Sunday, December 25, 2011

Chocolate Dipped Meyer Lemons

Pin It For Christmas, I made VB's grandma some chocolate-dipped Meyer lemons. It's something that she mentioned that she wanted to try and we couldn't find a vendor that sells this product. So what not make it? I made this two ways -- candied Meyer lemons and dehydrated Meyer lemons.

For candied lemon slices, I gently simmered lemon slices in water and sugar syrup for an hour. Then, I let them dry for 24 hours.

For dehydrated lemon slices, I roasted slices low and slow at 150 degrees for 5-6 hours. I lost count how many hours it took. Most recipes that I found online said they're done when they're... done. The most helpful piece of advice I found was when they sound like a poker chip when dropped into a pan, they're done. That's what I got here.

Then, I dipped them, twice!, in sweet dark chocolate. Turned out totally delicious -- tart, sweet and creamy at the same time. I hope Gi likes them!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Pumpkin, Black Beans and Cheese Pupusas

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I got the idea for pumpkin pupusas from our local El Salvadorian restaurant. They often stuff a pumpkin mixture with cheese and meat into pupusas. And those are delicious! I decided to make something similar, but with a twist. Instead of stuffing pumpkin into the pupusa, I mixed pumpkin puree into the masa mix and stuffed it with a black bean cheese mixture. They turned out flavorful and moist -- a little different from the restaurant version, but tasty nevertheless.

You'll need:
  • 1 15-ounce can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup grated cheese (I use soy cheese to keep this vegan, but you can use easy to melt cheeses like cheddar or Monterey Jack)
  • canola oil for pan frying
  • salt to taste
  • 1 portion pumpkin masa mix, recipe below
For the pumpkin masa mix, you'll need:
  • 2 cups masa harina
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 cup (or half a 15-ounce can) pumpkin puree
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
  • a pinch of salt
Begin by mixing all the ingredients for the pumpkin masa mix together in a large bowl. The masa mixture should be moist and can easily be manipulated. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat up 2 tablespoons of canola oil until shimmering. Add red pepper flakes and garlic and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add black beans. Allow beans to cook over medium heat until softened, about 5 to 8 minutes. Gently mash the beans with the back of a spatula. Set aside.

To make pupusas, take a golf ball size masa mix and flatten into a cake with thinner center and thicker edges. Place about a tablespoon of black bean mix and some grated cheese in the center. Fold the edges over to cover the filling. Roll into a ball and flatten into a pancake by transferring it back and forth between two hands. Grease non-stick pan or hot griddle with canola oil. Place pupusa onto the hot griddle or non-stick pan. Cook for about 5 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Repeat. This recipe should make about 10 to 12 pupusas. Serve immediately with some slaw, salsa, and/or guacamole.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mystery Produce of the Week: Kohlrabi

Pin It VB went to the farmers' market by himself this weekend. I had to sit out due to a bad headache from a stuffy nose. He came back excited about "sunchokes" which looked like this...

Not that I doubt our local farmers' ability to identify produce that they grow themselves, but these were clearly not sunchokes. So I spent a few minutes on google with search terms like "round green vegetable" and getting nowhere fast until I found a picture of kohlrabi, which is what we have here. Kohlrabi tastes like sweet, crunchy broccoli stem. It's mild and refreshing and probably awesome in a slaw with some apples. But instead, I made this delicious Indian dish called navalkola sukke, which includes some shredded coconuts and coriander, among other things.

I learned that kohlrabi needs to be peeled and cored. I did remove a part of the core, but it's not entirely clear which part is the core. VB ended up with some really fibrous inedible bits on his plate. Sorry.... Otherwise this was delicious. I'll be looking for these next time at the farmers' market.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Kabocha Squash Pie

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I got a new kitchen tool. It's a food mill from VB's grandma for Christmas (thanks, Gi!). It's time to put it to good use. So. I have a brand new food mill, half a kabocha squash and a block of tofu. The only logical thing to do (in my odd twisted train of thought) is to roast the kabocha squash and pass it through the food mill, along with some tofu and make a pie out of it. Turned out pretty good! The food mill allowed the squash to be mashed but not pulverized, giving the pie a nice fluffy texture. My previous attempt in making a similar product, I didn't have the food mill and the pie was definitely more grainy. Next time, I'm going to make spaetzle with the food mill. I can't wait!

For this kabocha squash pie, you'll need:
  • 1/2 kabocha squash 
  • 1 16-ounce block of firm tofu
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 3 tablespoons nutrional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger powder
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • 1 recipe of vegan pie crust, below
For the vegan pie crust, you will need:
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup butter substitute (I use Earth Balance), cold and cubed
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening, cold and cubed
  • 3 tablespoons ice water
  • pinch of salt
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Scoop out and discard seeds from squash. Rub kabocha squash with olive oil. Stuff garlic cloves inside the cavity and place the squash cut side down into a baking dish. Roast for 45 minutes to an hour. The squash is done when the skin is browned and softened and you can easily insert a fork into the flesh. Remove and allow the squash to cool.

In the meantime, mix flour with a pinch of salt. Add cold butter substitute and vegetable shortening into the flour. With a whisk or by hand, break the fat into small pieces until the mixture has a wet sand consistency. If you want, you can use a food processor and pulse until similar consistency is achieved. Stir in ice water until the dough barely comes together. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thickness and line the pie pan. Dock the dough with a fork. Bake for 15 minutes in 350 degree oven. Remove and set aside.

Peel the roasted garlic. Scoop out roasted squash flesh. Pass the squash and garlic through the food mill. Pass tofu through the food mill. For a finer texture, you may want to do it twice. Mix squash and tofu mixtures together, along with salt, nutritional yeast, ground ginger, granulated garlic, and orange zest. Make sure the mixture is well mixed. Fill the pie crust with the mixture and spread mixture out evenly with a spatula. Bake for 45 minutes in 350 degree oven. Remove and let pie cool for 15 minutes before serving.

We also had some roasted radishes as a side dish. They're pink and festive!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Kabocha Squash in Indian-Style Curry

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I've been contemplating what to do with this confection kabocha squash that we found in our local farmer's market. In most instances, I would roast it and have it as a side. But that's so BORING! A squash this beautiful with such unique sage/slate gray skin deserves special treatment. So I decided to make an Indian-style curry with this squash and it turned out great. The delicate sweet flavors of the squash mellowed out the spicy curry, making it a balanced and flavorful dinner.

You'll need:
  • 1/2 kabocha squash, seeded, peeled and diced (note: squash can be tough and hard to peel. I find that if you chop it to large wedges and microwave for 2 minutes, the squash will soften, making it easier to peel. Also, this will allow the squash to cook faster in the curry.)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 3 Thai chilies, roughly chopped
  • 1 15-ounce can whole or diced tomatoes
  • 1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon dried ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon tumeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried mango powder (optional)
Begin by adding onion, garlic and ginger into a food processor. Pulse until the vegetables are well mixed and chopped. In a medium, heavy lidded pot, heat up canola oil until it shimmers. Add cumin seeds and brown mustard seeds. The seeds should start popping immediately. Stir in onion, ginger and garlic mixture. Gently stir and allow mixture to cook. In the meantime, pulse whole/diced tomatoes with juice in food processor until tomatoes are chopped. When the onion is softened and translucent, stir in ground cumin, ground coriander, ginger powder, garlic powder, tumeric, ground cardamon and garama masala. Stir until fragrant, about a minute or 2. Stir in tomatoes. Gently cook until most of the liquid evaporates and the mixture turns into a paste consistency. Season with salt. Stir in garbanzo beans and diced squash. Add 2 cups of vegetable stock. Bring stock to dimmer. Cover and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, or until squash is completely cooked. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Stir in dried mango powder (optional). Serve over rice or with naan.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Mystery Produce of the Week: Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato

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It's not a sweet potato! Originating (apparently) from Missouri, this squash looks like an elongated acorn squash that has an attractive canary yellow flesh and thin skin. It is less sweet and creamy than butternut squash, but it's nice, light and has a slightly crunchy texture. We found this oddly named squash at our local farmer's market last week. Just. Can't. Resist. Mystery. Produce! Of course we bought one, along with a gray skinned Kabocha squash. Still trying to figure out what to do with that.

So, for dinner, I diced up half of the squash and made a risotto along with some roasted chestnuts that we also bought at the farmer's market. I've never worked with chestnuts before and they were hard to peel and generally a big pain in the butt. But the chestnuts were creamy and sweet and paired very well with the light and slightly crunchy squash. I essentially duplicated my farro risotto recipe but switched out some ingredients.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Congee (粥)

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Congee, to me, is comfort food. My mom made it for me whenever I got sick. It seems like a very simple dish -- nothing but water and rice. But the tricky thing about congee is getting the right consistency. The rice must release its starch until it disintegrates but not so far along that congee turns into glue. The secret is the water to rice ratio, which should be 10:1. I used 1/2 cup of rice with 5 cups of water. The other secret is patience -- stir often for a long period of time, about 2+ hours. Place water and rice in a large lidded pot and bring water to boil. Stir often. Turn heat to low, just barely simmering. Keep the lid slightly ajar so it doesn't boil over. Cook until the mixture is thickened.

The best part to congee is the toppings! Here, we have pickled cucumbers, spicy pickled radish, seitan with peanuts, chopped green onions and thinly shredded ginger. But there are so many options, including shredded dried pork and thousand year old duck eggs. I thought about getting the thousand year old eggs, but they come in a package of 4 and I'm sure VB won't help me eat them. Maybe next time...