Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Pumpkin Pie Bites

Wee! Squash season is my favorite season : ) So many delicious, healthy, low-cost things to cook with the amazing squashes one can find at the farmers market. I really will need to stock up before that goes away. I hosted the lovely Eldina this weekend, and, having a guest, I was inspired to cook. And what did I have? Squash. Pumpkin, butternut, acorn, spaghetti... In addition to the apples and sweet potatoes we got at the Overland Park farmer's market (best one in the KC area for sure!). I was basically able to use the oven as a heater for most of the weekend since I was roasting so much squash. What I'm trying to say is, there are many more squash recipes to come....

Pumpkin Pie Bites
modified from My Whole Food Life

1 cup pecans OR walnuts
1 cup raw almonds
3 T pepitas
10 dates
1/2 cup pumpkin puree (instructions here)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves

Seed mix:
3 Tbs each: sesame seeds, poppy seeds, flax seeds

1. In a food processor, process almonds, pecans, pepitas, and spices until finely ground.
2. Add dates, and process well. Add pumpkin, and pulse until well combined.
3. Roll dough into 1.5" diameter balls, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
4. Combine seed mix in a small bowl. Take out pumpkin balls and roll each in seeds until completely coated, place back on plate, and refridgerate for another 30 minutes.
5. Serve chilled.

Vegan Gluten-free Dairy-free Cheesecake

Goodbyes are always difficult. It seems the more I do, the worse I get at doing them. You think there'd be an elegance or grace that one would acquire over the years, a finesse to doing this sort of thing but I've found the opposite to be true.

My manager announced that he's going to be leaving to go live down in AR before the end of the year. Not that he's leaving the company, mind you, just will be working remotely. So, there was a happy hour held to see his wife off (who's moving down before him) at a local brewery. She's dairy-free, which gave me the perfect opportunity to go crazy with my dairy-free recipes I've been stocking up, particularly this "cheese"cake one.

It came out great, and I think it was actually better on subsequent days. I would recommend soaking the cashews overnight if possible. Definitely looking forward to making all the suggested variations when I have need of a faux cheesecake again!

Vegan Gluten-free Dairy-free Cheesecake w Coconut Whipped Cream
from Chickpea Magazine, Summer 2013

2 cups cashews, soaked 2 hours - overnight, well rinsed
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 Tbs lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
14 oz. can full-fat coconut milk
2 Tbs coconut oil
1 tsp agar powder

1. Blend cashews with maple syrup, lemon juice, vanilla, and salt.
2. In a small saucepan, heat coconut milk and oil until just bubbling.
3. Whisk agar powder into coconut mixture for 1 minute.
4. Add coconut mixture to blender, and blend until velvety smooth, scraping down sides of blender as needed.

1 cup walnuts
1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
10 dates
1/2 tsp vanilla
pinch salt

1. Combine all ingredients in food processor and pulse together until finely chopped and starts to clump.
2. Firmly press mixture into bottom and slighly up side walls of 9" a spring-form pan. Set aside.

Blueberry Swirl:
1 cup blueberries
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1/2 Tbs chia seeds

1. Add all ingredients to small saucepan, heat over medium heat until blueberries burst.
2. Use immersion blender to blend until smooth.  Set aside.

Lemon Coconut Whipped Coconut Cream:
1 can full-fat coconut milk, refrigerated overnight
 2 Tbs lemon juice
1 Tbs maple syrup

1. Turn can of coconut milk upside down, open, and pour off coconut water into separate container to safe for another applications.
2. Scoop out coconut cream into a medium bowl. Combine with lemon juice and maple syrup, and whisk together with hand mixer until creamy.

To compile:
1. Pour cashew cheesecake base into prepared crust. Dot blueberry mixture onto th etop of the cheesecake, and use a knife to swirl the blueberries into the cake.
2. Refridgerate for 4 hours until chilled and firm.
3. Serve with dallop of coconut whipped cream and garnish with fresh blueberries.

Possible alterations:
Toasted Hazlenut Chocolate Chip
- Replace walnuts with toasted hazelnuts in the crust. Omit lemon juice and bluebrry swirl from cheesecake base and add 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips. Cool and top cheesecake with chocolate ganache (1 cup chocolate chips, 2 Tbs coconut milk, 1 Tbs coconut oil, melted together in double boiler). Garnish with chopped hazlenuts.

Peanut Butter with Chocolate Drizzle
- Omit lemon juice and blackbery swirl, add 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter to cashew cheesecake base. Drizzle top with chocolate ganache (recipe above). Garnish with chopped peanuts

Raspberry Lemon
- Add zest of 1 lemon to cheesecake base, omit blueberry swirl. Sprinkle 1/2 cup fresh raspberries over bottom of crust before pouring cheesecake base in. Serve with dollop of whipped cream, fresh raspberries, and sprinkle of finely grated lemon zest.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Zucchini Noodles with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto

This was one of the most delicious things I've made in a while. Raw, vegan, and gluten-free. There's really not much more one could ask for! The original recipe has quite a bit of oil and pine nuts, so I pretty much halved all of that. Ever since starting on this weight-loss competition at my work, I've gotten increasingly conscious about things like this! It's a good life-style change : ) Everything in moderation, even delicious things like olive oil  and pine nuts.

Zucchini Noodles with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto
adapted from Craving Greens
1 large serving (600 calories)

1 medium zucchini
1/2 cup basil, packed
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil
2 Tbs oil (from sun-dried tomato jar)
2 Tbs pine nuts
1 Tbs. toasted pine nuts, to garnish
2 Tbs. nutritional yeast
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a food processor, combine basil, sundried tomatoes, oil, 1/4 cup pine nuts, yeast, and garlic and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
2. Spirilize (or grate or julienne) zucchini into "noodles".
3. Toss zucchini with pesto until well combined. Garnish with pine nuts and eat immediately.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Chilled Cucumber Yogurt Soup

This is a nice light and cool (and cooling) soup for the summer, to help use up some of those in-season cucumbers and fresh garden herbs! I used garlic chives from my garden.

Chilled Cucumber Yogurt Soup
from Filozofia Smaku (Philosohpy taste)
serves 3-4

250 g. cucumbers
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbs fresh dill, chopped (or 1 Tbs. dried)
4 Tbs chives, chopped (1 Tbs reserved to garnish)
1 tsp. lemon juice
400 mL plain yogurt
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp olive oil + more to garnish

1. Peel cucumbers (optional), remove seeds if they are large, and grate.
2. Combine all ingredients, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Chill soup before serving. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil, fresh chives, and a sprig of fresh dill.

Cucumber Clenser Cocktail

One of my coworkers has been bringing in their amazing summer bounty of cucumbers. Piles and piles of them several times a week in the office. I have profited greatly from these, and have gotten to make some delicious cucumber-based dishes. This is one of my favorites, perfect for curing dehydration from the evening biking-commute home. You can blend the ice in the drink instead of serving over ice if desired.

Cucumber Cleanser Cocktail
adapted from Duzo Solé
serves 1

1 cucumber, peeled and diced
juice of 1/2 lemon OR lime
handful of mint leaves, fresh
1 Tbs honey
ice to serve

1. Blend all ingredients except for ice. Serve over ice.

Raw Brownies

I've been wanting to make raw brownies for a long time now: they just look so dense and chocolaty and healthy! Everything I look for in my food (as well as simple and fast: no baking because it's raw). Finally I got the chance to do so! I didn't add any honey to mine, and I feel like since I used all cocoa powder instead of half and half carob, this is why. It was good, but I feel a few tablespoons worth would go a long way. I doubled this recipe and pressed into a standard 8x8 square brownie pan. They're quite dense and rich, I would recommend making a single batch.

Raw Brownies
from Season to Season Eating
makes 4 large or 8 small brownies

1 cup dates, pitted (fresh are better)
1/2 cup raw walnuts (or toasted, if you're not going for raw)
1/2 cup cocoa powder (or half and half carob powder)
1/4 cup flax seed
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
2 shakes cayenne
1/2 tsp course sea salt + more for sprinkling
honey (to taste)
2 Tbs water

1. Blend walnuts in a food processor until finely ground. Add dates and blend until a paste.
2. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until spices are incorporated.
3. Pour the mixture into a small pan and press mixture into pan. Dust with additional cocoa powder and sea salt (or coarse/powdered sugar)

Rosemary-infused Simple Syrup

This simple syrup can be used in all kinds of drinks that call for simple syrup. I was inspired when I saw a recipe for muddled basil and gin with simple syrup. I got a costco-sized bottle of store-brand gin a few months back and it's laid untouched ever since. I had a party to go to, so it was a great excuse to get back into the kitchen and cook up something using the rosemary I had growing in my little garden. I ended up making a drink that was about equal parts gin and simple syrup plus fresh lemon juice, shaken with ice and served with a sprig of rosemary over ice. This syrup makes great herby summer cocktails, and other aromatic herbs can substituted for the rosemary (like thyme or sage). I would encourage you to make a double or triple batch, as this ran out mighty fast.

Rosemary-infused Simple Syrup
from The Kitchn

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
4 sprigs fresh rosemary

1. In a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat, stir together ingredients.
2. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Let boil for 1 minute until sugar is disolved.
3. Remove from heat and let stand for 30 minutes. Pour through a thin clean cloth or wire mesh and store in an airtight container, disgarding sprigs of rosemary.
4. Cover and chill for 4 hours.

Seedy Tahini Cole Slaw

Summer produce is one of my favorite things. Even better, my company brings in a local, organic farmer's market once a month during the summer months so I don't even have to go out to get nice, fresh produce! They always have a dish created by our cafeteria chef to highlight the produce available at each market with a recipe card you can take. This time it happened to be a cole slaw with vinegar and melon. It was decent, but I thought I could come up with something better. Since they had fresh cabbage for only 1$ a head, I got one and did some experimenting. I really like what I came up with, a combination of this and this recipe plus a couple of my own additions. You can really add whatever you want to this recipe, including thing like chopped kale or watercress or cashews or pineapple. There's a lot of directions cole slaw can go, but this is a nice, seedy, protein-filled base to start off with. It can be eaten straight, as a meal or a side dish, or dumped on top of salad or even pasta. This recipe makes quite a bit, so be prepared to share and experiment with the left-overs.

Seedy Tahini Cole Slaw
adapted from Lunch Box Bunch

1 small head of cabbage
3-4 carrots, grated or minced
1 cucumber, diced small or julieened
1 cup (8 oz) silken tofu
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup tahini
2 Tbs agave
1 Tbs maple syrup
1.5 Tbs soy sauce (or tamari)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/3 cup oil (I used olive)
1/4 cup poppy seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted
1/4 cup pepitas, roasted
several generous dashes cayenne
salt and pepper (to taste)

1. Remove cabbage stem, thinly slice, and then chop into smaller pieces. Place in a large mixing bowl
2. Add vinegar, tahini, agave, maple syrup, soy sauce, garlic powder, and cayenne to a blender, and blend on low until creamy. Slowly drizzle in oil with blender on low. Add salt and pepper as needed.
3. Combine all ingredients (including seeds) and stir well to combine.
4. Serve fresh or allow to sit overnight and marinate.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Sticky Walnut Tart

Ah! So my lofty-goal of posting every week seems to have gotten lost in the craziness that was the last month for me. Between a business trip to Philadelphia, hard-to-meet deadline for a project, trip to Chicago (first vacation!) and a 4-day weekend for the 4th, things have been a little bit insane. But: summer has finally kicked in, farmers markets are in full-swing, and I'm motivated and ready to go *determined face*

So with that, I present to you a delicious buttery tart that you will want to make for any gathering. Available in full and individual sizes.

Sticky Walnut Tart
slightly adapted from savorme

1 sweet pastry crust (I used this recipe)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup honey (or golden syrup)
200 g butter
250 g walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Butter tart pan (or 6 individual tartlette pans) and line with pastry dough.
3. Blind bake crust for 15 minutes.
4. Melt together sugar, vanilla, honey, and butter in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Boil for 3 minutes, remove from heat, and stir in walnuts until well coated.
5. Dump walnuts and caramel into the tart pan and spread walnuts and caramel evenly. Bake for 17 minutes or so, until caramel is bubbling and walnuts are starting to darken on the top.
6. Allow to cool slightly or completely and serve.
Optional: sprinkle with sea salt

Grilled Watermelon with Feta and Mint

 Happy Fourth of July!

... Yeah I know it's a little late, but not too late to post this delicious grilled watermelon salad recipe. This is something I've been wanting to make literally for years, and the 4th was a perfect opportunity. It's simple, elegant, refreshing, and flavorful. Really everything I could want in a dish.

My mom had a nice get together at her place pool-side for the holiday, and I was put in charge (de facto) for the food. The menu:

Home-made Black Bean Burgers
Hawaiian Macaroni Salad
Grilled Watermelon Salad (recipe below)
Grilled Corn (shuck corn but keep husk on; re-husk and grill for 15 minutes, turning several times)
Veggie Kabobs (skewer pearl onions, green pepper, mushrooms, red onion, and zucchini, drizzle with balsamic, evoo, and rosemary; grill for 6-8 mins, turning half way through)
Boulevard's KC Pils (great take on an American Style Lager)

If I were to title this menu, I would call it Vegetarian Summer Delight.

Grilled Watermelon with Feta and Mint
adapted from Souvlaki for the Soul

6 slices of watermelon, 2" thick, rind removed
2 Tbs oil
1/4 cup feta, crumbled
2 Tbs mint, chiffonade
1 Tbs sherry vinegar

1. Start up the grill.
2. Lightly brush watermelon sides with olive oil, then put on the grill. Grill each side for 2-3 minutes, until char marks appear, then flip and grill for 2-3 minutes again.
3. Take watermelon off grill and spread across a plate. Drizzle with vinegar, then sprinkle goat cheese and mint across the top.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Baked Sweet Potato with Black Beans, Arugula, and Poached Egg

I seem to find that when there are many things, those are the times I do the most cooking, especially baking. Maybe that's because I know I'll be pre-occupied anyway, so waiting 2 (or 3 or 4) hours for black beans to cook really won't be an issue. I'll be up anyway. Maybe it's because that I subconsciously want to create periods of great activity so I'll enjoy and appreciate downtime more when it comes. Maybe it's because my brain knows it needs some reprieves, and cooking can be a great way to work out stress. Maybe my cooking drive proportionally related to the amount of other things I have to do. I'm not sure, but I do know there should be a name for this baking-when-I'm-super-busy phenomena. I've seen it happen to many a food blogger. Anyhow....

This dish is basically made out of food gifts: one of my besties Alex gave me these two beautiful sweet potatoes from the farmer's market, and told me to make something special with them, and I happily obliged. Along with the dried black beans that my friend Eldina's mom so generously gave me when she moved and the eggs I buy from a co-worker (which are gifts in-and-of themselves), this recipe really brings me back to my roots of using what you can find and what you along with my new goals of cooking using local ingredients (potatoes, arugula, and eggs). Finders Eaters!

Baked Sweet Potato with Black Beans, Arugula, and Poached Egg
from How Sweet
serves 4

2 large sweet potatoes
1 cup cooked black beans
4 oz. cheese (I used essentially queso fresco)
2 cups arugula
1 tsp olive oil
1 Tbs lemon juice
4 eggs, poached (or however you like)
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Pre-heat oven to 425F.
2. Poke sweet potatoes all over with a fork, place on a baking sheet with a silicon slip-mat (for easy cleaning) and bake for 30 minutes. Reduce heat and cook for 30-40 minutes more, until a fork slides all the way into the center of the potato with ease.
3. Remove potatoes from oven and let cool for 5 minutes or so. Start to cook your eggs at this point.
4. Slice the potatoes length-wise down the center and top each half with 1 oz. of cheese. Place back into the oven (put on broil) and cook for 1-2 minutes until cheese starts to turn golden-brown.
5. In a mixing bowl, toss arugula with oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.
6. Plate the potatoes and top with 1/4 cup black beans, 1/2 cup salad, and the poached egg. Grind some pepper over the top (if desired), and serve immediately.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Kale and Quinoa Salad with Tahini Dressing

I've been getting tons of spam-comments on my blog lately from what look like comment-spam bots from India. I've taken it as a sign calling me to get back into cooking and blogging, since I've really fallen out of doing that as of late. But I'm making it a goal as of now to at least cook one new blog-worth thing a week and post about it.

I've been getting these wonderful eggs from a co-worker, who raises chickens free-range and on vegetarian feed. They're seriously the best egg's I've ever eaten, and amazingly good and flavorful when hard-boiled without even needing salt sprinkled on top. The yolks are deep orange-yellow, and you can really taste the nutrients in them. They're actually so nutrient-rich, when I made a 2.5 egg omelettes the other day, pan-fried in oil, it smelled and tasted like what I remember dark-meat fried chicken to be like, and it was too much for me! I got sick off them. I couldn't believe that, but I guess I need to skip out on the pan-frying and water cook or bake these nutrient-rich babies. I don't think I'll ever be able to buy store-bought eggs again after this, though.

This simple light-but-hearty kale salad is perfect for dinners where you want a lot of flavor with little effort. It's quite thick with the tahini dressing, but doesn't weight you down.

Kale and Quinoa Salad with Tahini Dressing
adapted from Foodness
serves 2

2 farm-fresh eggs

3/4 cup quinoa, rinsed
1.5 cups water
1 small bunch kale, stems removed and thinly-sliced
1/4 cup craisins
1 Tbs. sesame seeds, toasted
 1/4 cup tahini
2 Tbs. olive oil
3 Tbs. lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbs. honey
salt (to taste)

1. Combine quinoa and water in a medium sauce pan over high heat. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for ~12 minutes until water is absorbed. Let stand for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork and let sit lidless while quinoa cools.
2. Whisk together tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, zest, garlic, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.
3. Add kale and cooled quinoa to bowl and toss until well-combined. Add craisins and half of the sesame seeds and toss again to combine. Sprinkle with remaining sesame seeds and serve.

Radish Carrot Top Pesto Lasagna with Sage Infused Béchamel and Pan-roasted Carrots and Kale

On my recent locavore mission, I've been going to my local farmer's market on Saturdays and buying the fresh, local, in-season produce there, with ambitious goals to . But then throughout the week I find I have no time, energy or even drive to cook and get to the next weekend with a fridge full of not-as-fresh produce giving me the pouty-face for wasting their best days sitting in a cold waiting room. It really is a tragedy.

 This time, though, I didn't let that happen: I used ALL the local produce I had. Every last bit. I would have to say this is actually the most locally-based then I've ever made. If I had gotten the freshly-ground flour that can be found at the local Hy-vee and made the lasagna noodles, it would have been pretty much pure-local. Radishes, carrots, and kale from my local farmer's market, sage from my garden (my first garden produce of the year, from my first truly-mine garden!), milk, cream, and butter from Shatto, and Kansas City-made mozzarella from Hautly Cheese Company. This is light and hearty at the same time, and tastes just like spring.

Radish Carrot Top Pesto Lasagna with Sage Infused Béchamel and Pan-roasted Carrot Purée and Kale

12 lasagna noodles
1 recipe raddish and carrot top pesto (below)
1 recipe sage-infused béchamel (recipe here)
1 recipe ricotta (recipe here)
1 bunch carrots
herb for carrots (I used rosemary)
1 Tbs. butter
salt, pepper
1 bunch kale
8 oz. mozzarella, grated
2 oz. Parmesan, grated

1. Pre-heat oven to 375F. 
2.. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
3. While water boils, melt butter in a cast-iron skillet on medium-heat. Add carrots and pan-roast with herb of choice, and sprinkle with salt.
4. Place a plate over the pan and cook until carrots are softened, stirring occasionally. When soft, food-process (adding oil if needed) until a purée is formed. Cover and set aside until assembly.
5. Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions. While cooking, make raddish and carrot-top pesto below.
6. Pour the lasagna water into a bowl with the washed kale, and let kale soak for a minute until kale is softened. Strain and squeeze as much liquid out of the kale as possible, and set aside.
7. Butter the lasagna dish, and assemble the lasagna: Pour 1/4 of the béchamel on the bottom of the pan. 
- Lay 4 noodles across the pan, slightly overlapping if need be. 
- Spread a layer of 1/2 the carrot purée, half the ricotta, half the carrot top pesto, half the kale, spreading out the leaves, and another 1/4th of the béchamel
Repeat above 2 bullet points for the next layer. Place remaining lasagna noodles on top, then remaining 1/4th of the béchamel on top and evenly sprinkle the mozzarella and Parmesan on top. 
8. Bake for 30 - 35 minutes, or until cheese on top starts to get golden-brown and bubbly. Remove from oven.
9. Let lasagna sit and set for 10-15 minutes before cutting and serving.

Raddish and Carrot-top Pesto
2 cups mixed carrot and/or radish tops, stems chopped off
1/3 cup toasted walnuts
2 - 4 Tbs. oil, as needed
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a food processor, pulse the walnuts until they are completely ground.
2. Add the tops and process until completely chopped, scraping down the sides as needed.
3. Process again, slowly adding oil until a nice paste is formed. Add salt and pepper to taste and put aside in a covered bowl until assembling lasagna.

Pear Arugula Salad with Walnuts and Bleu Cheese

Finally, spring has sprung!

Local, sustainable ingredients are abound, and I've been soaking it all in : ) (More posts to follow shortly) After a winter of little-to-no cooking, and being busy settling into my new job and life back in the KC area I've been the traditional vegetarian stereotype that just subsists off of salads (yes, yes this is a salad recipe, something I usually don't bother blogging about since my diet is super-saturated with salads, but this one is truly special).

But, now that the local, organic farmer's market is getting into full-swing and I can get some great in-season produce just up on the road on Saturdays, it's almost impossible to not to cook something fabulous with these ingredients. It would almost be a waste to keep making the same salad again and again with these ingredients. I got the arugula, radishes, and honey locally.

This salad would be a great spring dinner-party course: stunning, fresh, and delicious, and it takes minimal work to prepare.

Pear Arugula Salad with Walnuts and Bleu Cheese
from Cooking Melangery
serves 1

1 ripe (but firm) pear
1 cup arugula
5 radishes, sliced on a medium mandolin setting
2 Tbs. toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
1 - 2 Tbs. bleu cheese, crumbled
1/2 Tbs. oil (I used walnut)
a splash white wine vinegar
salt and fresh ground pepper
honey for drizzling
lemon juice (optional)

1. Cut pears horizontally into 4 slices, and cut out just the cores, but leaving the stem on the top piece. Brush with lemon juice to keep from browning (can cut pears last to skip that bit if you don't have lemon juice)
2. Toss arugula, radishes, walnuts, bleu cheese, oil, vinegar, and salt and pepper together in a bowl until everything is well-coated.
3. Assemble the pear with the mixed salad between each slice, stuffing as full as possible, alternating salad and pear slices until the pear is re-composed.
4. Drizzle with honey and serve.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Vegetable Curry

Delicious curry that's so close to India! If only I had a curry plant going, this would be pretty much the real thing. One day soon! This again is one of the recipes that Gopal made for me and my roommates when he and his family came over to show us Americans how to cook the Indian way. I still haven't perfected my chapati technique, but hopefully one day soon!

Vegetable Curry
from Gopal

2 Tbs. oil
green chilies (optional)
1/2 medium red onion
1 handful curry leaves
2 green bell peppers, diced small
1 medium russet potato, diced small
1 roma tomato, diced small
1 small handful cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup coconut paste
1 Tbs. ginger/garlic paste
1 tsp. tumeric
1/4 tsp. black pepper
salt to taste

Note: After each ingredient, stir and saute for a minute or two before adding the next.

1. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat.
2. Add green chilies (if using), onions,  cilantro, and curry leaves.
3. Add bell pepper, and potato. Cover with lid and let saute for an additional minute.
4. Add tomato, and saute for 3 minutes. Add coconut paste, ginger/garlic paste, tumeric, black pepper, stir well, and cover with lid to cook for 5 minutes.
5. Season with salt to taste, and serve with chapatis.

from Gopal
makes about 12 chapatis

3 cups whole wheat flour + more for sprinkling
1.5 cups water
1 tsp. salt
oil or butter (optional)

1. Add flour and salt to a bowl and stir to combine.
2. Make a well in the center of the flour, add water, and combine with hands. Knead 5 minutes. Add more water or flour as needed, until all flour comes off the side of the bowl but dough isn't sticky.
3. Divide into 12 balls, and press each one flat by pressing hands together tightly and twisting palms in opposite directions to make compact disks.
4. Let each ball set for 5 - 10 minutes before rolling out
5. Put some flour on the counter, cover both sides of a dough ball, and roll out to about a 5" diameter circle. To roll: roll back and forth one time on a side, flip and turn 90 degrees and repeat. 
6. Pre-heat a skillet to low heat. Add a rolled-out chapati, in crease heat to medium, cook for about 1 minute, flip, then turn head back to low and cook until dough-color has left. Flip back and forth a couple times until black splotches appear on the air bubbles.
7. If using oil or butter, drizzle or spread on chapate with the back of a spoon after the first flip.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Vegetable Biryani with Riata Sauce

This was one of my favorite dishes in India. I pretty much celebrated every time we got it for lunch (instead of our same daily-meal of rice, sambar, chapatis, and similar-tasting curry. Delicious and healthy, but the same thing every day makes a foodie cranky). Since all of our food was delivered I really didn't cook much at all, save for our Thanksgiving day feast. So, to learn how to cook Indian food, we had our amazing, kind, and gentle care taker Gopal come over with his beautiful family and teach us how to cook a few Indian dishes. Gopal pretty much made up these recipes himself, and they're amazing so I'd like to share them with the world.

I finally had the opportunity to make this dish for an Oscar party last weekend, where all the guests were assigned a dish from a country represented in the Oscars. By fortunate coincidence, I got India (from Life of Pi)

Unfortunately, it's fresh curry leaves and fresh double-beans are not stocked in the supermarkets during the winter in the mid west. SO, i substituted curry powder (so not the same thing, I know) and canned red kidney beans (or I would have, if I had realized that I don't actually own a can opener, a fact I have apparently been oblivious of since I moved into my new apartment 3 months ago x.x) Since this is an Indian recipe, you can pretty much substitute/remove/add any vegetables or seasonings you want to this. These are just the ones my dear old Gopal choose to use in his version of biryani.

Note: It's easiest to just prepare each vegetable as you go along instead of preparing all before starting.

Vegetable Biryani
from Gopal

5 Tbs. oil
1 handful fresh curry leaves
1 small red onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, cut into thin strips and then halved
3 small carrots, cut into 1/4" thick half moons
2 handfuls of green beans, chopped until 1/4" circles
1 small russet potato, diced
large handful of fresh double-beans
1 handful cilantro, chopped
2.5 Tbs. ginger/garlic paste
1/2 cup coconut paste
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
green chillies (optional)
3 cups basmati rice
1 Tbs. salt, divided

     Note: after each individual item is added to the pot, stir to incorporate new ingredients and cook for 1 minute before adding the next ingredient.

1. In a bowl, soak the rice. Dice the potato and soak in a separate bowl, same with the double-beans.
2. Heat the oil on medium heat in a stock pot
3. Add curry leaves, onion, bell pepper, carrots, green beans, potato, and double beans. Cover with lid and let cook for 5 minutes.
4. Drain rice and add fresh water to soak.
5. Add garlic/ginger paste, cover, and let cook for 2 minutes. Add coconut paste, cover, and let cook for 2 more minutes.
6. Add 2 tsp. salt and cover. Then add diced tomato and cover.
7. Add 6 cups water, turn on high heat, add remaining 1 tsp. salt and bring to a boil.
8. Drain rice, add to pot, and cook for 15 minutes, stirring every 5.
9. Set pot aside with lid on for 15 minutes.
10. Serve with raita sauce.

Riata Sauce
from Gopal

1 cucumber
1/2 medium red onion, diced small
500 mL yogurt
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup diced cilantro

1. Combine all ingredients and serve over biryani.

Moroccan Spiced Carrot Hummus

Winter has been raging on here in the Midwest. This shot was taken on top of 2 or so feet of snow. x.x To fight the snow and the cold that kept me home on this particular day, I soaked some chickpeas and whipped together this hummus during lunch time. Easy, quick, and delicious! And the spices will take you to a place far from this snowy tundra : )

I sautéed my carrots instead of boiling them and this made them more so chunks. I tend to prefer my hummus more chunky anyway, but I included directions from the original recipe for the smoother hummus lovers.

Moroccan Spiced Carrot Hummus
from Healthy. Delicious.

1.5 cups carrots, peeled and cut into coins
1.5 cups (1- 16 oz. can) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup tahini
1 lemon, juiced
4 cloves garlic, minced
6 Tbs. cold water
1 Tbs. olive oil, plus more for serving
1 Tbs. Ras El Hanout (I used this recipe)

1. Add carrots to a small sauce pan and cover with water. Boil about 10 minutes, until very soft. Drain and set aside.
2. Pour rinsed chickpeas onto a kitchen towel and cover with another towel. Rub together to loosen skins on the chick peas. Pour chickpeas into a bowl and cover with water. Remove the skins that float to the top, stir the chick peas, and remove the additional skins that float to the top. Drain chickpeas.
3. Pour drained chickpeas into a food processor, add carrots, and process together until they form a paste. While running, add tahini, lemon juice, and garlic. Continue to process until combined.
4. Continue running and add water and process for 5 minutes, or until desired consistency has been reached. Add olive oil and ras el hanout and pulse to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
5. Server with drizzled olive oil.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Butternut Squash Cheddar Galette

This was my first galette, and it was savory! I kind of associate galettes with sweetness, because I see so many recipes for sweet fruit ones, but this savory one was great. Perfect for packing lunches, and since the pie crust is rolled so thinly, you get more filling per pie crust (and therefore less butter per serving : ) ) This was also the first real think I've cooked since I started my new job (!!!). I'm not used to cooking so little, but I'm surprisingly drained after getting home from a whole day of training (after busy weekends of helping my parents out). Definitely hoping that I get some more energy to cook after work, and I think I will once I've completed training and the weather gets nicer/brighter.

I used about 1/4 the original recipe's measure of olive oil, so if you want to use the full 1/4th cup, feel free, I just feel it would be too greasy like that, but as you can see, my butternut squash was a little wrinkly (but still delicious). Up to you!

Butternut Squash Chedder Galette
slightly adapted from Domestic Deborah

1 recipe pate brisee/pie crust (I used Martha Stewart's recipe)
1.5 lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup aged white cheddar, grated
1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbs. fresh sage, minced
1 tsp. salt
black pepper to taste
1 large egg yolk + 1 Tbs. cold water

1. Pre-heat oven to 375F.
2. Roll out pastry into a 12" circle. Place on a large baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and refridgerate until ready to use.
3. Combine butternut squash, onion, cheddar, olive oil, sage, salt, and pepper in a mixing bowl and fold together until mixture is reasonably consistent and lightly coated in olive oil.
4.  Mound filling onto the pie crust and spread out evenly, leaving 2" of pie crust all around the edges. Fold edge of crust over the filling.
5. Whisk together egg yolk and water, and brush onto crust.
6. Bake for 45-50 minutes (or more) until crust is golden brown and butternut squash is cooked (it may not completely soften and that's fine).
7. Let galette cool for 30 minutes, then serve

Fried Plantain

Fried plantain is one of my favorite island foods. So naturally sweet and delicious and, if fried right, soft on the inside and crispy. You want your plantain to be pretty much completely black on the outside before using it. Of course, you can fry your plantain when green or yellow, and that will be much more of a potato-y substance, and you can cook with it/flavor it accordingly. But in my opinion, the black, sweet plantains are the best.

Fried Plantain

1.5 Tbs. butter
1 black plantain

1. On medium-low heat, melt the butter in a frying pan.
2. Cut plantain at an angle so the slices have a longer surface area (or you can cut length-wise into quarters if desired)
3. Evenly place plantain slices in the pan. Each must be on it's face (you may have to cook in batches)
4. Cook each slice until golden-brown on the bottom, rotating some from outside of pan to inside if needed. Flip each piece as it caramelizes onto it's other side and caramelize other side. Make sure there's extra butter in the pan on the edges of the plantain. If it gets too dry and plantains start sticking, add more butter.
5. Set plantains aside once golden-brown on both sides.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Raw Coconut Milk (and how to de-husk a coconut)

Ahhh.... on of life's simple pleasures: gathering your own food. One of my favorite things to do down here in Grand Cayman (where the family house is) is to gather ripe coconuts, de-husk them (a process in-and-of it's self (shown below) ) and make tasty things with them. Last time I was here, I wasn't nearly as much of a foodie as I am today. In preparation for this trip, I researched some coconut recipes and the first and fore-most is making coconut milk (or cream), the base of so many things today. Coconuts have gotten very popular as of late (coconut milk, cream, and oil in particular) in the health-food and vegan communities, so I've actually been very excited for near-infinite access to coconuts (well, as much as I can find, gather, husk, and process).

Raw Coconut Milk
from Kitchen Apparel

2 cups water (below 115F for raw)
1 mature coconut, husked, de-shelled, and peeled

1. Blend flesh of coconut and 2 cups warm water together in a high-speed blender for a few minutes until milk is frothy and chunky.
2. Strain liquid out into a container using cheese cloth (or paper towels). Once all liquid is strained hand-squeeze the pulp until all the milk has been released and the pulp is dry and powdery. Discard powder.

For Coconut Cream:

1. Cover coconut milk and place in fridge overnight. The cream will float to the top, so carefully strain out into a separate dish to obtain coconut cream.

How to De-husk a coconut:
1. Obtain a ripe coconut: Brown/orangey on the outside, preferably tree-ripened.

2. Shake coconut and check to see if coconut has milk.
3. If you hear some good sloshing: congratulations! This coconut is (probably) good to use.
4. With a good strong hammer, use the nail-puller side to make a line down the side of the coconut, from the indent (where it hung from the tree) to the base. Make a series of these, following the natural indents in the coconut long-wise. Don't hit too hard, you don't want to puncture or crack the coconut within.

 5. Once you've made these lines, wack the nail-puller side into the top indent, and pry off one of the sections you just outlined.

6. Continue this with the remaining sections. you may need to divide some up to make thinner strips, depending on how tough the husk is.
7. Eventually you'll have all the husk sections off, pull off the extra fibers, and voila! You have successfully uncovered a coconut.

Pumpkin Lasagna with Sage-infused Bechamel

This lasagna is a show-stopper. It's what I served at my first official dinner party:

My Bosnian family was moving to Boston (far away from the KC-area!) and one of our mutual friends had a small get-together where we all had snacks and celebrated our Bosnian family.

The Bosnian mother brought a beautiful gelatin cake on of her co-workers made for her. It was from a moulde, but it was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen food-wise. I broken vegetarian-edge for it *gasp!*

All the flowers were completely suspended within this thing, and it was 100% edible and (somehow) 100% gelatin-based food-stuffs, with the most delicate flavorings.

The mother is all about local, organic, seasonal natural-foods and since that's been my focus as of late, I proposed that night that I throw a dinner party the following day, as I thought I could whip up something everyone would enjoy : D

Butternut Squash Tahini Dip with fresh locally-made pita bread (Olive Cafe)

Citrus, Feta, Walnut Salad (without the squash)

Pumpkin Lasagna (recipe shown below)
Blanched Green Beans with walnuts, walnut oil, and light salt

Pear Almond Tart

I was pretty proud of myself after this dinner, not gonna lie. All in my mother's beautiful home and on her nice china (since they both live a few blocks away from each other in the burbs and my apartment is hardly of the dinner-party accommodating size) Though this has made me realize: I'm getting old. I'm addicted to NPR, I seriously enjoy throwing dinner parties, and I'm out-of-my-gourd excited to start working and being completely independent and responsible for myself. But if this is what getting old feels like, SIGN ME UP!

The picture shown above is a re-make (I was far too busy cooking and entertaining to take pictures at the time of the lasagna or the other dishes I made for the dinner), and I made it for my roommate from my Indian study abroad program when I visited her in her family home on Long Island, NY. It was beautiful and snowy, the perfect background for this winter-squash lasagna.

The original recipe calls for the pumpkin to be pureed, but I like it in layered strips for texture-sake. Also: you aren't limited to pumpkin, pretty much any squash would do. My original make of this lasagna was with pumpkin, the second one (featured above) is using butternut squash, as pumpkin was unavailable at the time.

Pumpkin Lasagna with Sage-infused Béchamel
from Gobo Root

12 lasagna noodles
4 cups sage infused béchamel (recipe below)
1 pumpkin, peeled, sliced thinly, oiled, salted, and roasted
1.5 cups ricotta (recipe here)
1 large bunch Swiss chard, washed and leaves separated from stem
1 cup Parmesan, grated
1 cup mozzarella, shredded

1. Pre-heat oven to 375F. Cook noodles according to package instructions. Reserve cooking water and dunk Swiss chard into the water for a few minutes.
2.  Squeeze excess moisture from the chard and cut into 1" pieces. Set aside.
3. In the bottom of the baking dish, spread evenly 1/4th of the béchamel. Arrange 4 noodles over the sauce.
4. Top with 1/2 of the pumpkin slices, then 1/2 the ricotta, then half the Swiss chard and another 1/4th béchamel.
5. Repeat with second layer: 4 more lasagna noodles, last 1/2 of pumpkin slices, last 1/2 of ricotta, and last of swiss chard and last 1/4th of béchamel.
6. Lay remaining 4 lasagna noodles over the top, and sprinkle with parmesan and mozzarella evenly.
7. Bake until top is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Sage-infused Béchamel
makes 4 cups

4 cups milk
6 Tbs. butter
6 Tbs. flour
a sprig of sage
salt and pepper
ground nutmeg

1. Place milk and sage in a medium sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and pour into a heat-proof bowl to let stand for 10 minutes. Discard leaves.
2. While milk is standing, melt butter in the sauce pan over low heat. Sprinkle in flour and stir quickly until flour has completely combined with butter. Let bubble for a few minutes until roux starts to smell nutty.
3. Turn heat up to medium and slowly add in sage-infused milk, whisking constantly.
4. Let sauce cook until thickened, and season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
5. Remove from heat and cover.

Pumpkin Butterscotch Granola Bar

Wow I've gotten behind on my blogging. Not that I've made a ton of food as of late, but these couple posts I've had in my back pocket for a while now.

I've discovered that the rate of posting per-month I do is directly correlated to how busy I am. Mid-December was my commencement date and since then I've been pretty much solidly on the go.

Now to the food....
These are actually the first granola bars I've ever made, and I was extremely pleased with the results! My only complaint was these were too sweet for my taste, so next time I'll scale back the sugar (probably not include the brown sugar at all) and update my recipe accordingly.

So! Without further ado,

Pumpkin Butterscotch Granola Bar
from Heather Christo Cooks

Makes about 20 granola bars

4 cups oats
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup brown suga
1/2 cup pumpkin puree (recipe here)
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/3 cups slivered almonds
1/2 cup pepitas (husked pumpkin seeds)
12 oz. butterscotch chips

1. Preheat oven to 325F and line a 9x13x1" pan with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, combine oats and oil. Stir until well coated.
3. Add honey, brown sugar, pumpkin, cinnamon, and salt and mix until combined.
4. Add almonds and pepitas and mix in. Then add butterscotch chips and mix.
5. Transfer granola to the prepared pan and spread evenly, pressing down with a spatula.
6. Bake for 30 minutes, then take the bars out, press down hard with the back of a spatula to compress, and bake for another 20 minutes.
7. Let bars cool completely before slicing into bars.

Optional: wrap in wax paper or parchment paper and tie with twine to keep bars from sticking to each other and to give a hand-hold