Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Simple Summer Veggie Boules


Yes. They require the stove.
But most of the work is chopping and hollowing out little rolls (if you can find them), so it's quite meditative. And the work on the stove is painless.

Last weekend I was at the library looking for a cheesecake book immediately following my yard-sale find: a mini cheesecake pan. I did find the book, but didn't check it out.
Instead, I checked out the Tassajara Cookbook because the picture on the cover of some sort of marinated tofu looked so fresh and bright. Or maybe it was just the overall look of the picture. I know, I know. Don't judge a book by the cover. But what else am I supposed to judge it by when I'm skimming the racks of new books at the library?

I picked out a few recipes from the book to try. The book mostly consists of spreads and dips and the likes (or at least the first two chapters, which is as far I read before having found things I wanted to try.) This also happened to be two days after cilantro, jalepenos and serranos were all suspect and before jalepenos were confirmed as the culprit, so I wasn't sure if I'd be able to find jalepenos or cilantro at the store. Which ruled out two of the things I'd wanted to try: Garlic, Cilantro and Chipotle Hummus and Anka's Roasted Red Bell Pepper Spread with Chiles and Lime (the latter being a double whammy.)

So I wrote a grocery list with three possibilities, depending on what looked good. I was really hoping to try the fig and kalamata olive tapenade since I'd had some tasty figs the week before, but that day the figs looked gross.

But I digress. I finally settles on two options: making the vegetable tapenade and stuffing it into hollowed out tiny rolls that I found in the deepest clutches of our freezer and caper-garlic hummus.

The vegetable tapenade is a keeper. Somehow, I didn't imagine it making so much, even though the recipe did say "Makes 4 cups." I think I may have ended up with more. I may have used more leek than it called for. Regardless of the quantity, it was tasty! And great wrapped in a lettuce leaf with fresh ricotta the next day. And wrapped in a lettuce leaf with leftover lamb the day after that.

What to do with it is up to you.

Sweet Veggie Tapenade
from Tassajara Cookbook: Lunches, Picnics, and Appetizers

Note: I returned the book to the library before copying down the recipe... Not my brightest move. But the book is on amazon, and it is one you can "look inside" of.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Little Bites of Cheesecake


Sometimes things just happen right.

Yesterday Mom asked me if I would help her make some appetizers for a meeting she had today, and I was thrilled to help. (I ended up making assorted dips and some vegetable boules) but of course it is dessert I love making. Any excuse to make lemon curd is good with me. But I didn't make lemon curd.


I digress. The kismet thing. There was a yard sale we came across on our way to the farmer's market. I stopped to look and found a mini cheesecake pan. My plans for lemon curd tarts went out the window. How awesome would it be to make mini cheesecakes!

So that's what happened. And I still could have made lemon curd, but I had a jar (it's too eggy for me) in the cabinet, so I just used it and focused on cleaning up the kitchen instead.

Mini Lemon Ricotta Cheesecakes
makes 12 mini cheesecakes

Note: I adapted this from a Amy of Eggs on Sunday who adapted it from a recipe from Bon Appetit that doesn't require this special pan. It required ramekins, which I don't have.

16 graham cracker squares (about 4 1/2 ounces)
3 Tablespoons butter, melted
1 Tablespoon honey or agave nectar
2 Tablespoons cold water

1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 Tablespoon finely grated lemon peel
8 ounces cream cheese or neufchatel , room temperature
1/2 cup (3 3/4 ounces/110 g) whole-milk ricotta cheese
1 large egg

1/3 cup lemon curd
1/2 pint fresh berries

Preheat the oven to 425. To make the crust, pulse the graham crackers in a food processor until finely ground. While running the processor, add the butter, honey, and water. Process until thoroughly moistened.

Divide the crumb mixture among the wells of the mini cheesecake pan (about 2 teaspoon to 1 Tablespoon per well) and press down firmly with fingers to flatten.

Bake the crusts for about 5 minutes until the crusts are turning golden brown and slightly puffed. Remove the pan and let cool slightly.

For the filling, beat together the sugar, lemon juice, and lemon peel until the sugar dissolves. Add the cream cheese and ricotta and beat until well blended, about a minute. Add the egg and beat until incorporated.

Divide the batter among the wells of the pan (about 2 Tablespoons each).

Place the cheesecakes in a 400ºF oven and bake for about 20 minutes, until puffed and set around the edges. Cool on a rack and then chill about two hours, until cold. The centers will cave a bit, but that's fine.

Unmold the cheesecakes, top with a dollop of lemon curd and garnish with berries.

Saturday, July 12, 2008



I was so excited to see this spiky broccoflower at the farmer's market on Saturday. I'd been wanting to try it after coming across it working on a project about fractals.

It tastes like cauliflower. But it looks so much cooler!

Right now my age is obvious.

The Toughest Question


The hardest question to answer, I think, is that "what is your favorite food?" question. I don't know the answer. It depends on the day. I used to say, definitively, that is was khorosht-e karafs, but now I'm not so sure. So then the interrogator moves on to their next question, unhappy with that answer.

What's your favorite type of food?

Uh, edible?

But no, of course that's what they mean.

They want an easy to digest answer, like Italian, Greek, Thai, Mexican, Middle Eastern, etc.

None of those answers satisfy me though. None of them really mean anything. Well, they do, but to different people they mean different things. Take Italian for example; for some people it conjures up images of red checkered tablecloths, pizza, and spaghetti and meatballs. To another person, it may conjure up fresh seafood dressed simply in olive oil and some vegetables following a course of fresh pasta tossed simply with rapini. The answers really aren't that simple.

And then what about American? What does that mean? I don't even want to try to wrap my head around that.

Like this dish. It has Asian flavors, but is it Asian? Highly doubtful. It was conjured up in test kitchens, and is tasty. But it fuses together flavors and different cultures and fresh ingredients and fits them nicely onto my plate.

Now that's my favorite kind of food.

As for the actual dish composed of the elements above, it jumped out at me when I was looking at the index of the August issue of Bon Appetit and had avocado in the basement on Monday and saw Asian Avocado Salsa. Dad however decided to make something that wouldn't go with the salsa, and the watercress at the store was droopy. Wednesday night, with the remaining avocado, I made a small batch of salsa based on the recipe, and as per one of the suggestions in the magazine, tossed it with some summer squash Dad grilled, soba noodles, and topped with (accidentally untoasted) sesame seeds.

Asian Avocado Salsa
based on recipe in August 2008 Bon Appetit
makes about 1 1/2 cups

1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons mirin
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon wasabi paste*
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
3 green onions, thinly sliced on diagonal (about 3/4 cup)
1/3 cup 1/3-inch cubes jicama (about 1/2 4" jicama)
1 large avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, but into 1/3 inch cubes

In a medium bowl, whisk together vinegar, mirin, soy sauce, sesame oil, salt and wasabi paste. Stir in cilantro, green onions, and jicama. Gently stir in avocado.

*I used wasabi powder mixed with water to create a paste so I'm not sure in intensity how it compares to a purchased wasabi paste. However, if the salsa is mixed with pasta and vegetables, an extra 1/2 teaspoon or so does not hurt because the squash mellows it out.