Archive for May, 2009

Cilantro Mashed Potatoes, Brussels Sprouts

May 30, 2009

Some foods get better as they approach a burnt stage. Brussels sprouts are on of those foods.

Cilantro Mashed Potatoes, Brussels Sprouts

I was in utter shock when I made brussels sprouts for my wife and she actually liked them! Since then, this dish has become a staple at my house. It’s pretty straight forward and quick to make.

Depending on how much time I have, I cut up the potatoes and boil. Drain and mash with electric beaters with a lot of margarine, roasted garlic, salt and pepper. This time, however, I pureed fresh cilantro and Earth Balance with my immersion blender. Amazing.

For the brussels sprouts, I usually wait until right before I drain my potatoes to get my sautee pan really hot, add some garlic oil and the brussels. Walk away for a few minutes – they will get a nice sear on them (you can check back the first few times you make them to make sure you don’t burn them, but eventually you will have a good comfort level). Every few minutes give the pan a shake. When they’re about 3/4ths cooked (bite test) I usually add some kind of vinegar to deglaze the pan and steam them finished. Most of the time it is apple cider vinegar as it gives a really nice tart flavor initially that reduces into a really great flavor. Don’t be too afraid of adding too much – it will reduce and get sweet.

And that’s it! Really easy and time efficient if you’re doing other things while the potatoes boil and then sautee the brussels during the mashing step of the potatoes.

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Sweet Potatoes, Cumin Rice, Seared Bok Choy

May 29, 2009

Finished Plate

Sweet potatoes are locally in season, it seems, so I’ve been grabbing them on sale whenever I see them ($0.49/pound? How can you resist). This dinner was really easy to put together and ended up being delicious.

Cumin is one of my favorite spices, but I have a tendency to overuse it (though not for my tastes, just everyone else’s), so I was pleasantly surprised when my wife enjoyed this rice so much.

I hate waiting 45 minutes+ for brown rice to cook so I tried to shorten it by soaking the rice overnight. Unfortunately, I spilled some of the water in the fridge so I didn’t have a good grasp on how much to use to heat it up and ended up overcooking it a bit. It was still good, just a bit mushy. Moral of the story? Soaking overnight totally works and I’ve used it since to reduce my cooking time by as much as 25 minutes!

The sweet potatoes were sliced lengthwise on a bias and sauteed in a really hot pan with some salt and pepper. Same with the bok choy to get that nice crisp, almost-burnt flavor and look. Just a reminder: really hot pans + plus oil = fire hazard, so be careful and have an extinguisher handy.

As I was putting the plate together I felt it needed something else so my wife suggested the last blood orange. I dismissed it initially but then had a change of heart and it turned out to great. The tartness of the blood orange was a perfect compliment to the sweetness of the potato and the spice of the cumin – an excellent choice that I will use again in the future.

Warm Chocolate Cake

May 28, 2009

Garnished

Far and away, the warm chocolate melting cake on Carnival Cruise Lines was the biggest hit for my wife. It was offered each and every day and I think she ordered it at least three times – never finishing it.

So, when the kitchen tour ended with us receiving a copy of the recipe she was elated. And I knew I had work to do in veganizing it. The first attempt? Success – perfect, actually.

You won’t see many recipes on this blog, but you will today. I know there’s a healthy version of this floating around (http://www.dietdessertndogs.com/2008/02/04/vegan-molten-chocolate-cakes/), but it’s more of a chocolate cake with pudding in the middle. This version is not healthy, but more traditional – vegans are people too.

15oz Dark Chocolate (I used Endangered Species – 5 bars)
15oz Margarine (I used Earth Balance – an entire tub!)
6 Ener-G Egg Replacer
3 Medium Ripe Bananas
1cup Sugar
1 1/4cup Flour

This recipe will make approximately 8 4.5oz servings.

Using a double boiler setup melt the chocolate while you puree the banana (I use my immersion blender, but you can use a food processor as well and, failing both of those, just make sure the bananas are really ripe and just mash them with a whip).

Once the chocolate has been completely melted, add the margarine and stir until melted. While everything is melting, combine the remaining ingredients and whip to fully incorporate. As soon as the butter and chocolate have melted add the the rest of the ingredients and stir to incorporate.

That whole process takes about 10 minutes, so this is one of the easiest desserts you will ever make. You can also make that batter up ahead of time and refrigerate until needed. An hour or two before you plan to bake them, pull the batter out of the refrigerator and let come to room temperature.

The Batter

Preheat the oven to 450degrees. If you’re baking on any kind of regular basis you really should have an oven thermometer to make sure your oven is actually at 450degrees.

I went and bought ramekins just for this dish (and you likely noticed them in the pictures I’ve been posting) as you’ll need something that you can bake in as well as eat out of – there’s no serving these out of the container. Grease the ramekins with even more margarine and fill, leaving about 1/4-1/2″ at the top – it doesn’t rise much, but just to give you a little cushion in case it moves too much putting it in or taking out of the oven.

Bake for approximately 14 minutes or until it is set to your tastes. Less time will be more like eating the richest hot chocolate in the world. More time will result in more of a traditional cake. 14 minutes seems to be perfect from freshly-made batter and 16 minutes for a previously refrigerated batch.

Fresh Out Of The Oven

I garnished mine with fresh raspberries, mint and vanilla iced coconut cream.

It was unreal – I haven’t had something this decadent since prior to my vegan days and I didn’t realize how much I had missed it. They have a new staple in my family for birthdays and special occasions, and with good reason.

Calzones

May 27, 2009

Overflowing

So, I had a very busy day that culminated in calzones. I made the aforementioned marinara, roasted garlic, pesto and the dough for these calzones. It was an excellent day off.

The dough for these were half semolina and half whole wheat flour. I also increased the yeast from 1.5tbsp to 2tbsp which resulted in an airy and fluffy dough.

I went with my standard toppings for pizza, just stuffed in a calzone. The first one was artichokes, grape tomatoes and green peppers while the second one was pineapple and green peppers.

Filling

I wasn’t very happy with the results as I think I put too much Teese in them. My wife, on the other hand, loved them, though that wasn’t entirely surprising.

I’ll certainly make the dough again – it was really good as a dinner bread. I’d even make calzones again – just with more garnishes and less Teese.

Out Of The Oven

Updates coming

May 22, 2009

I promise. I was out of town for the past week and am trying to get back into the swing of things. Won’t do much cooking in the next few days but I have about ten posts saved up, ready to go.

Basil Pesto

May 12, 2009

Seriously, is there anything easier and as flavorful as pesto? It’s even easier (and faster) than marinara and roasted garlic.

Basil Pesto

Take fresh basil leaves, olive oil (or any oil – I use extra virgin for pesto), roasted garlic (or fresh), pine nuts (optional) and some kind of cheese substitute (also optional – I use Parma! or nutritional yeast) and put it all in a food processor (you can use an immersion blender as well, but mine was being washed). Puree until your desired consistency.

The term pesto has a very loose definition these days. Any combination of herbs and oil can be considered pesto, so use your imagination or whatever you have lying around.

Once the pesto is made, I usually put it small glass containers and put in the freezer. Oil doesn’t take long to thaw, so depending on how big of a container you use you can take it out of the freezer in as little as an hour before you need it (or less if you microwave it). When you’re done it can go right back in the freezer.

I use pesto for all sorts of stuff – risotto, potatoes, pasta or even if you’re looking to make a quick marinara sauce – because it’s just too easy to make.

Marinara is so easy, you’ll never buy it again

May 9, 2009

I love pasta with marinara sauce. It’s a staple for most vegetarians because it’s filling, easy and cheap. But, most people buy their marinara sauce already made. I did that for a while and then realized how easy it would be make my own, so I started saving my leftover jars and set about making my own sauce.

There are three basic ingredients to marinara sauce: tomatoes, basil, garlic. It doesn’t really matter how you add them (fresh, dried, canned, frozen, roasted, etc..), just that they’re all there.

Basil

Roma Tomatoes

Below is how I make mine.

I start with some kind of aromatic just to bulk up the recipe and give it a sweet flavor. This time it was Florida-grown bell peppers and red onions. They don’t need to be cut up any special way, just so long as they have enough surface area to get some color on the outside. I began by sauteeing all of the peppers and onions until they had released all of their water and it had evaporated out. Once it evaporates everything will begin to stick to the pan – this is a good thing, but you have to be careful.

Aromatics

Keep caramelizing as long as you have patience and time to make sure they don’t burn, at which point I like to add some tomato paste. The paste gives the whole sauce a bit more body while providing something else to caramelize. As soon as it begins it burn (or you run out of patience) I add a liberal amount of balsamic vinegar. This is not something that a lot of people do – opting for adding it at the end – but I like to add more than normal and allow it to reduce to concentrate the flavor.

Goodbye BPA

Sidenote: I used up the last of my canned tomato products. I used to make all of my marinara sauce with canned organic tomatoes, but will all of the evidence suggesting just how bad Bisphenol A is for you, I’ve recently switched to fresh only and I have no intention of switching back.

Sauteed with Paste

At this point, you can add everything else you want in one step. I added my basil, stirred to wilt, added my roma tomatoes and topped it with several heaping spoonfuls of roasted garlic. Stir everything to incorporate and let it simmer for a while. As it simmers, the tomatoes will release a lot of water, essentially poaching everything and enhancing the natural sugars in the tomatoes. At some point – and you’ll know when – you need to blend everything to your desired consistency. You can do this with a blender, food processor or my favorite: an immersion blender.

Add Basil

Everything Ready To Be Blended

I used to spend a long time chopping, dicing and chiffonading everything in my sauce. And then I got an immersion blender. Now I can make two gallons of sauce in about thirty minutes and it comes out every bit of good as before – sometimes better. If you want a little more texture you can reserve the sauteed onions and peppers or fresh tomatoes to add them after you blend.

Once everything is blended and seasoned (usually just salt, black pepper and maybe some dried Italian seasonings) let it simmer for fifteen minutes and turn off. You’re ready to go – see, I told you it was easy.

The seals on my jar are starting to give up on me as well as starting to rust on the inside, so I no longer try to seal them. Instead, I cool down the marinara sauce and put it in the sanitized (through the dishwasher) jars with a piece of plastic wrap and lid on top. I then put them in the freezer and pull them out the day before I plan on using it.