Sunday, June 29, 2008

Gingered Rhubarb Trifle


So I had good intentions last week when I bought two bundles of thin luminous stalks of rhubarb at the farmer's market, sensing that it may be my last chance this year. Then I got home, didn't have time to clean and prepare it to freeze, and just threw it into the fridge Siberia, and forgot about it. Except for the few stalks I used in a strawberry-rhubarb cobbler on Sunday.

A week later, I figured it would probably be dead. The stalks had gone limp, but most retained their vibrance and were free of wrinkles. And like I had thought, there was no more rhubarb at the market.

I was already making a marble cake for my cousin because he wanted one (nothing different, just a classic chocolate and vanilla marble cake in a tube pan,) so making a rhubarb cake would have been a bit of an overload, though after weighing my rhubarb I found I only had half a pound. I had leftover cupcakes from making a TV dinner, and whipped cream from making caramel sauce, so I figured, why not try to make a trifle?

And it worked. Though it wasn't until after I used ground ginger that I realized I had fresh ginger in the fridge. It was a hit at our party, though I think that it could have used a bit more rhubarb and the recipe reflects that chance.

Unfortunately, no pictures.

Gingered Rhubarb Trifle
serves 8?

1 lb rhubarb, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1/4 inch piece of ginger, or a pinch ground ginger
1/2 cup of water
3/4 cup sugar
4 cups 1-inch cake cubes (such as leftover cupcakes, pound cake, etc.)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 Tablespoons powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon finely chopped crystallized ginger, optional

In a heavy saucepan, combine rhubarb, ginger, water, and sugar and bring to a broil. Reduce heat and keep at a simmer until rhubarb is tender and most of the water has evaporated. Remove piece of ginger. Let cool.

Meanwhile, whip cream with powdered sugar until soft peaks form. Set aside in fridge.

In a glass bowl or trifle dish, place 1/2 of cake cubes. Top with 1/2 of rhubarb compote and 1/2 of whipped cream. Repeat layers with remaining cake, rhubarb, and cream. Sprinkle the top with crystallized ginger if using.

Cover tightly and refrigerate two hours or overnight.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Crumb Treat For Father's Day

Even though it's crumbly, it's not a crumby treat. (I just read Catcher in the Rye. That word was way overused in it.)

Yesterday, I bought a couple pounds of rhubarb at the farmer's market, and now I'm finding ways to use them (and the strawberries, which overnight turned to mush. Uh-oh!). The big crumb coffee cake and strawberry rhubarb pecan loaf on Smitten Kitchen both seemed like good ways to use them, as did the rhubarb and strawberry compote from Bon Appetit that I was going to make last night but didn't. The crumb cake seemed like a decadent father's day breakfast, since we normally have eggs prepared in one of a multitude of ways with lots of fresh veggies. Our usual breakfast "treat" is significantly healthier.

However, I couldn't resist, and I had a feeling that eggs and rhubarb wouldn't be the tastiest idea (maybe waffles with a rhubarb compote, but been there done that, well not with strawberries... never mind).

Unfortunately, as per usual, there was a little glitch. Cool completely before serving. Oops. So after eating half of the crumb topping waiting for my parents to get up so it would be super fresh and in the oven while we went for a walk, I noticed that sentence.
And then it started to pour. No, really. The kitchen got all dark and I had to turn on the light for the first time today at 7:30 in the morning even though they'd been off since I'd gotten up.

So off I went to assemble my crumble, and put it in the oven, though it was missing half of its topping.

Big Crumb Rhubarb Coffee Cake
adapted from Deb's adaptation at Smitten Kitchen
Serves 6-8
I ever-so-slightly improved the nutritional profile of the recipe. It now features whole grains! But it would still be better for dessert than breakfast.

For the rhubarb filling:
1/2 pound rhubarb, trimmed
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

For the crumbs:
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 1/2 Tablespoons melted butter
1 3/4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
2 to 3 tablespoons water

For the cake:
1/3 cup sour cream
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 tablespoons oil
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch (optional)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons softened butter, cut into 4 pieces

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8-inch-square baking pan. For easier removal, you can also line with overhanging parchment. For filling, slice rhubarb 1/2 inch thick and toss with sugar, cornstarch and ginger. Set aside.

To make crumbs, in a large bowl, whisk together sugars, spices, salt and butter until smooth. Stir in flour with a spatula. Add water so that flour is not dry, just enough for it to come together. It will look like a solid dough.

To prepare cake, in a small bowl, stir together the sour cream, egg, egg yolk, vanilla, and oil. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add butter and a spoonful of sour cream mixture and mix on medium speed until flour is moistened. Increase speed and beat for 30 seconds. Add remaining sour cream mixture in two batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition, and scraping down the sides of bowl with a spatula. Scoop out about 1/2 cup batter and set aside.

Scrape remaining batter into prepared pan. Spoon rhubarb over batter. Dollop set-aside batter over rhubarb; it does not have to be even.

Using your fingers, break topping mixture into big crumbs, about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch in size. They do not have to be uniform, but make sure most are around that size. Sprinkle over cake. Bake cake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean of batter (it might be moist from rhubarb), 45 to 55 minutes. Cool completely before serving.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Ten-Minute Tofu


I needed to use up some tofu in the fridge, and paging through Vegan Express at the bookstore, I saw what wasn't even called a recipe: it was simply a little paragraph on a page about simple tofu preparations.

Needless to say, I tried it with the tofu in the fridge, and it was super tasty. And super simple. I didn't even spend time pressing the tofu - all I did was blot it dry.

What was it?
Easy. Cut the block of firm tofu into 1" slices, blot dry, and cube. In a pan, heat about a tablespoon each of maple syrup (or agave nectar), soy sauce, and olive oil. Toss in the tofu, stir to coat, and continue to cook until browned.

See? Super easy. Serve with something (atop a salad, noodles, etc).

Monday, June 09, 2008

Kohlrabi: Purple is my favorite color


After taking two SAT subject tests Saturday morning (and I'm starting to regret not voiding them,) I wandered over to the nearby farmer's market in hopes of finding some rhubarb to make a rhubarb cobbler that I cut out of the paper a few weeks ago. I saw a few lonely stalks, but it seemed like what rhubarb there had been was gone.

However, on my second lap around the market, I saw an amazingly bright purple vegetable. I had to get it. I asked what it was. Kohlrabi. I'd heard of it, but I guess I'd just never seen it. It was gorgeous. (Apparently it can also be green, maybe that's why I'd never noticed it.)

But I didn't know what to do with it. The girl at the stand said she liked it raw with some salt, and that it as sort of like jicama. I thought it tasted more like a mild radish, but I guess that's kind of what jicama tastes like. It had greens attached to the top too, and she said I could use those like turnip greens or kale or any other big leafy vegetable. I was excited!

So tonight Dad and I took to the kitchen for Kohlrabi: 3 ways. It ended up being two ways, and with a side of what dad dubbed "Indian-Iranian shrimp."

We have the cobbler for dessert because I found some rhubarb at the grocery store, but I haven't tried it yet. It doesn't seem too promising.

Kohrabi Salad
Mom dubbed this "white salad" because other than the strips of basil dad put on top, it was all white. Dad said it needs some red, so I suggested red quinoa. Mom likes it the way it is. It was a really tasty accompaniment to shrimp.
Serves 3-4 as a side.

2 medium kohlrabi, peeled and diced
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup quinoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
basil, optional

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.
Rinse quinoa five times (is this necessary? My computer was off and I'd never made quinoa before and the first recipe in my recipe binder said that. I'd love to learn more about quinoa.)
Add quinoa to boiling water and cook for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, toss kohlrabi with lemon and salt. Once quinoa is ready, drain, and toss with kohlrabi mixture. Top with basil, if using.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Grilled Portabello Sandwiches


I don't remember seeing this recipe in June's cooking light, but when I was organizing the magazines, I saw a bookmark in it on the page. I'm glad I noticed it, because I made these for dinner on Friday, and they were tasty.

They took a bit too long, because our grill kept going out (maybe because of the wind? I don't know), but I can see making these again sometime soon. Probably because they took one of my favorite things to have on the grill (portabello mushrooms with balsalmic) and paired it with goat cheese, pepper, and basil, and then, grilled the sandwich so it's all toasty.

And the skinny super tasty grilled asparagus that we ate while the sandwiches were on the grill only helped to make things better.

Grilled Portobello Sandwiches
serves 4

I didn't change anything, other than using one bun fewer and saving the leftover mushroom for lunch the next day, so I'm just going to post a link to the recipe on My because I'm tired and having trouble keeping my eyes open.

Friday, June 06, 2008

AP European History


I love my history teacher. This year was the second year I've had her (I had her for World History freshman year); she is pretty much the reason that I took Euro. And it was a terrific year in that class!

I'm sure you're wondering what this has to do with food. Was I inspired by history to be driven to the kitchen? And haven't I been out of school for a week?

After the AP test, my history teacher invites her classes over for dinner. She makes chili and rotini pesto, and six (or maybe it was seven?) different types of cookies.

The most popular, among my friends and I at least, were the ginger crackles, so before I left to head home, I asked her for her daughter's recipe. The next week at school, she presented me with a packet of the cookie recipes. I was thrilled!

So when finals rolled around and my English teacher told us we could bring in treats along with our game projects, as unseasonal as it seemed, I decided it was time to make Ginger Crackles (along with ever festive M&M cookies, of course.) While they didn't bide too well at school (hey, what can I say? They were in a plastic bag and competing with a cookie cake, popcorn, candy bars) they were a major hit at my parent's office. Spiced without being too spicy. Apparently the Germans really liked them.

Ginger Crackle Cookies
Makes a few dozen. Don't remember exactly how many.
Note: I'm not calling these Shana's Ginger Crackles because I made some modifications, which didn't necessarily improve them, nor did it hurt them, based on what I had in the house. My dad really liked them and wanted me to record those changes. He'd never had them before. I'd run out of butter, so that necessitated that change... as well as the availability of the spice cabinet, allspice in place of cloves; and blackstrap molasses worksfine as well. Normally I make cookies with at least half whole-wheat pastry flour, but I used all-purpose this time. I think they would hold up to the WWPF though.

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/4 cup oil(well, I did 2 oz. by weight, it was slightly less I think. Or maybe it was more. I failed to take precise notes)
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

about 1/2 cup sugar, for rolling

Preheat oven to 375F and line two cookie sheets with parchment or silicone liners.

In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt.

In a large bowl beat together sugar, butter, molasses, egg and vanilla until smooth. Add flour mixture and beat on low speed or stir until flour is incorporated.

Pour sugar in a small bowl. Shape 1 tablespoon dough into balls (if dough is too sticky, chill for 30 minutes before proceeding, but not too long or sugar won't adhere as well.) Dip each ball in sugar to coat the top.

Place balls 1 inch apart of cookie sheets, sugar side up. Bake 9-12 minutes, rotating halfway through, or until tops are cracked and dry to the touch and edges lightly browned. Let cool on pans one minute; transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Effective Ads (Sort Of)


Generally speaking, recipes that are in advertisements or on the back of bags are tasty. Usually they're reliable because the company wants the recipe to be tasty so that you make it again, and therefore also buy the product again.

And for a product like Bisquick, these recipes are wonderful and a definite way to create brand loyalty. What can you replace with it? (Okay, there might be things, but I don't use Bisquick, so I'm not sure what a replacement would be.) The recipes found on bags of flour, baking soda, or even in ads for tahini aren't nearly as likely to create the brand thing. However, some people buy the same brand over and over, or it may the only brand at your store, so it works. Like the peanut butter cookies on the baking soda (I just bought a new canister: same brand, but that has nothing to do with the recipe, it's the only aluminum-free one at the grocery store). And the Brain Power Pita Pockets in the ad for ... after seeing it for years (it has to be in every VT issue) I finally made it because it my cousin pointed it out. Somehow I'd always ignored it. Though of course, I didn't use Joyva - I used the brand of tahini that I had in the cupboard - the one that was the best value the last time I bought tahini.

I'm not sure where the long digression came from. But the point: I liked the sandwiches, as did my cousin. I'm sure they wouldn't appeal to everyone, and I do think they could possible benefit from some crunch, but they did lead me to buy something I never had before: alfalfa sprouts.

Brain Power Pita Pockets
Serves 2
adapted from Joyva tahini ad
This would probably, based on the whole "brain power" claim be a better lunch than dinner, and I think once school's back in session, this may be my lunch some days.
I used firm tofu because I couldn't find soft.

1/2 cup lowfat yogurt
2 Tbs. tahini
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

4 small whole-wheat pita breads, or 2 large
4 oz. soft tofu, well-drained and and cubed
2 ripe plum tomatoes, diced or 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 cup fresh spinach leaves, torn
1/2 cup alfalfa sprouts
1/2 ripe avocado, thinly sliced

In a small bowl, whisk together yogurt, tahini, garlic, and lemon juice. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, toss together the tofu, tomatoes, and spinach. Add 2 spoonfuls of dressing and mix.

Cut off and edge of each pita. Divide sprouts and avocado evenly between pitas; divide tofu mixture and stuff into the sandwiches. Drizzle or serve with remaining sauce.