Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sweet Potato and Butternut Squash Galette

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Galette! So fancy schmancy. I'd pay $12 at a restaurant for a galette!

Okay, so it's really not a galette, more like flatbread ($6/serving = not fancy but at least there are actual utensils) or pizza ($2/slice = paper plates and sleeves for napkins). Whatever you'd call it, it's delicious -- like autumn on a plate.

The original inspiration came from Chef Chloe's blog. I took out apples and spinach and added sweet potato, sage and rosemary so it's got even more of those classic fall flavors.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Barley, Tomato and Garlic Risotto

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A couple of weeks ago, I whined very loudly (inside my head and on the blog) about our poor tomato production this year. Well, I may have spoken a little too soon. It didn't look like we'd get a decent batch of tomatoes, but after a couple of weeks on the vines, some tomatoes slowly turned red. Now, seeing that it's mid-October already (in California, but still), these tomatoes are probably not in peak summer shape. But I'm still happy that they're here. Better late than never.

I was just contemplating what I'd do with them (the closest that I came to my pig-in-shit happy moment), when smitten kitchen's new post landed in my GoogleReader. I causally skimmed for food porn until one name caught my eyes -- Yotom Ottolenghi. I clicked through and found his The New Vegetarian feature for The Guardian. The recipes sound so delectable. Basically, this is the kind of vegetarian food that I want to make but for my crippling lack of talent and imagination. Seriously, who can resist a mushroom and tarragon pithivier... whatever that is...? It sounds so.... fancy, like something I'd get all over my dress at a high society dinner party.

To make my food sound fancier, I should start calling ingredients by their British or French names. Instead of eggplant, chili pepper and zucchini, they are now respectively aubergine, capsicum and courgette. Pretty soon, I will really have no idea what I'm talking about.

You can find Yotom Ottolenghi's barley, tomato and garlic risotto recipe here. In case you're curious what "passata" is, I'll save you a trip to Google. According to Practically Edible, passata is "sieved tomatoes -- tomatoes that have been skinned, then passed through sieves to remove the seeds and to crush the tomatoes." Translation: tomato sauce... but fancier.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Spiced Quince Tartlet

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I'm often guilty of making complicated recipes that take too much time and/or have many hard to find ingredients. In my defense, I like to challenge the limits of the human body (mine) on 5 hours of sleep. That's probably why this blog is so incoherent.

Anyway. I want to say, yes, I can too take short cuts and make easy recipes out of simple ingredients. I'm making the crust of this spiced quince tartlet from simple white bread. No pastry, pie crust or dough necessary. No stand mixer, hand mixer, food processor or blender. Just rolled out some plain ol' white bread. That's it!

(Did I mention that quince needs to be poached for at least an hour?)

In case you're wondering, I'm not the genius behind the white bread crust idea. I got the idea from none other than... Melissa d'Arabian. I'm not in her demographics (i.e., moms short on time), so I've never seen her show. But I just happened to catch about 10 minutes of it one Sunday morning and I thought, this is such a brilliant idea!

For these spiced quince tartlet, you'll need:
  • 8 slices of white bread, preferably fresh
  • 8 ounces of cream cheese
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 4 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 portion of poached quince, below
  • pomegranate seeds for garnish
For poached quince, you'll need:
  • 1 quince
  • 3 allspice berries
  • 2 star anise pods
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 7 cups of water
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of honey
  • 1/2 lemon
To a medium pot, add water, sugar, honey, lemon, cinnamon stick, allspice berries, cloves and star anise pods. Bring mixture to boil. In the meantime, peel, core and slice quince into 8 equal slices. I believe quince is Latin for "stubborn pear" (not really) so use a sharp paring knife and watch your fingers. Once the poaching liquid reaches boil, reduce to simmer and add quince. Poach for at least one hour or until quince turns pink and is fork tender. Refrigerate overnight.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Remove the crust of sliced white bread. Ideally, you want really fresh bread so it's pliable and easy to work with. But let's get real here. If you have stale white bread that's been sitting in the fridge, this recipe will work for you too. You need to wrap bread in damp paper towels and microwave on high for 15 seconds. Then roll out the bread flat with a rolling pin while it is still wrapped in damp paper towels. Mold the white bread slices to a greased muffin tin. Bake for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, whip together lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar and cream cheese to creamy consistency. Once the tartlets are baked, remove from the oven. Fill each tartlet with cream cheese mixture and pop back into the oven for 5 minutes. Remove tarlets from tin and top each with a slice of poached quince and some pomegranate seeds and serve.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Glutinous Rice Chicken (Lor Mai Kai 糯米雞)

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I'm a lean, mean, cooking machine! Here, I take on yet another Cantonese dim sum classic, glutinous rice chicken or lor mai kai. Seriously, I just pulled this one out of my butt (not literally... gross). I had no recipe to work with, no idea how to make it, and I've never seen it done. So it's just a big kitchen experiment for me. With that caveat, it goes without saying that this is probably not the most authentic product. In fact, I think it's more of a hybrid of lor mai kai and Taiwanese-style zhongzi. Whatever. It's all good.

You'll need:
  • 2 cups of glutinous rice
  • 1 cup of diced vegetarian ham
  • 2 pieces of five-spice tofu curd, diced
  • 3 1/4-inch slices of ginger
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetarian oyster sauce
  • 1/4 cup of Chinese cooking wine (shaoxing)
  • 1 tablespoon of Chinese rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 3 teaspoons of five-spice powder
  • 2 sprigs of scallion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup of blanched or roasted peanuts
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1 tablespoon of canola oil
  • 4 large dried lotus leaves
  • some twine for tying
Begin by rinsing and soaking glutinous rice in water for at least 2 hours. After 2 hours, drain and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Submerge dried lotus leaves. Turn off heat and cover for 20 minutes to soften leaves.

In a large skillet, saute vegetarian ham, five-spice tofu curd and ginger in canola oil until browned. Stir in water, cooking wine, rice vinegar, soy sauce, five spice powder, vegetarian oyster sauce, salt and sugar. Simmer for 5 minutes. Turn the heat up and add peanuts and glutinous rice. Stir fry until all the liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes or so. Discard ginger pieces.

Set up by placing one large lotus leaf flat on the work surface. Place a quarter of the glutinous rice mixture in the center. Fold four sides in tightly like an envelope. Secure with twine. Steam pockets for at least 1.5 hours. Remove. Unwrap and serve with some chopped scallion on top.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Turnip Cake (Luo Buo Gao 蘿蔔糕)

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In the B.C.G. (Before Carnivore Girl) era, VB thought Chinese food was boring. Like so many innocent Americans out there, VB knew Chinese food as fried rice, chow mein, chop suey, and pu pu platter (what is that, exactly?), all thanks to the proliferation of American-Chinese food that barely resembles its origin. I blame every P.F. Changs, Panda Expresses, Jade Gardens, and Dragon Houses out there. Shame on you for dumbing down Chinese food for the American palate! I think everyone can enjoy Chinese food in all its glorious deliciousness.

(Stepping off the soap box)

Now, VB really enjoys authentic Chinese food, particularly Szechuan/Hunan style, which is generally very flavorful and spicy. It's easy to see why -- vegetables doused with hot sauce and spices tend to taste a heck a lot better (it's the secret to Indian food too). VB is not particularly fond of Shanghainese or Cantonese style of Chinese food, partly because they tend to be a bit bland. I'm very partial to Shanghainese food, but I'm not a big fan of Cantonese food.

In an effort to highlight some of the more "bland" styles of Chinese food, I made this Cantonese dim sum classic -- turnip cake. It's a must-have for my family at any dim sum. Unfortunately, this is also generally not a vegetarian dish because it almost always contains dried shrimp and bits of meat. Come to think of it, what is actually vegetarian at a dim sum (apart from dessert)?

For my vegan turnip cake adapted from mmm-yoso's recipe, you'll need:
  • 1 small/medium turnip, shredded (you should have about 2 1/2 cups)
  • 1 cup of diced vegetarian ham (I found this ingredient at 99 Ranch, but you can substitute other fake-meat products like veggie dogs or tofurkey)
  • 6 medium dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in hot water then minced
  • 1 large shallot, sliced thin (or 1/2 cup of fried shallots that you can find at Chinese supermarkets)
  • 2 green onions, diced
  • 2 cups of plain rice flour
  • 1 1/2 cups of water
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of canola oil
  • 1/2 cup of canola oil for frying shallots (omit if you're using pre-fried shallots)
Start by heating up 1/2 cup of canola oil in a small pan over medium high heat until hot. Add sliced shallot and pan fry until golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towel. Skip if using pre-fried shallots.

In another pot, add shredded turnip and 1 1/2 cups of water. Cover and bring liquid to boil. Reduce to simmer and cook for 15 minutes.

In the meantime, saute diced vegetarian ham, minced shiitake mushroom in a tablespoon of canola oil until browned, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add soy sauce. Stir in diced green onions and fried shallot. Cook for a couple more minutes. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine rice flour, salt, sugar and ground white pepper. Pour cooked shredded turnip with all the liquid into the bowl. Add vegetarian ham, shiitake mushroom and shallot mixture. Stir to combine. At this point, the mixture should be very thick and sticky.

Prepare your steaming device. I used my extra large stock pot and placed a metal rack inside. I then found a round pan that would fit into the pot and sit on top of the rack. Fill the pan with turnip mixture and spread evenly. Fill the pot with water but water should not touch the bottom of the pan. Cover and bring water to simmer. Steam for 45 minutes to an hour. Remove pan and set aside to cool.

Once the turnip cake is cooked through, remove from the pan and cut into square pieces. Lightly pan fry each piece until golden brown on both sides, about 3 to 5 minutes per side. Serve with spicy yellow mustard and hot sauce.

    Tuesday, October 12, 2010

    Pita Sandwich with Tarator Sauce

    Pin It VB: Do you remember what we had that day at Russian River Valley? You know, during our lunch break from canoeing.

    CG: A big bowl of watermelon?

    VB: We had watermelon?

    CG: Yeah.

    VB: I wasn't thinking about the watermelon.

    CG: Oh.... Hm. That pita sandwich with that white sauce?

    VB: Yeah. That was good.

    CG: Okay.... Random.

    Here it is, the pita sandwich with that "white sauce" from a couple of summers ago recreated. I picked this recipe for our Russian River Valley trip because it keeps well in a cooler since everything is vegan. It turned out great and apparently, it was also memorable.

    For the sandwich, you'll need:
    • 4 pita breads, cut in half and pocket opened
    • 2 medium/large zucchini, diced
    • 1 small yellow onion, diced
    • 2 sprigs of dill, roughly chopped
    • 1 large eggplant, cut into large 1/2 inch slices
    • juice from 1 lemon
    • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
    • 3 medium Roma tomatoes, diced 
    • salt and pepper to taste
    Begin by sprinkling about a teaspoon of salt on both sides of the sliced eggplant. Set aside for 15 to 20 minutes and allow salt to draw out the moisture.

    In the meantime, saute diced yellow onion in olive oil until translucent, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add diced zucchini and lemon juice. Allow the zucchini to cook for 5 minutes until it begins to soften. Add chopped dill and season with salt and pepper. Cook for another 5 minutes or so.

    Pat eggplant slices dry with paper towels. Set broiler on high and place sliced eggplants in a greased pan underneath. It will take about 5 to 8 minutes on each side. Watch the eggplant closely because it can burn rather quickly. After both sides are broiled, remove and allow them to cool. When they are cool enough to handle, chop eggplant into large pieces.

    The "white sauce" (a.k.a. tarator sauce) is adapted from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. You'll need:
    • 1/2 cup of pine nuts, toasted
    • 1 slice of white bread, crust removed and cubed
    • 1 tablespoon of Tahini sauce
    • 1 garlic clove
    • juice from 1 lemon
    • 1/2 cup of water
    • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
    • a dash of paprika (optional)
    Soak white bread in water until softened, about 10 minutes. Combine garlic and pine nuts in a food processor until the mixture becomes granulated. Add Tahini sauce, lemon juice, white bread and soaking liquid and salt. Process until the mixture becomes a sauce. Adjust seasoning, if necessary. It will be pretty runny, but if you let it sit for 20 minutes or so, it will thicken up. Add a dash of paprika prior to serving.

    To assemble the sandwich, stuff diced broiled eggplant, sauteed zucchini and diced tomatoes into the pita pocket. Drizzle tarator sauce over the top and serve.

      Saturday, October 9, 2010

      Our "Harvest" + Creamy Tomato Fennel Pasta

      Pin It When we planted tomatoes a few months ago, I had fantasies of making awesome sauces and chutney from plump, sweet tomatoes that we grew ourselves. Or that I would can them and enjoy delicious tomatoes year round. Or that I would make my own ketchup or barbeque sauce for family and friends. Or all of the above. I just imagined baskets and baskets and sweet tomatoes, so much so that we'd joke about opening our own farm stand. Basically, I hoped to be a pig-in-shit happy, except with tomatoes. Instead, we got this --

      This is truly pathetic. In fact, perhaps one of the most pathetic in the history of harvests. Thank goodness we have day jobs that enable us to actually buy food instead of relying on our "farming" skills to feed ourselves. I blame the poor result in part on the weird weather pattern this year. We hardly had much of a summer at all, then it got ridiculously hot for two weeks in September and now the temperature has plummeted to the 50s and 60s. Also, we planted way too late into the season. There are still a few that may ripen over the next week or so, but the plants are slowly dying and we still have a lot of green tomatoes that may never ripen.

      Well, at least we can get something out of this, right? (besides a cautionary tale of "what not to do next year.") I made this delicious pasta dish to showcase the freshness of these tomatoes. Unfortunately, I had to supplement our "harvest" with store-bought and canned tomatoes. Big sigh.

      For this creamy tomato and fennel pasta, you'll need:
      • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
      • 2 tablespoons of butter or dairy-free butter substitute (I used Earth Balance)
      • 1 small yellow onion, diced
      • 1 fennel bulb, diced
      • 5 medium tomatoes, diced
      • 16-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
      • 1/2 cup of white wine
      • 1/4 cup of cream, half-and-half, milk or soy milk (I used unflavored, unsweetened soy milk)
      • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
      • 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
      • juice from 1/2 lemon
      • 1 pound of dried pasta, cooked
      • salt and pepper to taste
      In a large skillet, saute diced onion in olive oil over medium heat until softened, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add red pepper flakes and garlic and cook until fragrant, about a minute. Add diced fennel and stir to combine. Add white wine and lemon juice and allow liquid to reduce to half. After the liquid has reduced, add fresh tomatoes and canned tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Turn the heat to medium high and cook for 5 to 8 minutes or until the tomatoes are soft. Stir frequently. Stir in cream/milk/soy milk. The sauce should be a nice bright pink color. Cook for another minute or so. Just prior to adding pasta, stir in butter/butter substitute. Toss with pasta and serve.

      Sunday, October 3, 2010

      Tofu Mole Enchiladas

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      It's been a light cooking week for me, partly because there are other things in my life that need attention. For example, I have not yet figured out how to walk out of a routine car maintenance at the dealership not completely frustrated and broke. Those folks are good at finding problems. And once they do, they will make sure that you pay handsomely to fix those problems. And it seems like no one can be trusted to do a good job honestly. If you want a good scare for Halloween, you should read YELP reviews on car dealerships.

      So. I do have some exciting ideas and some future food projects in mind. It's just taking me a little longer to get to the point of execution.

      In the meantime, I made some tofu mole enchiladas for dinner one night. Mole can be labor intensive. So it's probably good to make the mole sauce ahead of time so assembly is easy and quick.

      For the mole sauce, you'll need:
      • 2 medium to large pableno chiles
      • 1/2 pound or 6 medium tomatillos
      • 6 cloves of garlic
      • 2 medium Roma tomatoes
      • 10 dried chile de arbol
      • 1/4 cup of raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds), toasted
      • 2 teaspoons of dark coco powder
      • 1 teaspoon of cumin
      • 1 teaspoon of oragano
      • 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
      • 1/4 teaspoon of sugar
      • 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
      • 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder
      • salt and pepper to taste
      Start by broiling pableno chilies on high until skin is charred. Depending on your oven, this may take anywhere between 3 to 8 minutes. My oven generally takes about 5 minutes. If you don't know how long it would take, monitor the process carefully and take the peppers out when the skin is nicely blistered to black. If you have a gas stove, the peppers can be placed directly over the flames to char. Turn so that all sides of the peppers are charred. Remove the peppers and place in a food prep bowl and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Let the peppers cool down in the bowl. After peppers cool down, remove skin, seeds and stem. Set aside.

      Turn your oven to 400 degrees and roast tomatoes, tomatillos, and garlic for about 25 minutes or until the fruits are softened and lightly brown. In the meantime, remove the stems and seeds of chiles de arbol and soak in hot water for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove chiles de arbol and set aside. Reserve 1/2 cup of the soaking liquid. In a blender, process pableno peppers, roasted tomatoes, tomatillos, garlic, chiles de arbol, soaking liquid, toasted pepitas, coco powder and all the seasoning and spices. Blend until smooth. You can make the mole sauce up to this point in advance.

      For the remaining components of tofu mole enchiladas, you'll need:
      • 6 flour tortillas
      • 1 block of extra firm tofu, diced
      • 1 small yellow onion, diced
      • 1/2 15-ounce can of pinto beans, drained and rinsed
      • 1 portion of enchilada sauce (I used this recipe)
      • 1 cup of shredded Mexican blend cheeses
      • 1 tablespoon of canola oil
      • chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)
      Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Begin by sauteing diced onions in canola oil until softened. Add mole sauce and let the sauce heat through. Add a bit of vegetable stock or water if the sauce gets too thick. Add tofu and pinto beans and cook for about 10 minutes, stir frequently. Meanwhile, ladle one third of the enchilada sauce into a rectangular baking dish and spread sauce evenly to cover the bottom of the dish. Divide tofu mole to about 6 equal portions. Fill each of the six tortillas with one portion of tofu mole and place each enchilada seam down into the baking dish. Ladle the remaining enchilada sauce on top. Sprinkle cheese on top. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Do not overbake. Sadly, mine were a bit overbaked. But they were still delicious! Garnish with chopped cilantro, if desired.