Saturday, December 18, 2010

Slightly more healthy banana oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

It's been a long time since I've posted, and there's good reasons for that, but not very good reasons.  This Wednesday, I gave the first of my final exams, and I was feeling snacky.   We had some oatmeal, 1/2 of bag of chocolate chips, and other fixin's in the house.  But lately, I've been cutting back on the sugar, so I didn't want a typical cookie recipe (if you cut back on sugar, I find the going back to regular sweets can be a hit in the face of too sweetness).  I based these cookies off this Betty Crocker recipe, and they turned out pretty good, even with the substitutions.  This includes some mashed banana in lieu of butter, and the banana's sweetness substituting a lot of sugar.  The end result is really something in between a not too sweet but soft scone and a cookie. 

3/4-1 c. of evaporated cane sugar
1 stick of butter (softened)
1 1/2 mashed bananas
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 egg
1 1/2 c. of flour (i mixed white and whole wheat from King Arthur)
2 c. of old fashioned oats (I used Bob's Red Mill)
1 teas of baking soda
1/4 teas of salt
1 cup of semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 c. of chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350
Cream together butter and sugar until well incorporated.  Add bananas, vanilla and egg (I used the whisk attachment on my hand blender).  Then add the dry ingredients (I skip the second bowl and try to mix the salt/soda in the flour on top first before mixing with the wet ingredients) and mix until moistened.  Finally, add the chips and nuts.
Bake on a cookie sheet (I fit about 16 on my large-ish Ikea sheet) for 10-12 minutes.  These take a bit longer to cook because of the lowered sugar content, and they aren't the same caramel brown like standard cookies, but they make up in softness and tastiness.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Zucchini Kuchen

When I took a German class back in the day, we read a recipe in the "Kochen" chapter for zuccinni fritters. I forget the word for fritters now- it could be "Kuchen" (which is commonly used to for all cake like things- like potato pancakes are Kartoffel Kuchen) or it could be Schmalzgebackenes. Steven and I are going to Frankfurt to visit friends and for part of our "honeymoon," so I've had Deutschland on the brain. We got about 1 lbs. of local organic zukes the other day, so I looked up a zucchini fritter recipe, with minimal frying oils. They were easy and Blokey approved. They could probably be baked in the oven as well.

Lower-fat zucchini fritters (adapted from Spark Recipes)
1/3 c. of whole wheat flour
1/2 teas. of baking powder
1/2 teas. of salt
1/8 teas. of pepper
dash of paprika (Hungarian)
2 eggs, beaten (replace with appropriate amounts of Ener-G egg replacer or thickened ground flax seed to make vegan)
3 c. of shredded zucchini (about 3-4 medium sized ones)
1/2 small onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic
2 Tbs of fresh parlsey, chopped.
Olive oil for cooking

Mix together the whole wheat flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, paprika, and eggs. Add the rest of the ingredients (except the oil) and mix well.
Warm up about 1/2 Tb of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Use a 1/4 measuring cup to drop rounds onto the skillet. I fit 4 into a 10" pan.
Cook about 3-4 minutes on each side.
Serve with apple sauce, plain yogurt, or some jam (seriously).

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Oven fried salt and vinegar crips

I have been intrigued by Heidi Swanson's grilled salt and vinegar potatoes since it was posted. I passed along the recipe to Anne of Shepwell Kitchen a few weeks ago, and she tried it with a garlic bath. My first time trying this, in an oven, I sliced the potatoes a wee bit to thick. The thinner ones were better, so I decided when our CSA gave us about 2 lbs of potatoes and the weather dipped below 85 to give it another go. But thinner this time.

Salt and vinegar oven crips

4 c. or so of white vinegar
5-6 medium sized waxy potatoes (we used red ones)
olive oil (for tossing)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Fill a medium sized saucepan with vinegar and bring to boil (I left the heat low so I could take my time with the potato cutting).
Wash and cut out the eyes of the potatoes. Peel if you're using conventional (non-organic) ones. Slice real real thin, but not paper thin. Try to be as consistent as possible. A mandolin would probably help but those things scare me.
Place as many slices that will reasonably fit into the vinegar bath. Bring to boil and then simmer for about 5 minutes. Take out the potato slices with a slotted spoon, and place into a large bowl. Add the remaining potato pieces and repeat process.
Be sure to drain out excess vinegar juice. Toss the potatoes with just enough olive oil to coat. Place in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Salt. Bake for 4-5 minutes, then flip them over, and bake again 4-5 minutes. Keep a good eye of them so they don't burn. A little crisp is perfect.
I had to make two trays full.

Served as a side dish to our go-to summer dinner- big ole' salad. (There are no black olives in this salad, just dark purple carrot coins).

These were quite vinegary, just enough salt, and not too bad for you. I try to take Michael Pollan's advice seriously- you can eat junky treats, as long as you make it yourself (from scratch).

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


For some reason, we've been getting a lot of beets in our CSA. When Blokey's parents were in town, we went to Brighton Beach and we got some borscht for his gastro-adventureous mother. We've gotten these delicious, local and organic beets in our CSA pick up twice now.
This stuff fills me up but is actually quite lite. I recommend that you don't wear light colors while making this delicious veggie stew.

3 large beets, washed and peeled (keep the greens, washed too)
2 potatoes or turnips, rinsed and diced
2 large carrots, peeled and grated
1/2 bunch of parsley, washed and chopped
1/4 c. of fresh dill, washed and chopped
2 onions, diced
2 Tbs of olive oil
1/2 head of cabbage, cored, and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic
1 1/2 c. of plain yogurt
pepper to taste
1/2 teas of oregano
6 Tbs of apple cider vinegar
caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon of ground allspice (or 5 all spice berries)
3 bay leaves
2 teaspoons of salt (this has to be to your tastes though, don't just dump it in)
Dark rye or pumpernickel bread

Thinly slice the beets into match sticks. This will take time, but it's worth it.
Next start cooking the onions and 1 clove of garlic in oil in a large soup pot. Ours is coated with chemical goo, but it works. Cook over medium heat for about 2-3 minutes, until softened.
Add grated carrots and potatoes, and stir. Cook another 2-3 minutes, then add the beets. Continue to cook and stir for about 4-5 minutes (add more oil if you'd like) and then add the cabbage, and enough water to cover by 2 inches, all spice, bay leaf, pepper, oregano, caraway seed. Bring to boil, and then simmer for about 20-30 minutes. Add the beet greens, parsley, apple cider vinegar, and 1/2 the dill and simmer another 5-10 minutes, until everything is the desired consistency.
In the mean time, mix the other 1/2 of the dill with 1 clove of chopped garlic with the yogurt.
Salt the soup to your desire saltiness. Always undersalt, you can always add more. Add more vinegar if you desire (we generally add more).
Serve warm with toasted rye bread and garnish with yogurt. We usually butter the bread, but that makes the meal non-vegan.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Savory rainbow chard and mushroom tart with potatoes

Tonight, it finally got below 80 degrees, which is a big deal if you don't use the A/C your in-laws generously sent. We've lately become Stan Cox devotees (except on the train), so I baked now that it was a little cooler out. We got some rainbow swiss chard the other day and I really wanted to make an eggy, cheesy quiche. But since I stink at quiches, I made a tart instead.
This is an adaptation of the Fresh Direct recipe. Oops, did I fail to mention that sometimes, we get our groceries delivered? I have a lot of enviro-angst about this too, but since we don't own a car, and sometimes I am not always well served by the grocery stores in our neighborhood (and buying groceries in Manhattan and lugging them down to Brooklyn only makes sense during the school year), we resort to this sometimes.

Savory rainbow chard with mushroom tart
(approx 1 hr to prep, serves 4)

1 bunch of rainbow chard, washed and finely chopped (separate out the stems)
1/2 onion, diced
4 oz of baby bella mushrooms, rinsed and chopped
1/4 c. and 1 Tbs of olive oil
1/4 teas. of salt
salt, pepper, and oregano to taste
1 c. of whole wheat flour
3 large eggs
1/3 c. of finely grated parmesan
1/4 c. of crumbled feta
1/4 c. of milk

Preheat the oven to 400.

Mix 1 cup of flour, 1/4 teas. of salt, and 1/4 c. of olive oil in a bowl. It should get to be grainy but doughy. Press into the bottom of a pie plate and stick in the oven (to firm up a bit) for about 4-5 minutes.

Cook the onions in the remaining olive oil over medium heat, for about 3-4 minutes. Add the mushroom, and stir occasionally, another 3 minutes. Next add the chopped chard stems and stir. You can increase the heat a bit here. Add the leaves, stir, and cook until the liquid boils off.

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, and cheese.

When the liquid is evaporated from the chard/mushroom mixture, empty the mixture on top of the crust in the pie pan.

Pour the egg/milk/cheese mixture on top, and bake for 40 minutes.

post baking goodness (it tasted meaty! But there was no meat!)

But in full disclosure, the "crust" was neither good nor necessary. Next time, I'll forgo the crust entirely and make it frittata, upping the recipe to 5 eggs.

Roasted Potatoes with Paprika
In the meantime, scrub and dice 4 medium potatoes. Toss with 1 Tbs of olive oil, and bake in the same oven for about 30 minutes. You can turn the oven onto broil and stick the pan in the broiler for 3 minutes to get the tops crispy. Season with salt, pepper, and paprika.

Our baby cat Buster really wanted the potatoes.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Speedy, no-cook dinner

Did you guys ever make "no cook" recipes with your ma when you were kids? Well, since it's been so hot out, we have been making more no cook dinners. It's too hot to even bother with take out.

We had a bunch of left over brown basmati rice sitting in the fridge from when Blokey's parents were in town, so I used it to make fake tabbouleh. If you leave out the feta, it's vegan.

No cook Middle Eastern style rice
Probably serves four as a side dish. We pigged it down just the two us together.

About 3 c of cooked, cold rice
Juice of 3 lemons
Handful of parsley, chopped
2 tomatoes, diced
1 cucumber, diced
4 green onions, sliced
2 Tbs of olive oil
1 can of no added salt chickpeas
3 oz. of feta cheese, crumbled
1/3 c. of sliced black olives (or nice kalamata ones, if you've got them)
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix everything together with the rice in a large bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with yogurt-tahini sauce

Yogurt Tahini sauce
3/4 c. of plain yogurt
2 Tbs of tahini
juice of 1/2 a lemon
salt to taste

Mix everything together. If you want more tahini, add it until you reach desired nuttiness. Serve over the rice.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Quick meals for hot days

It's been warm and muggy in Brooklyn again. And Blokey and I have been working on projects, which means sometimes we snack all day and never eat a proper meal together. (Finn Crisp Rye crackers, what would my life be without you?) But over the weekend, I did get my act together to make a couple meals (Blokey's big mess o' rice and beans from Friday was also very popular).

Everything in the fridge Asian Noodles
We had some disparate ingredients, some udon noodles, and I was starving after a short jog, but we had to go grocery shopping for eggs and apples and stuff. So I threw together lots of stuff and it made me less likely to buy the whole store.

6 oz of Udon noodles, dry
leftover bagged spinach, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
3 green onions, cleaned and thinly sliced
1 Tbs of butter
salad leftovers
1 Tbs soy sauce (more to taste)
1 Tbs of sesame oil
2 Tbs of tahini
2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar
2 Tbs of water
2 teaspoons of honey
3 small radishes, peeled and thinly sliced
2 eggs, beaten
sesame seeds for garnish (optional)
Sriracha sauce (optional)

This was the stuff I took out to make into a meal.
Cook the noodles according to the directions.
Make a thin omlette with the two eggs in a wide frying pan (with butter, of course). Slice into quarters, and then thinly slice into matchstick sized pieces (maybe a bit wider than a matchstick).
In the same frying panm or medium sauce pan, saute green onions in butter over medium heat, under softened. Adjust to low heat. Add the tahini, water, soy sauce, honey, vinegar, and sesame oil. Stir until it becomes a sauce like consistency (you may have to add some more water).
Toss in cooked noodles and vegetables. Serve.

Big Salad
Remember how on Seinfeld, Elaine would get the big salad? I love a big entree salad. We got tree kinds of lettuce from our CSA, so I did something like a modified Salad Nicoise.
For 2

A blend of lettuce (we used romane, boston, and green leaf). about 6 cups worth
Cooked or canned chickpeas: 1 1/2 c.
2 tomatoes, cut into quarters and sliced in 1/2
1/3 c. of thinly sliced black olives
2 hard boiled eggs, halved
1/2 avocado, chopped
Optional: 1/2 can of tuna (canned in olive oil) or 3 anchovy filets, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced

Directions: Either toss all the ingredients together with dressing and serve (uglier, but well incorporated) or arrange all pretty like (aesthetically pleasing, but more of a challenge to distribute the dressing). I went with plan B. (Mine is the one on the right, with the wee bit of anchovy on top).

We don't buy bottled salad dressing, because they are usually full of sugar and corn syrup and taste funky. This is our standard salad dressing recipe

2 Tbs of olive oil
1 1/2 Tbs of sour (this usually lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, or balsamic. I did a combination of both)
1 garlic clove, chopped (did not use, because Blokey calls me Garlic Monkey. He has no idea how garlicky I am)
1 Tbs of fancy dijon, whole grain mustard (even better if there is some kind of German last name on the bottle)
salt, pepper, and oregano/Italian seasoning mix to taste

Mix all the ingredients in a used jam jar and shake (with the lid on). Pour immediately over salad.*

*I have tried 3 times to make mayonnaise. Oil and egg yolk emulsions are not my friend, as they require patience).

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

First CSA meal of the summer

Summer doesn't just mean guilt* about work, hot depressed cats, allergies, and sweaty subway stations. It also means delicious, seasonal, local, organic Community Supported Agriculture vegetables! (And a pint of local raspberries, too!)

Our CSA farm is owned by an Asian-American couple, and they plant a lot interesting greens. They especially love the bok choy. So in honor of Sang Lee Farms, and my old roommate Kris, who ruled the tofu world, I made (or tried to make) Ginger Baked Tofu and Bok Choy Stir Fry

Serves two hungry kitty-sitters**

1 box of firm tofu, frozen and thawed
1 Tbs honey
2 inch of ginger root, grated (less if you're not a ginger freak)
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 Tbs of lite soy sauce (and some more to taste)
1/2 Tbs of toasted sesame oil (and some more to taste)
1 Tbs of a neutral oil
sesame seeds for garnish
pepper to taste
2 baby bok choys, well rinsed with stalks removed from leafy parts
3-4 small carrots, chopped into thin slices
handful of sugar snap peas, cleaned and chopped
1 c. of jasmine rice (white or brown)

The middle carrot has to go to the bathroom real bad

To prepare the tofu (takes some planning)
Ahead of time, you can freeze the tofu and thaw it. This takes at least a day. This is not necessary, but frozen and thawed tofu absorbs marinate better. If you're not crazy, you can just wrap the tofu (uncut) in 2-3 paper towels, and stick a cutting board and a book on top, and this will draw out most of the moisture (for at least 30 minutes).
Slice the tofu in 1/2 length wise, and then cut those pieces into quarters. If you can, cut these into quarter height wise (so you're slicing them thinner, not smaller).

This picture was meant to show the texture of thawed, once frozen tofu. The freezing process expands the water pockets, helping it "soak" up marinades

Make a marinade with 2 Tbs of soy sauce, 1 Tbs of honey, 3 cloves of chopped garlic, half of the ginger, some salt, and 1/2 Tbs of sesame oil. Stick it in a Tupperware and let it in marinade in the fridge. Go file your nails or something. Or chop up the vegetables.

After 1-2 hours of marinading, preheat the oven to 350. Place the tofu in a single layer on a pan, and bake for 25 minutes, taking out to flip the pieces half way through. They should be firmer and take on a nice golden glow.
While the tofu bakes, cook the rice according to the directions.
For the stir fry, warm up the oil in a wide pan, over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger, stirring. Separate the leafy part of the bok choy from the firmer stalks.

When the garlic/ginger has cooked a few minutes, increase the heat to medium-high add the stems of the bok choy. Stir. After a few minutes, add the carrots. Cook 2 more minutes. Add the chopped sugar snap peas and then the leafy part of the boy choy. Cook until wilted. Remove from heat. Add soy sauce, sesame oil, and sesame seed to taste. Add the finished tofu and serve over rice.

Vegan dinner is served

*Mostly joking. I do love summer, but I love fall more. I think summer, as a season, is a bit overrated. I hate dem pesky mosquitoes, and all of NYC goes nuts during that time.

**Blokey and I have a new kitten in our lives. Aw...

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Smoothie Queen

It's been HOT in NY. Too hot to cook, and too hot to want to eat anything warm. On Thursday evening, we were hungry but still on a wonky schedule, so I made this for dinner. It was better than just eating Popsicles.

Dinner fruit smoothie
2 c. of plain yogurt
1 bag of frozen strawberries
2 overripe bananas
2 Tbs of ground flax seeds

I have a super blender, the BlendTec. It's the same one I used when I worked over the summer at the coffee shop in a Barnes and Noble (we used it to make frappaccinos. I still don't get the appeal. Why not just eat coffee ice cream and call it a day?) If you don't have a super strong blender, let the strawberries thaw a little and chop them up a bit. Not too much though.
Throw all the ingredients except the honey into the blender. Blend on the highest level for about 10-15 seconds, and then finish at a medium level until smooth. Serve in a whatever cups you like, and stir in less than a teaspoon of honey into each cup. Makes about 3-4 servings.

Since Blokey and I make our own yogurt (another generous and awesome wedding gift), I think we can consider this a quite homemaid dinner.

The smoothie texture quickly melted into liquid, as it was so hot out, but it was still pretty good.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Sleepy snack

Blokey and I got on a really weird schedule and tried to fix this. We were on Australia time, falling asleep well into the A.M., and waking up all late and guilty. So we stuck it out on Tuesday, not sleeping all morning/afternoon, and watching bad internet TV/video games (I did more of the former. Playing word games while sleep deprived was not successful). We fell asleep last night at 7PM, and woke up at 4AM. Now we are on Berlin time.
Yesterday, I found that sitting made my tireness worse, so I got up from my desk chair around 4 PM and made this snack.

Fancy cheese crackers and simple lentil pate

Crackers (adapted from Heavenly Homemakers. While my homemaking isn't heavenly, I do appreciate and admire their efforts)
1 c. of King Arthur's white whole wheat flour (Trader Joe's makes some too, but they're not commies)
2/3 c. of finely shredded hard cheese (I used parmesan and some stinky hard sheep cheese I picked up at the Italian market in Philly)
¼ teaspoon. baking powder
1-4 Tbsp of cold water
2 Tbs of butter
a sprinkle of your favorite dried herbs (I used oregano)

Preheat the oven to 350.

The original recipe called for more cheese, more butter, and food processing, but I am lazy and afraid of that much fat. I bet some more olive oil in place of some of the butter would work too. The recipe is simple- you mix everything together except the water, then mix in the water slowly by hand. Instead of processing, I finely grated the cheese and used a pastry blender (wedding gift, thanks Broooother) to incorporate the butter and flour, added the other ingredients (except the water) and added 1 Tablespoon (the recipe's amount). While a pile of cheese crumbs stared back at me, I added some more water.
Next, since I am a shortcutter, I rolled the dough out onto the cookie sheet until it was quite thin (Wheat thins/Cheezit thin), used a pizza cutter to cut them into Cheezit sized pieces, and baked for 15-17 minutes. The ends were cripsy first, so I removed them and stuck it back in the oven for another few minutes.

Funner than a blender

Can you tell that I wanted Cheezits?

Italian lentil pate (adapted from this recipe)

1/2 onion, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp. of apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups of dried lentils
bay leaf
2 teaspoons of fancy mustard (or unfancy)
handful of fresh parsley, chopped rougly
dried herbs: oregano, basil, marjoram
salt, pepper, paprika
juice of one lemon
Olive oil

1.Cook lentils according to directions, with a bay leaf. Drain when done.
2. In the meantime, carmelize (or your best approximation) the onions in 2 Tbs of olive oil, over medium heat. Add the garlic towards the end and cook until everything smells good (if you like raw garlic, skip this step and just add it to the blender).
3. Using a hand blender/food processor, blend together all the ingreidents except the herbs, spices and lemon juice.
4. Season to taste.

Blokey is an understated man, but he claimed that the lentil pate was "so good." This is a top compliment, so I am pleased.

I fell asleep about an hour after I finished eating.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Chicago dogs: vegan and Bed Stuy-style

I love Chicago style hot dogs.
Chicago styles hot dogs are not your average tubular meat sandwich. Rather, it is like a salad on a bun. It is the perfect mix of salty, sweet, savory, sour, and hot, plus great textures, in an convenient, mouth perfect container. Everything, from the poppy seed bun to the sweet relish plays a part in this symphony of street food perfection.
When I was 18 years old, wearing too much black, living at home, watching all movies that I missed out on (strict immigrant upbringing) from the library in my parent's basement, and attending community college (yup, I was a winner), I worked at Portillos in the west suburbs of Chicago. It's like a magical place where suburban folks go to pay for premium Chicago hot dogs, brats, Italian beef, salads for the ladies, and you could (gasp) drink booze and smoke cigarettes (maybe not anymore). The chili, cake, and milkshakes weren't bad either.
There are nine essential ingredients in the archetypal Chicago style hot dog: 100% beef dog (Vienna beef), poppy seed bun, pickle spear, sport peppers, tomato wedges, onions, sweet relish, mustard, and celery salt. This webpage will teach you how to DIY when you've got the right ingredients, but sadly I did not. I had to Brooklyn wing it. Plus, the Blokey doesn't eat meat, so I Smart-Dog-ed it.

Finally, I could not find any hot dog buns in my nabe (granted, I didn't try that hard). This is either because everyone else wanted hotdogs on Memorial Day weekend, or because this city does not take hot dog (of the meat or fake meet variety) seriously enough. (It takes mustard seriously, though). I also cursed in the condiments aisle for the lack of sport peppers. Again, this may be a Bedford village thing. I substituted the shortcomings by slicing up pepperoncini, and baking some buns.

Working with what I got in Bed-Stuy

1/2 whole wheat hot dog buns (adapted from this recipe)

1 cup of 1/2 milk, 1/2 water, warmed on the stove (to 110)
1 Tbs of sugar
1 tbs of butter
2 teaspoons of yeast1 egg
1 1/2 cup of all purpose flour
1 1/2 cup of whole wheat
1 teaspoon of salt.

Mix together the milk/water, sugar, and butter, until the butter melts. Add the yeast, stir, and let sit about 10 minutes until it gets bubbly/frothy
Mix the flours with the salt, add the egg and water/butter/milk/yeast mixture. Stir and then knead by hand about 5 minutes (add more flour if needed). Let rise in a warm place about 1 hour (or until doubled). Punch down and let rise again.
After the second rise, heat oven to 425 degree F. Divide dough into 8 pieces, roll it out, cover and let sit about 15 minutes. Transfer to lightly floured cookie sheet, and bake 8-10 minutes (I went for the 10)
Uh, these look like, um... Twinkies?

They turned out a bit denser than I would have liked, so I split them open and dug out a lot of the bread instead. This ended up creating space to fit all the Chicago dog ingredients.

The verdict: the bun was a bit stiff, and the peppers were not quite right, but everything worked out pretty well. Even home town boy Blokey was pleased. (I give Smart Dogs my quasi-midwestern seal of approval).

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Bretzl madness

I have been a woman on a mission. That mission is really frickin' good pretzels, since the stuff they sell on the street here tastes a bit like cab exhaust, pigeon body odor, and frustration.
But I'm not being a trendoid. My desires preceded this NYTimes article on WednesdayI've had my eye on them since Deb reposted her mini pretzel recipe back in February. But I never did get around to it. Plus, I wanted a 1/2 whole wheat recipe (you saw that coming, right?) I found these recipes, and drew on them, plus the Smitten Kitchen and NYTimes one, to hopefully create an amazing, soft, 1/2 whole wheat pretzel.
However, prior to the Times article, I had not idea about the the lye bath, as the other recipes I've read have only mentioned a baking soda bath. Evidently, lye is the key to slightly bitter, dark crust of an authentic German pretzel. Ich will Laugenbrezeln machen. Ich muss! (My Deutsch is rusty, so many apologies if this made you laugh).
I mentioned to Blokey that I wanted to make German-style pretzels, he seemed dubious about the safety and necessity of this all. I found a heated discussion on Chowhound, and I decided to go for it. Next time. For yesterday's dinner, I went with what I had on hand.

Whole Wheat Soft Pretzels (based loosely on this recipe from StephChows)
2 teaspoons of active dry yeast, proofed in about 1/2 c. of warm water
1/4-1/2 c. water
1 c. of all purpose flour
1 1/2 c. of whole wheat flour
2 Tbs of brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tbs olive oil

Mix the proofed yeast and liquid with the other ingredients. I went with just under a half cup of water. Knead about 5 minutes. Cover with a damp tea towel and let it rise for about an hour or until doubled.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees, F.
Cut the dough into 12 roughly equivalent pieces. The roll them out into longish strands. I floured my cutting board, but others say you don't have to. Let them rest, and then roll out again, until the are between 12-15 inches long.

Then twist the rolls into pretzel shapes. I tried following my Peter Reinhart but but I ended up just doing whatevs. See here for a tutorial.

Next prepare the soda bath. I boiled about 2 cups of water in a pan (about 2 inches) and then lowered it to simmer, dumped about 4 Tablespoons of baking soda, and used a slotted spoon to get them into the bath. Let the pretzel parboil for about 1 minute, then remove and place on lightly greased/floured/parchment paper lined cookie sheet.
Sprinkle coarse sea salt over the still wet pretzels, and then stick them in the oven for 8-10 minutes. When they are a satisfactory shade of golden brown, they are good to go.
Serve warm, with mustard and some kind of wurst. We ate Tofurky Beer Brats. Mistake. Evidently, I am supposed to go with the Boca ones.

The verdict? They were pretty good. Better than that dusty one I had on 59th St. a few weeks ago. But nothing really to write home about. Blokey didn't really eat much of them, and the Brats were uber disappointing. But I'm not quitter. Sometime this week, as I'm done grading (almost), I am venturing over to the Brooklyn Kitchen to get some food grade lye. Bitter, dark and beautiful pretzels will be mine!!!

I prepared this by throwing some oil in the pan, sauteeing up 1/2 a sliced onion, and after that became brown, adding the veggie brats. And a wee bit of beer.

Blokey hates sauerkraut, or sauer-anything. It's sad, since kimchi is practically in my blood, and it's just sauerkraut minus caraway, plus loads of garlic, hot peppers, and sometime some really stinky, briny baby shrimp. Sautéed thin sliced Brussels sprouts to the rescue:
I had these in a posh tapas place in Fort Greene. So simple. Chop the ends of washed Brussels sprouts. Thinly sliced them in one direction, and then julienne. Chop up 2 cloves of garlic, and warm up 2 glugs of olive oil in the pan. Over quite high heat, add the garlic for about a minute, and then add all the sliced sprouts. Stir and enjoy the smells. Remove from heat when they are slightly carmelized.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Cooking again

I am a bad food blogger. Mostly because I have been cooking the same meals over and over again, and thus nothing new to post. But now with school almost over, I plan to have more adventures. The Crown Heights CSA starts again in a few weeks, and I am super excited.
Before I left on a nice trip to Delaware this weekend, I did make bread for Blokey, and then a quick dinner. This dinner was inspired by Smitten Kitchen's smashed chickpea salad, but I didn't read the recipe, just went off the mental image. I actually think of this as a vegan egg salad more than anything else.
I served this on homemade bread, which I haven't had luck with recently. This loaf turned out pretty frickin' yummy though (I added a little extra yeast). Whole thing (not including the bread) took about 8 minutes.

Vegan "egg" salad sandwiches
Good bread (not the pre sliced kind) or crackers
1 tomato, thinly sliced
some kind of green (we used about a handful of argula)
1 green onion, chopped finely
2 1/2 cups of well cooked chickpeas, or 2 14 oz. cans of chickpeas, drained
Kosher deli style mustard (anything that's not French's)
salt, pepper
lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
various dried spices (we used oregano and basil)
Anything else on hand (shredded carrots, peanut butter or tahini, etc.)

1. Mash up the beans with a potato masher. Don't worry about making it too fine.

2. Mix it all up in medium sized bowl (except the tomatoes) to taste. I liked a lot of mustard but you can go for less. Yo could also forgo mustard and use mayo or just olive oil. We are fans of whole grain mustard (I bought 3 different kinds of mustard today from Fairway. It's like caviar for flexitarians like me).

3. Spread on pieces of bread. Top with tomatoes, thin slices of cheese (if you're not vegan), more greens, paprika, etc.. Eat. Still hungry? Spend 6 minutes make a few more

Monday, April 26, 2010

Vegan tapas

Two weekends ago, before my brother's wedding and the recent pork-a-thalon in Chicago with Anne and friends, I had some work friends over for a vegan tapas dinner thing. We made loads of food, but I only ended up taking a few pictures as things got a bit crazy. I promised our guests the recipes, but I never posted them!
Most folks think of delicious jamon serrano and tortilla espanola (and sangria!) when they think of tapas, but tapas are pretty vegan friendly. I mean, Spain was a poor country in Europe (after that whole age of exploration thing didn't work out so well), so there isn't a lot of rich food. Most of the food is vegetable and olive oil based, so it was easy to adapt or find vegan recipes and still have a diversity of flavors (and not rely on weird vegan substitutes, which my stomach generally rejects). We also got to use our pressure cooker several times for the beans.

Here's the lot of recipes. I only managed to snap up photos of the potatoes and the beans, but it was all very good!

Roasted eggplant/pepper dip:
Roast 2 eggplants and 1 large red pepper (pierce with fork) in a pan at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. Let cool, peel, and puree in a food processor/blender with 2 cloves of garlic, juice of one lemon, 1 Tablespoon of fresh cilantro, and 1 teaspoon of Spanish paprika.

Patatas bravas:
Cut about 2 lbs of potatoes (any kind) into 1/2" pieces and roast with 2 Tbs of olive oil in the oven for about 30 minutes, at 400. In the meantime, make a sauce by sauteeing 1 diced onion, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 teaspoon of red pepper powder, and 1 c. of red of wine. Add 15 ounces of crushed tomato and simmer for 10 minutes. Serve over the roasted potatoes.

Spanish mushrooms (Blokey's favorite)
Wash and cut 8 ounces of mushrooms (I used baby bella) into quarters. Sautee about 4 Tablespoons of olive oil over high heat for about 2 minutes. Lower to medium heat, and add 6 garlic cloves, 3 tablespoons of cooking sherry, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 1 dried red chili (seeded and crumbled), 1/4 teas of paprika, salt and pepper to taste. Cook until the mushrooms give off juice, and garnish with chopped parsley (2 Tbs).

Antipasto style white bean salad:
3 cups of Northern white or navy beans, cooked (or from a can, rinsed)
1/2 cup of roasted red pepper (from a jar), diced
1 can of artichoke hearts, rinsed and quartered
1/4 c. of red onion chopped
1/4 c. of parsley, chopped fined
1 tablespoon of dried basil
olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper.
Mix all the ingredients together, and use oilve oi, vinegar and salt and pepper to dress the salad to your tastes (we used about 1/4 cup of oil and vinegar)

Chickpeas and spinach.
Cut 2 pieces of bread (store bought) into cubes and fry in about 2-4 tables of olive oil, over medium heat. Add 3 cloves of chopped garlic, 1 teaspoon of cumin, some salt and pepper to taste, and 1 1/2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar. Add 10 ounces (one bag) of fresh or frozen spinach and cook down, adding water as necessary. Add 2 cups of chickpeas, and add salt and pepper to taste. (This looked kind of meaty but it was not)

Fry 1 onion (chopped) and 2 cloves of garlic in 2 tables of olive oil. Add 2 chopped fresh tomatoes (or 1 1/2 cups of canned tomatoes), 2 cups of rice (we used basmati) and stir until the rice is well coated. Add 2 1/2 cups of liquid (we used water and vegetable stock), 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, a pinch of saffron, and cut up vegetables (we used yellow pepper, cauliflower, green beans, carrots, but frozen artichoke, peas, and broccoli are also good). Bring to a boil, lower to simmer, and cover for 25-30 minutes, until liquid is gone. Add pepper, paprika, and lemon juice to taste when cooking is completed.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Last day of Spring Break

Not really. I have Monday off too but it's still back to work this week. In honor of Blokey and my 3 week anniversary, but mostly because Anne just made these beauties yesterday morning, I was inspired by the corn cake appetizers from our wedding reception (which did rock). Not much to report here, as Anne has already done an awesome job documenting the process.
Just a few of my thoughts.
  • Corn cakes are really a southern corn bread recipe made on the stove, rather than baked. The light cooking in butter or oil makes them crisp and delicious. It can really be any Southern corn bread recipe.
  • I accidently left out the wheat flour the first batch I made. I also put in slightly less sugar. The second batch, I added the flour and omitted the sugar (again, by accident). These were what the Germans might call "eine Katastrophe." OK, they weren't so terrible but I didn't let the fella eat any.
  • We received many many wonderful wedding presents, one which included a yogurt maker. We haven't mastered that yet but we do have about a 1/2 gallon of kind of curdy yogurt in our fridge, so I used that as a faux buttermilk, and also adjusted the chemical leavening agents.
  • It was good to make a quick bread, because my recent attempts at making yeast breads, a la Peter Reinhart, have also be ein Massaker.
Offensively uninteresting, like Jimmy John's bread. From Wednesday, I think.

Since we are practically vegetarian in this household, we served yummy corn cakes with a Cuban black bean stew (which I accidently boiled down to more like a side dish), avocado, and a homemade sweet pepper and cheddar sauce. There are few of these on the internet. I wanted something more smooth, but I made all this all in about 30 minutes, so I didn't have the time to make a a proper melted over the oven type cheese sauce. Into the food processor (thanks, baby Cousin and your hubs!) it went. It was pretty awesome anyway.

My "riff" on Anne's version of Wishbone corn cakes:

1 c. of fine corn meal
2 teas. baking powder
1/2 teas of baking soda
3/4 t. salt
2 Tbs. sugar
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup of buttermilk
2 Tbs of melted butter (and more for the pan)
1/2 C. frozen corn kernels, thawed
3 green onions, chopped

Mix the wet ingredients first, and then add the dry ingredients. Since I didn't use any flour, there is no gluten, so you don't have to worry about overmixing like with non-corn products (crazy, huh?). Warm up a trusty cast iron skillet with a bit of butter rubbed on top over low-medium heat and cook cakes, until lightly browned and flip. I somewhat burnt the first few but they were so tasty that no one minded.

Cuban black bean stew
1/2 package of dried black beans (or 2 canned)
1/2 thing of tomatoes (or 2 fresh ones, chopped)
1 teas of oregano
1/4 teas of cayenne or chili powder
1 teas or more of cumin
juice of one lime
salt to taste
onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
olive oil
ripe avocado

Cook the beans according to the directions (for us, it was toss them in the pressure cooker for 15 minutes) or drained and rinse canned beans. Saute over medium heat the onions and garlic in oil until soft. Add the spices (except the chili, unless you like pepper sneezing). Add tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes. Add the black beans, and enough water to cover about 2 inches, and let simmer until it reaches desired consistency. Add lime juice, salt to taste, and chili/cayenne. Orange juice would be awesome too. Garnish with some avocado slices.

Rad's rad sweet pepper cheddar sauce (quick)
3/4 c. of grated medium cheddar
1/2 of plain yogurt
1/2 of roasted red peppers
1/4 c. of mayo (or in my case, 1/4 of my attempt to make mayo. Damn you, effusive egg yolk and oil infusion!)
salt and pepper to taste
2 green onions, chopped

Blend everything in a food processor until it reaches the desired thickness. I read somewhere that some bacon would taste good in here. Add that if you're so inclined.

Monday, March 29, 2010

My First Challah

OK, I get that it's Passover and one is not supposed to be eating the most delicious leavened bread ever, but I just got the Peter Reinhart Bread baker's apprentice book today (from a most delightful friend), and a proper bread knife, so I had to make some bread that I could eat today. Plus, I'd been away from blokey for 4 days, and it's good to give the fella reminders of why it's so awesome to have me around. This was the only loaf that looked yummy and only required about 4 hours. Granted, I started this around 7 so we sat down to eat at midnight, but he's on Hawai'i time most of the week, so it worked out well.
I made a few variations. Like, I subbed one cup of whole wheat for a cup of unbleached flour. I have no instant yeast, and so I multiplied the amount by 1.333 and used the regular yeast. I used 3 eggs instead of 2 eggs and 2 egg yolks. I didn't quite cook it for 40 minutes. I fugded the rising times and failed to do an egg wash (I'm stingy with my cage free vegetarian fed eggs). Instead, I sort of did an olive oil rubdown instead. (Try not to think too hard about it).

"I can't believe it's Passover" Challah bread (adapted from Peter Reinhart)
3 c. of unbleached white flour (King Arthur, if possible)
1 c. of whole wheat flour
2 Tbs of sugar
1 tsp of salt
about 2 tsp of active dry yeast
3/4 c. plus 2 Tbs of lukewarm water (90 degrees. I just mixed boiling water with Brita water and tested it with my wrist)
3 eggs
2 Tbs. of olive oil

Mix all the dry ingredients in a big bowl. Mix the wet ingredients in a smaller bowl. Combine the two and start kneading away. You may need to add more flour, but it will be a pretty wet dough. Knead for 6 minutes if you've got a dough hook. I do not, so I did it for 10. The book said that the bread should pass the windowpane test. (Not even close for me. But we had to run to the store before it closed for split peas, so I covered it with a cloth napkin and hoped for the best, and ran off.)
One hour later, punch down the dough and form into a ball, cover, and let rise another hour or until 1.5 times larger.
after second rise

After second rise, divide the dough into 3 balls. The book says to look it hang out for 10 minutes, but I was impatient, as usual. Roll the balls into rolls that are pretty long and thin (as long as you can make them on your cutting board). Pinch the three rolls on one end on a cookie sheet, and braid the rolls, like you would hair. Lightly brush with olive oil or egg wash (or grease it up with your hands, if you're low rent like me).
Cover with a damp tea towel/cloth napkin and let rise another hour or until 1.5 times larger. Before that's all over, preheat the oven to 350.
post rising

Bake for 20 minutes and then rotate the pan in the oven and let bake another 20 minutes.
after 20 minutes (and rotating)

done baking

I can't believe it's a real bread knife!

This tasted great with just plain butter. We ate it with split pea soup, made in the new pressure cooker (thanks to my coworkers), and some fancy cheese (the cheese was not necessary).

Crumb shot

I hear that challah makes great French toast. We'll find out tomorrow.