Saturday, February 26, 2011

Pumpkin Ginger Bread

I don't typically bake without having a recipe to use as a point of reference.  Though I rarely follow the recipe closely, I get some reassurance from having the basic proportions spelled out for me.  But last night, I realized I needed to use up some of the pumpkin I pureed and froze after last fall's harvest.  And being too lazy to look up a recipe, I threw caution to the wind and invented this bread.  It turned out great; dense and flavorful but not too sweet.  It does take a long time to bake, though, so trying it as muffins might be a good idea if you're short on time.  I like it more spicy than sweet, so if you have a sweet tooth, you'll probably want to double or triple the sugar.

The Ingredients
 2 3/4 c flour
1 c rolled oats
2 T sugar
2 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1 t salt
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1 c almond milk
1 pint (2 cups) pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling!)
3 T molasses
2 T oil
1 1/2 T ginger, minced
1/2-3/4 c raisins

The Process:
  1. Preheat oven to 425.
  2. Whisk together flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  3. Stir in remaining ingredients until just combined.
  4. Pour into an oiled bread pan and bake about 70 minutes, or until cooked through.  (Or shorten the baking time by cooking in oiled muffin tins.)
If you have leftover bread the next day, it makes a fantastic peanut butter & banana sandwich.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Potato Socca Casserole

Socca are savory pancakes made from chickpea flour.  They're delicious, but when I want something heartier I pour socca batter over thinly sliced potatoes and vegetables and bake it as a casserole.  It is dense and filling, and leftover wedges of it pack well for lunch the next day.

The Ingredients:

3 c chickpea flour
4 2/3 c water
3/4 c olive oil
1 T salt
black pepper to taste
a dash garlic powder

1 1/2 to 2 lbs red potatoes, very thinly sliced
1 medium onion, very thinly sliced
1 green bell pepper, very thinly sliced
whatever other veggies you have on hand (for me, this means KALE, and plenty of it), very thinly sliced

The Process:

  1. Preheat oven to 450
  2. Whisk together batter ingredients. Cover and let rest while prepping vegetables
  3. Place sliced vegetables in a large, well-oiled casserole dish (I use a deep-dish pizza pan)
  4. Pour batter over vegetables
  5. Bake  for about 35 minutes, then broil 5-7 minutes to brown the top
  6. Let rest a few minutes before serving.  The casserole will firm up a lot as it rests.
  7. (I can't eat salsa these days, but when I could I would smother this in salsa. Highly recommended.)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

(Bleeding) Heart Cake

My husband has a sweet tooth, so I made him a cake for Valentine's day.  I thought it needed a little holiday flair, so after I baked it, I stabbed a heart into it.  With a fork.  Then, I smothered the thing in pomegranate syrup, which had the effect of making bloody pools around the stabbed heart.  Yeah, I'm wildly romantic.  But it tasted great.  For the cake batter, I like to add a few teaspoons of cocoa powder to a vanilla base to make a not-quite-chocolate, not-quite vanilla flavor, which goes well with fruit-based toppings.

The Ingredients:
1 c almond milk
2 t apple cider vinegar
1/2 c vegetable oil
2 t vanilla extract
1/2 t almond extract
1 1/4 c flour
2 T cornstarch
2 t cocoa powder
3/4 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
3/4 c sugar

1/2 c pomegranate syrup or other fruit syrup, or jam if you prefer

The Process:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Whisk together wet ingredients.
  3. Whisk together dry ingredients.
  4. Add wet ingredients to dry, and stir until just combined.
  5. Bake for about 25 minutes.
  6. Let cool a bit, then remove from pan.
  7. (Stab stab stab a heart into it. If you like that sort of thing, or are just feeling stabby.)
  8. Cover the whole thing in fruit syrup and let the syrup soak in a little before devouring.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Kale Chips

Remember about a couple years ago, when every other blog was suddenly going on about how great kale chips are?  Well, at the time I thought "that's disgusting."  But this year I overplanted kale, and have been at a loss about what to do with it all, so the kale chips suddenly didn't sound like such a bad idea. And now that I have the method down, I think they're fantastic.  A word of warning with these, though: when they are bad, they're very, very bad.  Three ways they can go wrong: under-oiling, undercooking, and overcooking.

For the oiling, it is very important that each leaf be well-coated with oil or they won't crisp properly.  Massage the oil into both sides of each leaf.  For the over/undercooking issue, keep a close eye on them.  If they aren't totally crispy, they taste foul, but once they're crispy there is only a very small window before they achieve burned nastiness.

Now, warnings aside, they're actually quite simple to make.  Preheat your oven to 325.  Take however much kale you want, wash it well, and dry it very thoroughly.  Slice out the central rib from each leaf .  Tear the kale into bite-size (or whatever size you want, I guess) pieces and spread on a cookie sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil, then use your fingers to massage the oil into both sides of each piece.  Aim for a light but thorough coating.  Now bake for roughly 15-20 minutes, checking frequently, until crisp.  Sprinkle with a little sea salt before eating.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Falafel, fried cucumbers, and baklava

Continuing my ethnic cooking spree, I recently made falafel, fried cucumbers, and baklava for a very rich dinner.  The meal contained at least a week's worth of fat, but was worth every calorie.  As a bonus, my baklava recipe made a metric ton of the stuff, so I had plenty to take with me on a kayaking trip the next day.  Floating along in the sun with a thermos of coffee and a fistful of baklava was pretty much perfect.

For the falafel, I used Mark Bittman's recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.  He calls for raw chickpeas, which is a departure from other falafel recipes I've seen.  You soak the chickpeas in water for 24 hours, then pulse them with herbs in the food processor.  I was skeptical, and the chickpea mixture barely fit in my food processor, but they fried up nicely with crunchy brown outsides and bright-green insides.  I served them with tahini sauce (tahini, garlic, soy yogurt, and a little water blended in the food processor), cucumbers, and sprouts on pita bread.

The fried cucumbers are supposedly a Lebanese dish, and are made by dredging cucumber slices in seasoned flour and pan-frying them.  The recipe I was using called for sprinkling slivered green onions all over the top after frying, and the green onion/cucumber combination was fantastic.  So, cooked cucumber skeptics: try it!

The baklava (which I wish I was eating RIGHT NOW) was tedious to make, and I'm not sure I'd put in the effort again, though it was delicious.  It uses a whole package of phyllo dough, each maddeningly delicate sheet brushed with margarine, with three layers of walnut/brown sugar mixture interspersed.  After baking, the whole thing is drowned in simple syrup spiked with cinnamon.  I don't know if I'll bother making this again, but if the phyllo fairies ever show up at my house and offer to make it for me, I'll advise them to use agave nectar instead of the simple syrup for a more honey-like flavor.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Pseudo- Singapore Noodles

Singapore noodles are my favorite dish at Garden Fresh, my favorite vegan restaurant, and this was my first attempt to replicate them at home.  Alas, they came out nothing like the restaurant ones, but they were still pretty good in their own right.

The Ingredients
10 oz. rice vermicelli
1/2 a medium onion, very thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 green pepper, very thinly sliced
1 carrot, very thinly sliced
about 1 cup seitan, shredded
vegetable oil

1/4-1/3 cup vegetable broth
1 T vegetarian oyster sauce or soy sauce
about 2 t curry powder
about 1 t fresh ginger, grated
2 T fermented black beans (if you have them on hand)
1 t sugar
1-2 T rice vinegar

The Process
  1. Soak noodles in very hot water until cooked through, about 15 minutes, then drain, run cool water over them, and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, saute onion and garlic over medium heat for a few minutes.  Add pepper, carrot, and seitan, and continue cooking until the vegetables are tender.
  3. Whisk together sauce ingredients.
  4. Toss noodles with a little vegetable oil, add them to the vegetable mixture, and stir-fry for a couple minutes.
  5. Add sauce, mix, and serve.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Chinese Feast, Plus How to Cook Perfect Rice

I've had the book Authentic Chinese Cuisine for the Contemporary Kitchen on my shelf for a few months now, and leafing through it makes me drool, but I was holding off on making any of the recipes because they require a lot of strange and obscure ingredients, like fermented black beans, vegetarian mushroom-based "oyster" sauce, and this wacky canned mock duck:

  After scouring the aisles of my local Asian supermarket, I finally assembled this little Chinese feast.  I made up my own recipe for spring rolls (which were a bit of a fiasco, so I'll be changing my recipe and writing about that in a future post), and made the Velvet Corn Soup and Stir-fried Vegetarian "Duck"  from the book.  The corn soup was gross; it looked like vomit and tasted like can (which I guess I should have expected from a dish that uses canned creamed corn as the main ingredient).  The mock duck stir-fry was surprisingly good, though.  The fermented black beans added a unique pickled flavor, and I'm a sucker for anything that includes lots of sauteed bell peppers.  The "duck" had a neutral flavor, but I wasn't wild about the texture; if I make this again I'll just use tofu.  I served it up over white basmati rice, and since I've been told I make perfect rice, here are my rice-making tips (for long-grain rice):
  1. For white rice, use 2 cups water for every one cup rice.  For brown rice, use 1.5-1.75 cups water for every one cup rice.
  2. Boil the water before adding the rice.  Add the rice, cover, and bring to a boil.  Give it a quick stir to unstick rice from the bottom of the pan, then re-cover and turn down the heat until it's barely simmering.   Now don't lift the lid for the remainder of the cooking time.
  3. Don't overcook it!  Start timing when you turn the heat down. I cook white rice for 17  minutes, brown rice for 45-47 minutes.
  4. If your rice is done before the rest of your meal, remove it from the heat, take off the lid, and cover with a damp dish-towel.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Garlic Pepper Tofu Fingers

I recently spotted some "Tofu Yu" brand Garlic Pepper Tofu at Whole Foods that I had to try immediately.

It looked so fresh and lovely, I didn't want to mask it's flavor with other ingredients, so I simply sliced it into "fingers" and cooked it on a hot griddle until it was golden-brown on all sides.  It was delectable dipped in agave nectar.