30 April 2011

Breakfast burrito!

Oh no, I'm going to miss my April deadline! Uh, look, here's a breakfast burrito!

Sauté red onion in butter and olive oil (yes! both!); add sliced jalapeño, halved cherry tomatoes, and bits of whatever leftover bell pepper you have lying around in your crisper. Season with cumin, ground chipotle, and salt. Throw in lots of chopped zucchini or other summer squash and cook until tender. Turn heat down to medium; add eggs; scramble. Pile the finished business into warm tortillas, cover with chopped cilantro, take steam-ridden pictures, and eat swiftly.

28 April 2011

Homemade wonton freezer stash!

Look what I made this weekend! WONTONS!

Ok, I'm ridiculously excited to have completed a project like this. Wontons seemed completely insurmountable before I tried making them. Now they seem eminently doable. I can make as many wontons as I want! I can fill them with any combination of delicious items that may come into my head! THE WORLD IS MINE FOR THE TAKING!

I must admit that I used premade wonton skins, but I am ok with relying on them for my first expedition. The Asian grocery had several different options. I chose medium skins, so I could work through my initial awkward folding process without worrying about ripping every wonton in half. I hear that thin skins are the best, however.

Sweet potato-tofu-chive wontons

sweet potato
firm tofu
Chinese chives/scallion/etc
sesame oil
soy sauce
an egg/flax substitute
wonton wrappers (square)
a bowl of water for adhesive purposes

First, cook sweet potato by your method of choice. I actually cooked mine in the microwave, solely because that method was fastest. Baking or steaming your sweet potato should work out fine, however. Leftover sweet potato is also a great plan.

While your potato is cooking, press a block of firm tofu. I got my tofu out of the 4-for-$1 bulk bin at the Asian market, so I'm actually not certain of its firmness. Just avoid silken tofu and everything should be fine.

If you've never pressed tofu before, don't worry; it's easy. Put your tofu between two cutting boards, preferably in the sink. Put a spoon or something under one end so the whole business is slightly tilted. Then put a pot filled with water (or something similarly heavy and resistant to water damage) on top. Let the business sit for at least fifteen minutes, and longer if you have time. This will let liquid drain out of the tofu and make it a bit firmer.

When your tofu is pressed and your sweet potato cool enough to touch, it's time to make the wonton filling.

Skin your potato and chop it into tiny cubes. Chop your tofu into similar cubes. Finely chop a handful of Chinese chives or scallions. Use a teaspoon to scrape the skin off a one to two inch chunk of ginger; mince finely.

Put all these into a large mixing bowl. Season with soy sauce and sesame oil. Mix everything together until it looks like this.

If you're concerned about cohesion, crack an egg into the mix and stir until well blended. Vegan subs like the flax-in-water trick should work well here, but I also think it would be ok to just leave the egg out entirely.

The filling is ready; it's time to wrap wontons. I followed the method given here, which was not as hard as it looks in the pictures (er, her pictures. I didn't even try to take pictures of my own hands on my first wonton-wrapping endeavor).

It's definitely hard to describe how to fold these, but here's the basic technique. First, make sure you have wrappers, a bowl of water, and filling all in easy reach. Put a scant teaspoon of filling into the center of your wonton wrapper. Use your finger to wet all four edges of the wrapper, and then fold to create a rectangle. Wet the lower left corner of the wonton. Last, twist the opposite right corner down to meet the wet corner, and press together to seal.

I'm pretty sure I did this wrong, as I ended up connecting the front right corner to the front left instead of connecting the back right corner to the front left. On the other hand, the wontons did definitely hold together, and that's the most important part, right?

I put my finished wontons in the tray I'd saved from our last pack of premade wontons. This was an excellent plan until I ran out of space. Oh no! Well, due to our icemaking refrigerator, we also had a stack of unused ice trays in the cabinet. Perfect!

After about an hour of folding, I ran out of filling. I only had one wrapper rip the entire time! Hooray! I will definitely be trying out some thinner wrappers next time.

Finished product: 48 wontons. I actually haven't eaten any of these yet; instead, I froze them all in their trays, then transferred them to a large bag. Gloating accomplished.

So now we have a several-months' supply of tasty vegetarian wontons. I have a new skill, and wontons besides. Now, of course, I really want to make a gigantic batch of various other kinds of wontons as well...we will see.

27 April 2011

Cooking the freezer: potato leek soup

Bad plan: make potato leek soup when you really don't want to eat it at all.

Good plan: put your full batch of potato leek soup into the freezer, and have a peanut butter sandwich and an apple for dinner instead. Then, on some rainy, miserable day a few weeks later, you can get out that frozen soup, heat it up, add some sriracha sauce, ricotta, and cracked pepper, and have nearly instant homemade dinner.


25 April 2011

Black bean, quinoa, and mango salad


If you happen to have a ripe mango and a bunch of cilantro hanging out in your refrigerator, this is perhaps the best possible use for them. I made a double portion, planning on leftovers, and instead ended up eating four full bowls, resulting in zero leftovers. It was that good.

This is also an ideal use for leftover quinoa and/or black beans. Of course, you can go ahead and cook them on the spot if you want, but plan ahead, since boiling beans from scratch requires an overnight soak.

Black bean, quinoa, and mango salad

cooked black beans
cooked quinoa
scallion (purple in my case)
red wine vinegar
neutral oil

Essentially, we're going to mix everything together, then eat it. Sounds good?

Mix roughly equal amounts of drained black beans and quinoa in a large bowl. I probably used about a cup and a half of each.

Peel a mango, cut it off its pit, cube it, and add it to the bowl. It's easiest to cut one big slice off either side of the pit, and then trim the remaining bits of fruit away. I tried to make my mango cubes about the same size as the black beans, for optimal texture in the finished product.

Trim and slice up a scallion. If you like spice, finely dice a jalapeño (or some proportion of one). Chop up a couple big handfuls of fresh cilantro. Add all of these to the bowl.

Scatter a little salt over your salad. Add a tablespoon or so of red wine vinegar and one of a flavorless oil; I had canola, which worked fine.

Mix everything together and let your completed salad amalgamate for a while. A half hour or so should be plenty of time, which is good, because you will want to eat this all immediately. I actually left the house so as not to eat mine right away.

Once you've stretched your willpower far enough, get yourself a bowl and eat that salad.

Makes one large serving all for me.

I mean, makes four salad servings, or two complete dinner servings. Yes.

22 April 2011

Toasty white beans and ricotta

Heidi's toasty beans have become such a staple at our house, it's not even funny. Sometimes we do the chard version from Super Natural Cooking; sometimes we do the kale version above. However, more often we throw whatever aromatic veg we have on hand into a pan, add the beans, and come up with our own toasty toasty goodness. Everyone loves toasty bean goodness.

This time I had garlic, shallot, jalapeño, orange bell pepper, and parsley. I also had cooked white beans and dry vermouth. Clearly, nice toasty beans with vegetables, deglazed with vermouth, were the answer.

An aside: yes, we love vermouth. We totally use more dry vermouth than anyone else I've ever met. We are the non-martini bar reason those huge bottles of vermouth even exist. Yay vermouth!

When I make pan-toasted beans without greens, however, it's sometimes possible to end up with a slightly dry finished product. Adding a bit of oil at the end of cooking doesn't usually cut it. So I checked out the refrigerator for a solution. What could be a better solution than ricotta?

Toasty white beans: yet another variation

olive oil
jalapeño/other hot pepper
bell pepper
cooked white beans
dry vermouth
salt, pepper
ricotta or reasonable substitute

Super easy!

Warm olive oil in a wide sauté pan; add chopped garlic, shallot, and/or any other member of the onion family you may wish to use. If you want spicy beans, add chopped jalapeño as well. When everything has softened and become super-aromatic, add some chopped bell pepper. I had orange bell pepper, which was sufficiently exciting for me, but red or yellow should be fine as well. I personally prefer to avoid green pepper here, but you can use it if it floats your boat.

Add a handful of chopped parsley and a pinch of salt, and cook for about five minutes, or until all the vegetables are soft. Now it is time for beans. Drain the cooked beans well (I generally use a slotted spoon) and deposit them gently into the pan. Do not crowd them! You want your beans to have plenty of space, so they can take full advantage of the heat and actually get crispy. I find that three big spoonfuls of beans will just cover the bottom of my pan. If you want more beans, you may want to cook them in batches.

Anyway. Deposit beans into pan; toss to coat well in the now-spicy oil. Maybe add a drizzle more oil if things look dry. Let the beans get crispy and golden on one side; toss to flip and cook the other side.

When your beans have a lovely golden crust all over, quickly deglaze the pan. Just pour in a slug of dry vermouth and give the pan a quick toss & scrape. Yay toasty brown pan bits!

When the liquid has evaporated, you are done. Taste, salt and pepper, and add any extra chopped parsley you may have lying around. Serve with (or without; it's ok!) a big scoop of ricotta on top.

I ate my toasty beans and ricotta with garlic-sautéed squash, and all was right with the world.

18 April 2011

Everything's coming up pasta: lemon & oregano penne

This weekend, the early crop of summer veg made an appearance at the farmer's market: hooray! So I just wanted to eat a massive plate of vegetables for dinner. Easy enough.

I was totally going for a pseudo-Greek tone with all the lemon zest and oregano here. If only I'd had some ouzo to deglaze with! On the other hand, I haven't ever really had enough ouzo to know whether that would backfire. Hmm.

Penne with green beans, summer squash, oregano, and lemon

olive oil
hot pepper if you want it
green beans
summer squash
dried oregano (or maybe fresh--I just never have any)
salt, pepper
dry vermouth/other deglazing device
spinach/other greens
a lemon (juice & zest)
pasta of choice

First, put a pot of water on high heat. Boil your pasta at an appropriate time in the cooking process. If you don't have penne, you can use mostaccioli, rigatoni, gemelli, or rotini: chunky pastas that more or less echo the shape of the beans.

Warm some olive oil over medium-high heat in a sauté pan. Add your preferred amount of minced shallot or garlic (I like plenty, shockingly enough), and some chopped hot pepper if spicy pasta appeals to you. While things are softening, wash a couple big handfuls of green beans, top and tail them, and cut them into bite-size pieces.

Add the beans to the softened aromatics. Season with oregano, salt, and pepper; toss; cook.

Chop your summer squash into appropriate pieces. I had a medium-sized yellow crookneck squash, so I cut it into quarter-moon slices. If you happen to have any tiny adorable baby squash, by all means just cut little round slices. Throw the pieces into the pan with the beans; toss; cook some more.

While you're waiting, wash, destem, and chop a big armful of spinach. If you want to use sturdier greens, that's fine too. Set your chopped greens aside for a minute.

After a few minutes, the squash pieces will sweat out their moisture and begin to develop a bit of golden crust. At this point, you may want to deglaze the pan. Just pour in a little dry vermouth (or whatever dry white wine you may be drinking, or even a little water or oil) and quickly stir, scraping up any dark brown sticky bits from the bottom of the pan. If you're using sturdy greens, add them to the pan and let them cook in the tasty business for a few minutes as well. It's all good.

By now, your vegetables should be cooked through and your pasta should be done. Toss your tender greens in top of the cooked veg; add drained pasta. Turn off the heat and let everything sit while you wash the pasta pot. When you come back, the greens will be nicely wilted. Yay!

Zest half a lemon into the pasta; squeeze out the juice over the pan. (Use your hand to catch the seeds.) Grind on some additional black pepper, toss, and serve.

Delicious garnishes to add:
- fresh basil or parsley
- grated parmesan/other grating cheese
- crumbled feta or goat cheese, for additional pseudo-Greek flavor
- toasted pine nuts or slivered almonds
- more lemon zest! All the lemon! Hooray!

Voila: lemon oregano awesome beginning of summer pasta!

Yes, I know it's not really summer yet anywhere else--but it's coming on fast here in CA, and you can always file this back in your brain for a month or two, right?

Snacktime at our house

Carrots sautéed with ginger & olive oil (peanut would be even better), served with sesame seeds toasted in a separate pan. If you're lucky you can also have the very last glass of champagne.

12 April 2011

Tortellini: my new best friend

Hungry? Tired? Have I got a deal for you!

Simply cook 1 package fresh tortellini in salted boiling water for six to eight minutes! In the meantime, sauté onions, garlic, or shallots in olive oil. Add chopped bell peppers, jalapeños, and tomatoes, and sprinkle on a touch of basil, oregano, salt, and pepper! Deglaze with dry vermouth! When tortellini are tender, drain and add to the sauce! Throw in a boatload of chopped fresh spinach and stir to wilt!

Voila! Dinner is served!!

11 April 2011

Tempeh tempeh tempeh!

Sadly, we have no reliable source of tempeh downtown, i.e. within walkable distance of our apartment. This means that since we moved back to CA, we haven't been eating it, um, almost at all. So the other day, when I missed the bus that stops right in front of Whole Foods, I thought, "Hey! I should use some of this boring ten minutes of waiting to go inside and find lots of tempeh!" So that's how I ended up bringing two slabs of tempeh home for us to devour.

After reading about Pupcake's clearly excellent green salad with salmon, I had a serious desire for our classic tempeh preparation, the Ol' Reliable. This consists of a similar big pile of greens with seared marinated tempeh on top. It's always delicious and satisfying, yet never makes you feel glurgy.

Ol' reliable: seared tempeh salad

olive oil
rice wine vinegar
hot sauce
soy sauce
fresh rosemary
garlic cloves
a lemon
vegetable broth
salt, pepper
salad greens of your choice
any other salad veg that sounds good

Over the past few years, it's become common knowledge that steaming tempeh before marinating helps it absorb more of the delicious flavor. So we're going to start by steaming the tempeh.

Bring a pot of water (that fits your steamer of choice) to a boil. While it's heating, cut your tempeh into bite-size pieces. Steam the tempeh over the water for about ten minutes.

While the tempeh is steaming, make your marinade. I made mine in a loaf pan, but you can use any bowl, or even a plastic bag if you prefer. Note: make absolutely sure any plastic bag you use has no holes whatsoever; otherwise, you will shortly have to clean up a huge mess. In fact, forget I said anything about bags. Just use a bowl.

Marinade proportions can vary quite a bit according to your preference. Since we wanted spicy tempeh, I used a substantial 3 or 4 tbps of hot sauce, plus 1-2 tbsp each of soy sauce and olive oil, 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar, four or five cloves of crushed garlic, the juice of a lemon, and the bruised leaves from a 5-inch sprig of fresh rosemary. Then I added about two cups of vegetable broth to make up the liquid content. Keep in mind that I don't ever measure, and am thus estimating from memory. In short: use the amounts that you want. Whisk the marinade together with a fork (another excellent reason not to use a plastic bag; can you imagine?), and you're ready.

Take your steamed tempeh off the heat and discard the steaming water. Put the tempeh pieces into the marinade pan, making sure each piece is as subsumed in liquid as possible. If you don't have enough marinade, add more vegetable broth. Ideally, you want the marinade to just barely crest over the top of the tempeh pieces; this avoids waste while still making sure the tempeh absorbs plenty of flavor.

Now set everything aside for at least a half hour. A full hour is even better. Yes. I know you're hungry, but it's worth it.

Things to do while you wait for the tempeh to soak up all the delicious flavors:
- Wash, dry, and chop up all the greens you want in your salads.
- Chop up any other vegetables you may want. I wanted cherry tomatoes.
- Arrange salad greens and vegetables nicely on plates.
- Turn your tempeh pieces once or twice, to make sure all sides absorb equal deliciousness.
- Laze about.

Ok! When you're ready to sear, heat up a nonstick or cast-iron saute pan. Ideally, this should be large enough to fit all your tempeh pieces in one layer. If you're feeding a ton of people, you may need to sear the tempeh in batches. It's all good.

Lay your tempeh pieces in the pan; they should sizzle. Cook without moving until browned on the bottoms; then flip and brown a new side. You can add spoonfuls of marinade occasionally, but try to keep the pan fairly dry; this ensures a nice brown crispy crust on each piece.

Speaking of the marinade, ladle about half a cup of it into a measuring cup or small bowl. Add a few glugs of olive oil, some salt and pepper, and an additional squirt of lemon. Whisk briskly until emulsified. This is now your salad dressing. See, because no raw meat has contaminated your marinade, you can just eat it! SHAZAM! (You can also use a different vinaigrette, of course, but what fun is that?)

Flip your tempeh a few more times, being careful not to break the pieces. When all sides are sufficiently browned, turn off the heat. Drizzle dressing over your greens; divide tempeh evenly among plates; top with the dregs of the dressing.

Now you can eat it. Hooray! Don't you feel better? I know I do. Clearly, eating salad will continue to build up my immune system. Salad FTW!

05 April 2011

Food for further sickness

You know what's nice to have in your freezer when a cold settles into the back of your sinus cavity? Chicken broth. Vegetable broth is also acceptable. I would eat bean broth as well. You want broth.

Heat up broth; season with soy sauce, sriracha, and rice vinegar; simmer freezer stash of dumplings in broth; serve with chopped green onion, cilantro if you like it, and a tear-inducing amount of sambal oelek.

That was pretty good.

I also ate lots of fruit. Cara cara oranges, tangerines, clementines, and these:

Yay, early season strawberries and champagne mango. If I'd gone to the farmer's market this weekend (I slept through it; horrors!), I would totally have supplemented this mix with kiwi, for indulgence trifecta.