head.

I've loved rice since I was a little kid. My mom's mom would make white rice and serve it with a little milk and sugar when I was sick. My dad's mom would cook plov, which is a Russian rice dish that is made with dried fruits or meat (or both). To keep it warm after cooking, she would wrap it in a blanket and tuck it into my parents' bed. When I was older, my dad and I would go to a Chinese restaurant by our house and talk. Those were some of the only times we really spent on our own when I was a teenager, and now I associate generic NYC Chinese restaurants with my dad and fried rice.

Perhaps my favorite rice dish, however, is Kozy Shack rice pudding. Not only did this company corner the market on using K instead of C way before bad metal bands did, it also makes the best store bought rice pudding I've ever had. It's not healthy and has a kind of weird texture, but it tastes phenomenal. It reminds me of Fall, comfortable couches and naps. I haven't bought it in a long time because I always say to myself 'I can make that!' but have I? No. I get home and stare at my different types of non-white rice, shrug and go eat some chocolate instead.

Well, all of that was true until last Sunday. When I did my usual check of food blogs, I saw this recipe on Julie Hasson's blog and I had to make it. In fact, it looked like I had since I have that same Fiestaware mug. And the recipe? Easy and not all that bad for you. I had some left over arborio rice from making amazing corn risotto out of the Rebar cookbook, so I tried it with that and did everything exactly as written and wound up with amazing better than Kozy Shack rice pudding.

I sent Anthony to work with a small container of rice pudding, topped with raisins and cinnamon, which apparently made all of his coworkers jealous. He said he tried to explain to them how easy it was to make (no eggs! no dairy!) but they didn't buy it. But you all now have the link to the recipe, and I suggest you go make it. Right now. It's that good.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


It's been over a month since my last post, and let me tell you things have been a little nuts. My applications to med school are finally complete and now I get to sit and wait to hear about interviews. Some people are patient, but I am not, so this waiting period is characterized by me checking my e-mail 5698 times a day. I've also begun to dread checking the mail for fear of the thin white envelope. I don't think I was this nervous when I applied to college or grad school. I'm also trying to get a bunch of experiments up and running so I can graduate in June. Finishing a PhD is just slightly less stressful than applying to medical school. Slightly.

To try to maintain my sanity I've been been going to kickboxing classes, hanging out with our dog and cooking. In my downtime in the lab I search for recipes online, so my poor cookbooks are collecting dust. This hasn't stopped me from getting new ones, though. I recently picked up Alice Water's new book when I went to the farmers market and she was hanging out signing copies. I also ordered Dreena Burton's new book, which I am waiting for. I have her other two books and love them. I have yet to make anything that wasn't tasty, simple and healthy out of them.

But back to the topic at hand. I have two recipes for you that you have to try. They are fantastic - one of them I didn't even tweak (which is rare). The first is for a butternut squash salad that comes courtesy of Orangette. It's fantastic. Amazing. I've made it twice in two weeks. The first time I used some odd shaped squashes out of the CSA box, and the other time with a proper butternut squash. Again, twice in two weeks. The first time I ate it all on my own in a matter of a few days. This time I was nice and shared it with Anthony. The other recipe is for cookies - these I shared with Anthony as soon as I made them, but not before I ate some of the dough and my fair share of cookies when they came out of the oven. The recipe I used came from Clotide by way of David Lebovitz. I added 1/2 cup of goji berries, used whole wheat pastry flour instead of the all purpose and whole wheat, and didn't use the cocoa nibs. I also sprinkled them with a little bit of sea salt. You should go make them. They are easily made vegan as they have no eggs.

So there you are! Go cook and relax. Tomorrow I get another big box of random fruits and veggies from the CSA so who knows what I'll make...

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Internet recipes

Even though I have more than my fair share of cookbooks, I have recently been finding that a lot of what I cook is based off of recipes I've found online. I peruse food blogs when I have free time in the lab and so in a way I have probably more thoroughly gone through the recipes at 101cookbooks than those found in some of the cookbooks I have at home.

Top picture: Last week I made the asian grain burger from 28cooks. It came together really easily, although I used a whole can of pinto beans instead of the amount called for in the original recipe. It tasted fantastic when served on toasted naan (from Trader Joe's), with some mixed baby mesclun greens and ricotta salata. Anthony took it to work with him and apparently it made his coworkers jealous.

Middle picture: easy beer rolls from Have Cake Will Travel. I used an old bottle of Amstel Light that we had left over from our holiday party way back in December, instant yeast and no bread machine. I keep having the same problem where I cannot find a good spot to let my dough rise - either it's too hot and the bread comes out tasting too yeasty, or it's just too cold. Woe is me. Regardless, this recipe is really easy to put together and the rolls are great.

Bottom picture: honey loaf. Just in time for Rosh Ha'shanah I found a great recipe for Ukrainian honey cake on the Wednesday Chef. I used some chai tea instead of coffee, whole wheat pastry flour instead of all purpose, and instead of sugar added 1/4 c of agave. This was so good I pretty much ate the whole loaf by myself in a matter of a three days. In my defense, I did give Anthony some to take with him to work but he never ate it. Oh well - His loss equals my delicious gain. I think I am going to toy with this recipe a bit and try adding some dried berries and make it for the High Holidays.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Well hello there...

You know how it seems that everytime I enter something into this blog I start off with a statement about how I will update more often? Well, obviously I'm a liar. Or just well intentioned but cannot follow through. Or perhaps just lazy. Whichever reason it is, my not posting does not equal not cooking. I've been trying lots of recipes from the Rebar Modern Food Cookbook, which is excellent. I've made baked tofu, salads, dressings, blintzes, multiple cakes (in a few days I'll post my version of their vegan brownie recipe which I turned into a carob-less, bittersweet chocolate filled cake) and a whole host of other things. Until then, here is a picture of Jordog at the beach and some recipe links.

In non-Rebar cooking news, last night I tried my hand at two recipes I found online. Anthony has been asking for corn cakes since he came back from tour, so that coupled with lots of corn that came in the CSA box last week I decided to find some corn cake recipe. Well, I ended up making corn fritters, and they were fantastic. I followed that recipe almost exactly, but didn't use coriander, did use the cumin and parsley (instead of cilantro, which I didn't have). I also made oatmeal walnut veggie burgers, which I thought were ok. I liked the texture and the technique of using stock, but they didn't taste like much. I think next time I'll play around with the seasoning and add something more than just onions.

I think tonight I will try to make some black raspberry and oatmeal bars. I'll let you know how it goes!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Lemony broccoli pasta and plum frozen yogurt

The running theme of my CSA share this year seems to be 'vegetables bigger than your head.' Last week I got some chard and kale that were easily the length of my elbow to outstretched fingers. Before that, I got some chives and green onions that were probably just as big. For those of you with gardens such things might be old news. For me, it's an exciting adventure. What will I get next week? What will I do with the enormous cabbage I have? No idea!

I've been trying to be better about cooking things that will last as lunches or dinners for the week using the CSA veggies. Pasta is usually a good bet, and a recipe that doesn't fail is this one for lemony broccoli pasta with chickpeas. I pretty much follow that exactly, but omit the cheese and add more lemon. This time, I used a 12 oz bag of pasta, 1 big bunch of broccoli and 1 can of chickpeas, which made enough for 5 days. The recipe is easy and quick, perfect for a rushed dinner.

One thing I tend not to rush is dessert. The offerings at the market have been so great that I'm hesitant to do anything to the fruit I buy because I don't want to spoil the taste. I've been leaving berries alone and snacking on them plain, but the plums I got recently were another matter. I knew they'd just hang out on the counter unless I did something, so big surprise... I made frozen yogurt.

Here is something I didn't know about plums: the skin makes them tart and a bit acidic. This recipe calls for making a puree of the plums and straining it to get rid of the skin bits and then adding those bits in as needed to achieve the taste you want. The taste of the skinless plum puree was totally surprising - really mild and sweet, not at all like the plum taste I was used to. The recipe is a combination of recipes from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook and The Perfect Scoop. The recipe calls for a lot of tasting, which is due to the fact that you might have really tart or really sweet plums. Go with what tastes good to you.

Plum Frozen Yogurt
10-12 oz plums (try to get ones that are soft and juicy)
5-8 tablespoons agave
1 teaspoon white wine
1 cup whole milk yogurt

1. Pit the plums and puree a food processor
2. Strain the plums to get rid of the skins, but save a bit of the skins to add in later
3. Add agave to the plum mixture in small amounts, stirring and tasting after each addition to get the sweetness that you want. Add a little bit of the skins to get a bit more acidity and tartness if you like.
4. Add the wine, and readjust the sweet:tart levels if necessary
5. Combine with the yogurt and chill for an hour or so, until the mixture is nice and cold.
6. Taste again, and make any adjustments to the taste. Pour into your ice cream maker and let it churn until it reaches the desired consistency.

Monday, July 02, 2007

farmers market: 06.30.07

My friend Heather came over for dinner on Saturday and we made an amazing meal made out of some of the veggies I got at the Green City Market. One of the stands had the first fava beans of the season, so I had to pick up a pint. I also got some black raspberries, summer squash, tomatoes, cucumbers and white flesh peaches. Here's what we made (you'll notice the dessert came first because, well, it's awesome):

Black raspberry frozen yogurt
1 pint black raspberries
1/2 c sugar (adjust based on how sweet the berries are)
1 t lemon juice (or more to taste)
2 c whole milk yogurt (you can use lowfat but it'll form more ice crystals)

1. Combine berries, sugar, lemon juice and yogurt and blend until smooth
2. Chill for about an hour in the fridge
3. Pour into your ice cream maker and process as per manufact. instructions
*If you want to be really classy, you should strain the mixture before putting it into the ice cream maker to get rid of the seeds from the berries. I wanted to keep some chunks of berry in so I didn't do that and didn't blend everything until it was super processed, just a little bit.

Fava bean and egg salad crostini

(adapted from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook)
1 pint fava beans (about 500g?), shelled
2 eggs, hard boiled
slightly stale bread (we used about 3 giant pieces of an olive and rosemary boule)
olive oil
lemon juice

First a note about fava beans: They need to be double shelled. As you can see in the picture above, when you open the pod there are light green beans. That light green covering needs to be removed, which will expose a dark green bean.
You can shell them by either putting the pods into boiling water for 10 minutes and then running them under cold water and then popping the favas out of the 2nd cover pretty easily, or you can skip the boiling process and expend a bit more energy and do it to the raw beans. The boiling method will apparently change the consistency of the beans, so the method you use should really just depend on what you are going to be doing. For this recipe, since you are going to mash the beans and eggs together, you can boil, but if you are making a salad I'd suggest shelling the raw beans.

1. Preheat oven to 425 and brush one side of each piece of bread with olive oil. Bake the bread for about 5-7 minutes. You don't want it to come out super crisp - the toasts will crisp as they cool.
2. Pour a small amount of olive oil in a skillet, just enough to coat, and add the fava beans. Stir them around a bit until cooked and remove from heat.
3. Cut up the eggs, add to the fava beans and mash with a fork.
4. Add lemon juice to taste, and season with salt and pepper.
5. Spread the mixture on to the toasts.

Pan seared baby summer squash with garlic
3 baby summer squash, cut in half lengthwise
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
olive oil
balsamic vinegar

1. Add olive oil to a large skillet - enough to coat the surface.
2. Once warm, add the garlic and let cook for 1-2 minutes.
3. Place the squash, cut side down, into the pan and let sit until the bottoms are browned
4. Toss in the pan so they are covered with olive oil and garlic, and then add a splash of balsamic vinegar. It'll steam, so beware.

To drink - we had some peach lambic, which went perfectly with everything.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Busy busy...

I had thought that things would get less hectic over the summer, but I was wrong. I've decided that in addition to it being the 'Summer of Sorbet' (Anthony's idea), I am going to start blogging what I get in my CSA share every other week and the recipes I use. The first box came last week and was filled with the longest bunch of chives I've ever seen, giant green onions, spinach, lettuce, kale, arugula, sunflower sprouts and two big containers of strawberries. My camera is w/Anthony while he's on tour, so no photos this time around.

So far I've made a dressing with the chives, a millet stir-fry with the green onions from a recipe in Super Natural Cooking (note to self: not a huge fan of millet), a spinach salad with roasted hazelnuts and eaten a lot of strawberries.

In non-CSA related recipes, I made a really fantastic chocolate cake. The recipe came from the Every Day Dish dvd, which I was lucky enough to win. The recipe for this cake and also Dreena Burton's mint chocolate chip cookies are worth the price alone.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

farmers market: 06.03

I missed the Green City Market this weekend, so instead I hit up the markets at Logan Square and Wicker Park. The Logan Square one was tiny - there were a few stands but not much to get aside from lettuces. Lula Cafe had a stand where they were selling pies and grilling chicken, and there was also a food truck selling pulled pork. The Wicker Park market was much larger - with about half of the stands that are usually at the Green City Market. I didn't get too much overall, just some red leaf lettuce, scallions, mizuna, asparagus and rhubarb.

I'm still not sure what to do with the mizuna. Maybe make a light miso dressing for it? We'll see. Last night I grilled the asparagus because I wanted something simple to go with my lunch. Last week I made a pasta primavera with asparagus out of Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, which was fantastic, but I was not in a pasta mood this week. The lettuce and scallions are going to go into salads, nothing very exciting. The rhubarb, however, was made into something very exciting indeed.

Last week I got my copy of The Perfect Scoop. It's really wonderful - lots of helpful tips and so many frozen yogurt and sorbet recipes. The ice cream recipes also look fantastic, but they require slightly more work than the sorbets and yogurts. Maybe when Anthony's mom is in town this weekend we'll try one. Anyway, back to the matter at hand. Rhubarb. There is a recipe in The Perfect Scoop for strawberry rhubarb sorbet - having no strawberries but a lot of rhubarb I modified the recipe a bit and made a really amazing, slightly sweet, really tangy summer treat.

Rhubarb Sorbet
(adapted from The Perfect Scoop)
5 cups chopped rhubarb (about 12-14 stalks or 1.25 lbs)
3/4 cup water
scant 3/4 cup sugar
zest and flesh of 1/2 orange
1/4 c raspberries

1. Combine all the ingredients in a medium pot and bring to a boil
2. Lower the heat and cover for about 5-10 minutes, until the rhubarb is softened
3. Let cool a bit and then in either a food processor, blender or with an immersion blender, process the mixture until fairly smooth
4. Let the mixture sit in the fridge until thoroughly chilled
5. Pour into your ice cream maker and process according to the machine's instructions (it took mine about 15 minutes)
6. (If you are like me, scoop out a bit and eat right away and) Pour the sorbet into a air tight container and let it sit in the freezer until it's hardened a bit

Monday, May 28, 2007

farmers market: 05.19 & 5.26

Our CSA share starts in late June, so until then I've decided to go to the Green City Market for fresh produce. Last week I went around 9am and it was packed with people, kids and dogs and there were long lines around some stalls, especially the ones with baked goods. There is a crepe stand (!!) and a panini stand, in addition to people selling honey, milk, cheese and lots and lots of vegetables. Fruit hasn't come into season here yet, so there's lots of asparagus and rhubarb. Yes, rhubarb. And it's a vegetable.

I've never really had rhubarb - I tried a rhubarb and mixed berry pie once, but it tasted more berry than anything else. I had never cooked with it and always just passed it by when I saw it in the store. How things have changed! It all started when to celebrate my completion of the MCAT, Anthony and I went to Green Zebra. Possibly the best thing we had was rhubarb ginger ale - it blew me away. There was also rhubarb in one of my favorite dishes - a roasted beet panna cotta w/pecans and rhubarb. (There are pictures of what we ate here. I didn't post that, but this is what we had: Fresh Buratta Cheese, meyer lemon gelee, grilled onion relish; Roasted Beet Panna Cotta, pecans, rhubarb and puff pastry; Crisp Chickpea Pancake, pinenuts, basil and marinated black radish; Blue Cheese Beignets, whole roasted pear, bearnaise, port wine; Spiced Eggplant Dumplings, baby carrots, coconut, lemongrass; Prospera Farms Chicken Egg, smoked potato puree, parsley and country sourdough; Parmesan Gnocchi, ramps, english peas, morel mushrooms). I've been thinking about rhubarb ever since, so when I saw it at the market last week and again this week I snatched some up.

It seems like most rhubarb recipes are for pies or crumbles, so that was my first attempt. I chopped up some rhubarb, tossed in some frozen mixed berries, the rind of 1/2 an orange and about 1/2 cup of sugar, and heated it until soft. I poured it out into a pie dish and topped it with some crumble mixture (just flour, sugar and butter pulsed in a food processor) and baked it until brown on top. Delicious. I found myself ignoring the topping and eating the rhubarb, so I decided that this week I'd do something slightly different that focused more on the rhubarb itself - a simple rhubarb compote. The recipe for this is pretty similar to the crumble filling, and really versatile. I poured some over greek yogurt for dessert last night, and I am going to use the rest to make a rhubarb fool (by adapting this tried and true recipe).

Rhubarb Compote
8-9 large stalks of rhubarb (no leaves!), chopped
1/2 cup agave nectar
1/2 cup orange juice

1. place all the ingredients into a small or medium pot over medium heat
2. cook until the rhubarb is soft, stirring every few minutes

(That's it!)

Sunday, May 20, 2007

zucchini bread with dried blueberries and orange zest

There is a beautiful Ukrainian church near our house and its bells have been ringing since 10 am. It's 1:30 now and I've already gone out for brunch and read most of the NY Times. And I baked. How ready for a nap am I? Very.

I had one lonely zucchini in the fridge, left over from when I tried to make zucchini cookies earlier in the week and in an attempt at being clever I totally messed them up. I felt like I needed to somehow vindicate my zucchini baking skills and so I adapted yet another recipe from the King Arthur cookbook, with fantastic results. As soon as I took the loaf out of the oven our dog Jordan started to get hyper. She kept going into the kitchen, probably to figure out how she could get the bread off the counter and have a big snack. When I cut into it she just stared at me and began making funny faces and panting. She is still in the kitchen lying down next to the counter with the bread.

The original recipe for this calls for cranberries and 1 cup of unbleached bread flour. I had neither, so I subbed dried blueberries for the cranberries and whole wheat pastry flour for the bread flour. I also added the zest from half an orange, instead of lemon zest. The bread is really great - it is pretty hearty but not heavy, it smells fantastic and I bet would be amazing toasted.

Zucchini Bread with Blueberries and Orange
(adapted from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking)

2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teasoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs
1/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup milk (I used vanilla almond milk)

1 medium zucchini, grated (makes a bit over 1.5 cups)
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1/2 cup dried blueberries
zest from 1/2 an orange

1. Preheat oven to 350 and prepare a 9x5" loaf pan.
2. Mix together all the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
3. Mix together the eggs, oil and milk in a medium bowl.
4. Pour the wet into the dry and mix, adding the zucchini, berries and walnuts once the batter begins to come together (just as a note - the batter was really thick, so you might have to add a tablespoon or two of extra milk if you still have a bunch of flour in the bottom of the bowl).
5. Fill the loaf pan (almost to the top) and bake for about 1 hr, until the top is golden brown and a tester comes out clean.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Pretty green pasta

So, I'm not so good at updating this thing. I've been cooking up a storm recently but not posting anything. I'm taking the easy way out this time - I am linking to a post for a recipe I recently made: straw and hay fettucine tangle. It's really easy to make and tastes great, but I agree that you need to add a bit more salt and lemon juice. From the same cookbook I tried to make the raspberry curd loaf but used lemon curd instead and added the optional fresh raspberries. It tasted amazing but was structurally unsound. I am blaming it on my oven since its temperature tends to vary. It makes cooking exciting. What else... I also made these chickpea veggie burgers, but found that they needed more seasoning than called for. Finally, if you have an ice cream maker, you should try to make some banana buttermilk ice cream. I used a scant 1/2 cup of maple syrup instead of the sugar. This is probably one of my favorite ice cream recipes and is incredibly easy.

Monday, April 16, 2007

last week's recipes

Cooking is my official procrastination method of choice. Studying for the MCAT has not only increased by ability to score well on the physical sciences questions, but it has also made me a better cook. Or at least a more active one.

Here's what I made:
1 - Seitan
I've been making seitan by simmering it in stock, with the result being a fairly standard seitan - chewy, somewhat puffy, good. I recently found a recipe for baked seitan that is even easier. You end up with something that is not soggy at all and has more texture. The basic recipe is here. I bet this would be a good way to make seitan sausages. Last night I cut it up and sauteed it with some onions, olive oil and soy sauce, topped it with cheddar cheese, and made a fake philly cheese steak sandwich.

2 - Banana Cake
This is fantastic. When it came out of the oven it had a bit of a crunch to it on the bottom due to the sugar caramelizing. That has since disappeared, but the cake is still great. The original recipe is here. I used fat free greek style yogurt instead of the sour cream, 3/4 cup sugar (turbinado) and whole wheat pastry flour instead of all purpose. I also made it easier by dumping all of the wet ingredients into the food processor and adding that to the dry. Simple. Make this. It's really good.

3 - Otsu
Yet another recipe from Super Natural Cooking. I swear I own other cookbooks. Lots. This is the soba noodle salad that I've had in many places and never figured out how to make it at home. Lots of cucumber, green onion, tofu and a really simple dressing. Makes a lot.

Speaking of cookbooks - I picked up Vegan With a Vengeance last week. I've yet to try anything substantial from it - I made french toast and it was fine, not mind blowing. Anyone have any favorite recipes I should try?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Passover ended early this year...

... because I made the sticky teff-kissed spice loaves from Super Natural Cooking. In the spirit of honesty, I've been eating rice, noodles and cereal throughout Passover. I even ate some pretzels (not the soft bread kind - the hard stick kind). Bad, I know. When I was younger I wished that I was a Sephardic Jew because they always seemed to have better food (less reliance on potatoes and oil) and they got to eat beans and rice during Passover. Now I eat beans and rice and tell myself that it's all part of the overall Jewish tradition...

Anyway, back to these beguiling teff loaves. This is the 4th recipe I've made from Heidi Swanson's book. The first was for biscotti and something went wrong because I had to add a lot of extra liquid to the dough. They tasted fine when they were done (thankfully) and I learned that her sweet tooth matches mine, so now I don't have to worry about adjusting the sugar amounts in the recipes. The second recipe I tried was for amaranth biscuits, which I liked a lot. I didn't have regular milk (of the soy or dairy kind) and instead used vanilla flavored almond milk. This lent it kind of an odd taste, so I would not suggest doing that. I'd make those again and make sure I had the right ingredients. I tried to make chocolate chip cookies but that wasn't a good idea - I didn't have enough butter and made substitutions and well... not good. Trashed 'em. So, here we are with recipe #4. It's a winner.

Teff is a flour often used in Ethiopian cooking - you might recognize it as what injera is made of. It is really rich in iron and has a good amount of fiber. It makes up 1/3 of the flour in this recipe, so if you can't find it then just use more whole wheat pastry flour instead. I wound up using 1 cup teff flour, 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour and 1 cup white whole wheat flour because I ran out of pastry flour. I also used only 1/2 cup of butter and substituted 1/2 cup of applesauce for the remaining 1/2 cup of butter. Even though this makes 2 loaves (or 1 loaf and 12 muffins, which is what I did), I couldn't bring myself to use 2 sticks of butter. I left out the grated and peeling ginger (1" piece) because the batter was already incredibly gingery based on smell alone. One more thing - I added about 1 cup of walnut pieces. Here's the recipe:

Sticky Teff-Kissed Spice Loaves (adapted from Super Natural Cooking)
Makes 2 loaves or 1 loaf and 12 muffins or 24 muffins

2 cups wwpf
1 cup brown teff flour
1 1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t fine grain sea salt
2 t ground ginger
1 T cinnamon
1/2 t allspice
(1/4 t cloves - I left this out)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 c water
1/2 c applesauce (unsweetend)
3/4 c blackstrap molasses
3/4 c maple syrup or honey
1 cup natural cane sugar
3 large eggs at room temp
1/2 c (soy) milk
(1 " piece of ginger, peeled and grated - I left this out)
1 cup chopped walnuts

1. Combine the butter, water, applesauce, molasses, maple syrup and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir every once and a while and cook until it's all blended. Pour into a bowl and let cool.
2. In the meantime, preheat the oven at 325 and butter and flour either 2 8x4" pans or 1 pan and 12 muffin cups (or use paper liners).
3. Combine the flours, baking soda, salt, and spices and whisk to combine.
4. Once the butter mixture is cool, mix in the eggs one at a time.
5. Fold in the flour mixture in 3rds. The batter might be a bit lumpy - that's ok.
6. Add the optional walnuts and stir until combined.
7. Pour into prepared pans/muffin tin(s) and bake for 60 min (loaf), or ~20 min (muffins).***
8. Let the bread cool in the pan, or if you made muffins let them cool a bit and then transfer to cooling rack.

*** my oven is pretty nutty right now, so I'd check on the muffins after 15 min or so

Friday, March 23, 2007

Cookbook rec., some recipes and more...

I've been asked recently by a few people how I figure out the substitutions I use when cooking, especially in baking. A lot of it is trial and error, comparing recipes and just making things up. In general:
3 T applesauce = 1 egg
1/2 banana = 1 egg
1.5 c flax = 0.5 c fat (be careful with this - if you are substituting flax you need to increase the liquid you put into the recipe)
0.5 c turbinado sugar = 1 c regular sugar*
0.5 c agave nectar = 1 c regular sugar*

*I tend to make things not too sweet, so if you like really sweet desserts then increase the ratio

New cookbook:
I just got Heidi Swanson's new cookbook, Super Natural Cooking. It is divided into 5 chapters that have a lot of information about the ingredients. The baking section also has a lot of detail about substitutions and a recipe for thin mints. Seriously. I can't wait to make those. You can find a lot of her recipes, some of which are in the book, on her site, 101 cookbooks.

Since it is spring (hoorah!) I've been making a lot of salads and baking things that are light, and well, springy.

I love all things lemon, so I tried these lemon cupcakes. I used white whole wheat flour, unsweetened applesauce instead of the butter, made fake buttermilk by removing 1 T of soy milk out of 1 cup and adding in 1 T apple cider vinegar (do this first and let it sit - it will curdle), and used the zest of 1 lemon instead of lemon extract. The taste? Delicious.

Apparently I am not a subtle cook when it comes to the use of garlic, but a quick and delicious salad to make is a white bean salad w/red wine vinegar. Chop up 1 shallot and 1 clove of garlic (I used 2, hence the lack of refinement), put that in a bowl and add 3 T red wine vinegar, 2 15 oz cans of beans (I used white beans, but chickpeas would be good too), 3 T olive oil and some chopped parsley. Done.

The best thing I've made all week was probably a salad out of one of Dreena Burton's books. It is a really simple whole grain salad that can easily be a meal in and of itself. Basically, you need 3 cups of cooked quinoa (I used a mix of orzo, quinoa and tiny chickpeas I found at Trader Joe's), chop up some veggies (I used cucumbers and bell pepper), add some fresh herbs like basil and/or parsley (I used both), and top with your favorite light dressing. Anthony said that next time we should try to make it into a gazpacho salad, which I think is a great idea.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Apparently I like tempeh...

I had previously hated tempeh. I had it for the first time a few years ago and thought it was pretty awful, but kept trying it every once and a while to give it another chance. When I was grocery shopping last week I wanted to try something we didn't eat often, and was pretty sick of tofu, seitan and faux meats, so I picked up a package of tempeh and thought I'd give it a try.

Here's the thing. I really liked it. Or maybe I just really liked the way I made it - cooked in a marinade of garlic, olive oil, coriander, cilantro, cumin and paprika. The marinade, called charmoula, is a standard Moroccan marinade for fish. The recipe I used as a base was from Fresh Food Fast and the suggestion was to pair it with a vegetable couscous with different kinds of greens. Instead, I made a simple couscous by sauteeing a chopped red onion in some olive oil, adding 1 cup of water, letting it come to a boil and then pouring in 1 cup of dry couscous and letting it sit, off heat and covered, for 5 minutes. I also cooked up some broccoli and that was it. This is possibly one of the easiest meals I've made in a while.

Charmoula baked tempeh (adapted from Fresh Food Fast)
1 1/4 c water
1/2 c olive oil
2 t sweet paprika
2 t cumin
2 t coriander
4 cloves garlic, chopped
8 oz tempeh

1. Whisk the water, olive oil, spices and garlic in a bowl until thoroughly combined
2. Cut the tempeh into strips and place in a sautee pan
3. Pour the marinade over the tempeh and over medium heat let it come to a boil
4. Lower heat and cover, letting the marinade simmer
5. Continue cooking until the marinade is absorbed (add more water if it looks dried out)

Friday, March 02, 2007

So... it's been a while... again

So much for my attempt to blog more regularly... Things have been really busy and as a way of dealing with the stress of MCAT studying I've been baking like crazy. This has been both good and bad - it is pretty nice to come home to a tin full of cookies, but some of my experiments at making things healthier have not come out so well. Our oven has also become really frustrating, with random temperature fluctuations one day and normal temperatures the next.

Instead of posting more recipes today, I figured I'd link to some I've tried recently and also mention some products I got recently that I love.

Double chocolate chip cookies:
This is a recipe I love and make often, and is really similar to this one from the PPK. The one from the PPK makes almost three times as many cookies, which is really the major difference. Taste wise they are pretty much the same (if you add in the optional almond extract and almonds to the PPK one). When I made the PPK version I cut down the sugar by half and would also suggest cutting down the chocolate chips by half. I put in 2/3 cup and I think even that was too much.

Polenta casserole with faux sausage:
I've mentioned this recipe before, but I wanted to bring it up again because it is seriously a really really easy meal to prepare. All you need is polenta, tomato sauce and some fake (or real) Italian sausage. The original version includes making your own sauce, but if you are short on time you can make it a lot simpler by using your favorite premade sauce. Basically, make some polenta, put it into a baking dish, top it with sauce, diced sausage and cheese, and stick it under a broiler for a few minutes. Done.

Product recs:

I love these chocolate chips. They taste great in cookies and also do well if you need to melt some chocolate for something like a chocolate tofu pie.

I've been doing most of our grocery shopping at Trader Joe's recently. I've been trying some of their new products and some of the things I've liked most are:
Curry Noodles, which are great for stir fries and I bet would be phenomenal in noodle patties.
European Style Yogurt, which is a lowfat yogurt that comes in chocolate or green tea. The green tea one is still unopened in the fridge, but the chocolate one is great.

Hopefully next week I'll post a real recipe - I've got a bunch of apples out on the counter and the only one who really seems interested in them is our dog. I need to figure out what to do with them other than make more applesauce.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

so... it's been a while

Sorry. I've been cooking and cooking and meaning to post... but I forget to take pictures or I totally wing it on a recipe and don't take notes... or I get lazy. Or a combination of all three.
I have made two really great things in the past two days, though. And here they are:

I love peanut butter, and I love bananas. When I was much younger my friend Lee and I would dance around her house listening to Elvis. Somehow that all came together in these:
Elvis approved breakfast bars

1.25 c whole wheat pastry flour
0.5 c ground flax seed
2 t baking powder
0.5 t salt
0.5 c agave nectar
0.25 c unsweetened applesauce
0.25 c peanut butter (I used chunky and unsalted)
2 large bananas, pureed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly oil an 8x8" baking dish
Mix together the flour, flax, baking powder and salt in a large bowl
Mix together the agave, applesauce, peanut butter and bananas in a medium bowl
Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until combined
Pour into baking dish and bake for about 20 minutes until tester comes out clean

This would make a great muffin!
The peanut butter I used was a solid lump, so I put it into the food processor when I was done pureeing the bananas. You could also just dump the agave, applesauce, peanut butter and bananas all together into a food processor and mix it all together that way.
This is one of the easiest desserts to make, but you need to have a good blender or food processor to make this work. Alternately, you could also develop a lot of muscle strength if you tried to do this by hand.
Chocolate Tofu Pie

2 aseptic packages lite or regular extra firm tofu (Mori nu - the kind that comes in the box, not stored in the fridge)
11.5 or 12 oz bag of semi sweet chocolate chips (I used Godiva 60% because I wanted to make the chocolate flavor really rich)
1 t vanilla
2 T honey or agave nectar
pre-baked pie shell

additional options:
1 scant T cinnamon
peanut butter
bananas or other fruit as a topping or pureed fruit mixed in with the chocolate and tofu

In a double boiler (aka a metal bowl placed over a boiling pot of water), melt the chocolate.
Meanwhile, in a blender or food processor puree the tofu until smooth.
Add the chocolate, agave/honey, vanilla and whatever else you like to the tofu, and blend until it's all smooth and incorporated.
Pour it all into the pie shell (you might have a bit left over), cover and let chill in the fridge for at least 1 hr until set.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

whole grain banana muffins

I love bananas. They are really easy to bake with, as they can replace eggs and impart a distinct sweetness so you have to add less sugar to whatever you are making. Usually when I have bananas around I tend to make these or the banana bread out of one of Dreena Burton's books. However, I've had my eye on this recipe for a while, so I finally decided to try it. As I didn't have xanthan gum around I decided to make the recipe with wheat flour, which pretty much goes against the whole point, or at least some of it, of the recipe and Erin McKenna's bakery. However, the recipe is still vegan and the sugars come from the bananas and agave nectar, which is a liquid sweetener that is low on the glycemic index. I also added pecans for some texture and protein, oh and made muffins instead of bread. So... basically I changed quite a few things in the recipe, but I think it's still pretty true to the original. Sort of?

Whole Grain Banana Muffins
1 c white whole wheat flour
1/3 c oat bran
1 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1 T cinammon
1/4 t salt
3 bananas mashed or purreed in a food processor
1/4 c canola oil
1/4 c agave nectar
1/4 c unsweetened soy milk
2 t vanilla
1/2 c pecans, crushed

1. Preheat the oven to 350 and lightly oil a muffin tin or place liners in tin
2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, oat bran, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt
3. In another bowl, combine the bananas, canola oil, agave nectar, soy milk and vanilla
4. Pour the wet mixture into the flour mixture and add the pecans
5. Stir until smooth and pour into muffin tins
6. Bake for 13-15 minutes, until browned and tester comes out clean

Makes 12 small muffins

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

cookbook recommendation

I haven't posted in a while (a month almost!), but it hasn't been due to lack of cooking, but rather lack of time. I have a backlog of recipes I want to post, but until I can get to that I thought I'd put in a plug for a cookbook I've been using almost weekly.

I have yet to try something from this cookbook that I haven't loved. I make modifications based on what I have around and also to make some of the recipes healthier (just because it's whole grain doesn't mean it's low in fat). This past weekend I made a carrot cake that was really flavorful and light, but the best thing I've made so far is a pumpkin cake with chocolate chips (the recipe and photo will be up shortly, I promise).

With detailed recipes for everything from crackers to fancy cakes, this book is a great resource. There are lots of helpful tips scattered throughout and a reference section at the end that gives a lot of information about how to use various grains. I haven't attempted to make bread yet, but I will shortly. Until I get my act together and post some recipes I've tried, you can check out this recipe for orange cloud pancakes that was recently in the the Boston Globe. Don't they look good?