Sunday, August 30, 2009

Roasted Corn Chowder

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It's sad but true, summer is almost over. I know I will miss all the fresh fruits and vegetables that summer has to offer. To take advantage of summer while it lasts, I've made this delicious roasted corn chowder. It is adapted from a similar recipe that appears in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison.
  • 1 quart of basic vegetable stock
  • 6 ears of corn, husks removed
  • 2 medium yellow bell peppers, diced
  • 1 large leek, green part removed and reserved
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 pound of potatoes
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme, stems removed
  • 3 tablespoons of butter
  • 2 cups of water
  • salt and pepper to taste
Place corn into a large hot skillet and sear all sides until some of the kernels turn dark brown. Remove and allow the corn to cool. After the corn becomes cool enough to handle, remove the kernels from the cob. Reserve the cob. Peel the skin of the potatoes and reserve. Dice the potatoes to small bite size. Slice the white and pale green parts of the leek and set aside. Reserve the dark green leaves of the leek.

In a large pot, reheat vegetable stock and add the green part of the leek, potato skin, and corn cobs. Simmer for 45 minutes. Strain and set aside.

In a large pot, saute chopped leek and onion in 2 tablespoons of butter until the onion softens, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add thyme, potatoes and vegetable stock. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. In the meantime, stew chopped yellow bell peppers in a pot with 2 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of butter for 10 minutes. Strain and set aside.

Slightly mash the potato pieces against the side of the pot using the back of a spoon. Add corn kernels and stewed yellow bell peppers. Simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

I like how the slight smokiness of the roasted corn balance out the sweetness. It's refreshing, crunchy and creamy without any actual cream. This recipe makes a big pot of chowder and both of us happily enjoyed the leftovers.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Spicy Lentils Tacos

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We have some leftover corn tortillas from enchilada night, so the logical solution is to continue with our Mexican theme and make some spicy lentils tacos.
  • 1 cup dried lentils, rinsed
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 chipotle chilies in adobe sauce, chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups of vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon of chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon of oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon of paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • juice from 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 10 corn tortillas
  • salsa (optional)
  • cilantro, chopped (optional)
  • sour cream (optional)
  • grated Mexican cheese (optional)
Saute chopped onions and garlic in olive oil until onions become soft, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add lentils, chipotle chilies, chili powder, garlic powder, crushed red pepper flakes, oregano, paprika, ground cumin and vegetable stock. Bring to boil. Turn heat down to simmer. Cover and cook until the liquid is absorbed, about 25 to 30 minutes. Add lime juice, salt and pepper to taste. Fill tortillas with lentils, salsa, cilantro, sour cream and cheese.

This recipe is inspired by a similar recipe that appeared in Self Magazine awhile ago. The last squeeze of lime really brightens the flavors and keeps it from being too spicy. It's a fun and delicious recipe for a casual no-fuss Mexican dinner.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sweet Potato Enchiladas

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The Internet is great, isn't it? It is the best source for recipes. But sometimes, the number of variations can be daunting, especially if you're looking for one good recipe for an unfamiliar dish. In times like this, I would often take ideas from a few recipes and make one original oddball recipe. This is one of those recipes.

For the enchilada sauce:
  • 1 8-ounce can of tomato sauce
  • 3 tablespoons (no, not a typo) of chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon of coco powder
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced fine
  • 1 teaspoon of olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons of flour
  • 3 cups of vegetable stock
  • salt to taste
For the enchiladas:
  • 3 medium sweet potatos, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 1 14.5-ounce of diced tomatoes
  • 1 15-ounce can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 10 corn tortillas
  • 2 cups of grated Mexican cheese (I used enchilado queso anejo, which is an aged pressed cheese rolled in paprika. Sharp cheddar, Monetery jack and/or mozzarella will also be fine)
  • salt to taste
  • chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)
Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. Spray sweet potato chunks with non-stick cooking spray and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, turning once at the 15 minute mark. Set aside. Turn oven to 350 degrees.

In the meantime, saute minced garlic in 1 teaspoon of olive oil over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Add flour, chili powder, coco powder, dried oregano, and cumin. Cook for about 1 minute. Add tomato sauce and vegetable stock. Stir to combine. Bring mixture to boil. Turn heat down so the mixture simmers. Add salt to taste. Contine to cook, uncovered, until the liquid is reduced to half or about 20 to 30 minutes. Set aside and allow sauce to cool.

In a large skillet, saute minced garlic and jalapeno peppers in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add diced tomatoes and black beans. Cook until the beans are tender. Add roasted sweet potatoes. Mash the sweet potatoes with spatula. Add salt to taste. Mix well.

Ladle enough enchilada sauce to cover the bottom of a large baking pan. Wrap the sweet potato mixture with corn tortillas. Place the tortillas seam down into the baking pan. Line the baking pan with wrapped tortillas. Ladle the remaining enchilada sauce over the tortillas. Sprinkle grated cheese over the top. Bake in 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, until bubbly. Garnish with chopped cilantro.

The result was surprisingly delicious. The enchilada sauce is the star of the dish. The sweet and spicy enchiladas pair well with the sauce and the gooey cheese. I have to say, this is one of the best dishes that I've ever made.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Kabocha Squash with Stir-Fried Rice Noodles

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This is a classic Chinese stir-fried rice noodle dish that's common in Taiwan. It's simple, flavorful, and easy if you've got the right tools.
  • 1/2 of a medium Kabocha squash (or 1/4 of a pumpkin)
  • 4 fried firm bean curd
  • 8 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 carrot, peeled
  • 3 celery stalks, minced
  • 10 ounces (or 2/3 of a package) of dried rice noodles
  • 3 cups of vegetable stock
  • 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • white pepper to taste
  • 3 scallions, sliced (optional)
Soak dried shiitake in hot water until softened, about 10 to 15 minutes. Once the mushrooms are softened, remove the stalks and slice the mushroom caps. Cut fried firm bean curd into thin 1/4 inch slices. Mince celery stalks, set aside. Soak rice noodles in tap water until softened, about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In the meantime, peel Kabocha squash, remove the seeds, and cut into large chunks. Shred Kabocha squash by using a grater or a food processor. I highly recommend using the food processor. If not for the food processor, I'd still be grating that squash. Peel the carrot and shred with grater or food processor.

In a large skillet or a wok, heat up 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Add shiitake mushroom slices and fry for 1 to 2 minutes. Add Kobacha squash, bean curds, carrot, and stir. Add vegetable stock and cook until the squash is soft, about 10 minutes. Add rice noodles and cook until the liquid is absorbed, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add minced celery, salt, white pepper to taste, and scallion slices as optional garnish. Toss to combine.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Biscuits and Sausage Gravy

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Normally, I hesitate to eat meatless meat products like veggie dogs, veggie sausages, tofurkey, that sort of things. I don't mind eating vegetables, but I just can't wrap my head around soy protein and wheat gluten. For one thing, they're generally flavorless and strangely mushy to a carnivore's palate. I only eat vegetables on the condition that they taste good.

I'm slowly finding out that a carnivore's idea of being vegetarian is different from a vegetarian's idea of being vegetarian. Let me explain. I think of being a vegetarian as eating vegetables. The meatless meat products are often strange to me because I don't think of them as "vegetables" even though they are meat-free. Whereas, a vegetarian would often add mock meat items for variety and dietary reasons. It's hard for me to appreciate the mock meat items. Some of them are pretty good, but obviously they can't compare to the real deal.

That said, this vegan biscuits and sausage gravy recipe is pretty good. I was surprised that I couldn't taste the soy milk. Generally, I like using real milk and real cheese because soy diary products taste.... well, like soy. But in this case, using soy milk does not affect the flavors of the gravy that much. I even had seconds! That's a sign of good biscuits and gravy.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Ratatouille Pie

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Ever since I made that eggplant torte last month, I've been thinking about what other kinds of vegetable pies that I can make. Then the thought occurred to me, why not make a ratatouille pie? It's a classic dish with a flavorful combination of vegetables. I thought it's worth a shot.

Turns out, it isn't bad. I'd probably still prefer the classic dish over the pie, but the pie is still pretty delicious, even without any cheese. Now, this isn't something that can be whipped up after work, unless you plan to eat dinner at midnight. But the pie reheats very well if you make it ahead.

For the crust (or halve the whole wheat yeasted olive oil pastry recipe):
  • 1 teaspoons of active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup of lukewarm water
  • 1/8 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1/2 of a large egg, at room temperature, beaten
  • 1/8 cup of olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup of unbleached flour (more as needed)
  • 1/3 teaspoon of salt
For the pie filling:
  • 1 large eggplant, sliced into 1/4 inch slices
  • 3 medium zucchinis, sliced into 1/4 inch slices
  • 3 green bell peppers
  • 1 large yellow onion, sliced into 1/4 inch rings
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon of herbs de provence
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • salt and pepper to taste
Sprinkle salt over eggplant and zucchini slices and allow vegetable to sit for 20 to 30 minutes. In the meantime, dissolve yeast in lukewarm water (between 80 degrees and 120 degrees) and add the sugar. Beat in the egg and olive oil. Combine mixture with all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour and salt until the dough comes together. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it a few times. Place the dough into a bowl and cover the bowl. Allow the dough to rise for an hour.

In a large skillet, heat up a tablespoon of olive oil. Add minced garlic, canned tomatoes including juices, herbs de provence, salt and peppers to taste. Cook the mixture in medium heat for 20 to 30 minutes until it thickens. Remove from heat and allow it to cool.

Place the green bell peppers into an oven-proof skillet and under the boiler for 5 to 7 minutes. When the skin becomes charred, turn the bell pepper. Repeat until all sides are charred. Place the bell peppers in a bowl and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Allow the peppers to sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Peel the skin from the bell peppers. Slice the bell peppers to remove the core and the seeds.

Blot eggplant with paper towels to remove excess salt and moisture. Rinse the zucchini slices and drain. Roast eggplant slices, zucchini slices and onion slices in 450 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes.

Turn out the dough and knead it a couple of times. Allow the dough to rest for 5 minutes. Roll the dough out into rounds and line the pie pan. Layer roasted eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, onions, in that order, into the pan. Mix the cooled tomato sauce with one beaten egg and layer the mixture on top. Spread the tomato sauce so that it covers the pie. Bake in 375 degree oven for 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool for another 20 minutes.

We paired the pie with some salad. It's really a meal in itself. It's delicious and healthy, although a little grated Gruyere on top never hurt anyone.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Brown Derby Grapefruit Cake

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Look at how pretty this cake turned out -- perfectly supremed grapefruit, smooth frosting without crumbs, evenly divided cake layers. Of course I didn't make it. The last time I tried to supreme citrus, it turned into a big puddle of juice.

This is the first cake that VB ever baked and it is also my birthday cake. It is moist, tender and juicy. The technical aspects were executed perfectly. It is the best birthday I've ever had -- not just because the cake is delicious, but also because my sweetie made just for me. The recipe can be found here.

Also, here's a picture of sunrise in Mexico.