Tuesday, February 27, 2007

I can't believe it's vegan!: Roasted Sweet Potatoe and Corn Chowder

From The All New Vegan Cookbook by Lorna Sass



Chef's note (via the cookbook): to streamline cooking, begin preparing the soup while the sweet potatoes are roasting.

Because this recipe involves a lot of prep, I went ahead and sliced and diced everything before I started cooking

Ingredients
2 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 pound), peeled, and cut into 1/2 inch dice (note: raw potatoes will not dice in the onion chopper no matter how strong you are)
2 tablespoons corn oil (I used canola)
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound frozen (but rinsed and defrosted) or fresh corn kernels (about 4 cups)
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups finely diced celery
1 cup diced shallots (I used Florida sweet onion)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1.2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
3 cups vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
1 russet (baking) potato (about 8 ounces)
2 tablespoons minced parsley (which I forgot to include, so this is optional garnish)
1/2 to 1 cup unflavored soymilk (also optional)

Directions
1. Set the oven rack in the center and preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Oil a large roasting pan.
2.
Scatter the sweet potatoes in one layer in the roasting pan and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Season well with salt and pepper. Roast until tender, tossing once or twice, 15-20 minutes. Set aside.
3. Reserve 1 cup corn kernels. In a (Magic Bullet!) blender, puree the remaining corn with the water until very smooth, about 2 minutes. (If the corn kernels skins refuse to break down, and look unsightly pass the mixture through a sieve (whatever that is)). Set aside.
4. In a heavy soup pot, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil. Cook the celery, onion, and shallots over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the onions are slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Add the tomato paste and thyme and cook another minute, stirring frequently. Add the broth, pureed corn, bay leaf, 1 teaspoon of salt, and pepper to taste.
5. While bring the chowder to a boil, peel the potato, cut it into 1/2 inch dice, and add it to the pot. Cover the pot and simmer until the potato is tender, 25-35 minutes. Chef's note: at this point in the program, I started making a blueberry coffee cake.
6. Dig around the soup and remove the bay leaf. Add the reserved corn kernels, roasted sweet potatoes, and parsley. Thin with soymilk, if necessary, adjust the seasonings. Cook (but do not boil after adding soymilk) until heated throughout.




Now this is some wicked good soup. It made my apartment smell yummy even though I thought the soup wasn't that pretty. It got rave reviews from Sharona, who I fed it to on Oscar night. At least she SAID it was good...

What would I do different? Probably puree all the sweet potatoes and corn. I just thought the soup looked lumpy.

Will I make it again? You bet!

I can't believe it's vegan!: Tomato-chickpea curry in eggplant shells

For those of you who don't know, I am doing the whole vegan thing for Lent. This means no meat, dairy, eggs, or honey. I'm at day 6 and so far it's been easy. Of course this could be because I've devoured all the vegan cookbooks the library offers and spent a small fortune at Whole Foods.

The Tomato-Chickpea Curry in Eggplant Shells was my first true vegan recipe:
From the All New Vegan Cookbook by Lorna Sass

Serves 4

Ingredients
2 medium eggplants (1 to 1 1/4 pounds each) note: I only use one eggplant since I was cooking for 1
2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
salt to taste, plus 1/4 teaspoon
freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons brown mustard seeds (they're actually reddish brown)
2 cups coarsely chopped onions
1 1/2 tablespoons mild curry powder
1 15-oz (or in my case 14.5 oz) can of diced tomatoes with liquid
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans) or 1 15-oz can, drained
1/2 cup dried, unsweetened, grated coconut
cayenne
chopped cilantro, for garnish (optional)

Now before I get to the directions I should point out a few things:
1) I photocopied this recipe (along with another) and then loaned the book to Sharona
2) Spices are wicked expensive and I can't afford to keep buying a new bottle for every recipe. Also, did you know spices are really only potent for about 6 months? I discovered a local co-op had spice bins where you can take exactly as much of a given spice as you need. And it's cheap. I spent $1.24 on three little bags of spices.


Directions
1. Set the rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees. Lightly oil one or two roasting pants large enough to hold the eggplant halves in one layer. Add 1/8 inch of water.
2. Leaving stem intact (I don't see why this is necessary because it doesn't look that pretty and I accidentally ate part of it by mistake and it was gross), halve the eggplants. Use the tip of a pairing knife to score the flesh side deeply in a crisscross pattern. Brush the cut side with oil, season with salt and pepper, and set flesh side down in the roasting pans. Brush the skins with oil.

3. Roast until the eggplants are tender and easily pierced with the tip of a pairing knife, 18-25 minutes (check after 10 minutes and add water if needed). When the eggplants are cool enough to handle, use a pairing or a grapefruit knife to create a 1/2 inch "wall" all around, and then scoop out the flesh. Coarsely chop the flesh (including seeds) and set aside. Lightly season the eggplant shells with salt and pepper, and reserve them in a warm place.
chef's note: while eggplants are roasting and cooling, chop the onions using your onion chopper (if you don't have one, you should consider getting one. They're great!) Prep the rest of your ingredients.
4. To prepare the filling, first toast the mustard seeds: heat 1 table spoon of oil in a large, heavy saucepan over high heat. Stir in the mustard seeds, cover the pot, and leave the heat turned to high. Listen carefully: as soon as you hear the mustard seeds begin to pop against the lid, turn off the heat and remove to a cool burner, and wait for the popping to subside. Most of the seeds should now be gray.

Intermission
After I got to step 4 I realized I was missing the second half of my directions. Now I'm sure I could have figured out how to mix it all together, but I called Sharona and fortunately she was home and still had the cookbook, so she was able to read the rest of the recipe to me.

5. Stir onions into seeds and brown 4-5 minutes.
6. Add curry powder and cook for 10 seconds, then add tomatoes, chickpeas, coconut, eggplant flesh, salt, and Cayenne.
7. Simmer for 15 minutes (use this time to clean the kitchen and wash dishes if necessary) and add curry. Add salt and water if needed.
8. Mound filling
Optional step 9: place eggplant shells on a bed of lettuce for a beautiful presentation.



I really liked this and normally I'm not a big curry kind of gal. But it's hearty and pretty and very filling. In fact, I've gotten 4 meals out of the 2 eggplant halves. Now that's bang for your buck. I also wrapped some of the filling in romaine leaves and ate it that way, like a vegan Indian burrito.

Will I make this again? Of course! Maybe next time I'll add some cous cous.

Friday, February 16, 2007

cauliflower-leek kugel

After Danielle made her French onion soup, we had a discussion about how recipes, if one plans on making dinner when one gets home from work (and be eating before 8 PM), should not involve both stove-top cooking and oven-cooking. It's too much, it's silly, and it involves way too many pans.

However, my organic box of love this week bestowed upon me two gigantic leeks and a head of cauliflower (or, as my s.o. likes to call it, cauliflolly). I have never gotten leeks before, and the only things that readily popped into my head were potato leek soup (not in the mood) and colcannon (too carby). And I've had cauliflower enough times before that I feel I've exhausted the options (lots of curry, the occasional crudite). So right before I had to leave work last night, I plugged "leek" and "cauliflower" into epicurious, and came up with this kugel.

Amazingly, the only thing I didn't have at home were the fresh herbs (dill and parsley), which was easily remedied by a stop at the co-op. Yes, I have matzo meal at home.

It took a lot of stovetop time to execute, and quite a lot of pans: toasting the almonds, steaming the cauliflolly, sauteing the leeks. And a lot of bowls: mashing the cauliflolly, beating the eggs, mixing the almonds. And then after all that, you had to bake it!

But it did come out quite good. As an added bonus, it's kosher for Passover, although it's hard to imagine my mother eating this!

Enjoy.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Sharona's Birthday Cupcakes: I can't believe they're from scratch!

I've never made cupcakes, let alone cakes from scratch before. At least not for as long as I can remember. I'm a big fan of mixes in a box. This way I'm almost always guaranteed to have all the ingredients. I know it's cheating, but who really notices? And frosting always comes from the Betty Crocker can. Always.

But it was Sharona's birthday and she refuses to eat cake from a mix. I wanted to make her some baked goodness, and I knew she could tell if the cake came from a mix (she's that good) even if I lied and said it didn't. So I set out to make her yellow cupcakes with homemade chocolate frosting.

From scratch.

I'm not going to post the recipe for the cake or frosting here. It's the generic recipe, mine came from the Better Homes and Garden Cookbook, probably page 171.

I will post the photos though.

And while I may be inclined to make cake from scratch again, I will NEVER make frosting from scratch EVER again. I am still cleaning wayward chocolate bits from my walls and appliances. Even the cats got a coating of cocoa powder.

Here they are in all their chocolatey glory (with sprinkles!).











The recipe yielded two dozen, so Sharona gottwo Tupperwares full of cupcakes, and I pawned the rest off on my coworkers and teens. The teens went crazy over them, declaring them "the best s@%# ever" as they inhaled them.



They pair nicely with the new YA fiction book "Cupcake" by Rachel Cohn.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

mujadara

There used to be a little hole-in-the-wall place in Brookline Village called King Tut, which along with the best falafel in the world (like buttah), also made a mean mujadara. I was obsessed with it, but this is the first time I've tried to make it on my own. Surprise, it's easy! And divine.

Recipe adapted from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

Mujadara

Heat in a large pan 6 to 7 tablespoons olive oil. Really this much!
Add lots of onion, sliced into half-moons. I'd say three medium-sized ones. (I also put in some thinly sliced zucchini.)
Cook over medium heat until the onions are a rich, dark brown. This might take 15 minutes or so. Stir lots!

Meanwhile, put 1 1/4 cup lentils in a pot with a quart of water. Boil, then simmer for 15 minutes.
Add 3/4 cup brown rice and lots of salt and pepper. Cover and cook on low heat until rice is done. (This might take up to a half hour, depending on your rice. You also might have to add extra water.)

Finally, mix onion mixture with rice and lentils.

That's it! It sounds so simple, but it's so good. Very comforting for winter. Yum.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Pucker up! It's Lemon Bundt Cake

I made this because I needed a dessert for Saturday night, and because I wanted to test the new bundt pan Sharona gave me for my birthday.

The recipe was in the pan.

Lemon Cake

Ingridients
1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar (I used Splenda)
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks)I used unsalted butter, room temperature
5 eggs (1)
1 teaspoon Whilton Pure Vanilla Extract (or immitation vanilla flavor)
1 tablespoon Whilton lemon flavor (I looked everywhere and could only find lemon extract)
2 1/4 cups of all purpose flour (I used whole wheat to offset the 3 sticks of butter0
1 1.2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2- 2 teaspoons lemon zezt (is that lemon peel?)

glaze
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon milk



Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray 10" fluted tube pan.

2. Cream sugar and butter in mixer in bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs, vanilla, and lemon flavor, mix until smooth.
3. Add flour and baking powder, mix 30 seconds. Add lemon zestand mix one more minute.

4. Place batter in prepared pan.

Bake 50-55 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes clean.

5. Cool 10 minutes on cooling rack. Loosen sides; remove from pan. and cool completely before glazing.

6. To glaze whisk together ingridients in a small bowl. Drizzle over cooled cake.



Makes 10-12 servings.

This was relatively easy, although I did leave the cake in the oven a little too long so it was slightly dry. But once I zapped it in the microwave, it tasted fantatsic.

I love/ hate the French (Onion Soup)

French Onion Soup, aka The Most Difficult Soup Ever

File under: Warming Winter Soups,

From The Soup Bible



I’ve been complaining for nearly a month now about this soup. I adore French Onion Soup. If I’m out and it’s on the menu, I order it. Always.

If you recall in January I set out to make this soup. I spent $10 on cheese because I didn’t pay attention to the fact I needed Swiss or Gruyere cheese and bought both. I also bought a giant bag of onions. I get them home only to discover that I need flameproof soup bowls. Seriously, who owns these? Nobody. I can’t find them in the store. Bed Bath and Beyond carries some gorgeous ones, but it wasn’t until I got to the store that I discover they only sell them online. At this point I’m too frustrated to spend the $8 on shipping only to have to wait 2-3 weeks for them to arrive. As a last resort I go to Marhsalls, where I find two bowls void of packaging. The sticker says they are oven safe. I take this to mean that they won’t explode when I go to broil my soup. And in the event they do, I’m only out ten bucks.

So last night instead of going to the gym (it was 14 degrees out and 45 mph winds!) I stayed home to finally make my soup.

Enter chaos.

Ingredients
Servers 6 to 8
(total lie. More like 4)

1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 large onions, finely sliced
2 to 5 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon sugar (I used splenda because that’s all I own)
½ teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (I used whole wheat flour)
½ cup of dry white wine (this should totally be optional. And what is dry white wine anyway? I used a half of a cup of Chardonnay left over from New Year’s which would explain the unpleasant smell)
2 ¼ quarts of beef stock (or in my case, 9 teaspoons of beef bouillon. For all you vegetarians out there, I’m sure you could substitute vegetable bouillion instead.)
2 tablespoons of brandy (optional- I did not add this. Like I own brandy!)
6-8 thick slices of French Bread, toasted
3 cups grated Gruyere or Swiss cheese (note, this is entirely too much cheese. Depending on how much you like cheese, use 1 ½ cups and good luck finding cheese already grated.)


1. In a large, heavy bottomed saucepan or flameproof casserole, heat the butter and oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and cook for 10 to 12 minutes until they are soft and beginning to brown. (how brown, exactly? There were no photos. And it took less than 5 minutes)

Chef’s tip: slice your onions ahead of this step. It took me 20 minutes to slice these onions finely. Pain. In. The. Butt.

2. Putting one garlic clove aside, finely chop the rest and add to the onions. Add the sugar and thyme and continue cooking over medium heat for 30-35 minutes or until the onions are brown. Stir frequently. (I only cooked it for an additional ten minutes)

Chef’s tip: Chopping garlic sucks. Buy it already minced and just jump a bunch in.


3. Sprinkle the flour over and stir until well blended. Stir in the wine and beef stock and bring to a boil. Skim off any foam from the surface. Lower the heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Stir in the brandy if necessary.

Chef’s tip: now is a even good time to grate the cheese if you haven’t already done so. I can’t imagine why I couldn’t have used already shredded mozzarella cheese. Does it matter? No. Take this opportunity to toast your bread if it’s not already toasted. Also check to make sure the pilot light in the broiler is lit to avoid any embarrassing mishaps later on when you go to broil the soup. Time permitting, catch an episode of Friends or start a movie while you wait (I started Love Story).

4. Heat the Broiler. Rub each slice of French bread with remaining garlic clove. (totally unnecessary). Place 6-8 (or in my case, 1) flameproof soup bowls on a cookie sheet and fill them about three-quarters full with soup.

5. Float a piece of toast in each bowl. Top with grated cheese, dividing evenly. Broil about 6 inches from heat for 3-4 minutes or until cheese is nice and bubbly. Serve piping hot.
Chef’s note. The bowl will be wicked hot. Use oven mitts when carrying it to the table.



From start to finish this soup took me 2 hours. No joke. I was exhausted by the time I finished. I will never make this again, even though I am now told that there are mixes one can use and various other shortcuts. Don’t get me wrong, the soup was good, but I don’t want to waste my entire evening making it.

I’ll just order it out.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Crock-pot Cobbler

Crock-pot cobbler: The easiest dessert you'll ever make

This is my old standby. This time I tested it out in the crock-pot I found on the street (don't worry, I washed it about a dozen times first).

Ingredients


1 box yellow cake mix
1 stick of butter or margarine, melted
1 can (28 oz) of pie filling, any flavor (I like apple)


Directions
1. Open can of pie filling, dump in bottom of crock-pot
2. Dump cake mix on top
3. Drizzle melted butter on top

4. Cover and cook on low heat for 3-4 hours



Note: This works best with a larger, rectangular crock pot, but can be made in a small round one. You'll just need to mix up the cobbler real well before serving.

Serve with ice cream.

It makes a fantastic breakfast too!

Finally, a look at the new kitchen gadgets I got for my birthday: