Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Lentils and Peppers


My mom's sick, and I wanted a nice, easy, simple dinner that would be hearty without being too heavy since she wasn't very hungry. I also wanted to use the baby peppers in the fridge that were going bad. I had no expectations for the dinner, and even though it took a lot longer to make than I expected (well, not longer, but I thought I'd have time to sit down and do some homework while the lentils were cooking), it turned out nice. And then Mom went to bed. I still have to do my homework though...

Stewed Lentils with Sweet Peppers
serves 2 to 3

2/3 cup dried lentils
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
pinch nutmeg
pinch allspice
pinch crushed red pepper
1/8 teaspoon dried rosemary
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small tomato, chopped

for pepper topping:
2 bell peppers, cut into thin strips
1/2 white onion, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons olive oil

yogurt, for serving

Bring lentils, spices, and enough water to cover by an inch to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat and let simmer, covered, 35 minutes or until tender. Add tomatoes and garlic and cook until most liquid has evaporated.

Meanwhile, coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Toss peppers and onion slices with oil and bake in a 425ºF oven for 10-15 minutes, stirring once, or until starting to brown at the edges.

To serve, portion lentils into bowls, top with a dollop of yogurt, and roasted vegetables and enjoy.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Warm Grain Salad for a Cold Night


Usually I don't make recipes that aren't accompanied by photos. I flip through magazines and am attracted by the pictures. I pick up cookbooks with gorgeous covers that are filled with color pictures. In other words, I judge a recipe by its picture.
Which I realize is totally the wrong way to do things. I mean, I can easily think of a handful of dishes that I love that are absolutely hideous and would take an enormous amound of talent to make appear appetizing. (Ghormeh sabzi is one, I mean, its a dark green stew with brown bobs and chunks of meat and kidney beans bobbing around. If anything, its the kidney beans that might save it.) This dish is not one of those. This picture does not do it justice because we were sick and hungry and didn't have the patience for me to try to get a good picture; my goal here was just not blurry.

Oh, wait, I was talking about a cookbook. I picked up A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen by Jack Bishop, and couldn't put it back down. I mean, who could when there are gorgeous squash blossoms on the cover and a tomato-goat cheese tart on the back. It made me start dreaming of summer.
And yes, there are 8 pages of color inserts, but I kind of ignored them and flipped straight to the back of the book where the winter section is. And I wasn't dissapointed. I immediated ripped up a piece of paper and bookmarked two recipes. I still haven't even flipped through them all yet. The first one, a warm farro salad with roasted mushrroms and sheep's milk cheese, is what the picture above is of. I had the cheese in the fridge, so why not give it a try?
It was good - though not as good as it could have been, though that is all due to my modifications. The mushrooms, tomatoes, and shallots were awesome after roasted in the oven, and the cheese went wonderfully with it. The only problems were that I forgot to buy parsley and couldn't find any arugula and used spinach instead. It was good with spinach, but I think arugula would have been a bit nicer with it.

Since I didn't change anything about it, I'm not sure it would be right to post it here. So if you want to try it, it's on page 360 of the book.

Now I just need to try a few other recipes from it, like the Carribean Black Beans with Sautéed Plantains.

Beans for Dessert


My favorite Chinese pastry is based on something that isn't even Chinese at all. Red bean paste, which fills my favorite pastries in Chinatown, is Japanese. I think. I hope I just didn't misunderstand everything just now, but I'm fairly confident that what I'm saying is correct.

So after spending Friday in Chinatown for my friend's birthday, I bought some azuki beans on the way home with thoughts of making red bean paste filled mochi, since I figured I could use the rice starch I have to make paloodeh, and Iranian frozen dessert. But then I couldn't figure out how to make the super sticky, smooth, and gooey red bean paste since most recipes I found were for a rustic tsubushi-an, or mashed red beans. Which is totally fine with me, because it means I can make one of my favorite ice cream flavors instead: red bean ice cream.

For some reason, before Saturday, it never occured to me to try to make red bean ice cream. I've been keeping my eye out for matcha powder to make green tea ice cream, and was going to make candied red beans as a topping for it...but the thought of making red bean ice cream didn't occur to me. So when I found this recipe, I knew I had to try it.

So, sort-of following a recipe for tsubu-an, I set of on my quest to make the ice cream. And along the way, ate quite a bit of the extra tsubu-an. I've discovered it's quite tasty cold with some warm oven-roasted rutabaga, topped with some spinach, and wrapped in a flour tortilla. It was a very sweet meal, but that's okay with me.

Red Bean Ice Cream
adapted from Closet Cooking

1 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar, divided
2 egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup mashed or pureed cooked and sweetened azuki beans (tsubushi-an)or red bean paste
1/2 cup sweeted azuki beans (tsubu-an)*

In a pot, bring milk and all but 2 Tablespoon of the sugar to a simmer.

Meanwhile, whisk together egg yolk and reserved 2T of sugar. Whisk in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk a tablespoon at a time to temper. Whisk the tempered egg yolks into the hot milk in the pot and heat over low heat until thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon or has reached 170F or 77C.

Remove from heat and whisk in cream and pureed azuki beans. Let cool and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, 4 hours or overnight.

Freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. Add whole azuki beans in last few minutes of churning.

*If you want my versian of tsubu-an, which isn't perfect, but works. It came out undercooked a bit while cooked right in other places. Soak beans overnight and then, in a pot combine 1 1/2 cups azuki beans, a heaping half cup of sugar, and water to come about 1 inch above the beans. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until super tender. Add more water as needed.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Will You Be My Valentine?


So Valentine's Day.

It's not exactly my idea of a great holiday. Except for the whole excuse to give people chocolatey treats and not look like the crazy person you are. (What? Is it not normal to give people oatmeal raisin cookies, pumpkin bites, or blondies just because you feel like it?)

So now the sob story. Actually, it's too embarassing and emotionally charged for me so I'll spare you. It boils down to I didn't make it to the store on Tuesday and was distressed. Wednesday was math team (I did pretty well, but got home too late to do anything), and slept in on Thursday. So I wore green and black and said Happy Valentine's Day only in response to the handful of people who said it to me first.

So after school Thursday, a few of my friends came over and while they were playing DDR (okay, just Kate at the time), I whipped up a batch of these heart shaped goodies. Or squares, if you feel like being boring. We (okay, Kate supervised after failing to assemble a parchment triangle, which I also can't figure out) decorated them with a white chocolate drizzle, which made them pretty and festive.

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Crispy Hearts
makes 16 square bars in a 9x9 pan

1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup chocolate chips
3 cups crispy rice cereal
white chocolate, melted to drizzle (optional)

In a saucepan stir peanut butter, honey, and chocolate chips together over medium heat until melted and well blended, about five minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in cereal.
Press into a greased 9x9 pan pan, or into a shape on a greased baking sheet if cutting into shapes with cookie cutters. Let cool 1 hour and then cut into desired shape and drizzle with white chocolate, if using.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Bananas, Bread, and Boredom


Okay, that's a lie. It wasn't boredom. It was more like it was Thursday evening and I didn't want to do my homework. I wanted to make butterscotch blondies. But I didn't want them to be dark again. And then I remembered the apricot blondies in the current F&W magazine. But that still had the light brown sugar issue. And then the whole fact that we don't have any dried apricots, and I didn't really want to use dried cranberries.

So I was in the kitchen waiting for Mom with the car to go buy some brown sugar since it was kind of slimy out. Okay, slushy. And the temperature had dropped a few degrees, so it was starting to get icy and I didn't want to fall in the dark, despite my obnoxious colored clothing that makes me easy to see. And there was the end of some stale whole wheat bread and overripe bananas on the counter. So...

I guess it makes sense where I'm going from there. I wanted to use up the bread. It became tiny little cubes, magically. And then two of the gigantic aromatic bananas turned into a olfactory pleasing puree with some milk, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a single egg for good measure. I wasn't trying to make anything fancy. No water bath or precooked custard for me. This would just be baked soggy bread.
I poured the banana puree over the bread, stirred the gooey mess, and put it in the fridge. Until breakfast today, when it turned out to be a lot richer than I expected. And quite sweet. All it was missing was a nice sauce, some creamy ice cream, or a dollop of whipped cream. Maybe next time.

Banana Bread Pudding
makes 3 8-ounce portions or 6 4-ounce

4 ounces stale bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 large ripe bananas (or about 1 cup pureed)
2/3 cup milk
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons sugar (or less, depending on how sweet you like it)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
pinch salt

Place cubed bread in a medium bowl. In a blender or food processor, blend together bananas, milk, egg, vanilla, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.

Pour banana mixture over bread and stir to coat. Let stand 1 hour or refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease 3 to 6 small ramekins (4 to 8 ounce). Divide bread mixture evenly. Bake until browned on top and bubbly, about 20 minutes for 4-ounce puddings. Cool for about 5 minutes, and serve in ramekins or run a knife along edge and invert onto a plate.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Super Bowl Always Needs A Super Dip


Somehow Super Bowl Sunday snuck up on me. I couldn't seem to remember when it was this year. (To my credit, I do know when Super Tuesday is, and its important in this state. Not that I can vote yet.) My family and I have no plans for this evening, other than watching the game, and my dad walked in the door just as the game started. Okay, that's not true. Because the game didn't start at five. I'm sitting here listening to the game as the Patriots run onto the field. The national anthem hasn't even been sung yet.

I can't remember what I'm saying because I'm also watching commercials, though they're mostly for fox shows it seems like. Though I will admit that the commercial for House did catch my attention.

Okay, the NFL Super Ad was also attention grabbing. But I'm not sitting here trying to report live about the Super Bowl.

It was to write about a peanut dip. I've made it before, possibly over the summer if not before then, and my mom even ate it. She's not a big peanut fan, except for sometimes. And it is super easy, just toss it all in a blender (or food processor) and blend until smooth, and serve with some veggies and maybe chips or crackers. I don't like my dip too sweet, so I cut down on the sugar, but the recipe its adapted from uses a lot more. Also, I kind of want to say soy sauce to taste because it depends on the peanut butter's saltiness.

Spicy Peanut Dip
makes about a cup

1/2 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup silken tofu (I used "soft" tofu today because I accidentally bought the wrong kind, and it works fine)
2 Tablespoons lime juice
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, crushed

Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Blend (or process) until smooth. Serve with crudite. It keeps for about two days in the fridge.