Saturday, June 30, 2007

Simplicity

Roasted beets with orange vinaigrette


I think this is the prettiest dinner I've had in a long, long, time-- and it's all due to the natural beauty of fruits and vegetables. There were only half a dozen ingredients in this meal, and they were all simple and natural.

It tasted pretty good, too.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Cherries

I ran out to the little fruit-stand on the corner of Broadway and 111th to pick up some oranges. I ended up coming home with 2 lbs of cherries, 2 lbs of green grapes, 2 lbs of strawberries, and 3 oranges. Whoops. But, it's fruit, so I really can't feel guilty! And it was only $11, which really isn't bad for more than 6 lbs of summer fruit.

So, dinner tonight was a big bowl of cherries, so sweet-tart and juicy that I ate them over the sink, straight from the colander. I'm sure I could have made all manner of fancy desserts and sauces, but simple is good. The perfect summer dinner.



(Much prettier in real life-- the light wasn't good this evening.)

Perhaps I'll have some strawberries later on this evening.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Roasted Vegetable Sandwich

I've been seeing roasted veggie sandwiches popping up all over the blogs I read. And who can blame these cooks-- sandwiches like those are perfect for the weather and the produce available now (at least in the northern hemisphere). Anyway, here is my little formula for a perfect roasted veggie sandwich.


I think a good sandwich of this sort has four crucial components:

1) Good, crusty bread that can stand up to a dressing without going soggy (i.e. no pre-sliced sandwich bread)

2) Vegetables, roasted with a hint of seasoning or marinade

3) Pickly, vinegary things-- olives, sundried tomatoes, capers, an acidic dressing, pickled cherry peppers, pepperoncini...

4) Some sort of spread or dressing to hold it all together-- hummous, olive tapenade, sundried tomato spread, mashed avocado, pesto, even a simple viniagrette

You can also add cheese, of course. The possibilities are endless! My next sandwich is going to be a southwestern one, with grilled onions, zucchini marinated in a lime dressing with cumin and chili powder, pickled jalapenos, and guacamole as the spread. I can't wait to try.

This sandwich is a sort of mediterranian version. I hate eggplant and zucchini, but they taste really good here, I promise! It's important to salt and mostly-peel the eggplant, otherwise it will be horrible and bitter.


Pressed Roasted Veggie Sandwich (makes 4 generous sandwiches)

4 sturdy rolls (i used Portugese rolls) or 1 boule-shaped bread
1 medium eggplant
kosher salt
2 medium zucchinis
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
2 char-grilled red peppers, either from a jar, your grill, or your gas burner
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes
1/3 cup kalamata olives, halved
Italian-style viniagrette or pesto
(12 basil leaves, cut in a chiffonade, if using viniagrette)

Peel most of the skin off the eggplant, leaving only a few strips to help it keep it's shape. Slice the eggplant into 1/4" slices, layer them in a colander, and cover with generous amounts of salt. Let them sit for 1 hour. Meanwhile slice the zucchini into thin slices. Preheat the oven to 400. Rinse the eggplant, squeeze the excess water out, and place the slices in a bowl with the zuccini. Pour the olive oil, vinegar, and salt to taste over the vegetables, and mix. Lay the vegetables on an oiled cookie sheet in a single layer. (This amount of vegetables just fit onto my cookie sheet.) Roast until tender but not mushy, about 15 minutes. If you are going to char your own peppers, do it now. (I did!)

When everything is cool, slice the rolls/bread, and remove most of the fluffy insides-- you need lots of room for all those vegetables. (Save for breadcrumbs). Spread one or both halves of the bread with the viniagrette or pesto. Just don't put too much on or else the bread will get soggy. Layer on the peppers, eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, and olives and basil, if using. Top with the other half of bread. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and put in the fridge overnight, weighted down with something heavy on top.

Enjoy!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Cinnamon-Rhubarb Muffins


These muffins have it all: a tender, moist crumb studded with ruby-red pillows of butter-soft rhubarb, and just the right amount of cinnamony sweetness to bring all the flavours out. You only need 8 oz. of rhubarb, so this is the perfect recipe to use up any leftovers you might have.
And, without further ado, the recipe.

Cinnamon-Rhubarb Muffins (makes 12 large muffins. Adapted from Fine Cooking No. 85)

2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup toffuti sour cream, or plain soy yoghurt, the tartest you can find
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups rhubarb, cut into 1/4 inch slices (8 oz.)

1 1/2 tbs. sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Turn the oven on to 400 F., and line a muffin pan with paper or foil baking cups. In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients with a whisk. In another bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients. Lightly fold the wet ingredients into the dry with a spatula until they are just mixed. This should take no more than four folds. Gently stir in the rhubarb. The batter will be very thick. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups. It should mound a bit higher than the tops of the cups.

In a small bowl, mix together the cinnamon and sugar. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar on top of the muffins. Bake the muffins until they are golden brown, spring back most of the way when gently pressed, and a pick insterted in the center comes out clean, 20-24 minutes. Let cool in the pan for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.

.
Enjoy!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Dried tomatoes...or how to fit three pounds of tomatoes in a cereal bowl

I don't know about you, but I find it a little hard to fork over $3 or $4, or even more, for a tiny jar of dried tomatoes. I adore dried tomatoes, but I haven't had them for nearly a year because I can't afford them. And then, suddenly, it dawned on me that they are ridiculously easy to make at home. My mom makes them every week in the summer, with a dehydrator, but an oven dries things out too, right? So, my weekend cooking project was making oven dried tomatoes. It was a breeze--if you've got an oven and know how to slice tomatoes, you can make them at home for much, much cheaper than store bought. And you can make them just as chewy, salty, and oily as you like. And to think that I've been depriving myself of dried tomatoes for so long.

The sad thing about dried tomateos is that that shrink. A lot. Pounds and pounds of tomatoes are reduced to a tiny bowlful. Right now they are $0.69/lb (in Manhattan, at any rate), which isn't super-cheap, but it's certainly cheaper than those little jars. I can't wait to dry tomatoes in the summer, when they are really in season. The active time needed to make them is only 15 or so minutes, but they do have to dry out in the oven for up to 8 hours, which is why they are a good weekend cooking project.



Since these are dried in the oven, they should be called oven dried tomatoes, but somehow that lacks a little something. They did hang out in the sun while the oven was heating up-- does that count?

As always, the quantities below are completely flexible. I dried 2 1/4 lbs of plum tomatoes, and they fit nicely on a cookie sheet, so that's what I'll specify in the recipe.

Dried Tomatoes

2 1/4 lb plum tomatoes
1 tsp salt
tiny pinch sugar
1 tsp (approx.) dried Italian herbs
2 tbsp (approx.) olive oil

Turn the oven on to 200 F. Wash the tomatoes and slice into 1/4'' slices-- don't go any thinner or they will get crunchy in the oven. Spread them in a single layer on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Sprinkle with salt, a tiny bit of sugar, and the Italian herbs. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake until they are the right texture-- not wet, but not crunch. They should feel like soft raisins or dried apricots. I'd say that will take around 7-8 hours.

They will keep forever in ziploc bags in the freezer. I knew I'd be using my little handful of tomatoes up right away, so I just put them in the fridge. Next time I might put them in a jar with some olive oil.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Humble Pie

Last night for dinner I had a whole-wheat tortilla (from the grocery store), refried beans (from a can), avocado, and salsa (from a jar). That was a pretty humbling dinner for someone who thinks she can cook! I did slice the avocado myself, though...

But, I do have cooking plans for the weekend. I'm really excited about them, and I can't wait to blog, assuming all goes well.

Oh, can anyone help me think of a fancy dessert that isn't terribly expensive? I'm going to this reception at the New York City Ballet, and they said people can bring dessert. I was thinking cupcakes, but all my cake decorating supplies are at home, and I don't really want to buy more. (If I were lolo*, I'd make little ballerinas and ballet shoes out of marzipan. But, well, I'm not lolo.)

Speaking of lolo, I have the priviledge of testing some of her recipes for her new cookbook...they are soooo yummy! I made this Soy-Mirin Glazed Tofu the other day, and it was really, really good. And I don't even like tofu.



*veganyumyum.com Blogger is being dumb and won't let me add links, for some reason.

Fennel-flecked Potato Samosas


This recipe is adapted from my favourite Indian cookbook, Mangoes and Curry Leaves, by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. (My favourite cookbook authors, ever!)

The potato filling tastes delicious on its own, and it can be made up to 48 hours in advance. The filled samosas freeze beautifully. Just put them on a cookie sheet, pop in the freezer until frozen solid, and toss in a freezer bag until you're ready to eat them.

Fennel-flecked Potato Samosas (makes 16-- serves 8 as an appetizer or 3-4 as a main)

For the filling:
1 lb potatoes, peeled
1 tbsp oil
2 tsp minced garlic
1 cup chopped onion
2 green serrano chiles, seeded, deveined, and chopped
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
1/2 tsp tumeric
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup packed minced coriander leaves and stems

In a large pot, boil the potatoes until tender. Drain and let cool for 20 minutes. Use a fork or masher to break the potatoes into small pieces. Set aside.

In a wok or large skillet, heat the oil on high until hot. Swirl to coat the pan, and toss in the mostard seeds. Cover the skillet tightly (this is important, unless you want to be picking mustard seeds off the kitchen floor for weeks) until the mustard seeds stop popping. Lower the heat to medium-high, add the tumeric and garlic, and stir fry for about 30 seconds. Add the onion, and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the chiles and cayenne, if using, then stir in the potatoes and salt. Press the mixture around the ban until the mixture is hot and the chiles are soft. Allow to cool to room temperature before proceeding.

Samosa dough:
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 tbsp oil
up to 1/2 cup warm water
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp fennel seeds.

Stir the flour, salt, and fennel seeds together. Stir in the oil, and then add water until a kneadable dough forms. Knead the dough for five minutes. (Don't skimp on the kneading, or else the dough will be impossible to roll out). Cover and let rest for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 hours.

When ready to proceed, divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece out to a 6'' circle on a lightly floured surface. Be sure to keep the dough covered at all times. If a piece doesn't want to roll out completely, set it aside for a few minutes. When you come back to it, the dough will have relaxed and it will roll out to a 6" circle.

To shape the samosas, put a circle of dough back on the cutting board, and cut in half to form two semi-circles. Refer to the pictures for how to shape the dough. Be sure to keep a little dish of water near you, and use your finger to brush water on the cut surfaces so they will stick together. Also, use a little force to pack the filling into the samosas-- they'll hold more than you think.

When the samosas are all formed, preheat the oven to 400 F. Brush the samosas with oil on both sides, and bake for 15 or so minutes or until golden brown, flipping halfway through.

If you like, serve with a traditional tamarind sauce. (Really good-- a beautiful blend of tart and sweet.)

a golfball-sized lump of tamarind
1 cup hot water
2 tsp oil
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
pinch cumin seeds
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar

Chop the tamarind as finely as possible, and soak in the water for 10 minutes. In a heavy-bottomed pan, heat the oil until hot and toss in the mustard seeds. Cover the pan until they stop popping. Using a sieve, strain the tamarind water into the pot, pressing the tamarind to extract all the water. Add the salt, sugar, and cumin, and boil for 2 minutes, until slightly reduced and thickened.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Samosas: An Illustrated Guide

Fennel-flecked potato samosas. Very nice. Let me know if you want the recipe, and I'll type it up.






Saturday, June 9, 2007

Cranberry-Coconut Granola


I can't believe people pay $5 or $6 for those little bags of granola they sell at the grocery store! If you know how to turn the oven on, use a measuring cup and a mixing spoon, then you can make it yourself for just pennies.



This particular recipe was a bit of an experiment using one of my favorite vegan sweeteners: apple juice concentrate. I think that this 100% natural sweetener has been overlooked for far to long, and I'm on a mission to find good uses for it! I haven't actually used it in baked goods yet, but maybe that should be my next experiment. Anyway, it sweetens the granola perfectly, though it doesn't leave much of an apple taste behind.

This cranberry-coconut-sunflower seed combination is one of my favourites, but obviously granola is endlessly flexible, so feel free to use whatever you'd like. I think any kind of nut, seed, or dried fruit would taste yummy in granola. I think for my next batch I'm going to try a coconut-apricot-almond combo.

One word of advice: it really is important to stick around the kitchen while the granola is baking and stir it every few minutes. Towards the end of the cooking time the granola can go from toasted to burnt in just seconds! But it makes your house smell great, so it's worth the stirring.


Cranberry-Coconut Granola (makes 5 cups)

1/4 c. oil
pinch salt
1/4 c. unsweetened apple juice concentrate
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
3 cups rolled oats (regular or quick, not instant or steel cut)
1 c. unsweetened coconut
1 c. sunflower seeds
zest of one orange
2/3 c. dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine all ingredients except the cranberries, and mix thouroughly in a large mixing bowl. Spread over a cookie sheet. Bake for approximately 20 minutes. Stir every 5 minutes for the first 15 minutes or so, and then watch carefully for the last 5. When it is a little lighter than you think it should be, it's done. (The mixture is extremely hot, so it will continute to darken even after you take it out of the oven.) Stir in the dried cranberries, and store in jars after the granola has cooled completely.

Enjoy!

Friday, June 8, 2007

Gingerbread muffins


I'm so proud of these muffins, because I made the recipe up as I made them, and somehow everything worked out. The texture is quite nice, and they're just sweet enough. (Yes, I know it's nearly summer...but I just had a huge gingerbread craving. Mmmm.) I think the crumbly topping puts them firmly in the muffin (as opposed to cupcake) camp.


Gingerbread Muffins (makes 12 muffins)

2 1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
2 1/4 tsp dried ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/3 cup sugar
pinch salt
1 cup applesauce
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Topping:
1/4 cup oats
1/4 whole wheat flour
4 tsp brown sugar
4 tsp vegetable oil
3/4 tsp cinnamon
tiny pinch salt

Mix all the ingredients for the topping together.

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Mix the dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, whisk the wet ingredients until combined. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and pour the wet ones in, mixing with a few swift strokes until combined. Scoop the batter into a greased muffin tin. The batter should come just short of the top. Generously sprinkle the topping onto the muffins, pressing it down gently. Bake for about 20 minutes-- use the toothpick test. Cool in the muffin pan for a few minutes, then remove and place on a wire rack to cool.

Enjoy!