May 31, 2011

Rye Bread

I used to think of rye bread as a strong-flavored bread. And while that may be true, it's not the rye that makes it taste that way. In this recipe, it's the caraway seeds that give the loaf that classic rye-bread flavor. I'm always learning while cooking; that's a good thing.

This recipe is a little involved, but all in all wasn't too bad. The bread was very yummy, so it was all worth it. I let mine rise in the first rise for 4 hours (1 to 4 hours is recommended)while I was at church. I also used honey instead of malt powder.

New York Deli Rye Bread
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes one 1 3/4-pound round loaf

3/4 cup (4 ounces, 117 grams) bread flour
3/4 cup (3.3 ounces, 95 grams) rye flour
1/2 teaspoon (1.6 grams) instant yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons (0.6 ounces, 18.7 grams) sugar
1/2 tablespoon (4.6 grams) malt powder (or barley malt syrup or honey (10.5 grams), or sugar (6.2 grams))
1 1/2 cups (12.5 ounces, 354 grams) water, at room temperature

Flour Mixture
2 1/4 cups (12.5 ounces, 351 grams) bread flour
1/2 plus 1/8 teaspoon (2 grams) instant yeast
2 tablespoons (0.5 ounces, 14 grams) caraway seeds (you can grind these if you want to avoid the crunch)
1/2 tablespoon (0.3 ounces, 10.5 grams) coarse salt

Dough and Baking
1/2 tablespoon (0.25 ounces, 6.7 grams) vegetable oil
about 2 teaspoons (about 0.5 ounces, 16 grams) cornmeal for sprinkling

Make the sponge: Combine sponge ingredients in a large or mixer bowl and whisk until very smooth, to intentionally incorporate air — this will yield a thick batter. Set it aside.

Make the flour mixture and cover the sponge: In a separate large bowl, whisk together the flour mixture and gently scoop it over the sponge to cover it completely. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and allow it to ferment for 1 to 4 hours at room temperature. (The sponge will bubble through the flour mixture in places.)

Mix the dough [Either with a mixer] Add the oil and mix with the dough hook on low speed for about 1 minute, until the flour is moistened enough to form a rough dough. then raise the speed to medium and mix it for 10 minutes. The dough should be very smooth and elastic, and it should jump back when pressed with a fingertip; if it is sticky, turn it out on a counter and knead in a little extra flour.

[Or by hand] Add the oil and, with a wooden spoon or your hand, stir until the flour is moistened. Knead the dough in the bowl until it comes together, then scrape it onto a very lightly floured counter. Knead the dough for 5 minutes, after which it might be a little sticky. Cover it with the inverted bowl and allow it to rest for 20 minutes. (Resting the dough makes it less sticky and magically easier to work with.) Knead the dough for another 5 to 10 minutes or until it is very smooth and elastic.

Let the dough rise: Place the dough in a large container or bowl, lightly oiled. Oil the top of the dough as well. Allow the dough to rise until doubled, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Flip the bowl over and let the dough fall out on to a lightly floured counter, press it down gently, fold or form it back into a square-ish ball and allow it to rise a second time, back in the (re-oiled) bowl covered with plastic wrap for about 45 minutes.

Shape it and wait out the final rise: Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and gently press it down again. Round it into a ball and set it on a cornmeal sprinkled piece of parchment paper. Cover it with oiled plastic wrap and let it rise until almost doubled, about 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes. [Skim ahead to preheating your oven, which you should do soon.] When it is gently press with a fingertip, the depression will very slowly fill in.

Preheat the oven: Preheat the oven to 450°F and baking stone on the lowest shelf for at least 30 minutes.

Slash and bake the bread: With a sharp knife or singled-edged razor blade, make 1/4- to 1/2-inch-deep slashes in the top of the dough. Mist the dough with water and quickly but gently slide the dough along with the parchment paper onto the hot baking stone. Bake for 15 minutes, lower the temperature to 400°F and continue baking for 30 to 40 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean (or a thermometer inserted into the center reads 190°. Cool the bread on a wire rack.

May 30, 2011

Baby Bok Choy, Sugar Snaps, and Garlic en Papillote

I've been perusing the latest cookbook by Dorie Greenspan, Around my French Table. This recipe for vegetables baked in a foil packet caught my eye. Then the farmer's market had almost everything I needed to make this delightful dish: snow peas (instead of snap), baby bok choy, baby onions, and mint.

I never knew vegetables could taste so good. The mint and orange really worked amazingly well with the vegetables. I've made this several times already, and this will definitely inspire some variations as I really liked the papillote baking method.

Baby Bok Choy, Sugar Snaps, and Garlic en Papillote
from Around my French Table by Dorie Greenspan

32 sugar snap peas
2 baby bok choy
12 baby white onions, halved
1 garlic clove, peeled
zest of 1/2 small orange
4 tsp. olive oil
4 mint sprigs plus more minced for garnish
salt and pepper

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut four 12-inch squares of aluminum foil, and have a baking sheet at hand.

If necessary, string the sugar snaps. Cut in half and toss in a bowl. Quarter the bok choy length wise and add to the bowl, along with the onions. Thinly slice the garlic and toss into the bowl. Zest the orange into long thin strips and add to bowl. Add the olive oil, mint sprigs, and season with salt and pepper. Toss to mix.

Spoon an equal amount of the mix onto the center of each pieces of foil. Seal and create packets with the foil, leaving some room around the vegetables to allow them to steam. Put the packets on a baking sheet.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until the bok choy is tender -- carefully open a packet and poke a piece with a tip of a knife to test.

Serve with minced fresh mint.

May 28, 2011

Individual Roasted Tomato Tarts

With summer and its bounty approaching, I thought it would be good to clean out the freezer of goodies from last year. Last summer I made slow-roasted tomatoes with plum tomatoes from the market. They are divine treasures that I didn't want to waste, so I've been saving them for something special. When I found this recipe, I knew I had found a purpose for the intense burst of flavor of roasted tomatoes. I'm so glad I was right.

These tarts can be made with various-sized pans (I used four 4-inch pans), including one large pan (12-inch round). Individual tarts are much cuter, don't you think?

Roasted Tomato Tart
adapted from Italian Food Forever

Olive oil pastry:
1/3 c. olive oil
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 c. ice water
1 small egg (or half of a beaten large egg)
1/2 Tbsp. white vinegar

Ricotta filling:
1 1/2 c. ricotta cheese
1/2 ch. grated Parmesan cheese
2 medium eggs
Salt & pepper, to taste

1 cup roasted tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt & pepper, to taste
fresh basil

To prepare the olive oil pastry, first place the olive oil in the freezer until it is almost frozen. Place the flour in a bowl and add the baking powder, salt, and dried oregano. In a cup, mix together the egg, vinegar and ice cold water. Once the oil is almost solid, cut it into the flour mixture until you have pea sized crumbs. Add the vinegar/egg liquid slowly, mixing it into the flour until the mixture comes together as a dough. As with any pastry, be careful not to over handle the dough. Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out thinly to fit inside chosen tart pan(s). Lay rolled sheet of dough into tart pan(s), trimming the edges. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove tart pan(s) from the refrigerator and prick the bottom all over with the prongs of a fork. Once the oven has reached 350 degrees, bake the pastry for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven.

Mix together the ricotta, eggs, and grated Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper and spread this mixture evenly over the bottom of the crust. Arrange tomatoes on top, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with some salt and pepper and bake for about 30 to 35 minutes or until the ricotta filling has set, and the pastry is lightly browned. Cool to room temperature and garnish with basil before serving.

May 26, 2011

Kale Barley Salad

This may be my favorite raw kale salad yet! Then again, any salad with blue cheese usually gets my vote. I can't wait to eat the leftovers for lunch.

Kale Barley Salad
adapted from In Praise of Leftovers

1/2 red onion, cut into thin rings and then into quarters
3/4 cup raw barley, 2 cups cooked barley
1 head curly kale, washed, ribbed, and chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 c. pan-toasted pecans*, chopped
1/2 c. dried cherries, roughly chopped
1/2 c. crumbled Danish blue cheese (or other firm blue cheese)
zest from one lemon

1 minced garlic clove
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
4 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. honey
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil

For dressing: Mix the first five ingredients in a large measuring cup. Whisk in olive oil until emulsified. Season to taste. Drop in onions and let them marinate for at least 20 minutes.

For salad: Cook barley in lots of boiling water for about 45 minutes. More water will prevent the barley from sticking together. After the barley is done (grains will be soft, but still a little chewy), drain and run cold water over the barley to cool. Drain water. You can do this one day ahead if you want.  Alternatively, cook barley (1 parts barley to 2.5 parts water) in a rice cooker.

Toss barley with kale and most of the pecans, blue cheese, dried cherries, and dressing. Scatter the remaining ingredients, the lemon zest, and a few marinated onions from the dressing over the top. Unlike most salads, this can be stored in the fridge for 24 hours. Add the blue cheese right before serving.

* To toast pecans, heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add pecans and stir frequently until they start to get dark spots. This takes a few minutes only - be careful not to let the pecans burn.

May 24, 2011

Pizza Crust Mastery

While we've been enjoying first-class pizza at my house for a while now (thanks Mom for all the pizza tips), I finally found my perfect pizza crust. I've tried a handful of pizza crust recipes over the last year. All have tasted great, but this pizza crust recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day has simply wowed me. This is my favorite crust ever! As I was eating this pizza I couldn't stop complimenting myself.

Here are some step-by-step photos documenting the process:

the dough after mixing (no kneading required)

the dough after rising a few hours

pizza with toppings ready to go in the oven

after baking

the perfect crust has dark brown spots

an awesome air bubble, caused by letting the dough sit in the fridge for a few hours


This pizza topping combo is another from Dewey's pizza. This is my second favorite combo, after the Edgar Allen Poe.

Socrates' Revenge Pizza Topping
inspired by Dewey's Pizza

1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 garlic cloves
2 handfuls spinach
2 cups mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup sliced black olives
1/4 cup sliced green olives
1 Tbsp. thinly chopped red onions
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup diced tomato
1 tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley

Put spinach in a bowl and cover with water. Boil in the microwave for 3 minutes. Drain water, rinse with cold water. Drain the cold water and squeeze the spinach to remove as much water as possible. Cut the spinach into slices.

Brush crust with olive oil and spread minced garlic evenly over crust. Add mozzarella cheese, spinach, black olives, green olives, and red onions. Sprinkle feta cheese on top. Bake pizza and remove from oven. Add tomatoes and parsley.

Olive Oil Pizza Dough
adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day(makes about 4 pizzas)

2 3/4 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Mix the water, yeast, salt, sugar and olive oil in a 5-quart, lidded container or bowl.

Mix in the flour, without kneading, using a wooden spoon. Mix just until all ingredients are incorporated, no more.

Cover, not airtight, and let sit at room temperature for about 2 hours, until the dough rises and then flattens on top.

Store covered in the fridge for a few hours before using or freezing. Dough can be stored in the fridge for 12 days. For longer storage, divide the dough into one pound chunks (about grapefruit size) and put in a quart-size ziploc bag and freeze.

To make the pizza: On the day you are going to make pizza, take the dough out of the fridge. Dust the surface of the dough with some flour and pull off a one pound chunk (using a serrated knife or kitchen shears), about the size of a grapefruit. Put the rest of the dough back in the fridge to be used another day.

Heat oven to 500 and put a pizza stone in the oven on the bottom-most rack. Heat the stone for at least 20 minutes.

Roll out the pizza crust till thin (adding flour as needed for sticky dough) on a piece of parchment paper sprinkled with corn meal (or flour) and then transfer crust and paper to a flat, portable surface, like a cutting board or upside-down cookie sheet. Add all toppings to the crust. Carefully slide the pizza (paper and all) from the flat surface to the baking stone in the oven. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until crust and cheese are golden brown. Keep on eye on it - it will bake much faster than you think. Remove the pizza and parchment paper from the stone to a cutting board or plate. Slice and eat as soon as possible!

To use dough from the freezer: The night before or the morning of, put the crust in the fridge to thaw. Right before making the pizza, let the dough sit out for a half hour or longer to make sure it's not too cold.

May 23, 2011

Asparagus with Poached Eggs

I am fascinated with the way I've seen eggs served as an unexpected addition to a variety of dishes. Adding a poached egg for an extra protein boost is something not very common in my American experience. Here are some places I've seen the egg: Italian pizza, crepes, Asian dishes (bibimbap), pasta, and on hamburger. When I first saw eggs used in these ways I was a little shocked, but the idea is definitely growing on me. I love eggs, so what's not to love about adding them any and every where?

Eggs and asparagus are, apparently, often paired together. After getting some fresh asparagus from the farmer's market, I was looking for a new way to prepare it and came across this idea. I was definitely pleased with the results. Meals inspired by ingredients that are in season are always the best!

Asparagus with Poached Eggs
adapted from Good Everyday Things

1/2 lb asparagus
1 Tbsp vinegar
3 eggs
pecorino romano cheese, grated
olive oil
salt and pepper

Tip: Start heating both pots of water at the same time.

Snap off hard ends of the asparagus and set aside. In a double boiler, fill the bottom with water. Set pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Add the top part and add asparagus. Cover with a lid. Steam for 3-8 minutes, depending on the thickness of the asparagus. Check asparagus periodically to prevent over cooking. When done, remove asparagus and arrange on a platter.

Fill a second medium pot with a few inches of water and bring to a boil. Add the vinegar and reduce heat to medium. One at a time, break each egg first into a small bowl and then tip carefully into the water, bringing together the white with a spoon if necessary. Cover and cook for about 3-4 minutes or until yolks are cooked to the desired consistency. Remove eggs with a slotted spoon and arrange over the top of the asparagus. Sprinkle grated cheese, salt and pepper and drizzle olive oil over top. Serve immediately.

May 19, 2011

Easy Cheesy Bean Dip

I stumbled upon this recipe in a Whole Foods advertisement in a newspaper, not even my newspaper. I've made this bean dip for several gatherings, and people love it.

I inherited some dried pinto beans when my parents moved out of town a few years ago. I have no idea how old the beans were (at least 2 1/2 years since I got them) and figured if they were bad I'd be able to tell. I survived eating them to tell this story, so I guess they were fine. After cooking up all the beans according to the package directions, I used two cups worth to make my own refried beans. There are fancier versions, but I just mashed up the beans and added a little oil, salt, pepper, and water. The refried beans tasted a little bland by themselves, but in this recipe, which is bursting with flavors, I couldn't tell.

I'm not a regular dried bean cooker, but it's a habit I want to develop. The secret for me is to cook a bunch at once and then store them in the freezer. And then don't forget to use them...

I don't always measure all the ingredients in this dip exactly. Take the cheese - usually I just have one kind of cheese, not both cheddar and Monterey Jack, and I never put in as much as it says. This recipe turns into a melted mess, so feel free to make it even if you don't follow it to a tee.

Using some leftover cooked, shredded chicken, I spread this bean dip in a tortilla with the chicken and baked them to make scrumptious burritos!

Easy Cheesy Bean Dip
adapted from a Whole Foods flyer

2 Tbsp. canola oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ c. red onion, diced
½ c. red pepper, diced
1 16-oz. can refried beans or 2 c. homemade
¼ c. canned green chiles, chopped
2 c. cheddar cheese, shredded
¼ c. cilantro, diced (reserve 1 Tbsp.)
1 Tbsp. chili powder
½ tsp. cumin
juice of one lime
sea salt to taste
½ c. Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350˚. Heat oil in pan over medium heat. Sauté garlic, onion, and red pepper for 3 minutes. Add beans to baking dish. Stir in sautéed vegetables, chiles, cheddar cheese, cilantro, chili powder, cumin, lime juice and salt. Sprinkle with Monterey Jack cheese. Bake for 20 minutes. Garnish with more cilantro.

May 17, 2011

Almond Olive Oil Cake

I've had my eye on simple, not super sweet cakes for a while -- the kind of cakes I associate with Europe, eaten as a snack or simple dessert, rather than for a special occasion. There are two advantages to these types of cakes: simple to make and lack of guilt when eating.

I can't remember how I stumbled on this one, but I was attracted to the cake because it used almond flour (I used almond meal, which contains flecks of almond skins) and olive oil. I didn't garnish my cake with more almonds, but that would be lovely.

Almond Olive Oil Cake (Torta di Mandorla)
adapted from Gina DePalma by Sassy Radish

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup blanched or natural almond flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract

Grated zest of 1 medium lemon or 1/4 a medium orange
1/2 cup orange juice

For the Glaze:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
3 tablespoons whole milk
A few drops of fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup sliced, blanched almonds, toasted and cooled

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9-inch round cake pan or springform pan and set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, almond flour, baking powder and salt to thoroughly combine them and set aside.

3. Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl and whisk them lightly to break up the yolks. Add the sugar to the bowl and whisk it in thoroughly in both directions for about 30 seconds. Add the olive oil and whisk until the mixture is a bit lighter in color and has thickened slightly, about 45 seconds. Whisk in the extracts and zest, followed by the orange juice.

4. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and whisk until they are thoroughly combined; continue whisking until you have a smooth, emulsified batter, about 30 more seconds.

5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake the cake for 30 to 45 minutes, rotating the cake pan halfway through the cooking time to ensure even browning. The cake is done when it has begun to pull away from the sides of the pan, springs back lightly when touched, and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

6. Allow the cake to cool for ten minutes in the pan, then gently remove it from the pan and allow it cool completely on a rack.

7. While the cake cools, make the glaze. Melt the butter over medium heat in a small, heavy saucepan. When the bubbles subside, lower the heat and watch the butter carefully, swirling it in the pan occasionally to distribute the heat. When the butter begins to turn a light tan color and smells slightly nutty, turn off the heat and let the butter sit. It will continue to darken as it sits.

8. While the butter cools, sift the confectioner’s sugar into a medium bowl. Whisk in the milk until completely smooth but thick, then slowly whisk in the butter. Taste the glaze and add a few drops of lemon juice to balance the sweetness. Stir in the toasted almonds. Spread the almonds and glaze onto the top and sides of the cake and let it sit until set and dry.

May 16, 2011

Red Quinoa and Black Bean Vegetable Salad

It's quinoa season in my life. I've eaten it before, but lately it's taken over. That's a good thing, though, as this salad is so good.

If you can't find red quinoa, go ahead and use regular. From what I can tell, they taste very similar. I successfully cooked the quinoa in a rice cooker with 2 parts water and 1 part quinoa. I prefer to add the avocado right before eating the salad, so if you're not going to eat it all at once, leave the avocado out while storing.

Red Quinoa and Black Bean Vegetable Salad
from Oh She Glows

For the salad:
1 cup uncooked red quinoa
1 (14 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 red pepper, chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
2 green onions, chopped
1 cup fresh corn
1 small avocado, chopped into 1 inch pieces
salt and pepper, to taste

For the dressing:
4-5 tbsp of fresh lime juice (juice from 2 small limes)
1/2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp ground cumin, or more to taste

1. Cook 1 cup red quinoa according to package directions or look here for instructions.

2. While quinoa is cooking, prepare the chopped vegetables and whisk together the dressing.

3. Allow quinoa to cool after cooking for about 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Add the beans and vegetables and toss well.

4. Drizzle dressing over salad and toss well with salt and pepper to taste. Bring salad to room temperature before serving. Keep fresh in a sealed container for 1-2 days. Makes about 5 cups.

May 14, 2011

Gianduja Gelato

Hazelnuts are one of my favorite nut flavors. I'm not sure why they seem so scarce in the U.S. Italians love hazelnuts, and hazelnut-flavored (gianduja) gelato is common. This is another fabulous recipe from David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop.

This ice cream has quite a few steps in the process, but is totally worth it. I used semi-sweet chocolate because I didn't have any milk chocolate, but it didn't overpower the hazelnut flavor.

Summer is coming, so look forward to more ice cream recipes!

Gianduja Gelato
from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

1-1/2 cups (185 grams) toasted hazelnuts (see note)
1 cup (250 ml) whole milk
2 cups (500 ml) heavy cream
3/4 cup (170g) sugar
1/4 tsp coarse salt
4 oz milk chocolate (at least 30% cacao solids), chopped
5 large egg yolks
1/8 tsp vanilla extract

1. Rub the toasted hazelnuts in a kitchen towel after roasting to remove as much of the papery skin as possible. Discard the skins. Chop the hazelnuts in a food processor or blender until finely chopped.

2. Warm the milk with 1 cup of the cream, sugar, and salt in a saucepan. Once warm, remove from heat and add the chopped toasted hazelnuts. Cover and let steep for 1-1/2 hours.

3. Put the milk chocolate pieces in a large bowl. Heat the remaining 1 cup of cream in a medium saucepan until it begins to boil. Pour the cream over the milk chocolate pieces and stir until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Set a mesh strainer over the top of the bowl.

4. Pour the hazelnut-infused milk through a strainer into a medium saucepan. Squeeze the nuts with your hands to etract as much of the flavorful liquid as possible. Discard the hazelnuts.

5. Rewarm the halzenut-infused mixture. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. If you don’t have a rubber bottomed bowl, place it on a rubber glove or moistened kitchen towel for the next step. Slowly pour the warm hazelnut mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

6. Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a wooden or heatproof plastic spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the straner and stir it into the melted milk chocolate. Add the vanilla and stir until cool over an ice bath.

7. Chill mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

8. Serve immediately for a soft, smooth gelato. Place gelato in a container and freeze for a firmer gelato.

Note: To toast hazelnuts, place hazelnuts in a 350 degree oven for ten minutes. Stir once while roasting. Remove from oven and let cool and then remove skins.

Makes about 1 quart of gelato

May 13, 2011

Breakfast Quinoa with Banana

I heard someone mention their favorite breakfast was quinoa with banana, honey, and milk. So I tried it and was surprised that I loved it! The banana and honey are an appealing flavor pairing. A breakfast for champions - healthy, natural, and whole.

Breakfast Quinoa with Banana

1/2 cup cooked quinoa
half a banana, sliced
1 tsp. honey
1 Tbsp. milk
1 Tbsp. crushed walnuts, optional

Follow the package directions to cook the quinoa. Or try it in a rice cooker with 2 parts water to 1 part quinoa (works like a charm). See this link for more information on how to cook quinoa. Cook as much quinoa as you need. It's easy to cook more than one meal's worth and keep it in the fridge. Warm it in the microwave when you're ready to eat the leftovers. Then add sliced bananas, a small spoonful of honey, and a splash of milk. Optional: add crushed walnuts.

May 10, 2011

Red Lentil Soup

A few months ago I tried Coconut Red Lentil Soup and loved how the red lentils fall apart and create a thick, soupy mush. So I looked to expand my repertoire with red lentils, because who doesn't like red mush?

Seriously, though, this is a pretty basic soup but with all the right flavors to make it special. I bought both the red lentils and the sumac in the middle eastern section of the store. Sumac is actually pretty subtle, but adds a little tang. I kept adding more to my bowl so I could really taste it.

UPDATE 7/15/12: I added one peeled, diced red potato along with the carrot. The potato made the soup a little thicker, which I liked.

Red Lentil Soup
adapted from In the Kitchen With a Good Appetite by Melissa Clark

3 tablespoons olive oil, more for drizzling
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch of ground chili powder or cayenne, more to taste
4 c. chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup red lentils, rinsed and picked over
1 large carrot, peeled and diced

chopped fresh cilantro
ground sumac
olive oil
lemon wedges

In a large pot, heat 3 tablespoons oil over high heat until hot and shimmering. Add onion and garlic, and sauté until golden, about 4 minutes.

Stir in tomato paste, cumin, salt, black pepper and chili powder or cayenne, and sauté for another 2 minutes.

Add broth, lentils and carrots. Bring to a simmer, then partially cover pot and turn heat to low. Simmer until lentils are soft, about 30 minutes. Taste and season with salt if necessary.

Using an immersion or regular blender or a food processor, purée half the soup then add it back to pot. The soup should be somewhat chunky.

Reheat soup if necessary, then stir in lemon juice and cilantro. Serve soup drizzled with good olive oil and lemon juice and sprinkled with cilantro and sumac.

May 8, 2011

Chocolate Mousse

Could it be: a fabulous dessert with only two ingredients? Plus calories burned and arm muscles built up in the process? YES.

I was skeptical that this method would work to create mousse, but it definitely does. I was whipping it by hand, getting tired and taking breaks, but then all of the sudden, it had turned liquid to solid. I loved it without the optional sugar, but my husband thought I messed up and used unsweetened chocolate. I used Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate chips (which by the way my husband eats plain and doesn't think are too chocolately), but next time may splurge and try the Valrhona chocolate and also add the sugar.

I'm posting this today in honor of my mother - I'm sure if she tries it, she will love it (without the added sugar).

Chocolate Mousse
from Herve This & Heston Blumenthal found on Cafe Fernando

makes 4 servings

9.35 ounces (265 grams) bittersweet (%70 cocoa solids) chocolate, chopped (preferably Valrhona Guanaja)
1 cup (240 ml) water
4 tbsp sugar, optional

Place a large mixing bowl on top of another slightly smaller one, filled with ice and cold water (the bottom of the large bowl should touch the ice). Set aside.

Put chocolate and water (also sugar if you’re using) in a medium-sized pan and melt the chocolate over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

Pour the melted chocolate into the mixing bowl sitting on top of ice and water, and start whisking with a wire whisk (or an electrical hand-held mixer) until thick. Watch the texture as you whip and make sure not to over-whip as it will make the mousse grainy. If the mousse becomes grainy (which is possible at your first try), transfer it back into the pan, reheat until half of it is melted, pour it back to the mixing bowl and whisk again briefly.

Divide into four serving cups and serve immediately.

May 7, 2011

Hot and Sour Soup

I love this classic Chinese soup. It is very flavorful and healthy. The pork can be omitted for a vegetarian version.

Hot and Sour Soup
adapted from Suzie the Foodie

4 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 green onions, sliced into inch-long pieces
1/2-inch piece of ginger, sliced into thin discs
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
4. oz. fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems only (reserve caps for later)

2 tablespoons canola oil
pork tenderloin, sliced thin (optional)
4 oz. fresh shiitake mushrooms, caps only, sliced
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1/2 cup canned, sliced bamboo shoots
1-2 tsp. red chile paste, such as sambal oelek or Sriracha hot sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
pinch sugar
1/2 block of extra firm tofu, drained and sliced in 1/4-inch cubes
3 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 1/4 cup water
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Chopped green onions and cilantro leaves, for garnish

Make the broth: To 4 1/2 cups chicken stock in a large pot, add green onions, ginger discs, smashed garlic, and shiitake mushroom stems. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer for about an hour. Pour broth through a mesh sieve to remove the vegetables. Set aside.

To a Dutch oven add 1 tablespoon canola oil. Heat on medium high and add pork. Stir fry for a few minutes until pork is cooked through. Remove pork from pot and set aside. Wipe pot clean. Add another tablespoon of canola oil to the Dutch oven, and over medium heat add shiitake caps. Cook until they are soft and glossy. Add the grated ginger and bamboo shoots and stir-fry for one minute. Then add the broth.

In a separate bowl combine chile paste, soy sauce, rice vinegar, salt, white pepper and a pinch of sugar. Add to the Dutch oven and stir. Bring soup to a boil and then let it simmer for 7 minutes. Add the cubes of tofu and cook a few more minutes. Add the cornstarch-water mixture to the soup and stir until thickened. Add pork to soup, and allow to re-heat.

Stir the soup while slowly drizzling in the lightly beaten egg to the hot broth to create wisps of egg. Taste and adjust seasonings by adding more salt, white pepper, or chile paste. Serve garnished with green onions and cilantro.

May 3, 2011


My husband's family introduced me to kimchi. If I remember correctly, my first taste was okay. But each time I ate it I found myself enjoying it even more. What is kimchi anyway? While there are variations, it's basically fermented, chili-spiced cabbage. I made cultured (fermented) salsa last summer, which uses a similar preparation process as kimchi, so I knew the process would work. When properly fermented, the kimchi (or salsa) has liquid that fizzes.

Why make your own kimchi? While kimchi is available for purchase at even regular grocery stores, homemade kimchi is much fresher. I've opened some store-bought jars of kimchi that were pretty questionable and tasted a little off. Also, kimchi is pretty easy, it just takes patience.

Last week I finally made a trip out to a mega-grocery store that specializes in international foods. It really is an amazing place...I spent a very long time there and will be going back much sooner than I did last time. Actually, it was very rewarding to see food I recognize after this past year of spending a lot of time studying food and recipes.

The recipe calls for coarse Korean chili powder, but I didn't write that detail down on my shopping list. While at the store, I found both coarse and fine powder, and ended up getting fine. Below is a photo of the pepper paste (left) and powder (right) to help you find some, as the English print was very small.

One last note: next time I will add daikon radish.

UPDATE: Both my husband and I agreed this kimchi was off, and it was due to the Korean chili pepper paste (gochujang), which has added sugar.  I have made this several more times omitting the paste and liked it much better.  I have modified the recipe.

from David Lebovitz

1 large Napa cabbage (2 pounds)
2 tablespoons coarse salt (do not use fine table salt)

1/3 cup white rice vinegar
1 tablespoon very-finely minced garlic
2 tablespoons coarse Korean chili powder (gokchu garu)
1/2 tablespoon very-finely minced fresh ginger
4 scallions, sliced in 2-inch (5cm) batons, including the green part
1 cup julienned daikon radish (optional)

1. Remove the tough outer leaves of the cabbage and slice it lengthwise in half. Remove the core.

2. Cut the cabbage into 2-inch pieces. Toss the cabbage with the salt in a large bowl, then transfer it to a non-reactive colander. Set a plate on top then weigh it down with something heavy for 24 hours.

3. Mix together the vinegar, garlic, chili powder, and ginger in a large, non-reactive bowl. The original recipe says to let this stand overnight as well, but I didn’t.

4. Add the cabbage in handfuls to the marinade, taking small bunches at the time and squeezing them of any excess water before adding them to the marinade. Mix the cabbage with the marinade, adding the scallions and daikon radish as well.

5. Pack into a jar, cover tightly, and let stand at room temperature 48 hours, then chill for 4 days before serving.

May 2, 2011

Buckwheat Crepes

Recently I made crepes for the first time. They were scrumptious! I expanded my crepe repertoire with these buckwheat crepes, another scrumptious venture. Usually served with a savory filling, these were very good. Buckwheat has a strong flavor, but it wasn't too distracting.

I tried three different fillings using odds and ends from my fridge:

gorgonzola, cream cheese, chopped walnuts
blanched spinach, gruyere, fried egg
sauteed onions, cream cheese, gruyere (my favorite)

Try whatever creative fillings you can think of, but don't forget the cheese! I think I'm becoming a cheese junkie...

UPDATE 6/10/13: Have made these using fresh buckwheat flour that I ground myself.  Fresh flour made these extra delicious and a more-appealing, less-gray color.

Buckwheat Crepes
from Gourmandines

1 1/4 cup buckwheat flour
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups milk or almond milk
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp butter, melted

Add the flours and salt to a food processor. Blend for a seconds to combine. Add the milk gradually while processing, and then add the melted butter and mix until blended. Let the batter rest for at least a half hour. Meanwhile, prepare fillings (some ingredients should be pre-cooked; see suggestions above).

Heat a skillet on medium heat. Add a sliver of butter before cooking each crepe. Add three tablespoons of batter and work quickly to spread the batter around by tilting the pan. Also, you can use the edge of a flat spatula to carefully rake the batter to the edges of the pan to evenly distribute the thickness of the batter.

Cook for a few minutes until the crepe bottom is flecked with golden brown. Flip the crepe. Add the fillings to the center of the crepe and allow them to heat up while the second side is cooking. Fold over two sides (like a burrito) or fold over four sides (see photos) to create a square with a bit of the filling exposed in the middle. Once filling is heated and the bottom of the crepe is golden brown, remove to plate and serve immediately.

Note: These freeze well for several weeks. Stack them between pieces of wax paper or parchment, and wrap airtight before freezing. You can make and refrigerate them up to a day ahead of serving.