The grand thing about cooking is you can eat your mistakes. -Julia Child

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Beet Carpaccio Salad


So you may notice that some of my recipes posted near each other in time have some of the same ingredients. Like the Carrot and Parsnip Salad and the Fettuccine with Parsnip Ribbons. Or the Spinach and Brown Rice Pilaf with Feta and the Zucchini Pancakes (which contain feta). The reason for this is that I often wind up using only part of a specific ingredient, and then go in search of something else to use the leftovers in. That is what happened with the beets, and is why this is your second beet recipe this week. Thankfully the golden beet is more versatile than one might imagine, and lends itself to some creative cooking.

Creative is just what I'd call this recipe, as carpaccio usually involves raw beef, not cooked beets. In the original dish, beef is pounded or sliced very thinly and served raw, topped with a mustard or tangy vinaigrette sauce. As best I can tell, that is - I've never had the dish myself, and vegetarian me never will. Today's beet version plays off of the carpaccio idea by having you make very thin slices of roasted beet, and topping them with a tapenade-like tangy caper and onion mixture. The whole thing is served atop a bed of peppery baby arugula.

Beet Carpaccio Salad
Adapted from A Veggie Venture and Bon Appetit
Serves 4

Printable Version

2 medium golden beets
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling
4 tablespoons red onion, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons capers
5 tablespoons chives, chopped
2 hard cooked eggs, chopped
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 ounces baby arugula

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Wash and scrub beets. Place in a roasting pan and coat with one tablespoon olive oil and one teaspoon salt. Roast in oven until outside of beets will yield easily to a knife, about an hour. Remove from oven and let cool. When cool enough to handle, use a table knife to peel away the beets' skin. Using a mandoline or a sharp knife, cut beets into very thin slices. Set aside.
In a small bowl, stir together onion, capers, chives, eggs, remaining tablespoon of olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.
Spread the arugula out on the four serving plates. Arrange the beets in a circle on top of the arugula. Place a generous spoonful of the egg mixture in the center of the beets. Drizzle a small amount of extra virgin olive oil atop plate, if desired.

Verdict? Love this. If only because it is one of the more creative/innovative/unique dishes I've made in a while. Serve this as a light meal on its own, or as an impressive starter for a main course with bold flavors.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Mediterranean Orzo Salad


So here's something you won't hear often:  This is a recipe inspired by one of my favorite dishes from my college dining hall.  I will say that apparently our Dining Services has won many awards, so the food was probably on average slightly better than most other college's food.  Not that it didn't stop us from complaining at the time.

But this dish was one thing I was always happy to see on the menu.  It is simple in concept - orzo, tomatoes, spinach, and feta - but hard to get the flavors just right, as I discovered from trying to make this several times.  But I think I got it down...  For the uninitiated, orzo is like what you'd get if macaroni and rice had a baby.  It is pasta in a grain shape, about 1/2 inch long. 

Mediterranean Orzo Salad
Serves 6
by Me, inspired by PUDS
Printable Version

1/2 pound orzo
6 ounces fresh spinach
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved if large
1/3 pound feta, crumbled
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
juice of one lemon
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried basil  (or fresh if you have it, see below)
1 teaspoon dried oregano

Add orzo to a pot containing generously salted boiling water.  Cook according to directions on package.
Place spinach in a large colander.  When orzo has finished cooking, pour the pot's contents over the spinach, allowing the boiling water to wilt the spinach.  Shake out all liquid and pour orzo and spinach into a large bowl.
Stir in all remaining ingredients.  Taste for salt.  If feta or lemon was particularly mild you may wish to add up to an additional tablespoon white wine vinegar.

Verdict?  Well, you know I like this lots.  I hope it isn't just my nostalgia for college days talking.  Give this a try and let me know!  This is a great dish to bring to a party, especially in these summer months where you want something light but also filling.  I highly recommend you try this with fresh basil if you have it available - use about 1/4 cup and either cut it into fine ribbons chiffonade-style, or tear it into pieces and stir it in.  That will really take the dish to the next level, I promise you.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Golden Beets and Brussels Sprouts


This post goes out to my friend Adam, who shares my fondness for golden beets. They really are quite special.  Well, I suppose beets are pretty neat in general.  They look so unassuming in the stores, often stripped of their greenery tops and looking brownish from growing up in dirt.  But take them home and scrub away the soil, and you will be rewarded with their goodness.  Golden beets are even more special, as they won't stain your hands when working with them (a big plus, trust me), and taste (at least to me) a bit more buttery/subtly sweet than their crimson cousins.

This is the first recipe I tried them in, found after randomly picking up both golden beets and brussels sprouts (something I haven't eaten since I was a child) at the store one day.  I discovered a love for the beets, and rediscovered brussels sprouts, all in this one very simple dish: oven roasted beets meet parboiled brussels sprouts accompanied by shallots and herbs.

Golden Beets and Brussels Sprouts
Adapted from We [Heart] Food (another great blog name, no?), via Simply Recipes
Serves 3-4
Printable version

3 medium/large golden beets
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
kosher salt
10 large, fresh brussels sprouts
2 shallots, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped (or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Wash and scrub beets.  Place in a roasting pan and coat with one tablespoon olive oil and one teaspoon salt.  Roast in oven until outside of beets will yield easily to a knife, about an hour.  Remove from oven and let cool.  When cool enough to handle, use a table knife to peel away the beets' skin.  Cut beets into cubes about 1" to 1 1/2" on each side.
Remove outer layers of brussels sprouts until leaves appear tightly bunched and clean.  Trim bottoms of stems.
Fill a small saucepan halfway with generously salted water and bring to a boil.  Add the brussels sprouts and cook for 2-3 minutes, until almost fully cooked.  Drain and let cool.  When cool enough to handle, cut sprouts in half.
Add 1/2 tablespoon of oil to a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the shallots and cook until soft and translucent, being careful not to brown them.  Add a second 1/2 tablespoon of oil and raise the heat to medium-high.  Place the brussels sprouts in the skillet cut side down.  Let cook just until the surfaces begin to brown. 
Add the beets, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and black pepper.  Stir to combine.  Let cook for an additional minute or two.

Verdict?  A great tasting, healthy dish that is so simple to make.  I think it would also be great with a dollop of goat cheese on it.  I served it alongside some baked tofu.  I'm sure you can think of many other things that would make great company for the beets n' sprouts, too.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Summertime Cabbage and Kidney Bean Salad


Another AZEats recipe.

It is hot. Very hot. In Azerbaijan, that is. Here in NY we're having an extended period of early spring-like cold rainy gray days. Never mind that it is June and people elsewhere in the country are eating peaches!

But my friend abroad is hot, so despite the fact that I had a carrot and parsnip latke recipe to post for her, I'm going to skip that and not make her fry anything in this heat. So here is a salad recipe to enjoy using the cabbage that has apparently just come into season in Azerbaijan. For those of us in the U.S. - this recipe will work well as a summery side dish to serve at BBQs or elsewhere in place of our typically mayo-heavy slaws.

Summertime Cabbage and Kidney Bean Salad
By Me
Serves a small army
Printable Version

1/2 head green cabbage
2-3 teaspoons salt, divided
1/2 pound carrot
1 green bell pepper
2-3 scallions
1/4 cup (gently packed) cilantro leaves
1 15 ounce can kidney beans (or an equivalent amount of dried beans)
5 tablespoons orange juice
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
2 oranges, peeled, and cut into membrane-free wedges

(If using dried beans, soak overnight and boil until softened through. Drain and cool.)
Using a knife or a food processor, shred the cabbage into thin strips. Put cabbage in a large bowl and toss with 1 teaspoon salt. Let sit while preparing the remaining ingredients.
Finely chop the carrot, bell pepper, and scallion. Add them to the bowl with the cabbage. Coarsely chop the cilantro and add to the bowl. Add the kidney beans and stir to combine.
In a small bowl, whisk together orange juice, cider vinegar, olive oil, remaining salt, and red pepper flakes if using. Pour over vegetables and toss to evenly coat. Arrange orange slices on top. Serve immediately, or refrigerate overnight for even better flavor.

Verdict? Refreshing and tangy good. The orange and cilantro together really say "summer" to me. I really wasn't sure this recipe would work with the kidney beans in it but am very pleased with the result. As mentioned in the instructions, this is even better the next day, after the flavors have had a chance to meld. So prepare it a day in advance if you can, but it is still great when eaten right away.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Oatmeal Everything Cookies


Have you seen those TV show themed cookbooks?  Like The Sopranos Family Cookbook or...okay, that's the only one I could name.  Until today.  Apparently there is a Star Wars cookbook.  Its feature recipe?  Wookiee cookies.

I'd never be one to take a TV-themed cookbook seriously.  But today's recipe originated with that Wookiee cookies recipe.  An adaptation of the recipe appeared on a forum I was browsing and jumped out at me as having potential.  I, in turn, modified it for my taste and was very pleased with the results.  I used whole wheat flour and made it more of an oatmeal cookie than what it was originally (a double chocolate chip cookie). 
I chose to use a combination of the chips that I had on hand - white chips, peanut butter chips, and semi-sweet chocolate chips.  This is why I call them Oatmeal Everything Cookies - I threw everything I had on hand in them and it worked.  Feel free to do the same when you make them; add raisins, shredded coconut, whatever strikes your fancy.  I will say I was quite happy with my assortment of chips, as each bite had a slightly different taste depending on which chips you got.  Note also that this cookie has a respectable amount of cinnamon in it.  I think this really is what gives the cookie its standout flavor.  It doesn't scream cinnamon, but gives the cookie a bit more of a complex flavor than you usual sugar/flour/oat combination does.

Oatmeal Everything Cookies
Printable Version

1 cup all-purpose flour (4 ounces by weight)
1 cup whole-wheat flour (4 1/4 ounces)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, 1/2 cup white chips, and 1/2 cup chocolate chips (or 2 cups of any other add-in you desire)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment.
Mix together flours, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a bowl and set aside.
Cream butter and sugars until fluffy.  Add eggs and vanilla extract and stir until combined.
Add the flour mixture to the mixing bowl and continue stirring until well blended.  Stir in the oats.  Fold in the chips.
Scoop dough into balls about the size of a heaping tablespoon.  Place on a baking sheet with at least two inches between each cookie.
Bake for approximately 9 minutes or until cookie appears set.  Let cool on baking sheet for at least a minute, then move to cooling rack.

Verdict?  Surprisingly wonderful.  I think you'll really enjoy them.  The cookie has the ideal consistency (in my eyes) - crisp edges, chewy center.  And this cookie holds up well for several days - if stored in an airtight container they should be good for a week. 

One note - you want to bake the cookies until the tops stop looking doughy and the edges look firmly set.  Handle the cookies gently when they're still warm as they're quite crumbly then.  But once they've cooled down to room temperature they handle much better.  I know it is hard to not sample your cookies warm; I just wanted to warn you so you won't be alarmed when that warm cookie falls apart in your hand after stealing it from the cooling rack early!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Crock-Pot Yogurt


They're alive!  Bacteria.  Everywhere.  Doesn't sound tasty, right?  But this is a post about awesome bacteria.  Yogurt cultures.  "Live and active" as the yogurt tubs tout.  This is all about the life's work of those little buggers: making us yogurt.  In a Crock-Pot.  With about two minutes worth of (human) work.

I don't remember how I stumbled across this, but the idea hails entirely from Stephanie, the self-proclaimed "Crock-Pot Lady" over at her blog A Year of CrockPotting.  That post has spawned many comments and other blog posts, with people reporting on results of their various experiments such as using lowfat milk, soy milk, or even coconut milk as starters, different ideas for how to thicken the yogurt, etc.

There are two ingredients - milk and yogurt.  (Yes, yogurt - we need the first round of those live cultures to come from somewhere.)  Buy plain (as in sugar and flavor free) yogurt from the store for your first batch; use your own yogurt for subsequent batches.  Some of the various websites recommend Stonyfield Farm brand for your starter yogurt, claiming it has a higher level of active cultures.  That's what I used and had success on my first try so I'll recommend you do the same.   As for the milk - I used 2% and got a reasonably thickened yogurt.  You can, of course, use whole milk if you don't mind the extra calories.

Incredible Crock-Pot Yogurt
Conceived of by Stephanie at A Year of CrockPotting
Makes approximately 1/2 gallon
Printable Version

1/2 gallon milk
1/2 cup yogurt
Optional - 1 envelope nonfat dry milk powder

Pour milk into Crock-Pot.  Cover and heat on low for 2 1/2 hours.
Turn off/unplug Crock-Pot.  Let cool for 3 hours.
Remove a small amount of the warmed milk and pour into a bowl.  Whisk in the yogurt and return the mixture to the pot.  Stir to combine.  Optional - stir in envelope of dry milk powder.
Wrap Crock-Pot in a heavy towel and let sit for at least six hours.  Longer periods will produce a more dense, tart yogurt.
Refrigerate yogurt to store; it will keep for about two weeks.

Verdict?  Amazing.  The yogurt was very creamy and mildly tart.  None of that artificial aftertaste you get from the store bought stuff.  None of the weird gluey consistency or artificially thickened texture.  You can tell that this is the real stuff.  I'm not going back to store-bought.  There's no reason to, what with the fact that this can be made overnight.  This is cheaper, super easy,  tastes better, uses less plastic, and is kind of fun!

If you prefer sweetened, flavored yogurt, then what is nice about making your own is that you can control exactly what goes in - i.e., no artificial colors or flavors.  Go beyond just sugar and try honey or maple syrup.  To add fruit flavors just puree the fruit and stir it in.  Or even easier - just add a spoonful of your favorite jam to each serving of yogurt and stir it in as you go.  The flavors you can make are basically limitless.

And check out the savings:  1/2 gallon of Stonyfield yogurt (2 quart containers) is $12 at my local store.  1/2 gallon of milk is $1.90, an envelope of milk powder is $1, making 1/2 gallon of homemade yogurt more than 4 times cheaper than store-bought.  With the completion of my third batch I have now more than made back the $20 I spent to buy the Crock-Pot.  Excellent.

Update:  I just finished making my third batch of yogurt and still am very happy with it.  Using just 2% milk yields a somewhat thin but still quite good  yogurt.  You have two options for thickening your yogurt:  1) add the packet of milk powder as described in the recipe, or 2) strain out the whey.  To do this, line a strainer with cheesecloth and fill with your yogurt.  Set the strainer atop a large bowl and refrigerate for several hours.  The whey (the sticky liquid that rises to the top of your little yogurt containers) will drain out, leaving you with something like Greek-style yogurt, slightly thicker than sour cream.  This has a great mouth feel, very velvety on the tongue.  You can also stir back in some of the whey later if you feel the yogurt is too thick.  Save the rest of the whey to use in place of water in baking.  If you're going to stir in fruit or liquid flavoring, I recommend you use the straining approach to thickening, as the powder-thickened yogurt will begin to thin the more you stir it.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Scallion and Tofu Tortillita


I love wandering through the produce aisle at my food coop, as I always see something new.  The new discovery this week was something labeled "purple scallion."  Always a sucker for things in color, I buy a bunch.  I may be imagining things, but I think it has a bit more of a mild taste than the scallion I'm used to.

The dish I chose to use the scallion in - called a tortillita - was inspired by this NY Times article.  I love regular tortillas - not the flour/corn flat bready things you get with Mexican food, but the Spanish eggy version.  The tortillita is almost like a cross between a flour tortilla and an egg tortilla.  Almost.  Its unique taste comes from a unique ingredient - chick pea/garbanzo bean flour.  This is actually easier to find in stores than you might think.  I was even able to find it at my neighborhood mini-grocery.  Bob's Red Mill is the brand I found, so look around your store's section of their products. 

Modifications from the original:  This recipe just screams out for changes.  Look at the tortillita as a way to make use of leftovers in you refrigerator.  Although my recipe calls for baked tofu, you omnivores can use cooked meat/fish/seafood instead; the veg-heads can seitan or tempeh instead.  And you need not limit the vegetable to just scallion, try it with anything you have on hand from regular onions to leafy greens.  I think thin asparagus would also be great.  Change up the herbs you use, too - use whatever you have on hand, get creative!  Also - if you have any gluten-sensitive friends, this is a great dish to make for them, just replace the regular flour called for in the recipe with more chick pea flour.  (I actually think I might like the flavor of the tortillita made only with garbanzo flour better, though it is a bit less chewy.)  It is great for vegans, too~

I also thought this could use a tiny bit of an herbed mayonnaise sauce, because when I was in Spain I lived in an area where folks enjoyed their tortillas with mayo and now the two are inextricably linked in my mind.

Scallion and Tofu Tortillita
Inspired by Mark Bittman
Serves 4
Printable Version

1/2 cup garbanzo bean flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/3 cup scallion, chopped
1/2 cup baked tofu, cut into small pieces
4 tablespoons parsley, chopped
3 tablespoons mayonnaise (regular or vegan)
olive oil, as needed

In a medium bowl, combine flours, salt, and pepper.  Stir in about 3/4 a cup of water, a little at a time, until the mixture forms a somewhat thin batter.  Use more water as needed; if you are using all garbanzo bean flour, you will need a bit over a cup of water.  Set aside and allow batter to rest as long as you can, up to an hour or two if available.
Meanwhile, chop the garlic, tofu, and herbs.  Stir 1 tablespoon of the parsley into the mayonnaise and set aside.
When ready to prepare tortillitas, lightly coat the bottom of a large non-stick skillet with olive oil.  Heat skillet over medium-high heat until oil shimmers.  Add green garlic, tofu, and remaining parsley into batter and stir to combine.
Pour half the batter into the prepared skillet and use a spoon to spread the tofu around to make sure it is evenly distributed.
Cook until edges are set, about 2-3 minutes.  Use a large spatula to flip the tortillita.  Cook other side for another 2-3 minutes more, until bottom is set.  Serve immediately, topped with a dollop of the sauce.

Verdict?  The best thing to happen to leftovers since the microwave.  Seriously.  It takes very little time to make this.  Although I recommend letting the batter sit for a while, you certainly won't lose much if you just go ahead and cook it right away.  This is a great way to take a few scraps in the refrigerator and make a great light meal, especially when served with a vinaigrette-topped green salad incorporating the herbs you chose for the tortillita...yum.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Fettuccine with Parsnip Ribbons and Roasted Broccoli


I had four parsnips left in my refrigerator after the Roasted Parsnip and Carrot Salad. What to do with them? I mentioned in that previous parsnip recipe that most of the internet search results I was getting for parsnip recipes were coming back with soups and purees. Somehow I got lucky this time and stumbled across something that looked amazingly good.

The recipe involved parsnip ribbons. The idea seemed interesting - thin strips of that earthy peppery crunchy veggie mixed in with pasta. I didn't have all the ingredients on hand to make the original, nor did I want to per se (as it called for squid ink pasta and I'm definitely not interested in going that route), but I took the parsnip ribbon idea and ran with that.

I opted to mix them with some fettuccine, as I thought the parsnip ribbons would mix nicely with the ribbon-like pasta. I used a quality rainbow fettuccine, which added a nice color to the dish.  Going up a level from the pasta in a box to the nicer stuff in a bag paid off in terms of texture of the fettuccine; it was able to be cooked al dente without being gummy.  I recommend it.  I also thought some oven-roasted broccoli might be a nice compliment to the parsnip. I didn't opt for much in the way of sauce, instead relying on butter, quality olive oil, and garlic provide the flavor. Oh yeah, and the veggies, too. Believe me, they stepped up to the challenge - along with the dusting of Parmesan given the final dish, the flavor was more than present. Not in an "in your face" kind of way, but subtle goodness.

Fettuccine with Parsnip Ribbons and Roasted Broccoli
Inspired by (great blog name, no?)

Serves 4
Click for printable version

1/2 bunch broccoli, cut into small florets
3 cloves garlic (minced), divided
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
kosher salt
about 6 ounces fettuccine
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
5 scallions, sliced
2 parsnips
1/8 teaspoon chili flakes
1 tablespoon fresh sage, minced (or whatever you have available - basil, oregano, or parsley)
Shredded Parmesan cheese, to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
In a medium bowl, mix together the broccoli florets, one clove of minced garlic, one tablespoon olive oil, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Pour the broccoli into a roasting pan and cook until softened, about 10-12 minutes. Set aside.
In generously salted water, prepare fettuccine as directed on package. Drain when it just reaches al dente. (It is important to not overcook the pasta with this recipe.)
Clean and peel parsnips. To prepare parsnip "ribbons," run vegetable peeler along full lenth of parsnip, pressing in as you go. Make ribbons from both parsnips, avoiding any woody cores you may discover.
When pasta and broccoli are almost ready, heat 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add scallions and cook for a minute. Add remaining two cloves of garlic, parsnip ribbons, 1/8 teaspoon salt, chili flakes, and a generous pinch of black pepper. Cook until ribbons are softened, making sure garlic does not brown. Stir in broccoli and sage. When pasta is ready, add pasta to the center of the pan and stir or gently toss everything together to combine. Taste for salt and serve, topped with grated Parmesan.

Verdict? Okay, well, everything I post on here at least merits an mmmm/yummy/other exclamatory remark. But seriously - this is good. In an unexpected way. Literally. Since the parsnips are shaved thin, you get mouthfuls of both pasta and parsnip and are never sure which is coming when. It keeps your taste buds guessing. Go ahead and give them this experience, they'll be happy and so will you.