Thursday, May 31, 2007

Spring salad

I know salad can get pretty ho-hum. Lettuce with some sort of dressing-- nothing to write home about. But then there's the kind of salad that really stands out. Monday's salad was one of those salads: red leaf lettuce with thinly sliced radishes, petite peas that were poached for about 30 seconds, chopped spring onions, chunks of avocado, a sprinkling of salt, a generous amount of lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil, and some roasted garlic croutons to top it all off. Something about this flavour combination was really good. Really, really good. One of the best salads I've ever simple and so fresh and spring-tasting. Mmm. I'll definately be eating this until radish season is over! I had hummous and crackers on the side, but I think this could easily be turned into a main-dish salad with the addition of some chickpeas or something like that. Thank you, Food and Thoughts, for the inspiration!

And I tried Bazu's fennel. SO GOOD. Try it, now! You won't be disappointed. I didn't really believe that the fennel could be a whole meal, but it can be. It's really filling and so yummy.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Chocolate Cake

This is the best chocolate cake ever. Ever. It's an adaptation of an adaptation of the recipe from the Candle Cafe Cookbook, though by now it hardly resembles the original recipe, which called for 1 cup of oil. It's deeply chocolatey, moist, with a perfect crumb. And you can mix everything in one bowl and you don't need a mixer. Heavenly. Oh, and it's fat-free and uses only whole wheat flour. Don't let that prevent you from trying this cake-- it really does taste as good as any full-fat one, and I'm not exagerating. I promise. Ok, now that I said all that, someone will probably try the recipe and hate it. What I'm trying to say is, this is a really, really good cake, at least I thought so!

I made this at midnight during finals week, and I didn't feel like making frosting, so I warmed about 1/2 cup of peanut butter and swirled that onto the cake before baking.

The Best Chocolate Cake (serves 8)

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2/3 cup unsweetened cococa powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup sugar

1 1/2 cup vanilla soymilk (maybe a little bit more)
3/4 cup applesauce
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Sift the dry ingredients if you're feeling fancy. If you aren't just mix them together with a whisk. In a large bowl, mix the wet ingredients together. Add the dry ingredients and whisk until just combined. (You might need a touch more soymilk.) Pour into a lightly greased bundt pan, 2 cake pans, or muffin tins. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick cups out clean. (Cupcakes will take closer to 15-20 minutes.)

If you're feeling decadent, top/frost with:

Chocolate Ganache

4 cups chopped dark chocolate (or chocolate chips)
1 cup vanilla soy milk
1 tbsp strong brewed coffee
1/4 cup maple/agave syrup

Put all ingredients in a double boiler over simmering water until chocolate is melted. Take the chocolate off of the hot water, and mix with a rubber spatula to combine. Let cool. When cool, beat with a mixer. Chill for about one hour, and then frost the cake.

Monday, May 28, 2007


Pho is so easy to make that I feel a little bit silly posting a "recipe" for it. The ingredients list should be taken as a general guide-- it's up to you to find the proportion of lime/noodles/garnishes that you like!

Anyway, this is one of my very favorite quick lunches or dinners, because it takes less than 20 minutes from start to finish (unless you want to go crazy and make vegetable broth from scratch-- more on that later). I like it both with and without tofu. If you have some left over asian-ish flavoured tofu, throw that in-- it tastes great and makes it more of a complete meal.

Now, about the broth. The cookbook that this recipe was inspired by instructed the cook to make her own vegetable broth, which isn't exactly condusive to a quick supper. I usually make it with frozen or canned veggie broth, or even cubes, and it still tastes wonderful. So do as you like.

Pho (serves 2)

4 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup water, or to taste
2 star anise
2 clove
1/2 inch chunk of peeled ginger
1 lime
1/2 lb thin-to-medium rice noodles
3 scallions, sliced
2 thai bird chiles, or other spicy chile, chopped (red looks prettiest)
1/2 lb bean sprouts
Generous handful of cilantro, chopped
Asian basil leaves
Lime wedges

Put the vegetable broth in a medium sauce pan, and bring to a boil. Add the water (it will simmer for a while, and get too concentrated without the extra water). Put the spices and ginger in a spice bag, and put in the broth. (Or just put them in the pot, and fish them out before serving.) Let simmer on lowest heat while you prepare the rice noodles.

Prepare the rice noodles according to package directions. (Mine are about 1/4'' wide, and take around 8 minutes to cook.) While the noodles are cooking, prepare the garnishes.

When the noodles are just-tender (don't over cook!), rinse them with water until the water runs clear, then drain. Put into bowls (the bigger the better!), squeeze the lime into the broth, and pour the hot broth over the noodles. Top with garnishes of your choice.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Vegetables? You bet!

I've just moved into my summer housing, after being stuck in a horribl, kitchenless room for a week. It's so nice to finally be able to unpack, and to think about cooking, and going to the greenmarket today and buying vegetables-- rhubarb, lettuce, fennel, and green onions for sure-- and then going to Trader Joes, and stocking up on pantry supplies. And then coming home and making a big, fresh, green salad, or maybe trying out bazu's yummy-looking fennel recipe. Maybe I'll make muffins or bread. It's amazing how much being out of the kitchen for a week has made me appreciate it!

Ok, so now I'm back from grocery shopping-- I really had to restrain myself with those veggies! I wanted every green thing I saw, but if I had bought everything I wanted, it would have spoiled before I finished it. It's amazing how much you can crave vegetables after basically not eating them for a week. (It's kind of funny to think about craving vegetables, isn't it? I mean...veggies are what Americans are supposed to hate. But I'm glad that we like them!)

Anyway, for my first meal I made Vietnamese pho. It's really easy and very fresh tasting. I'll post the recipe tomorrow if people want it. And I'm making bazu's fennel tomorrow for sure!

Monday, May 21, 2007


Sorry this blog has been so boring as of late. I'm staying in university housing over the summer, so I'm in the process of moving. I have no kitchen and no fridge until Friday. I'm definately in kitchen/cooking withdrawal...I'm already dreaming of what I should cook on Friday. Seriously, though, I don't think I'll ever want to see another slice of bread or peanut butter after this week. Anyway, I'll be back on Friday!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Crispy Lemon-Dijon Tofu with Capers

I have a shameful confession to make. Tofu is not one of my favorite foods. But, with the help of many blogs and cookbooks, I think I'm beginning to discover some of the many good properties of tofu. The first dish I ever made with tofu was a stirfry, with silken tofu from the aseptic box. I had no idea that there was a difference between silken and regular tofu. Suffice it to say that that stir-fry wasn't exactly the best thing I'd ever eaten. Then, I progressed to scrambled tofu, which I really like, mainly because I've found a nice blend of spices to use. Today I decided to try my hand at marinated and baked tofu. Sucess! I love tofu now! I have lots of ideas for variations on this theme that I can't wait to try out. This version was inspired by an article about crispy chicken breasts from Fine Cooking magazine.

I'm not going to lie: since you need to press and marinate the tofu, this isn't one of those meals that you can throw together 5 minutes before the guests arive. But, it isn't at all hard, even though it does have a number of steps. Note that for best results, the breadcrumbs should be smaller than the ones you see in my picture (lots of mine were too big to stick).

Crispy Lemon Dijon Tofu with Capers (serves 3)

Bread Crumbs:
1/2 lb firm country-style bread
2 tbsp olive oil

Using your fingers or a food processor, turn the bread into medium-fine crumbs, about the size of small oat flakes. In a 12'' skillet over medium-high, heat the olive oil. Add the crumbs and sautee until lightly golden, about 6 minutes. Let cool-- they can easily be made in advance.

1 1lb block of extra-firm tofu
5 tbsp capers, rinsed and minced
Zest and juice of one lemon (cut lemon into wedges after zesting)
2 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp dried thyme
Freshly ground black pepper
Breadcrumbs from above

Rinse the tofu and cut along the short side into approx. 6 slices. They should be about 1/2'' wide. Press for several hours. When pressed, prepare the marinade. In a shallow dish (I used a piepan), combine half the chopped capers, the mustard, the oilve oil, juice of half the lemon, half the thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Coat the tofu with the marinade completely on both sides, and let it marinate over night, or up to 24 hours.

When ready to proceed, preheat the oven to 400 F, and lay a cooling rack on a baking sheet. Mix the bread crumbs with the rest of the thyme and capers. Dredge the tofu slices with crumbs, covering all sides completely, and lay on the rack. Bake until golden, approximately 20 minutes. Serve with the remaining lemon wedges.


Saturday, May 12, 2007


The other day I was taking a study break and flipping through my favorite Indian cookbook, Mangoes and Curry Leaves. I came across an interesting-sounding recipe for Nepalese simmered soybeans. I never knew that edamame were used outside of South Asian food, so I immediately wanted to try the recipe. What with studying and all, I didn't get a chance to until today. It was really good and so pretty to look at! And the lightly-spiced soybeans (between a soup and a curry) came together in 20 minutes while the rice was cooking. Definately a keeper.

Nepalese Simmered Spiced Soybeans (serves 4)

1 medium onion, chopped
1 tbsp minced ginger
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 spicy red chile, chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp ground tumeric
1 tsp salt
1 cup water
2 cups soybeans, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup chopped coriander

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the onions, ginger, garlic, and chile, and sautee over high heat for about two minutes. Add the spices and stir briefly. Add the chopped tomato and stir-fry for about 1 minute. Add the water and soybeans. Let the mixture come to a boil, and then simmer for about 10 minues, or until the soybeans are tender but still firm to the bite. Stir in the coriander (the coriander is a crucial component of the dish, not just a garnish). Serve with plenty of rice to soak up the sauce.


Monday, May 7, 2007

Apple Strudel.

Don't believe people who say strudel is hard to make. It's really, really easy-- easier than apple pie, because you don't actually roll the dough, and you certainly don't have to worry about keeping everything ice-cold. And the whole shebang only uses two tablespoons of added fat.

The recipe is adapted from a lovely Austrian blog, Dinner for One. Please look at her blog for excellent photos and even a short video clip about how to stretch the dough.

Apple Strudel (serves 6-8)

2 cups all-purpose flour
a pinch of salt
2 tbsp vegetable oil
150 ml warm water

Mix all the ingredients together. Knead for 10 minutes. Brush the ball of dough with oil, put back in the bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rest for at least one hour and up to overnight. It's very important to knead it for the full time and to let it rest because it makes it much easier to strech.

After the dough has reasted, prepare the filling:

6 granny smith apple, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup melted butter

Mix everything together except the butter. Then prepare to stretch the dough. Be sure to take off any watches or rings that could tear the dough. The stretching process sounds really complicated, but it takes about three minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 F and brush a large baking sheet with oil.

Sprinkle a cloth tablecloth or a very large tea towel with flour. Begin shaping and stretching the dough with your hands-- don't put it on the cloth yet. Grasp it by the edges and let it stretch down. Keep moving your hands around the circumference of the dough. When the dough is too large to comfortable stretch like this, drape it over the backs of your hands, and stretch it by moving your hands apart. When the dough is too thin to hold and stretch, gently lay it on the cloth. Stretch the edges out, moving around the table to keep it even. The dough is supposed to be thin enough to read a newspaper through, but it's quite tasty even if it isn't that thin! When the dough is stretched as thinly as possible, trim off the the thick edges. Brush with most of the butter. Spread the apple filling over the dough, leaving a 2-3 inch border without apples on the long edge farthest from you. Using the cloth, roll the dough away from you. The first fold should be about 3'' wide. Put it on a baking sheet brushed with oil, brush the strudel with the rest of the butter, and bake till golden brown, about 20 -25 minutes.


Sunday, May 6, 2007

Eastern Europe...

Food-wise this was a rather uninspiring week. And as I have finals coming up this week, it probably won't be much better! So I've eaten lots of pita and hummous and salad this past week. There were only a few photo-worthy meals, namely blini and strudel-- I must have been getting in touch with my Eastern European side! I LOVE making strudel. It's faster than apple pie, lots, lots healthier (only 2 tbsp of oil for two apple strudels), and fun to make. The blini were really good, too. I couldn't believe it: none of them stuck, not even the first one! I used a cast iron pan, and I only oiled it once at the beginning. That's what the recipe said to do, and I was sure I'd need to put more oil on it, but I didn't.

As you can see, I made two strudels, a poppyseed and an apple. The poppyseed strudel was made with a slightly sweet, slightly yeasted dough. They were both good.

Spice mix for a tofu scramble. Aren't spices pretty? This photo make me wish I were in Morocco!Not a bad way to start the day...