Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Salad of the moment

I’m in a salad-craving month. Huh, that feels strange to write. Wanting more and more greens doesn’t fit a cultural narrative, but it is spring and they’re so good. (Even without a CSA share delivering them extra good and truly fresh.) 
This is the salad that I’m making two or three times a week. I’m not sure what makes it so good, but I need to remember it for the future. If I ever remember to take pictures while I make it, I’ll edit the post. 

Shredded Beet Salad #3
Makes 2 and a quarter servings

1 beet
2 carrots
Bunch of spring greens
Lime olive oil (others would presumably work, I have fancy, so I’m using it)
Balsamic vinegar
2 handfuls red grapes
Roasted walnuts
Bit of blue cheese

Rinse the greens and put them in a nice salad bowl.
Shred the beet and carrots in the food processor so it spits them into the salad bowl. Usually it’s not worth me getting the food processor dirty to shred carrots, but it contains the mess of cutting up beets. If it’s already being washed, no more reason not to shred the carrots.
Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the beets, carrots, and lettuce so they can marinate while you fix the rest of the salad.
Wash the grapes and add them to the salad bowl.
Crumble the roasted walnuts and blue cheese into the salad.

Friday, March 30, 2012

How do you use a ton of cabbage?

A month ago, Aunt Ruth and Aunt Ellie shared how when they were growing up on the farm they used to sell cabbage by the ton. I can't even fathom a ton of cabbage or dream of things to make with it. Yet they would sell a ton of cabbage for some ridiculously low price, like $8.

Spurred by that conversation, when St. Patrick's day rolled around and cabbage was on sale, I had to buy some. A head of cabbage might not weigh a ton, but it still takes some work to eat through three or four pounds of cabbage. Here's how I used mine:

Crunchy Vietnamese Cabbage Salad with Pan-Seared Tofu
This New York Times recipe is quite delicious. Soy sauce, lime, garlic, jalapeno. Mmmmmmmmmm. Seriously, go buy a cabbage and make it.

Okonomiyaki is a Japanese cabbage pancake dish introduced to me by my friend Michelle. The following recipe is adapted from The Tassajara Bread Book and isn't all that true to the normal ingredients, but I've found it to work out fine. If you're interested in a more authentic version, you can often buy okonomiyaki mixes and sauces at specialty Asian groceries.

Ingredients (for about two servings worth)
1/4 cabbage
1 carrot
½ onion:  yellow or purple
(1/2 c meat or fish pieces or tofu, if desired, or whatever you have around)
1 c (or more) flour:  whole wheat and unbleached white
1 egg, beaten
1 T brown sugar
1/2 t salt
1/2 cup milk
Enough water to make batter

Chop, shred, dice or thinly slice vegetables and meat. Mix together remaining ingredients to from batter.  Fold vegetables into batter, pour into a frying pan, and cook on medium heat until thoroughly cooked. Serve either warm or cold with soy sauce and spicy mayo (I mix sriracha into regular mayo).

Caramelized Onions and Cabbage Pasta
Easy to make with few ingredients, but it does take some time to caramelize the onions. I'd argue that caramelized onions are always worth it though.

1 Tbsp butter
1/2 onion, sliced
1 cup shredded cabbage
a taste of Balsamic vinegar

Melt the butter on medium-low. Add the onions and saute until translucent and almost starting to brown. Then, add the cabbage and continue to saute.

Once you've added the cabbage, put on water to boil the pasta. The cabbage and onions should caramelize about the time the pasta finishes cooking. Season with Balsamic vinegar and fresh ground pepper.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Seattle Snow Day Minestrone

Yesterday, predictions were for anywhere from 1 to 18 inches of snow. The one thing that was clear was that a snow day off from work was in the forecast.

Upon seeing a couple of inches of snow outside my window this morning, the first thought through my mind was "What do I want to do outside today?" and the second was "What should I cook?" Chilly winter days filled with snow make me crave warm, homemade, fresh from the oven/stove food, and today I was in the mood for minestrone.

First, I turned to Jane Brody's Good Food Book but found no such recipe.* Then, I checked More with Less, which offered two possibilities, neither of which was quite what I wanted. Time for the internet then. Foodgawker gave me plenty of good suggestions but none of them fit what was already in my kitchen. In that case, might as well experiment.

Minestrone ingredients and approximate quantities:
(Note: I made a lot of soup, so either invite over friends or be prepared to freeze a bunch of soup. Or halve the amounts, you know.)

2 1/2 cups dried pinto beans
1 large onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 cup shredded, frozen zucchini
a bunch of kale torn into bite size pieces
1 can (14.5 oz) Italian seasoned, diced tomatoes**
3/4 cup chopped carrots
1 bay leaf
Oregano, Thyme, Basil, Salt, and Pepper to taste
1.5 cup macaroni

1. Since you probably didn't realize you were making this the night before, quick soak the beans in a stock pot by bringing them to a boil, turning the heat off, cover and leave for 2 hours.
2. Simmer the beans for 2 hours. While they simmer, dice the onion, garlic, and celery. Saute the mixture in a tablespoon of oil until onions and celery are translucent.
3. Add the onion, garlic, celery, zucchini, kale, tomatoes, carrots and bay leaf to the beans. Add a bit more water if needed to cover beans and veggies. Season with oregano, thyme, and basil. Simmer for 30 minutes.
4. Add the macaroni and simmer for 20 more minutes.
5. Season with salt and pepper, and any more of the herbs if desired. Don't forget to remove the bay leaf.
6. Enjoy while gazing out at the falling snow! This soup is delicious with Parmesan on top (though then it is obviously not vegan). It is also great served with oatmeal rolls. Mix the dough just after turning the beans on to simmer. Then, let rise as you work with the veggies. It should be ready to go in the oven a bit before you add the macaroni noodles to the soup.

*The Vegetable-Bean Soup with Pistou is similar but not quite. I've never seen minestrone with potatoes before.
**The Italian seasoning was by accident, so just use plain diced tomatoes and up the oregano, thyme, and basil.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Three years in a row=An established tradition

In Chicago, I've started a tradition of having a Christmas Cookie Baking Drop-in right about now. It is one of the few times a year when I actually try to get my friends from different social circles together.  There is baking. And music. And decorating cookies. And EATING COOKIES. And it's pretty much one of my favorite things.

My impromptu Barcelona trip ended up being the week that I'd mentally scheduled this year's drop-in. So that didn't happen. So I rescheduled it for Epiphany.

Tips for Success

1) I invited way more people than would fit in my apartment (even in a drop-in style where people may only stay for an hour), so only the people who had RSVP'ed got a reminder e-mail.

2) I start mixing dough around 3. People are free to come anytime after that. Don't expect anyone until 5.

3) Make the dough that needs to be refrigerated first. And keep mixing doughs until people show up.

4) When the first people show up they get to start rolling the dough and cutting it out.

5) Powdered Sugar + Milk/Cider/Lemon Juice & Food Coloring = Icing
Milk/Cider/Lemon Juice + Powdered Sugar & Food Coloring = Runny
Pay attention to the order of operations.

6) Put a big bowl of soup on the stove before mixing dough. Cookies are yummy, but we need real food too.

7) Two sets of mixing bowls (and two sets of measuring cups and two sets of measuring spoons) is actually enough.

8) Four batches of dough is about right.

9) You can never have too many spoons.

10) The one time I have the recipes all printed out, no one wanted to take a copy home. BUT it is easier than running around trying to reference the computer.

The Recipes

I've used the same sugar cookies and molasses ginger cookies for all three years. They're vegan, so everyone can eat them. (Well, everyone whose only dietary restraints are vegan.) When I was gathering my recipes this week, the webpage for one of them had disappeared. Internet Archive rescued me, but figured I should start recording them for future reference.

Lesson 11: I don't take photos while hosting a party. Lesson 12: Everyone has fun decorating cookies.
Also, bonus points to the person who can name the theme of this tray of cookies.

Vegan Sugar Cookies
Adapted from Chez Betty

1.5 cups margarine
2 cups white sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
.5 cups soy milk or whatever other milk substitute you favor
1 Tablespoon vanilla or whatever other extract you love
5 cups flour

Mix the Dough
Cream the margarine and sugar together until light and fluffy. 
Add baking powder to mixture and beat until incorporated. 
Mix in the soy milk. Then the vanilla.
Add the flour one cup at a time.

Cool It
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and pop it in the fridge.

Cut It
When people arrive (or after a while, guessing half hour), preheat the oven to 350ºF, and start rolling out the dough. I favor rolling it between a couple of sheets of wax paper, but that's because my table's not that big and I'm probably mixing dough on the other side. Have them roll it out to about a quarter inch thickness. (Warning, people who don't cook as much tend to want to roll it thinner.)

Pull out the cookie cutters (mine live in a basket on top of the bookshelf) and have fun. A silicone baking matt is your friend.

Pop in the 350ºF oven and bake for 10 to 12 minutes until edges. The edges should be starting to brown when you pull them out  are just starting to turn a pale brown. Let the cookies cool on the sheet for a few minutes. Move them to some plates and give people free reign to nibble and decorate.

Vegan Molasses Cookies
Thank you Internet Archive! (And Cookie Madness...)

2.333 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
In one mixing bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt.
In a second bowl, mix brown sugar, vegetable oil, molasses, vanilla and apple sauce.
Add flour mixture to brown sugar mixture and stir until mixed.
Refrigerate. Again, when guests arrive, pull out the dough, preheat the oven to 325ºF, and let them roll it out.

Bake for 13-16 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the sheet for a few minutes. Move them to some plates and give people free reign to nibble and decorate.

Other Highlights

I also mixed up some crazy chocolate cookies (thanks for the suggestion, Grace) and cranberry pistachio biscotti (thanks, Sadie, for bringing the recipe two years ago).

I don't have my friends from different groups mingle often, but when I do one group or another seems to dominate. This time it appeared to be the Carleton people. But really, the secret was that almost everyone had attended school with Allison at some point. (At least if we count people enrolled at the same university at the same time as attending school together.) There were two people who hadn't. One of them is her husband.

I'm in better contact with her high school classmates than she is.

I'm also in better contact with her high school classmates than I am with my high school classmates.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Bit of New Year's Luck

In the South, we eat collards and black-eyed peas as we ring in each new year. The foods will supposedly bring health and wealth and all things good throughout the year. My best friend's grandmother would even give us collards for New Year's Day.

Now that I'm in the Pacific Northwest, those dishes aren't as readily available. To welcome 2012, I decided to experiment with kale and pinto beans instead.

Israeli Couscous with Beans and Kale
Serves two.

0. Soak and cook pinto beans the day before.
1. Steam a handful or so of kale.
2. In a saucepan, saute a quarter of an onion in oil. Season with cumin and coriander.
3. When the onions are translucent, add a heaping 1/2 cup of Israeli couscous and toast lightly.
4. When the couscous is light brown, add 1 cup water and bring to a boil.
5. Once the couscous is done. Turn off the heat and stir in the kale and beans.
6. Enjoy, and have good fortune this year!

Seasoning Disclaimer: I currently have a cold, and with my head this congested, don't trust my sense of smell or taste. So definitely experiment more with seasonings, or use broth instead of water to cook the couscous. I thought that it would be better with a bit of acid and couldn't really taste the cumin, but then again, that could just be the cold talking.