Thursday, December 30, 2010

Harissa Kale Penne

Pin It

Christmas is about receiving... er, I mean, giving. For Christmas, I gave VB (and indirectly, myself) a tube of harissa, a spicy North African paste that is super delicious. He's been curious to try it ever since Jeffrey Saad (remember him?) hawked it on the Next Food Network Star. There are different brands of harissa out there, some are spicy and some are not. You can even make it at home. I used Dea Harissa Hot Sauce, which is spicy (but not overpowering) and has a coriander flavor that makes it unique.

I tossed together some harissa (okay, a lot of harrisa) with whole wheat penne, kale, pine nuts and black olives for a quick and easy dinner. You can find the recipe here at 101 Cookbooks. The only modifications that I made were to cut back on the olive oil to only 2 tablespoons and increase the amount of harrisa to 1/4 cup.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas Loot

Pin It

Somehow (not that my Amazon Christmas list had anything to do with it) word got around that I like cooking. So for Christmas, I got a collection of new cookbooks! And kitchen items like a new steamer (to replace the one that I burned) and a new pot (to replace the one that I burned) and a cooling rack and a herb keeper (which I broke already, ugh) and a new pizza stone (I actually had nothing to do with the previous one cracking in half).

I'm excited to get cooking. In fact, we already used the pizza stone to make delicious pineapple and jalapeno pizza and broccolini olive pizza.

See the cooling rack in action!

Did I mention we got COOKIES? We got way too many cookies for just the two of us. But we will try our very best, as hard as it may be, to eat every last one. We're tenacious like that. Pfeffernüsse is my very favorite. Must! Resist urge to eat the whole bag.

My plate runneth over, as you can see.

And! For our next food project, we will be growing oyster mushrooms at home. I bought a kit for VB's mom, but couldn't resist the free shipping offer for two. So I got one for myself as well. I'm eager to grow some delicious mushrooms! But that's another post for another day.

Thanks to everyone (you know who you are) for making this Christmas fun and memorable! Sorry I ate so many cookies!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Warm Farro Salad with Yam and Kale

Pin It

I've been so busy recently that I can barely dress myself in the morning, nevermind cooking. We subsisted on veggie burgers and leftovers for awhile, but enough is enough! I will not let 12-hour workday and 2-hour commute deter me from having a good meal. So we have here a warm farro salad with some nice winter produce and herbs. It's surprisingly delicious with various great textures. I added mint in the herb mix for the hell of it. It's an ingredient that I tend to shy away from for fear that it might overpower the dish. But it turns out, mint complemented everything quite nicely.

And! I worked with farro for the first time. It's a small grain that looks a little like pearl barley but cooks much faster, about 25 to 30 with no soaking time -- perfect for a busy girl like me. This recipe is inspired by a similar recipe from Coconut & Quinoa, a vegetarian food blog that I discovered recently, but I made it my own with various substitutions and additions.

You'll need:
  • 1 cup of dried farro (try your local specialty food store or Whole Foods), rinsed
  • 2 medium garnet yams, peeled and 1-inch diced
  • 1 bunch of kale, thoroughly cleaned, stem removed and sliced into 2-inch strips
  • 1 15-ounce can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 3 cups of water
  • 10 mint leaves, chiffonade
  • 5 to 8 large basil leaves, chiffonade
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 6 ounces of feta, diced small
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil,divided
  • big pinch of red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
Begin by adding water and farro plus 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt into a medium pot. Bring to boil. Cover and reduce to simmer for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally and add more water if necessary. Drain and set aside.

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. Toss diced yams with 2 tablespoons olive oil, season with salt and generous amount of black pepper. Make sure yam pieces are well coated with olive oil. Spread yam out in a single layer in an oven-proof pan or on a baking sheet. Roast for 40 minutes or until tender.

In a large skillet, heat up 1 tablespoon of olive oil and red pepper flakes. Add kale and season with a pinch of salt. Reduce to low and cover for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Kale is cooked when tender and tastes less bitter.

To a large mixing bowl, add farro, roasted yam, wilted kale along with chickpeas, mint, basil, parsley, and feta. Drizzle lemon juice and toss. Serve warm.

Broccoli and Mushroom Steamed Dumplings

Pin It

I'm sure lots of people disagree, but I find winter cooking a bit depressing. I miss the variety of summer produce. I wish there are better fruit options besides apples and oranges (snore), which are currently occupying substantial real estate at Milk Pail. And I'm sick of winter squashes. I know that in California (the land of milk and honey), I can go to Whole Foods and buy a 6-dollar half pint of blueberries or a 5-dollar small bunch of asparagus. But (an accidental 10-dollar melon aside) we don't splurge much on food around here -- it's all about eating well cheaply and healthfully.

Here, I use some commonly found ingredients to make this uncommon dish. Broccoli is not an ingredient that you find in steamed dumplings a lot, but I like the bright bitterness of broccoli paired with the earthiness of the mushrooms. Although this is an economical recipe (you can make 60 dumplings for less than $10), it is also labor intensive. So be forewarned, don't try to whip this out after work, you'll be making dumplings until midnight. This is a good weekend project and dumplings freeze well -- dumplings are the essential freezer food for days when cooking from fresh is not an option.

You'll need:
  • 1 package of dumpling wrappers (if you prefer to pan fry these dumplings, I recommend using potsticker wrappers)
  • 4 medium heads of broccoli
  • 1 cup of frozen fava beans or edamame
  • 6 ounces of fresh shiitake mushrooms, stem removed and quartered
  • 2 sprigs of scallion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of grated ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon of five spice powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of white pepper
  • 2 teaspoons of soy sauce
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons of shao hsing wine (Chinese cooking wine) (optional)
Start by quickly blanching broccoli head and edamame in boiling water for 4 minutes. Then immediately  shock in ice cold water. Drain. In a food processor, puree broccoli, edamame, mushrooms and scallion until it becomes finely chopped. You should be able to mold the mixture into small balls with your hands. Transfer mixture into a large prep bowl and add ginger, five spice powder, soy sauce, salt, sesame oil and white pepper. Mix well.

Add a dollop of the mixture in the middle of the dumpling wrapper, leaving about 1/4 inch around the edge. Dampen half of the edge, fold the dry edge onto the dampened edge and pinch the middle together. Then fold pleats in toward the middle and pinch shot. Steam for 20 minutes or boil for 8 minutes. Serve with soy sauce, vinegar, hot sauce or a combination of the three.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Kale and Mushroom Gnocchi

Pin It

Gnocchi is one of many things that I haven't quite mastered, but not for lack of trying. For whatever reason, mine either comes out dense and gummy or disintegrates in boiling water. This batch came out okay, but I think I may have boiled them a bit too long. My other problem was actually getting those damned potatoes cooked. I followed a recipe that requires baking whole Russet potatoes for 45 minutes to an hour in 400 degree oven before ricing them. I'm sorry, but not even I have that kind of time. Besides, even after 45 minutes, mine were still completely raw inside. I got frustrated, chopped them into large chunks and nuked the heck out of them. And that seemed to have done the trick. For future reference, I'm going to microwave potatoes before baking so they get done a lot faster.

If you're not up to making gnocchi from scratch, just plain ol' dried pasta will work here. I think this would be particularly good with whole wheat pasta because of its nutty flavors. I particularly like the earthy qualities of the mushroom and kale combination and that little bit of spiciness from red pepper flakes really wakes up the palate.

You'll need:
  • 1 bunch of kale, stemmed and cut into 1-inch strips
  • 4 ounces of mushrooms (I used a combination of fresh shiitake and oyster mushrooms), sliced
  • 1 15-ounce can of cannellini beans
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 big pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup of white wine
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of butter or margarine (I use Earth Balance)
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
In a large skillet, saute onion slices and in olive oil until softened. Add red pepper flakes, kale and white wine. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes until kale turns bright green and becomes wilted. Add cannellini beans and mushroom slices and toss together. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for another 5 to 8 minutes until mushrooms soften. Add butter or butter substitute and lemon juice just prior to tossing together with cooked pasta. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Mystery Produce of the Week: Red Corn

Pin It

Festive corn just in time for the holiday season! Seriously though, I don't know why this corn is red. It has no purpose being red. But it is. In addition to the attractive magenta/mauve/severe sunburn color that the kernels take on, the husk also has a faint red hue.

I had thought it might taste different, like corn crossed with beets or maybe pomegranate. Instead, it tastes like... corn. Just. Corn. It's only disappointing if you were expecting some sort of super awesome delicious corn-y corn. But personally, I love corn just the way corn is. So red or not, it's all good by me.

I turned this mystery produce into a red (corn) and black (bean) burger with avocado and salsa. This particular black bean burger got rave reviews from VB, who said that it should be in the "Favorite Recipes" section... stat! (I think he may have been extra hungry that day.)

You'll need:
  • 4 medium ears of corn (red or otherwise), husk removed
  • 1 15-ounce can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 small sweet yellow onion, large diced
  • 1 cup of bread crumbs plus up to an additional 1 cup (I use panko)
  • 1/2 cup of corn meal
  • 4 tablespoons of whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon of granulated garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • avocado slices for garnish
  • pico de gallo for garnish
  • hamburger buns
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add corn and boil for 8 minutes. Remove and let cool. Slice off the kernels. Mix well with black beans. Take about 3/4 of the corn black bean mixture along with diced onion, paprika, cumin, garlic powder, salt and pepper and puree in food processor until the mixture turns into a wet paste. Add the mixture to a large bowl with the remaining 1/4 of corn and black beans. Add corn meal, whole wheat flour, bread crumbs and mix together by hand. The mixture should be tacky but not wet and can be easily shaped into patties without sticking to your hands. If your mixture is too wet, add more bread crumbs. Adjust seasoning.

Lightly fry each patty on both sides in olive oil, about 3 to 5 minutes on each side or until browned. Then bake in 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Serve on hamburger buns and garnish with avocado slices and pico de gallo.

Mustard Greens and White Beans Soup

Pin It

Thanksgiving was, as usual, full of fun and good food -- turkey, pizza, chicken wings, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and PIES. Lots and lots of PIIIIIIEEEEES. I regret nothing and I still don't. But I do feel a little bit guilty for pigging out. On our way back home, I declared: "I'm going to make the healthiest dinner EVER tonight!" And this greens and beans soup is it. I know it doesn't look like much, but it has lots of healthy fiber from the greens and protein from the beans. It's both filling and delicious. I think of it as my atonement for being very very naughty over the Thanksgiving weekend.

You'll need:
  • 1 bunch of mustard greens (or collard greens, chard or kale. Mustard greens just struck my fancy that day), thoroughly cleaned and chopped into long strips
  • 1 cup of dried white beans or cannellini beans (do not substitute with canned beans)
  • 6 cups of vegetable stock
  • 3 ounces of vegetarian ham or extra firm tofu, medium diced
  • 1 medium sweet onion, medium diced
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme, minced
  • 1 sprig of fresh oregano, minced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
Begin by soaking dried beans in water for at least 4 hours.

In a large pot, saute diced onion in olive oil until softened, about 8 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, oregano and diced vegetarian ham. Continue stirring until fragrant, about 2 to 5 minutes. Add beans and vegetable stock. Season with salt. Bring liquid to boil. Reduce to simmer and cover for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add greens and simmer for another 25 minutes. Greens should turn to dark green and beans should be soft. Adjust seasoning and serve with bread on the side.