Thursday, December 13, 2007

Spicy yogurt tempeh

This is an Indian-style dish, but I can't share the recipe. I'm helping an Internet friend test some recipes for a future cookbook/zine. But this is a cooking style that's pretty common in Indian food. I basically marinated the tempeh in a special soy yogurt sauce for a few hours and then pan fried it. Unfortunately, the pan frying set off my fire alarm. This was a learning experience. I learned that I can't pan fry on medium-high and that I may not know my neighbors' names, but they'll come running down the street if they think my house is on fire. These are good things to know.

After the fire alarm died down, I finished cooking the tempeh over medium heat. The ten minute wait didn't seem to hurt it much. I used the leftover marinade to cook up some mixed bell peppers, and I served it with leftover quinoa.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Quinoa Salad with Spinach, Lemon, and Poppyseeds

First of all, thanks E's parents for sending me the camera! Second, Mark Bittman has a new vegetarian cookbook. This can't be good for my obsession. Expect lots of new recipes from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. Here's one to start out. The recipe says that it's "Quinoa Salad with Spinach, Lemon, and Poppyseeds." Already you can see one problem. This is a spinach salad with quinoa, not the other way around. But it was still good. What you can't see in the photo is that there are lemon segments in the salad. Or at least small pieces of lemon. It turns out that peeling a lemon is really hard to do. So I ended up cutting off the peel. The whole time I was doing it, I kept imagining me slicing my hand open and all the lemon juice stinging to high hell. But I actually didn't cut myself. Next time I make this, it will probably be "Spinach Salad with Quinoa, Satsuma, and Poppyseed." Satsuma's are really easy to peel, and I can probably just steal them from a neighbor's tree.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Loquats and More on Polenta

A few months ago, I spotted little yellow fruit growing on the tree in my yard. Since I'm not from Louisiana I had assumed that all trees with big, shiny green leaves were magnolias. Whoops. My landlord told me that it was a Japanese plum tree and that the fruit was edible. But what was I going to do with all that fruit? Some of it disappeared all on its own. The birds got a lot of it. And the neighborhood kids got a big chunk, too. I would come home from a walk to the library and see kids piling fruit into their doubled up shirts. When they saw me, they started running. I tried yelling, "Please! Steal my fruit!" but for some reason, that didn't work. One Saturday morning, the Jehovah's Witnesses showed up, and I convinced them to take some fruit. I even brought some to a party, but they weren't a great hit. There are between one and five seeds in each small fruit so it's a lot of work to eat. After all this, I was still left with a lot of Japanese plums. So I did what I always do when I have a dilemma. I turned to Google.

I found out that my Japanese plums were actually loquats. And loquats aren't the same as kumquats. I wonder if there's other "quat" fruit out there? I could only find one recipe for loquats on all of the Internet. And so I made it. My mom says this is the best thing I've ever cooked. But she's a ginger addict. If I added ginger to saw dust, she might say the same thing.

Loquat Chutney
10 lbs loquats (about a gallon)
3 1/2 c brown sugar
2 c white vinegar
2 T grated citrus peel (I used the peel from my loquats. I wasn't entirely sure if it was edible, but I haven't died yet)
2 T minced ginger (I didn't bother to peel it)

Remove the skins and seeds from the loquats. This will take a very long time, about 3 CDs of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Throw everything together in a pot and boil until it thickens. The original recipe said to boil for 45 mins. I think I boiled longer because it never seemed to thicken. But after it cooled, it got really thick. Whoops. Instead of 10 cups of chutney, I ended up with 3-4 cups of jam. It still tastes great spread on a toasted English muffin or a crumpet.

In polenta news, I keep making that recipe over and over again. It's a great thing to make when there's nothing in the cupboard. I haven't tried to broil it yet because I keep eating it all when it's soft. Here's the recipe I use. It's from the Bittman book I keep complimenting. Really, you should buy it.

3 1/2-5 c water (more for soft polenta, less for thick)
1 cup cornmeal (I get mine at the farmers' market. I'm sure there are all kinds of snobby standards about what sort of cornmeal to use. I say ignore 'em.)
salt and pepper

As you can see, there aren't a lot of ingredients. Bring the water to boil over medium heat. Slowly whisk in the corn meal a little bit at a time. Once all the cornmeal is incorporated, turn the heat to low. Whisk every once in a while to keep lumps from forming. After about five minutes, switch to a wooden spoon. Stir almost constantly until the polenta is done which can be anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes depending on how thick you want it. Season to taste.

I usually use less water and cook for less time because I'm impatient. I like to add a little butter or olive oil along with my seasonings at the end, too.

Someday, I'll have to try cooling and slicing the polenta. If any of y'all ever get around to doing that, let me know how it goes.

Monday, May 21, 2007

BLT and Creamy Pearl Onions

Edit: This is a guest post by my friend E

First off, did you know that you can buy frozen pearl onions? It's greatness! No pealing, no nothing. So, get a package of those. Boil them on the stove as you would any frozen vegetable, drain and keep warm. Then, in another pan, melt a tbsp of butter and add an equal amount of flour. Blend with a whisk and then add in half and half or milk. Keep it cooking until it's thick, add a little pepper and put in the onions.

While the onions are still boiling, throw some bacon in a skillet and cook it. If you don't know how to do this, I'm sad for you. Also, while you were at the grocery store getting the pearl onions, you should have picked up some fun bread. I can't remember the type that's in the picture, but at the moment, I love ciabatta. Also make sure you've got mayo and some kind of green lettuce-y thing. Oh, and I skip the tomatoes.

Put the sandwich together and throw the onions on the side and you're good to go! By the way, you'll have terrible onion breath, but it's worth it.

Roasted Veggie Quesedillia

Edit: This is a guest post by my friend E

So, I took this from a recipe again in the Costco book. Basically, just throw chopped zucchini, carrots, squash, and bell pepper into a pan with some olive oil, garlic, orange juice, basil and thyme. Toss it all together so it's nicely coated. Then, stick it in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or so. I generally do this a day before so that I can just refrigerate it and cut it up the next day.

So, say it's the next day. Chop up the veggies, shred some cheddar and pepper jack cheese and put a little of everything between two tortillas in a skillet. I suggest folding the tortilla in half and doing half a quesedilla at a time because this one is really sloppy. Whatever you choose, cook it up just like any regular quesedilla. Serve it with some hot sauce. And, you'll probably need a fork.

Asparagus and Mushrooms

Edit: This is a guest post by my friend E

Another super easy, super quick one. This one is really a 10 minute meal. So, chop up some asparagus and throw it into a skillet with some non-stick cooking spray or olive oil for just a few minutes. Then throw in the mushrooms for a minute or two. The last step requires a little mixing. Combine 1/3 cup of water, 1 tsp cornstarch, 1/2 tsp chicken bouillon granules, and 1/4 tsp dried thyme. Once the asparagus and mushroom are done stir frying, throw this mixture in the pan and stir it all up for about 2 minutes.

This dish is ridiculously low in calories, so I'd suggest doing some rice or noodles with it to fill you up.

Cheddar Risotto

Edit: This is a guest post by my friend E

This recipe rocks! It's from a Costco cookbook, so scale the measurements down a bit. Here we go:

4 tbsp butter

1 cup chopped yellow onions

2 cups Arborio rice (I use Jasmine)

5 cups hot tap water

1 chicken bullion cube

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/8 tsp nutmeg

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

4-6 cups lightly packed fresh spinach, chopped.

Ok, so that sounds like a lot, but I promise it only takes 20 minutes to make. So here's what you do:

1. Melt the butter in a pan and leave it over medium heat until it starts to brown. Then throw in rice and onions for 2 minutes and keep stirring.

2. Add the hot water, bullion cube, salt and nutmeg and bring it all to a boil. Then cover it, reduce the heat and let it simmer for 12 minutes.

3. Take the pan off the heat and add cheddar and then spinach. Serve as a side dish or a main meal. The recipe also suggests a bit of pepper.

This is actually the vegetarian or I'm-two-lazy-to-deal-with-the-ham-it-calls-for version.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Sushi sushi

E and I made sushi! We're so much more ambitious when we get together. The first step was going grocery shopping in Arlington's little Chinatown. We walked up and down all the aisles, and then we went back and did it again. At the end, lugging a heavy bag of sushi rice and lots and lots of impulse purchases, we entered the produce section. It was beautiful. We went around identifying all the vegetables. We saw a kiwano. We bought the largest avocado I've ever seen in my life. And then we saw the mangos. They were champagne mangos. Small and perfect. And they were five for a dollar. As we approached the table with reverence, a man came over with a new price sign. We knew it was too good to be true. Twenty cents for a mango? But then the man posted the sign. They were now six for a dollar. You can see them all piled up in that orange bowl. Also, notice the bamboo which I had just happened to grab on my morning walk.

Back at my parents' house, we began by boiling the rice. Short grain white rice cooks really fast. It was something like five minutes of boiling, and then fifteen minutes of waiting with the lid on. Nice. While we waited for the rice to cool down (apparently hot sushi rice is a no-no), we started our prep.

We made traditional avocado rolls with avocado, carrot, and green onion from my dad's garden. The other rolls had portobello mushrooms that were sauteed with sherry and soy sauce. And probably some sort of oil. E will eat anything with mushrooms. I'm currently hatching a plot to get her to eat beans by smothering them with mushrooms and oil. Shhh...

Then we got bored and made another roll with everything mixed together.

Look at this avocado pit! Really, this picture doesn't do it justice. The avocado was HUGE. As big as my head. If nothing else, it could have been used to make guacamole for a small marching band. If E and I hadn't eaten all of it. Fine, it was me! I ate most of it. But look how happy it made me.

And we roll it up.

This was so much fun. Nowhere near as hard as I thought it would be.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Polenta, finally!

About a year ago, E and I met up with some friends in Houston. We all got dressed up and made a nice Italian dinner, spaghetti with mushroom tomato sauce, salad, and polenta. Except the polenta gave us trouble. Or maybe we gave it trouble. One way or another, E and I found ourselves eating bits of gloppy polenta from the pan at 11PM in our pajamas. We were not impressed. Food that takes over five hours to prepare should taste better than that.

I braved the stone-ground cornmeal a few weeks ago and gave polenta another try. Wow was it good. I think E and I used too much liquid. And we stirred too much. Polenta is one of those foods that people are always warning you to stir often (and only clockwise!) The recipe I followed (from the Bittman of course) said to whisk the cornmeal into the water in small batches. And then don't worry about stirring much until it starts to thicken. Not only was this easier (I did some dishes while I waited), but it tasted great. I can't really attest to how well it thickened because I ate most of it hot from the stove. It reminded me of the taste of toast and eggs. I have no idea...

P.S. E has photos of the two of us making sushi including a shot of the world's largest avocado. Bug her to post them!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Aromatic Tomato Sauce and Sesame Asparagus

This is actually the third Bittman sauce that I've made. The one I didn't blog about is the butter variation. That variation was butter instead of olive oil. It was good, but not all that different from the basic. And I didn't make all the mistakes I made in the first one. This time, I used a smaller pan, so there wasn't any burning. And I cut the tomatoes with my kitchen scissors instead of squishing them with my hand. Squishing is more fun, but cutting means less tomato juice splattered all over my kitchen.

Anyway, Aromatic Tomato Sauce. This version has equal parts carrots, celery, and onion added to the tomato sauce. I'm not crazy about it. It's pinkish instead of red. And it just doesn't taste saucy to me. I guess it would be a good way to trick a kid into eating veggies. But I don't have any problems eating vegetables. Ooo, important part. I got to use my hand blender for this! I love my hand blender. Who stirs when you can blend? But it still wasn't saucy enough. It was. . . gritty? course? I want a smooth sauce. I'm still waiting to find the perfect one.

The Sesame Asparagus was amazing. This is a recipe La and I made in college. We both had a huge stack of asparagus recipes we wanted to try. We'd wait all year until asparagus was affordable, and then we'd gorge. Well, this week asparagus was $1.50/lb. Yay! So, Sesame Asparagus is steamed asparagus, cooled, with a sauce of sesame oil, white wine vinegar, soy sauce, and sugar. All sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. Except this time I used rice vinegar and I added edamame. It was so good. I'm looking forward to leftovers.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Black Bean Soup

Edit: This is a guest post by my friend Sarah

Last week I made wonderful black bean soup. I boiled a cut up head of cabbage and a can of black beans in a pot of beef broth. To this, I added oregano, basil and salt to taste. After 40 min, I stuck the whole soup in the blender to create a really thick creamy soup (only because I don't like big pieces of cabbage, I suspect this would be just as good without blending). It has been a yummy lunch/snack for a week now!

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Tempeh Sausage

This is another great recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance. And this is my second try cooking tempeh. I took a block of tempeh, broke it into little pieces and cooked it in some water. It expanded, kinda like oatmeal. Once all the water was cooked out, I added fennel, sage, basil, red pepper flakes, garlic, olive oil, soy sauce, and lemon juice. Then I just cooked it until it browned up again.

I ate the tempeh with some jeera rice that I learned to make in my Indian cooking class and a cucumber-carrot salad that wasn't really that great. Jeera is just fancy talk for cumin seed.

I liked this a whole lot better than the last tempeh recipe I tried. I'm having a hard time not eating it all right now. Cooking it in water first really made a difference I think. It's time to go distract myself now, because the leftovers are calling my name.

P.S. At the moment, it looks like photos aren't going to happen, but I'll keep trying.

Creative Chicken Salad Sandwich

Edit: This is a guest post by my friend E

So, this one is really like a salad stuck between two pieces of bread, but it's refreshingly light and simple.

Basically, throw some grilled chicken pieces, some diced apples, whatever kind of nut you have on hand, spinach leaves and balsamic vinaigrette in a bowl. Mix it up, spread some herbed cheese (or cream cheese with some Italian seasoning and garlic salt mixed in) on both pieces of bread, and then do your best to get the stuff in the bowl in between the pieces of bread. Voila, you're done.

My friend Kristin likes it with the CapriSun, but she's pregnant, so who knows if it's really any good.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Mark Bittman's Basic Tomato Sauce, Mustard Greens with Lemon Juice, and a Cutie

I finally located my camera! But not in time to charge it before dinner finished cooking.

I want to make all the vegetarian pasta dishes from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything. There are something like 38 pasta recipes, not including the Asian dishes. Here's the first. Basic Tomato Sauce really is basic. Open can of skinned, whole plum tomatoes. Cook until saucy. More or less, that's it. Except, mine was threatening to burn. And it took much too long to get saucy. I'll have 5 or 6 more times to get this right though because there are variations.

On the side, I wilted some mustard greens in a little oil and then sprinkled with salt and fresh lemon juice. I even garnished with some lemon peel. It looks real pretty. Too bad you can't see it.

And finally, a cutie. No, not me. It's some kind of citrus fruit. Like a satsuma or a tangerine.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Cauliflower and Tomato Pasta

Edit: This is a guest post by my friend E

I'd give this one four out of five stars, but it's a nice pasta variation. So, saute some crushed garlic in olive oil, add cauliflower pieces and cook a little longer. Then, poor in seeded and chopped tomatoes and let them get all soft. Add a bit of hot water to the skillet and let the whole thing cook awhile while you prepare the pasta. Once it's done, you throw everything into the skillet, add black pepper and fresh, chopped parsley. Slide it onto a plate and top with your choice of grated cheese. I also suggest some extra salt.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Spiced Hot Cider

Edit: This is a guest post by my friend Sarah

It is cold here! The wind chill was supposed to reach a high of 0 degrees today. So, my new favorite pastime is making spiced cider. Heat apple juice in a saucepan with 1 T of butter, a cinnamon stick and a clove. If it is really cold, rum can be added. Don't drink the spice pieces.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Roasted Vegetable Goodness

Edit: This is a guest post by my friend E

Hopefully the first of many, here's a recipe I tried recently. Orange juice and thyme roasted zucchini, eggplant, carrots and red bell pepper with a sprinkling of cheddar cheese and a dash of salt and pepper. My variation: stack it between layers of thin biscuits and serve it on a pretty plate that matches the place mats.