Friday, September 28, 2012

Batch of links

- Here are 5 tips for easier cooking: basic knife skills, keeping your cutting board from slipping, how to tell when oil is hot, when and how to deglaze a pan, and what it means to salt to taste. Bonus: tips for browning meat.

- The 20 most significant inventions in the history of food and drink. The top 5 are refrigeration, pasteurization, canning, the oven, and irrigation.

- When a chef packs lunch for preschool, by Shauna James Ahern (writing about her husband packing lunch for their daughter). I found it interesting to see the pressure he felt to make her a gourmet lunch (you have to go read all the trouble he went through), compared to how he approaches the task two years later. [And insert shameless tie-in to my post about brown-bagging it.]

- According to the New York Times, veganism has gone mainstream in Southern California. This means that “regular” restaurants now usually have appetizing vegan options, which I think is wonderful news (the reason I don’t usually eat vegetarian or vegan meals in most restaurants is because that selection seems to be limited to a baked potato or a green salad).

- Scientists have found high levels of arsenic in rice. A year ago it was apple juice, now rice. This makes me wonder how many other foods it’s lurking in, and what can be done about it.

- You probably heard about the new Stanford meta-analysis study on organic produce, where the media once again reported that organic fruits and vegetables are not more nutritious than their non-organic counterparts. I’ve ranted several times on this blog about this big miscomprehension, that organic doesn’t mean more nutritious, it means less poison (in the form of pesticides). I won’t go into it again, but I would like to share a link to an article by Tom Philpott about the study’s flaws and the 5 ways it underestimates the benefits of organic produce. In a nutshell, the study’s authors use misleading calculations to compare pesticide levels in organic vs. non-organic produce, they don’t differentiate between traces of one pesticide and traces of multiple pesticides, and they ignore the cocktail effect.

- On a related note, here’s a link to the dirty dozen and the clean fifteen.

- Labelling produce is a win-win for farmers and consumers (found via Michael Pollan’s Twitter feed).

- And in light of this article, labeling would be a plus for meat, too. I knew some farmers fed their cows with things other than corn, given rising prices, but candy hadn’t crossed my mind! I’m glad I mostly eat grass-fed beef, now.

- The rise in the price of corn is also leading to a worldwide shortage of bacon.

- To end on a positive note: TED video on how to use a paper towel to dry one’s hands in a public washroom, instead of several, which reduces waste considerably. Shake and fold, people! (Personally, I found that just being a little more patient helps me do the job with one towel instead of two, which is what I do all the time now.)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Roasted Peanut Soup with Honey Whipped Cream

I’m slowly working my way through last February’s Southern special from Bon Appétit (see here for sorghum-glazed baby carrots, here for black-eyed pea and celery leaf salad, and here for corn griddle cakes). The timing for this soup recipe was perfect, because we had a bag of roasted peanuts left over from one of the Engineer’s cookie recipes. Plus, I found a way to make this vegan! I updated the ingredient list below to reflect that. For the heavy cream: you need part of it mixed in with the soup, and part of it whipped and dolloped on top of it. I used soy creamer for the soup and a frozen whipping cream substitute for the topping. I couldn’t find unsweetened whipping cream substitute, but I do recommend at least choosing a brand that doesn’t have HFCS. The topping will be sweet anyways, so I just added a few drops of honey for taste instead of the whole amount. This soup was surprisingly good, and I think the flavors work so well because of all the vegetables added in with the peanuts (which are legumes, so this idea isn’t as far-fetched as it might sound).

2 heads of garlic
4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 ½ cups unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts (mine were salted, so I omitted the kosher salt and diluted the broth)
3 cups sliced onions (about 2 onions)
3 cups thinly sliced celery stalks (about ½ bunch), leaves reserved
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter or vegan margarine
1 to 2 quarts low-salt chicken or vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
1 Yukon Gold potato (about 8 oz.), peeled, cut into ¼" cubes
¾ cup chilled heavy cream, divided
kosher salt
1 Tbsp (or more) honey or maple syrup (see note above)
1 Tbsp. roasted peanut oil or ½ tsp toasted sesame oil (I used the latter)

Preheat oven to 450 °F. Slice off and discard the top third from each head of garlic. Place garlic on a sheet of foil. Drizzle with 2 Tbsp. olive oil; wrap foil tightly around garlic. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until soft and caramelized, about 45 minutes. Let garlic cool slightly, then squeeze cloves into a small bowl, pouring in any oil remaining in foil.

Pulse peanuts in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Transfer ¼ cup chopped peanuts to a small bowl, then continue pulsing remaining peanuts until a smooth butter forms, about 2 minutes (there will be about 2/3 cup peanut butter).

Heat remaining 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 15 minutes. Add sliced celery, butter/margarine, and reserved roasted garlic with oil; cook, stirring frequently, until celery is softened, about 15 minutes. Add broth (the original recipe called for 2 quarts, but I only used 1 quart and found it enough) and bay leaf; bring to a boil. Add potato; simmer until potato is tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat; discard bay leaf.

Set a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl. Working in batches, carefully purée soup in a blender until smooth, about 1 minute per batch, adding peanut butter to last batch. Pour through prepared strainer. (I used my immersion blender here; I found it much easier, cleaner and faster, since I could purée the soup directly in the pot without transferring anything.) Whisk in ¼ cup cream (or soy creamer). Season to taste with salt.

Whisk remaining ½ cup cream (or whipping cream substitute) and a pinch of salt in a small bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually whisk in honey/maple syrup and peanut oil; whisk until stiff peaks form.

Divide soup among bowls. Top with a dollop of honey whipped cream. Sprinkle reserved chopped peanuts and celery leaves over.

Tiger Bread

I’ve been meaning to make tiger bread for a while now. It’s a type of Dutch bread, usually rolls, so named because the crunchy topping cracks in the oven and makes a pattern that is somewhat like an animal print. Sainsbury renamed it giraffe bread, at the request of Lily Robinson, age 3 ½, since the pattern looks more like a giraffe’s spots than a tiger’s stripes. If you want to stay in the felid family, you can call it leopard bread! It’s also called Dutch crunch, again because of the crunchy topping. The first recipe I had seen was on Almost Bourdain, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t authentic, as it calls for croissants! I’m not putting pastry in my pastry, thank you very much. So I went with the recipe on Passionate About Baking. The first thing I changed was to use xanthan gum instead of vital gluten, but in retrospect, I think that makes for too much xanthan gum in a single serving. After reading more on the subject, I suggest using bread flour instead of the regular flour and doing away with the vital gluten entirely; that’s the way I’ve written the recipe below. I also didn’t use the sesame oil written below, even though that’s part of what had seemed so good originally; I’ll try it again another time. And while everything does fit on one baking sheet, I suggest using two, so I changed the instructions to reflect that.

I think that my topping was a little too thick; I’m including a picture of the rolls before baking (after the 20-minute rest, mind you) so that you can compare, but I think the topping should be a little thinner than that (just thin it with some water). You could also let the bread bake a little longer to get a darker top if you want to, though I think that’s more of a personal preference than anything else. I was disappointed with how quickly the bread went stale; it would be important to store it in an airtight container, as the Engineer keeps reminding me, or perhaps you can freeze some rolls and just rewarm then in the oven when you want them. They weren’t actually hard to make, though, and were really delicious when warm and crunchy. The recipe makes about 12 rolls, which can be eaten either savory or sweet.

For the rolls
1½ Tbsp. active dry yeast
¼ cup + 1/8 cup warm water
1 ½ cup warm lactose-free milk
2 ¼ Tbsp. sugar
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2¼ tsp. salt
5 ½ cups (750 g) bread flour

For the topping
2 Tbsp. active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
½ tsp. salt
1½ cups white rice flour
4 tsp. sesame oil (absolutely optional; I saw this Asian influence in another recipe and it seemed good)

For the rolls
In the bowl of an electric mixer or large mixing bowl, combine yeast, water, milk and sugar. Stir to dissolve and let sit for about 5 minutes. (The mixture should start to bubble or foam a bit and smell yeasty.)

Add in vegetable oil, salt and 2 cups of flour. Using the dough hook attachment or a wooden spoon, mix at medium speed until the dough comes together.

Add remaining flour, ¼ cup at time, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 4 minutes, until smooth and elastic.

Place in a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 1 hour, or until doubled. (To do this, I recommend putting the dough in the microwave oven and leaving the door ajar.)

Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and divide it into 10 to 12 equal portions (or 2 equal portions if you’d like to make loaves). Shape each into a ball or loaf and place on two parchment-lined baking sheets (try not to handle the dough too much at this point).

Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 15 minutes while you prepare the topping.

For the topping
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and beat with a whisk; beat hard to combine. The consistency should be like stiff royal icing – spreadable, but not too runny. If you pull some up with your whisk, it should drip off slowly. Add more water or rice flour as necessary. Let stand 15 minutes.

Using a spoon, coat the top of each loaf or roll with a thick layer of topping. You should err on the side of applying too much topping – a thin layer will not crack properly.

Let the rolls stand for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375 °F.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating baking sheets from top to bottom halfway through (or bake in two batches in center of oven). The topping should crack and turn a nice golden-brown color. Let cool on a wire rack.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sweet & Sour Tofu

As I’ve said before, tofu is one of those ingredients that are easily misunderstood. In Western culture, it has become a “meat substitute” and is prepared in a very limited number of ways, possibly because it is available in a limited number of ways. But there’s a whole world of tofu out there, and in Eastern cultures that have used it for centuries, a number of ways to prepare it! I’ve also often had it served with meat, so it’s just a way of eating soy, not a way of getting protein without eating animals. I keep hearing about a book called Asian Tofu, by Andrea Nguyen, which seems like THE reference book to own. It describes fresh tofu (which isn’t the same as the white blocks of tofu at the grocery store), along with things like soymilk skin, fermented tofu, tofu curls, crumbly tofu, etc. I wouldn’t know where to buy all that stuff here!

All this to say that I’ve had good tofu lately and I wanted to know how to prepare it well. I started by reading this post on Herbivoracious, which taught me that there are tofu stores. You know how you can go to a bakery to get awesome bread? Well, apparently there are tofu stores where you can get the best tofu! I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in my life. It seems possible to get the stuff in Montreal, though. If all you can get is the grocery store stuff, that’s fine – that’s what I have, too. Then, the Herbivoracious author suggests cutting the tofu into slices, soaking the slices in warm salted water (optional), patting it dry and pan-frying it at very high heat. That was a bit counter-intuitive for me, because it seemed like the heat would be too high, but it was just perfect. I got tofu slices that had a nice brownish-blonde color, crispy on the outside and a little creamy on the inside – perfect! So I’ve got pan-fried tofu covered.

Then, it was on to an actual dish with seasoned tofu: sweet and sour tofu from Big Girls, Small Kitchen, which I served with brown rice. It turns out that it’s basically pointless to season the tofu before you cook it, as it doesn’t really absorb flavor. The flavor should be in the sauce served with the tofu. The sweet and sour sauce here took care of that, though it’s not the most flavorful I’ve had (it is all natural, though). The recipe calls for flour to create a kind of breading around the cubes of tofu; if you want a gluten-free option, either use gluten-free flour or omit it entirely. You can also use wheat-free tamari sauce instead of the soy sauce.

1 block firm tofu
about ¼ cup whole wheat flour
1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice (or rice vinegar)
¼ cup honey/maple syrup/brown sugar
¼ cup soy sauce
1 Tbsp. grated ginger or garlic (I used both and recommend it)

Cut the tofu into slices about 1 inch thick. Press the water out of the slices, then cut them into 1-inch square cubes. In a baggie or on a wide plate, toss the tofu with the whole wheat flour until all the pieces have a thin coating.

Mix the lemon juice, sweetener, soy sauce, and ginger in a small bowl.

In a frying pan, warm the oil. In one layer, brown the tofu (in two batches if your pan is small). When it’s browned, add the sauce and let it cook down so the tofu is nicely and thickly coated, 5-10 minutes.

Serve with rice and vegetables.

*Update: I forgot to say that I used maple syrup and lemon juice and, when the sauce didn’t taste quite tart enough, added a bit of rice wine vinegar. My friend Jen just made this dish; she used ginger garlic paste, which she highly recommends, along with honey and rice vinegar, and she had the good idea of doubling the quantity of sauce and using a cornstarch slurry to thicken it. And she omitted the flour altogether. I took note of it and will try it her way next time!*

Friday, September 21, 2012

Liens de la semaine

- Je me rattrape. J’ai écouté en ligne La tuque en mousse de nombril, un conte de Fred Pellerin enregistré en collaboration avec Kent Nagano et l’OSM en décembre dernier (en ligne jusqu’en décembre prochain). Vous le savez sûrement, j’aime beaucoup Fred Pellerin, et je ne pourrai pas aller voir son prochain spectacle, vu la distance. Mais dans ce cas-ci, Radio-Canada rend le conte accessible même hors du Canada, alors j’en profite!

- Un excellent article de Pierre Foglia critiquant la réforme du système d’éducation québécois. Je suis tout à fait d’accord avec lui; ce n’est pas en nivelant par le bas qu’on fait avancer une société.

- Une nouvelle boulangerie/pâtisserie sans gluten à Montréal : Mi & Stu. Leurs produits sont également certifiés sans produits laitiers et sans arachides (mais j’ignore s’ils sont sans noix en plus). Je n’ai pas essayé leurs produits, mais pour une boutique avec un public si ciblé, leur présence ne peut qu’être bonne!

- Et puis bon, je n’en ai pas fait un billet, mais le poulet aux deux beurres (pomme et arachide) des Banlieusardises est vraiment bon!

- Enfin, une photo sans recette. En fait, la recette est un pouding aux fruits tropicaux de Coup de Pouce, mais elle n’était pas assez bonne pour en parler. Je mets quand même la photo, parce que c’était la première fois que j’utilisais un carton blanc pour réfléchir un peu plus de lumière sur le sujet. Ça demande bien sûr plus de préparation qu’à l’habitude, et un bon timing pour la lumière naturelle, mais je pense que ça vaut le coup!

Chicken-Apricot Skewers

I made this Bon Appétit recipe last week, since apricots are in season. I feel badly about not having better pictures – sometimes it’s just not possible to serve dinner during the best daylight hours. Do take a look at the link, though, because those pictures are fantastic! Consider throwing some cilantro on top of the skewers for presentation. The Engineer both really enjoyed the recipe, though he eventually instructed me to make skewers with only apricot or only chicken to facilitate cooking (I think my chicken pieces were too small compared to the apricot halves). He also felt that the roasted apricots didn’t hold up in the fridge overnight, though I didn’t have problems with my skewer. But the chicken held up just fine on all accounts, and the marinade was delicious!

¾ cup canned light unsweetened coconut milk
½ cup plain Greek yogurt (lactose-free)
½ cup smooth peanut butter
¼ cup fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
2 tsp. (packed) light brown sugar
2 garlic cloves
¾ tsp. kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
¼ cup (loosely packed) cilantro leaves, plus sprigs for garnish
2 Tbsp. coarsely chopped jalapeño (about 1 large; with seeds for more heat – I completely omitted this)
1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into twenty-four 1" chunks
12 firm ripe small apricots, halved, pitted
freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
lime wedges
24 bamboo skewers, soaked in water for 1 hour

Purée first 6 ingredients and ¾ tsp. salt in a blender until smooth. Add ¼ cup cilantro leaves and jalapeño and blend briefly to combine. Transfer ½ cup marinade to a small bowl; cover and chill for serving (return to room temperature before using). Place remaining marinade in a resealable plastic bag; add chicken, seal bag, and turn to coat. Chill for at least 3 hours or overnight (the longer it marinates, the more flavorful it will be).

Build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill, or heat a gas grill to high. Holding 2 skewers parallel to each other and 1/2" apart, thread 1 piece of chicken onto skewers, then 1 apricot half. Repeat with 1 more chicken piece and 1 more apricot half. (Using 2 skewers helps hold the meat and fruit together, preventing them from twirling around when skewers are turned on the grill.) Repeat with remaining skewers, chicken, and apricots for a total of 12, each holding 2 pieces of chicken and 2 apricot halves. Season with salt and pepper. Brush apricots with some marinade from bag; discard remaining marinade.

Grill skewers on one side until chicken is well browned, 3-4 minutes. Turn and grill until other side is well browned, 3-4 minutes longer. Move to a cooler part of grill. Cover grill and cook until chicken is cooked through, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer to a serving platter; sprinkle with cilantro sprigs and peanuts and drizzle with reserved marinade. Serve with lime wedges alongside for squeezing over.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Corn Farrotto

Remember the concept of SPE, that I mentioned a month ago? One of the restaurants famous for it is Rouge Tomate, in New York. So when they shared their recipe for corn farrotto in Bon Appétit, I decided to make it. I got five ears of corn for $1, and used all of them in this dish, along with more mini San Marzano tomatoes. Here’s a tip I learned in Cook’s Illustrated: to prevent corn kernels from flying all over the place when you’re cutting them off the cob, prop up the ear of corn upright in the center funnel of an angel food cake pan. The pan will catch all the kernels as they fall from the cob! I didn’t get the consistency of the farrotto quite as creamy as I had hoped, but it was still very good! I’ve realized that I really like farro, and the fact that it’s healthy is a nice bonus.

For the corn purée
1 ½ cups fresh corn kernels
½ cup minced onion
1 Tbsp. olive oil
fine sea salt
2 cups (or more) vegetable broth

For the farrotto
2 cups (or more) vegetable broth
1 cup regular or semi-pearled farro
fine sea salt
3 Tbsp. olive oil
½ cup minced red onion
1/3 cup of ¼" cubes red or yellow bell pepper (I used orange)
1 cup fresh corn kernels
1 cup finely grated Parmesan
freshly ground black pepper
½ cup chopped tomato
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil

For the corn purée
Combine corn, onion, oil, and a pinch of salt in a medium saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened and translucent, 6–7 minutes (do not brown). Add 2 cups broth, increase heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer gently, uncovered, until corn is softened and cooked through and liquid is reduced by half, 20–25 minutes. Let cool slightly. Transfer mixture to a blender and purée until smooth (when puréeing hot liquids, start with the lid slightly ajar to release steam; cover with a kitchen towel to catch any splatters).

Strain purée through a sieve into a 2-cup heatproof measuring cup. Add more broth, if needed, to measure 1 1/3 cups. Set aside.

For the farrotto
Bring 2 cups broth, farro, a pinch of salt, and 1 cup water to a simmer a large saucepan. Cook until farro is tender, 30–45 minutes (semi-pearled farro will cook faster than regular). Drain; return to pot.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook until just beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Add bell pepper and corn and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to brown, about 5 minutes longer; keep warm.

Add corn purée to farro and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally and adding more broth by ¼-cupfuls if dry, until farrotto is very creamy, 5–6 minutes. Stir in cheese. Season with salt and pepper.

Stir tomatoes and basil into vegetables. (I chose to stir the bell pepper mixture in the farrotto and top the dish with tomatoes, basil and extra parmesan.)

Divide farrotto among bowls. Top with vegetable mixture, dividing equally. Serve immediately.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fresh Ginger Muffins

Marion Cunningham passed away recently. I didn’t mention it, because I don’t have any of her cookbooks, but I was a fan through other people’s blogs and recipes they posted. I made Ms. Cunningham’s waffles, which were delicious. I probably made some granola of hers at some point. There was a really nice post in her honor on Tea and Cookies, along with a beautiful picture of her and Edna Lewis. And see here for good quotes of hers.

Anyway, I made her fresh ginger muffins, from a recipe posted on Orangette. Instead of buttermilk, I used half plain yogurt and half milk, both lactose-free. My plan was to freeze most of these for future mornings, but they never made it to the freezer. The dozen muffins didn’t even last 48 hours in this house, they’re just that good! They were fantastic when warm, but still wonderful at room temperature. The top was slightly crispy, but the crumb was tender. And they call for more fresh ginger than I think I’ve ever used in a single recipe, yet the taste is not overpowering – more warm than hot. Even the Engineer, who doesn’t like ginger for breakfast, was eating them as dessert, and even as rolls on the side with dinner. To me, they’re great for breakfast and snacks, and maybe for dessert if you were to have a little honey along with it (but I ate them plain).

a 3-oz.piece of unpeeled (trust me) ginger root, washed well
¾ cup plus 3 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. grated lemon zest
8 Tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature (I used cold margarine)
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk (I used ½ cup plain yogurt and ½ cup milk, all lactose-free)
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
¾ tsp. baking soda

Preheat the oven to 375 °F. Grease a muffin tin.

Cut the unpeeled ginger root into large chunks. If you have a food processor, process the ginger until it is in tiny pieces; alternatively, mince by hand. Measure out ¼ cup – or a little more, if you like. It’s better to have too much than too little. Put the ginger and ¼ cup sugar in a small skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar has melted and the mixture is hot. Don’t walk away from the pan: this takes only a couple of minutes. Set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon zest and 3 Tbsp. of sugar. Add to the ginger mixture.

Put the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer (or a mixing bowl, if you plan to use handheld beaters or mix by hand). Beat the butter for a second or two, then add the remaining ½ cup sugar, and beat until smooth. Add the eggs, and beat well. Add the buttermilk, and beat until blended. Add the flour, salt, and baking soda, and beat just until smooth. Add the ginger-lemon mixture, and beat to mix well. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean (in my case, 15 minutes did the trick). Serve warm.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Batch of links

- Here’s an interesting New York Times article about how food restrictions affect dinner parties. While allergies and diseases have always been good reasons to avoid certain foods, more and more people these days have self-imposed restrictions (like those who are vegan for ethical reasons, or people sticking to a paleo diet). It seems, however, that while guests with food restrictions used to bring their own food or go hungry, it is now expected that the hosts will accommodate the restrictions. Personally, I do my best to accommodate guests and I expect the same favor in return, though I think it’s fine to have a policy that “not everyone will be able to eat everything” (as long as everyone can eat something).

- While we’re at it, do you ever make a recipe for the first time for company? I was surprised at the number of people who do. I have done it on occasion, but as a general rule, I don’t – the potential of failure is too great.

- The Way We Ate: These two bloggers are making every single recipe ever published in the now-defunct Gourmet magazine, at the rate of one magazine per week (always in season). It’s going to take them 15.5 years! They post pictures of all the dishes, plus ads that appeared in whatever magazine they’re doing. It’s really interesting to see what dishes were fashionable several decades ago, noticing trends like the apparition of frozen vegetables, etc. Take a look!

- The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and Cacao Barry have teamed up to present a nifty exhibit about the relationship between applied arts and culinary arts, in this case using chocolate as an example. There’s even a workshop where you can color chocolate and, obviously, eat some! I wish I were there.

- A French biochemist has invented a street lamp that uses algae and atmospheric CO2 to produce light. It also needs sunlight to function, so perhaps it is not best suited for indoor parking lots (as the article suggested), but I think the initiative is brilliant.

- Harvard’s Science and Cooking Lectures are back this fall and available online.

- Have you ever thought about how our lives are ruled not by our hearts or our minds foremost, but by our stomachs? This weekend meditation on The Kitchn rang true for me last weekend, when a lost filling kept me from eating for most of Sunday.

- Subway has three new vegan sandwiches, though only in Maryland. While I’d normally applaud that, all three contain genetically modified soy, so it’s a very narrow interpretation of veganism.

- Finally, vegan substitutions for 8 common ingredients, the ultimate vegan baking cheatsheet, and weight conversions for common ingredients.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Salads of the moment

I’ve made two different salads recently, and both of them were fabulous. They were immediate hits for the two of us! In both of them, I used mini San Marzano tomatoes, which I’ve fallen in love with, as they are a small tomato but still bigger than cherry tomatoes. They also contain avocados; as always, I advise you to only cut up the amount of avocado you’ll use for one sitting and add it to your plate immediately before eating. I found the avocados particularly good these past few weeks! I found both these recipes via Pinterest.

The first is an avocado, tomato, edamame and red onion salad, for which I’ll give guidelines more than a precise recipe. I used a package of frozen edamame beans, cooked according to the instructions, but you could use less; half a red onion, chopped; a liberal amount of tomatoes, chopped (there aren’t many in the pictures below, they’re hidden under the rest of the ingredients and I didn’t bother styling the dish); and a total of two avocados, for 4 servings (leftover salad was eaten without avocado). I made a dressing with raspberry wine vinegar (though red wine vinegar would be perfect), olive oil, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. It was divine, light and filling at the same time, healthy and/but delicious. I’ll definitely be making it again!

The second, adapted from the Diva Dish, had lemon, quinoa, cilantro, chickpeas and cumin along with the tomatoes and avocados. We thought it was the best thing ever and absolutely loved it. The Engineer says it’s possibly the best use of quinoa he’s tasted. It took a little longer to make, but was totally worth it. I think that you could cook the quinoa the regular way, though (i.e., bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, for 15 minutes), since it’s faster.

For the salad
½ cup dry quinoa
2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups spinach
1 bunch cilantro
¼ cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup cherry tomatoes (or mini San Marzanos), cut in half
2 avocados, diced

For the dressing
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 2 lemons
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. agave nectar (or honey)
½ tsp. cumin
salt and pepper, to taste

Start by making the quinoa: soak the quinoa in a pot in the vegetable broth for about 15 minutes. Turn the heat on to medium-high and let the quinoa come to a boil. Once it boils, reduce the heat to medium-low and let the quinoa simmer. Stir every so often and cook quinoa about 20-25 minutes, just until the liquid is absorbed – don’t let it dry out completely, though; when there is just a tiny amount of liquid left in the pot, remove it from the heat and cover. Set aside to cool. (As noted above, I’d consider bringing the quinoa and broth to a boil, then reducing the heat to low and letting it simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.)

Meanwhile, in a food processor, put the spinach and cilantro. Process until the greens are finely diced. (You can do this by hand if you don’t have a food processor.) Put the greens in the serving bowl and set aside.

As long as the food processor is out and dirtied, use it to chop the onion and garlic, then add to the greens mixture.

Add the chickpeas to the serving bowl and mix well. When your quinoa has cooled, add it to the bowl as well, along with the tomatoes.

Make the dressing by whisking all the ingredients together. Pour over salad and mix until combined. You can set the salad aside for 10-15 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

Serve and top with avocado.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Mini-gâteaux aux amandes et aux framboises

Voici une recette bien simple, tirée de Coup de Pouce (j’ai l’impression que toutes mes recettes en français viennent de là!). Ces petits gâteaux étaient délicieux, et parfaits quand on a envie d’une petite bouchée sucrée pour terminer le repas, mais sans trop exagérer (encore faut-il ne pas les enfiler les unes après les autres!).

1 tasse d’amandes moulues
1 2/3 tasse de sucre à glacer tamisé
¾ tasse de farine tamisée
½ c. à thé de poudre à pâte
5 blancs d’œufs, légèrement battus
2/3 tasse de margarine fondue
24 framboises

Préchauffer le four à 350 °F. Graisser un moule de 24 muffins miniatures (ou un moule de 12 muffins moyens). Dans un bol, à l'aide d'un fouet, mélanger les amandes, le sucre glace, la farine, la poudre à pâte, les blancs d'œufs et le beurre jusqu'à ce que la pâte soit homogène. Répartir la pâte dans les moules à muffins miniatures. Déposer une framboise au centre de chaque mini-gâteau en l'enfonçant légèrement. (Il m’est resté assez de pâte pour en faire deux ramequins, qui étaient bombés à souhait et délicieux même sans framboises.)

Cuire au centre du four pendant environ 15 minutes ou jusqu'à ce que les mini-gâteaux soient dorés. Mettre les moules sur une grille et laisser refroidir pendant 5 minutes. Démouler les mini-gâteaux sur la grille et laisser refroidir complètement.

(Vous pouvez préparer les mini-gâteaux à l'avance et les mettre côte à côte dans un contenant hermétique. Ils se conserveront jusqu'à 2 jours au réfrigérateur ou jusqu'à 1 mois au congélateur.)

Sorghum-Glazed Baby Carrots

I got this recipe in last February’s issue of Bon Appétit, which had a feature on Southern cooking. Sorghum syrup, apparently, is a Southern thing. Well, I’m pretty sure it’s got to be an African thing, too, but here it’s a Southern thing. This was my first time using it. It looked and tasted like molasses, but once it cooked down with the carrots, it was a different animal entirely. The recipe says to substitute honey if you can’t find it. I’m sure it would be good, but the sorghum syrup here is what made this recipe stand apart from the other similar ones I have (I guess I haven’t gotten around to posting them, but they include carrots glazed with maple syrup, or with ginger and honey). I omitted the bourbon entirely, because I didn’t feel like buying another bottle of alcohol to use up only a few tablespoons. Ideally, you’ll want to use small carrots of some heirloom variety (like yellow or purple carrots), both because it looks better and because they cook faster than the so-called baby carrots (which are basically regular carrots trimmed down). The result was really good! I served it with honey-roasted chicken with herbes de Provence gravy. Note that I halved the recipe and had enough for 4 servings as sides; the recipe below makes about 8 servings.

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter or margarine
2 lbs. baby carrots or small carrots (such as Thumbelina), trimmed, peeled, halved lengthwise
a 6" piece of ginger, peeled, cut crosswise into ½"-thick rounds
½ cup sorghum syrup (or honey)
½ cup fresh orange juice
6 Tbsp. bourbon (I omitted that entirely, but it’s up to you)
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add carrots and sauté until beginning to soften, about 10 minutes (longer for baby carrots, in my experience). Add ginger and sorghum. Cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in orange juice and bourbon. Return to heat; reduce heat to medium-low. Cover skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until carrots are fork-tender, 5–7 minutes. Uncover and cook until liquid has been reduced to a syrupy consistency and carrots are nicely glazed, about 6 minutes. Discard ginger. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Honey-Roasted Chicken with Herbes de Provence Gravy

This is the other recipe I saved from the Spring 2011 issue of Where Women Cook (where I also got the honey pie recipe). It had intimidated me at first, I’m not sure why; perhaps the thought of roasting a chicken and making gravy seemed too daunting? And then, the longer it sat in my recipe folder, the more daunting it became? But it turns out it was much easier to make than I thought, as most of the work is done in the oven, and you’re cooking chicken pieces, not the whole bird. And I can’t even begin to tell you how good this smelled as it was cooking! And this meal was fabulous! The gravy was wonderful, and the chicken was perfect, and the Engineer and I had to restrain ourselves not to eat the whole thing. And did I mention I think this was my first real chicken gravy?

The only modification I would make would be to perhaps bake the chicken in a baking pan, then pour the baking juices into a frying pan and make the gravy on the stovetop. Otherwise, you may take the frying pan (or skillet or whatever) and, thinking you’re clever, use your oven mitts as a mnemonic device to avoid burning yourself on the scalding-hot handle (like by putting an oven mitt on the counter directly underneath it and the other propped on the handle), but trust me, you’ll be the absent-minded cook who grabs the handle anyway. Ask me how I know. My next best recommendation, if you have an oven mitt that is entirely silicone (including the inside), is to slip that mitt over the pan handle as soon as it’s out of the oven, as in the picture below (too little too late, in my case, but the visual may help others!).

If you want, you could use boneless skinless chicken breasts, and just cook them a bit less, or roast a whole chicken instead. I served the chicken with sorghum-glazed baby carrots. Note that I’m sure it’s possible to make gravy with gluten-free flour or some kind of starch; I just didn’t try it here.

2 whole chicken legs
2 bone-in split chicken breasts
4 Tbsp. butter or margarine, melted
3 Tbsp. honey
2 tsp. sea salt (I used Murray River salt, which has smaller flakes)
2 tsp. herbes de Provence
Several grinds of black pepper
1 cup white wine
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
½ cup chicken stock

Preheat oven to 420 °F.

Rinse chicken under cold running water; pat dry.

Whisk the melted butter, honey, sea salt, herbes de Provence, and black pepper in a medium-sized mixing bowl.

Place the chicken pieces in a large cast-iron skillet. Pour sauce over chicken, and toss with tongs to coat.

Leave chicken skin side up. Pour white wine into the pan.

Place skillet in oven. Cook for 45 minutes.

Remove pan from oven. Using tongs, transfer the chicken onto a separate plate (I tented mine with aluminum foil to keep it warm).

Return skillet to stovetop. (Alright, so here, slip your indestructible silicone oven mitt over the skillet’s handle, or just pour out all the juices into another skillet and go from there.) Cook remaining juices over medium high heat for 3 minutes until some of the liquid is cooked off.

Add flour to skillet; stir constantly for 1 minute.

Add the chicken stock; stir constantly for a couple of minutes until it reaches a thickened gravy-like consistency.

Drizzle gravy over the reserved chicken pieces and serve.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Batch of links - Food for travel

I’ve rounded up some links about food for travel. Sometimes, you’ll want to bring your own lunch for a trip on a plane; or you’ll spend several days on the road and want to eat well, but don’t know where to start. It’s not just about travelling with food, it’s about food that travels well, too. Hopefully some of these will be inspiring!

Food in airports and on airplanes is usually overpriced, and often not too tasty or nourishing. Here are some great ideas, on Simple Bites, for food that you can take with you on a plane (so nothing that takes up too much space, nothing that needs to be refrigerated or is too messy, and of course, nothing over 3 fluid ounces). Highlights include crackers, granola bars, cookies, muffins, firm fruits, raw vegetables with hummus or a peanut butter sandwich. Keep in mind that some foods cannot be taken on international flights.

Here are some more ideas for plane food from The Kitchn. Another good tip: avoid foods that have strong smells (like garlic, curry or fish, or foods that are kept hot). If your budget allows for it, they also recommend using a catering company that specializes in meals for airplanes.

As for good food for road trips, here’s a Kitchn roundup. Reader comments provide suggestions such as sugar snap peas, grapes, cherry tomatoes, veggie spring rolls and popcorné

An intrepid commenter here suggests bringing a camping stove on road trips, and another here suggests a combo toaster oven/hot plate with a car adapter, so that you can cook food daily. While this is a good idea in theory (many rest stops allow this, though not all), we don’t even have room in our car for a cooler, let alone a camping stove or toaster oven, so I’m not sure how practical that would be for the average person.

With any luck, you can plan ahead for a route where you will have lunchtime options, such as Whole Foods or Good To Go Organics (now open on the I-95 somewhere in Connecticut). I know this isn’t always practical, though, believe me.

Of course, this depends on how long the trip is, and on whether or not you have a cooler in the car or a refrigerator in the hotel. Personally, I found that dry goods (like Mini Wheats, dried apricots, etc.) and fruit make for great snacks, but meals are still a big challenge! After reading through the linked pages, maybe I’ll keep those veggie spring rolls in mind, or make a potato salad without mayonnaise. Or as I read in the comments here, a quinoa salad or a bean salad, both of which sound like a good option for the first day of a road trip. I also recommend keeping wet wipes and paper towels on hand, to help with any mess.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Blackberry Buttermilk Cake

As you know, when I make a recipe that calls for buttermilk, I usually end up using lactose-free milk with a splash of lemon juice or vinegar. And according to Cook’s Illustrated, it’s not necessary to let the mixture curdle; you get the correct pH right away to carry on with the recipe. The downfall of that method, of course, is that you don’t get the same taste as buttermilk, which can be noticeable in a recipe where buttermilk is the star. That’s why I sat on this Bon Appétit recipe for a while, until I read that some people are replacing buttermilk with plain yogurt. The consistency isn’t quite the same, but the taste is tangier, closer to what was intended. So that’s what I tried here. I baked the cake less than the recipe calls for, to compensate, and the Engineer and I really liked the results (though the Texas blackberries I had were huge, and smaller ones would have been better here). Next time, though, I’ll try replacing the buttermilk with half lactose-free plain yogurt and half lactose-free milk.

¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted margarine, plus more for pan and parchment
2 1/3 cups (9.3 oz.) cake flour (sifted, then measured), plus more for pan
2 ½ cups (10 oz.) fresh blackberries
¼ cup plus 1 1/3 cups sugar
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking soda
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 ½ tsp. finely grated orange zest
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk substitute (see above)
powdered sugar (for dusting)

Position a rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350 °F. Grease a 9” or 10” springform pan; line bottom with a round of parchment paper. Grease parchment. Dust with flour; tap out excess. Arrange berries in a single layer in bottom of pan; sprinkle evenly with ¼ cup sugar.

Sift flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda into a medium bowl; set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat margarine and remaining 1 1/3 cups sugar in a large bowl at medium-high speed, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla and zest. Reduce speed to low; beat in flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with buttermilk substitute in 2 additions, beginning and ending with flour mixture and beating just until incorporated. Pour batter over berries in pan; smooth top.

Bake until cake is golden brown and bounces back when pressed gently with fingertip, about 1 hour 25 minutes for a 9" pan and about 1 hour for a 10" pan (I had a 9” pan with 1 cup of plain yogurt instead of the buttermilk, and 50 minutes was plenty). Let cool in pan set on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then run a thin, sharp knife around the edge of the pan to loosen. Remove pan sides. Invert cake onto rack and remove pan bottom; peel off parchment. Let cool completely. Dust top generously with powdered sugar.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Pâtes crémeuses sans lactose

Un de mes petits plaisirs dans la vie, c’est de prendre une recette créée pour une marque en particulier, puis utiliser un produit équivalent d’une autre marque pour la faire. Il y a de cela plus de dix ans (!), j’ai reçu par la poste un magazine de Kraft bourré de recettes utilisant leurs produits. Il contenait, entre autres, une recette de pâtes au poulet et aux épinards avec une sauce crémeuse dont l’’ingrédient principal était du fromage à la crème Philadelphia. La première fois que j’ai fait cette recette, par contre, j’ai vraiment utilisé le fromage à la crème Philadelphia, parce que c’est la marque la plus répandue, de une, et que je n’étais pas intolérante au lactose, de deux. Maintenant, c’est plus compliqué, et je n’ai pas trouvé de fromage à la crème assez réduit en lactose pour que je puisse le digérer. Je n’avais donc pas touché à cette recette depuis des années, mais là, j’ai décidé de l’adapter, et ça a fonctionné du premier coup!

Je n’ai pas utilisé de poulet, parce qu’il s’agissait d’un soir végétarien, et j’ai fait deux portions plutôt que quatre (malgré qu’on a eu quelques restes quand même). J’ai ajouté de petites tomates jaunes et rouges ainsi que du basilic au lieu des épinards, mais faites selon ce que vous avez dans le frigo. L’important ici, c’est la sauce!

quelques tomates en morceaux, ou quelques poignées d’épinards
½ contenant de faux-mage à la crème (comme Tofutti), soit environ 4 oz.
1 c. à soupe comble de levure alimentaire
½ tasse de lait sans lactose
1 pincée de muscade
2 portions de pâtes longues ou courtes, cuites (allez-y au pif s’il le faut)
parmesan râpé, basilic (facultatif)

Dans une grande poêle, faire chauffer à feu moyen un peu d’huile (et si vous voulez des morceaux de poulet ou de bacon, c’est ici que vous les ajoutez), puis faire cuire les tomates ou les épinards quelques minutes. Ajouter le faux-mage à la crème, la levure alimentaire, le lait et la muscade; cuire jusqu’à ce que le faux-mage soit fondu et que le mélange soit chaud et bouillonne (cela prend plus de temps avec du faux-mage qu’avec du vrai fromage, mais ça finit par arriver). Incorporer les pâtes cuites, puis garnir d’un peu de parmesan râpé, au goût. Servir chaud.