Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Three: Hummus, Muhumarra, and Carrots Smashed with North African Spices

Yes, I know the title is quite a mouth full... Here is item one of the lovely trio.

Carrot Smash:

2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch lengths
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for dipping
2 tablespoons white vinegar
4 teaspoons harissa (see note)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3 pieces sprouted grain bread, toasted and dried
Salt and pepper to taste

*harissa is a spice paste you can make your self, or get in a can at middle eastern grocers. I used the latter, this time. Will probably make my own at some point... ideally it will come with a post.

1. In a large saucepan over high heat, cover the carrots with water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the carrots and return them to the saucepan. Cook for 30 seconds over medium heat to thoroughly dry them. Remove the carrots from the heat and coarsely mash them with a fork or whisk. If lazy, pulse them in a food processor a few times. You should have a coarsely ground carrot puree that sticks together but still has rough pieces throughout.

2. Stir in the olive oil, vinegar, harissa, cumin, and ginger. Season the mixture with salt and pepper.

This is best served with dukkah, another spice blend. I never got around to that part, so can't post much on it... yet. But I do have some carrots in my fridge that need to get used. We will see.

The recipes for muhumarra, and my favorite hummus to date are forthcoming.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lil' Squashes Stuffed with Soy-Maple Rice & Fall Vegetables


So, fall is officially here. My housemate and I went in on a CSA together, except that he is never really around... so I have been left with a box of CSA veggies all to my self each week. Ya, horrible, rite? rite?! Srsly, thou. I mean, seriously. I do have an excess of vegetables, and a need to use them. However I have also swore that I was going to go through my pantry and not buy anything new, like, anything. So how do I continue to improve my recipe mental rolodex and not spend any money? Ah, the concept recipe. To clarify, concept recipes are ideas that are not detail oriented. They are not baking, or steeped in French cooking science. They are ideas, like "winter vegetable soup," "X vegetable stirfry," "garden salad," etc. They are fantastic for the changing seasons, as you can often adapt the recipes to fit what is seasonally appropriate.

So, today's concept? Stuffed squash. The no-pantry thing is working out quite well, as I have been trying to following more of a whole foods/macrobiotic lifestyle. So this basically means I need to keep baking and desserts on the down-low. So far it has been going tastily. Not amazingly photogenic (or I was not in the mood to make it such), but wholesome good things. As this is a concept recipe I am going to emphasize that you feel free to substitute things. Don't have celery? Use parsley. Only have two carrots? That is fine. Use quinoa instead of brown rice, etc. etc. Really, this works even if you have leftover grains or some stirfry sitting in your fridge, ignored. However, this is how I threw it down...

Lil' Squashes Stuffed with Soy-Maple Rice & Fall Vegetables

4 small squash (I used butternut and acorn), halved lengthwise and seeded
Canola oil for greasing the pans
Salt n' Pepper
2 cups uncooked short-grain brown rice, rinsed (ideally, soak over night)
3 cups water
1 large red onion, diced
1 celary heart, chopped
2 (very) small leeks, chopped
3 carrots, cut into half-moons
2 T fresh oregano, chopped
2 T maple syrup
1/4 C wheat-free soy sauce (or more to flavor)
1 C raisins

1 cup toasted nuts of choice (I used pepitas, toasted in sesame oil and salt)

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place squash cut-side up, brush or spray tops with oil. If you can't prop the squash up, cut a thin slice off the curved bottoms so they do not tip over. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 45 minutes or until tender. Keep them warm.

While the squashes are roasting, combine the water, rice, and a teaspoon of salt. Cover. Bring to a boil, decrease heat to medium low, and simmer until the rice is tender. If there is any water left, drain it out.

While the rice is cooking, sautee the vegetables in a large, heavy skillet, or two. If you want to be particular, you can sautee the vegetables up seperately. I cooked my carrots seperate from my onions and celery. This step is not necessary, but nice to do if you have the time (which I did). More importantly, I had two burners free. Sautee until tender. If you cooked the vegetables seperately, combine them now, stir in the soy sauce, maple syrup, raisins, and basil, then add the rice. Stir, salt and pepper to taste.

Divide the rice mixture evenly between the squashes, sprinkle with the nuts, and serve.

*to toast the pepitas: heat a heavy bottomed pan to medium-high heat, douse with oil, toss seeds in, sprinkle with salt, and shake around until they start to turn brown.

Other item of note, I am reading "In Defense of Food," and just found out that according to Paul Rozen, a psychologist@UPenn, a third of Americans believe that a diet absolutely free of fat would be better for us than a diet containing even just "a pinch" of fat.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Cherry, the Chocolate, and the Holy Walnut

So, I told someone that I would make them a chocolatey cherry-y thing when a big thing finally went through. It was still pending, but I had some extra sour cherry juice in my fridge that had been sitting there for months that needed using up, and an ache to make ice cream.

This wont be a particularly easy ice cream to replicate, as it was a "use up what I have" sort of ordeal. It did stay very soft in texture even after being frozen, so perhaps it could use less sugar. Next time I would use 5 oz unsweetened chocolate, rather than mixing it. That aside, I would leave everything the same until I made it again. Hopefully with pictures. My roommates descended upon it before I could photograph it!

Onto the recipe...

Black Forest Ice Cream

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate (I used Trader Joe's)
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (again, TJ's)
2 T powdered chocolate (I used generic, ideally I'd use the surprisingly affordable Valrhona)
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 can coconut milk
dash soy lecithin
2 T beet juice (optional)
1 1/2 C sour cherry juice (this is the stuff in a jar of sour cherries)
1/4 salt
1 t vanilla
1/4 t almond extract
1 T tapioca starch

Optional: Walnuts and cacao nibs

Mix together the water, chocolates, the sugar and the tapioca. Heat until chocolate and sugar have melted, and the mixture has thickened a bit from the tapioca. Mix in the rest of the ingredients and stir until smooth, ideally do this in a blender.

Cool, and then prepare in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions. Add in cacao nibs or walnuts toward the end, if desired.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Khoresh Bademjan.. Or "eggplant goes to Persia."

Originally uploaded by vapidchick
So I like eggplant in concept, really. It is an anutritional food... low in calories, fat, protein, just about everything. But for some reason I just haven't integrated it into my internal recipe book, yet. However, the CSA plied me with it repeatedly this summer and I had no idea what I was to do with it. I asked the son of a proud Iranian immigrant then-boyfriend if he could provide me some Persian recipes that used it... which he did. One was for khoresh bademjan, the other was for eggs n' eggplant. You can guess why I may have chose to work with the KB.

The original recipe he gave me called for lamb... unfortunately I have yet to figure out what are some good "associative" lamb flavors... aka "things you use to recreate the qualities of lamb." I substituted a "field roast" sausage link, or two, that I had kicking around my fridge. The second time I made it, I used some blue potatoes I had from the CSA. I feel like any potato would work, though, even sweet. I will say that using potatoes makes this the nightshade-y dish possible, If only i could integrate bell peppers and spinach into it, which I bet I could.

This recipe is really just an idea. I quickly learned that any proportion of tomatoes/eggplant works, and it is a great way to use up ones you have.

Anyway... the recipe!

Khoresh Bademjan

Serves 4-6

1 oven-ready cooking pot (like 'Les Cruset'), cast iron frying pan, etc.

1 cup of lamb-like "meat" replacer
1 pound eggplant -- sliced into 1/2 slices
2 tablespoons salt
1 onion -- diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons tomato paste
water -- as needed
salt and pepper
1/2 -1 teaspoon cinnamon (I like cinnamon, k?!)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tomato -- sliced thin
4 cloves garlic -- minced
2 tablespoons finely chopped mint

Preheat oven to 450.

In your oven ready dish, cook onion and 2 cloves of garlic in olive oil until golden brown. Add meat-replacer and brown a bit (if it browns). Cover with water and add tomato paste, turmeric, cinnamon and nutmeg. Let simmer until 'meat' is cooked and has absorbed the flavors.

Now place a layer of eggplant over the 'meat' and then layer that with tomato slices. Continue until you run out of substances. Add salt and pepper if desired. Add more water until you can push down on the layers and see it. Cover and simmer until eggplant and tomato are tender, about 10 minutes. Now, place it in the oven. You can let it cook covered or uncovered, depending on the moisture levels. I let it bubble for awhile, until it looks like the eggplant (skins and all) is melting and all recognizable structure has broken down. Half an hour, maybe?

I then let it set for a bit, but it can be eaten right away. This dish makes a fantastic left-over. The photo is of the pre-oven'ed dish... I find it pleasantly surreal.

The mint and garlic can be sauteed in olive oil and served atop for a lovely treat, or you can leave them out.